What it really means to practice

Every aspiring professional knows they need to practice in order to improve their skills, but those destined for a lasting career recognize early on that the journey towards perfection with your art is one that never truly comes to an end. There is always room for improvement, whether you’re trying to be the best artist or publicist, and practicing your art on a regular basis is key to further developing your skills.

But what does that mean exactly?

The dictionary will tell you that ‘practice’ is defined as ‘(the) repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.’ That’s a perfectly generic way to explain the term, but if you approach your work on your art with similarly vague intentions you will stunt your development. To truly practice something means to be fiercely focused and driven toward specific goals, taking every opportunity to improve and further refine your abilities. You don’t just play guitar for an hour a day, you work on specific songs and/or song creation. You don’t just write to read your own wordplay, but to get something off your chest that feels like it might suffocate you if kept within. To practice is to work towards something with purpose, whether or not you actually achieve your goal.

Practice familiarizes you with your art.

As creative people, it can sometimes be hard to revisit things we make once they have been shared with the world. Our basic instincts tell us to move forward and continue creating, but it’s supremely important we do not give in to these urges and instead spend time reflecting on just what it is we are doing with our time and minds. Is your latest work better, or at least on par with everything you have done before? How can it be improved? Do you need to scrap the majority of your current project and start over with the handful of honestly good lines you have been able to create? Practice forces us to look at our art and question whether or not we are representing ourselves to the best of our own abilities.

Practice allows you to create the future without committing to it.

Your next book, album, or press release may change the world, but you will never complete that project if you do not first practice and refine your current skill set. When we practice we are not only preparing for the future, but we are also taking steps to create it. We are reaching into the ether of creativity and forging something into existence that never would have been seen, heard, or otherwise experienced without our mind and body bring it to life. That is a beautiful thing, and all too often we forget that it is in the regimen of a strong daily routine that the best ideas are born. By practicing we can dabble in the possibilities of tomorrow without commitment, giving us the ability to make mistakes free from judgment and then grow from them before taking steps to further expose our art to the world.

Practice makes us stronger.

Whether you use your time to work on new projects, spitball future possibilities, or refine already developed works, practice allows creative people the ability to strengthen their skills. To what degree this occurs is directly related to how focused the effort is on the part of the individual. Those who have specific goals and work towards them are more likely to find happiness with the result of their efforts. Those who do not choose a goal or specific task to work towards lack focus, and their practice sessions will ultimately suffer as a result. Practice is meant to be fun, but purposeful fun is far more rewarding than simply messing around.

Practice reminds us that there is still room to grow.

Have you ever created something you loved only to look back on it days or weeks later in disgust (if at all)? Sometimes we avoid practice because we know it will force us to confront our downfalls, and those are things we as people prefer to leave unexposed. To be a true professional requires us to be honest with ourselves, which includes admitting that we are nowhere near as perfect as we sometimes like to think ourselves. We are flawed, but if we practice our skills and focus on becoming better we will, in time, develop both as people and artists.

Practice keeps you humble.

You know who never practiced? Me either. You know why? Because they never accomplished anything worth remembering. Everyone who goes on to do anything of value with themselves does so through dedication and practice at refining a skill or craft to the best of their abilities. When we practice we force ourselves to realize that we are not where we ideally want to be. That’s okay though, because so is everyone else walking the planet today. We are all going through our own individual struggles with becoming who it is we feel we are meant to be. If we ever hope to get there we must come to terms with the fact we are going to have to work – probably quite hard – to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Practice reminds us that humility is worth much more than ego.

Your practice space should be considered a sacred location. It’s the place you shed all the armor and disguises you wear to otherwise avoid the harsh realities of the world and allow yourself to be truly free. Those who gain the most from practice sessions do so because they allow themselves to be honest with where they are as an artist. They must face the fact that the entertainment world will go on with or without them, then find it within themselves to forge ahead and continuing creating in spite of what the rest of the world may think of the final result. They create for the sake of creating because they know to do anything else would be to stunt their own development as a person and nothing else. If fame and fortune follow, that’s good, but true professionals realize during their time in practice that neither reward is ever lasting. True success comes with a feeling of completion. That you finally overcame whatever mental hurdles stood between you and what you were attempting to create without giving up your artistic vision. It doesn’t matter if everyone in the world loves it if you know deep down you could do better. Purposeful practice will make you better, but it requires the abandonment of ego.

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Haulix.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.