Saturday, November 21, 2009

my brain is on fire, in a good way

i have so much new info zipping around in my head it feels like i had a triple-espresso, twice, through a funnel, while someone held me by my feet on top of a skyscraper. 
the thing is, do i have to act NOW while it's all exciting and new (love boat) cuz i don't want to forget it-- get all neurotic and try to write it all down like i usually do (not here don't worry) so as not to forget a-n-y-thing, or do i take a plunge and let it all simmer around and do something tomorrow?  i never re-read those things (lists of frantic scribbles that don't have the same magical effect as they did the first time) really anyway---but it does help to reinforce things (doesn't it?).  i think i talked davin's ear off about old stuff he probably already knew about but is only exciting to me.  his current work analyzing people's playing by category (like, listening to one element at a time, separately--just pitch, just volume (or variation of sound), vibrato, about active listening--i wonder, if i could do it?) is so ambitious, in that always-learning self-driven way that i admire so much.  it's so cool to expand one's notion of 'work'--  right when i label something "work" it becomes harder.  i'll avoid that word.  anyway, i have weird feeling of being young and hopeful and not closed-up and done-for (i'm so melodramatic)-- i want to hang on! but y;a can't i bet. well, you can't by trying to fermata there for as long as it lasts and then be all sad when real life kicks back in.  SHUT UP shut up--i am not going to drizzle on my parade.  big picture is the small picture is what i feel right now. and i am going to st-- ta--ing about it.


  1. I want to elaborate on the last part of our conversation when I was saying that every aspect of life can be considered a 'skill' and therefore improved. This is something that "Flow" really made me realize.

    Ok so in order to improve at a skill there are 3 elements. 1) Analysis and goal setting 2) Practicing the skill 3) Post analysis.

    In music we do this all the time. 1) While playing a passage stop 'hmmn I don't like my sound on that one note, think I need more vibrato' (Analysis) 'I'll just play that note a few times with different speeds of vibrato' (goal setting) 2) Play the note with faster speeds slower speeds (Here our inner coach says 'faster vib' the player responds by moving the muscles our hands to achieve this effect) 3) We then think about the different variations of sound we heard while doing this exercise and our inner analyst decides that such and such speed of vibrato is best.

    That's skill building that is easy to recognize. The key part is that the goals are challenging to some degree (had we easily controlled the speed of vibrato the first time through it wouldn't have been a problem) but within reach (in a beginning student varying vibrato speeds would be an unrealistic goal). In our brains ('talent code' stuff now) we are building a substance called Myelin around our nerve fibers when practicing vibrato speeds that will make the entire process quicker and easier the next time we try.

    This process can be applied to ANY facet of your life and by applying it more and more frequently you get better at it just as the vibrato speed will improve in the passage. For example, I decided to improve the way I walk up stairs. I wanted to make my feet stronger to help with yoga and so the goal I set was to place my foot flat on the step and then lift with the muscles in my foot first and then continue the motion with my leg muscles. Of course the first time I did this it took me longer to go up the stairs but I quickly improved and now going upstairs becomes an opportunity to improve my foot strength instead of a mindless chore.

    I suggested the goal of improving your ability to set goals. This something I've worked on a lot because it is such a crucial component of the skill building process. So to approach this we first analyze 1) My tendency was always to set only a few very broad or result oriented goals that gave me little idea of where to start or how to accomplish the goal (e.g. 'I want to be happy!'). I decided to go to the other extreme and try to set many many small easily achievable goals (e.g. I am going to make a sandwich, I am going to play cello for 15 min, I am going to read one chapter of my book etc.) 2) At first it was hard to remind myself to set a goal before doing something mundane and so it generally happened only a few times a day but gradually the frequency of my goal setting increased. 3) Analyzing what goals I picked after the fact made me realize that picking the goals was the next step to work on. I could let go of the goal setting for simple tasks (making a sandwich) and focus on the goals that were harder to set such as what precisely I wanted to accomplish in my practice session that would leave me feeling challenged but not depressed.

    We do this process every day whether we realize it or not. By making the process conscious and working to improve it we can then use this as a tool that will instantly make us better at everything if we decide to use it.

  2. the skill-building example of VIB., though an excellent, very specific example, made me slouch in my chair in semi-horror. i am so un-brainy when it comes to violin---i'm almost superstitious about becoming brainy about it. i go by feel and silly things (i'm serious though, not making a joke) like how much sleep i've had, caffeine-intake, how my right hand feels. it's all so (SO) feel-y, un-examined, un-intellectual YOU must be horrified! i don't know how this happened--but truly i DO approach violin sort of superstitiously and UN-analytically.

    after shame-slouching during that example, i practically did a dance of joy when you expanded on the small-goal-setting. because that's where i might be challenged already. i cannot MAKE myself do things like i used to be able to do. that great quality of suck-it-up and-do-it is pulling a major MAJOR rebellion. it's "going rogue" a la sarah palin. i feel myself stupidly rebelling at the simplest of schedules i write for myself. and it makes me feel even worse about myself --after the fact. i say, i will make a sandwich. then, suddenly if i DON'T make a sandwich, it serves as further proof that i cannot do simple things, that i'm helpless since i cannot even help myself---or else this sandwich-making thing has become SO HUGE that i almost fear that i indeed probably cannot make a sandwich, tho' i probably could.
    you know, this must be frustrating for you. but selfishly, it is great for me. i loved the small goals--i just wanted to illustrate how even a sandwich becomes HUGE if i start procrastinating and thinking and stuff. we need to have more common-room dorm discussions where i can listen to what you say, write them down, and then ask a billion questions.. i never would have EVER believed that i would want to analyze, consciously globalize the process of playing the violin (not just being leftbrain-driven, or right-brain-along-for-the-ride) but using them both, which of course music requires. but after hearing you talk about it, it sounds like a great great worthwhile and fun exploration. and why wouldn't i want to know more about what i "do" before i die? this definitely is not the level i'd like to end at. that would be sad. also, that would be practically immoral, to be that complacent when there's more to learn and understand, discover (am i being cheezy?).

    you know i like this homework. i am setting small goals for tomorrow right now. it's hard for me to "get over" all the guilt of what i messed up today though, but HEY--is that a skill too? i have trouble leaving the feeling-residue behind of a day where i've done many things wrong. it's hard to shake that off. the feelings of the day. the instances of yuckiness felt throughout the day.
    1. Let it go. today's screw-ups and bad feeling.
    2. move forward (see how i had to scale back even your "SIMPLE" tasks to even smaller tasks?)!!!!
    3. no matter how/what i feel, i am going to leave for work at 15 minutes after.

    **Tell me, D: Does this count as mini-steps? and if my mini-steps are this mini, will it honestly get better gradually and with patience? (i want some shortcuts already.)

    p.s. work was demoralizing today!

  3. also: can i still build myelin aroudn my nerve fibers? am i too old?