Goals

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A number of posts/comments have gotten me thinking about my cello-related goals. In less than a month it will be my one year anniversary of playing the cello, which gets me thinking about what I’d like to accomplish for the coming year. Some people have made New Year’s goals, such as Michael did in this post and The Neophyte Cellist did also. Emily Wright talked about physical goals in The how and what of good practice. I don’t normally make New Year’s goals or anything of the like. Either they are obviously do-able — “I will learn to play in 6th position” — or they are unrealistic and unhelpful — “I will learn to play Prelude #1. But then Warren’s comments to me in What My Inner Voice Has to Say got me thinking.

I’m a very goal oriented person (says the person who just claimed not to make yearly goals.) Perhaps I should say I’m a results oriented person. This isn’t always the most fun way to be, as Warren so gently pointed out. At first I was thinking that perhaps I’m just stuck being miserable on this front because it’s fairly impossible to change one’s nature — I’m not likely to become a process oriented person any time soon. Then I was wondering how I could work with my natural tendencies to help myself enjoy the process more. Somehow Emily’s post came to mind, mingled with Warren’s comments, and an idea was born: process oriented goals.

Here they are:

1. I will enjoy the sound of my cello. I do not have a the most beautiful instrument in the world, but it is a step-up model and is a far cry from the lousy student models my teacher’s other students are stuck with. In the weeks before my first lesson I couldn’t do anything except play open strings, which I did most every day because I simply loved the sound of the instrument. I chose the cello because it’s beautiful, even when played badly — even when it’s played badly by me. Every day is a day to take joy in the beautiful sounds my instrument produces.

2. I will enjoy the music I’m playing. I don’t always love the pieces I’m playing, but even in my least favorite pieces I can find a phrase or a few measures that make me smile. Sometimes I do get lucky and love the entire piece. In any case, this goal should be easy. However, I often forget to do this. I focus so much on refining my technique and picking the whole thing apart so I can make progress that I forget to enjoy what I’m playing. I will spend time each day playing my pieces as a sort of private concert for myself. Even if I play badly, the songs themselves are beautiful.

I don’t have any others at the moment. If I eventually make more, I want them to be purely process oriented like these two. I would, however, like to make this as a year two goal: to be less neurotic and more joyful as I learn to play the cello.

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5 responses »

  1. I dunno. I think the “enjoy the process” stuff is overrated. When you were a kid, didn’t you just do things for fun? Color in books, climb trees? Play Kick the Can? Where was the process in that? Why the heck can’t we just enjoy playing because it’s fun, without overintellectualizing about enjoying the process because we can’t quite bring ourselves to enjoy the result yet?

    Darn it, cello playing is fun.

    There is one goal I think every beginning cellist should have, though, and that’s to find an opportunity to play with someone else. IMO, the very best thing is to have a cello duet buddy. If your teacher doesn’t have any other adult beginners in the studio maybe you should recruit one 🙂

  2. 1. When I was a kid I wasn’t like that at all. I over thought everything to the point that as soon as I could speak I was complaining to my mother that I couldn’t fall asleep at night because I couldn’t turn my brain off. For me I can’t stop intellectualizing, so I have to direct it. I don’t think anyone has ever labeled me as “fun.” Serious, intense, intelligent, interesting maybe, but never free like a normal child. I never have “fun” playing the cello. I enjoy it, it inspires me, it fascinates me, it piques my curiosity, but I’d never label it as fun.

    2. Funny you should mention finding a playing buddy. This monday I will be doing that for the first time. A former student of my teacher who is now a neighbor and I are getting together to play some duets. No idea what we will play, especially because he is far more advanced, but it should be interesting since neither of us have done this before.

  3. Hi Elysia!
    in response to this and to our other thread —
    I think I enjoy playing the cello precisely because it’s something I don’t have to worry about (…and of course, because it’s beautiful and brings me new experiences…)
    My professional life is (or has been) plagued with enough concerns about being “good enough” (and other refrains spoken by the harsh inner voice!) — and the cello is something completely different. It’s a challenge, and I want to get better (and play Bach, and play in an orchestra or quartet, even if it’s in my retirement!) — but it’s also something liberatingly unjudged — that is to say, most liberatingly of all, unjudged by me! It’s brought lots of wonder and good things, and I love and appreciate my friends’ enthusiasm for it, wonkiness, pitchiness and all! I’m still pants at tuning my cello unaided, but then again, I can do all sorts of things I never thought I would be able to and feel connected to things I never would have done before. The apparatus that plugs into the old inner voice is so much better at noticing the crummy things; tweaking the perception to get a different soundtrack going in your head can make lots of difference, in things cello-y and beyond, I’m sure! 🙂

  4. I think there is something to be said for “the process”, although I also poo-poo-ed the term when I first heard it as being another buzzword that was meant to comfort poor cellists.

    Over time, it is becoming more fun without necessarily knowing what has changed. Just the coming to the cello every day has kicked something into motion, and that something I don’t have complete control over. It’s that magic that lets you come back to a piece today after you couldn’t figure out it yesterday and somehow it works today.

    So, there is a “process” going on, I think, and yes, it can be done just for fun. It’s been more fun recently than it’s ever been.

  5. Wow! It’s so interesting to see what a different experience the cello is for everyone! I had no idea! EP — what an awesome way to get away from the stresses of your career. It’s amazing you’re able to not judge yourself. For me, learning to play the cello is my real life. Not a career, but I spend so much time on it, and studying music theory, that it really has become the bulk of what I do. Michael — is it really magic? For me, I usually find I’d been very self-critical and expecting far too much. Once I relax the next day I’m able to accomplish what I want. Not magic at all, just a little less neuroses. Oh, wait. Less neuroses = magic. Guess you’re right!

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