Walking the Cat . . .

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Practice makes Perfect (Well, almost . . .maybe)

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When I was a kid, I hated practice. hated it. (Probably the main reason I didn’t become a musician . . .that and the fact I have absolutely no sense of rhythm and couldn’t carry a tune in wheelbarrow).  Doing the same thing over and over and over again drove me nuts!  I was a firm believer in the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try something else”.  It wasn’t that I was opposed to hard work; I was opposed to hard work that didn’t immediately (or in very short order) produce excellent, or at least good, results.  I hadn’t yet learned the value of practice, or the technique involved in the process.  It would be many years, and more missteps than I care to remember before I learned, quite by accident, how to practice.

Practice, as I have come to understand the process, isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again.  It’s about learning a technique, a way of doing things that produces the desired results.  Even after acheiving the desired results, you continue to practice; only now you’re learning to acheive those results time and time again.  The idea behind practice is to build a body of knowledge, useful knowledge, that can be used to acheive a variety of results.  The same technique for soldering jump rings, can be applied to making a bezel for setting a stone, or making a hollow-form ring; the techniques acquired through the practice of sawing metal can be used for cutting patterns as well as perfectly straight cuts.  The knowledge one amasses through practice apply not only to making jewelry, or cooking, or writing, or any one of a million different things, but to ourselves as well. 

Through practice, we learn the value of patience; the techniques we practice will, eventually, lead to the desired goal; maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the next day, but if we are patient the skills will come.  We also learn the value of humility.  We know there is no such thing as “overnight success”, that it takes time, often a very long time, to develop all the skills needed to acheive success.  More than this, we learn to love the work for its own sake; to revel in the pleasure of seeing hard work come to fruition.  I was re-reading Steve Pressman’s The War of Art the other day and came upon a passage I thought was more than a little interesting.  I’m not going to quote the passage, but the gist of it is this: We, as artists or craftsmen, have no right to the rewards coming from our work, only the work itself.

When I think about craft, about metalwork, silversmithing, when I think about any skill that develops over time, I know the practitioner, the craftsman/woman practiced his or her technique(s) for a very long time (and continues to practice everyday) not because they thought they would become famous or rich or popular.  There’s too much work involved to be obsessed with such transient goals.  They do what they (and I) do for no other reason than they love the work.

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Written by stevewthomas

February 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm

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