We always underestimate the importance of a good routine in our life. In fact a good routine can have a positive impact on the most unexpected things: like piano playing. Yes I know a routine doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world, and I used to think that routine is for boring people. Until I realized that I was feeling much happier and was more successful in my undertakings with it. That’s when I became one of them, the routine believers.
For a time in my life, I have been a complete mess. Having routines or a planning was a no-no: I wanted the true artist lifestyle (more Rock star style than pianist style…). That’s not a part of my life I feel proud about, but the experience was at least useful in a (very narrow) way: I learned a couple of things about myself and about what truly is an artist’s life. You know, to become a butterfly you have to be a caterpillar first (I’m still waiting for the butterfly part!).
When I remember this period, something in particular always comes to my mind: it is the only part of my life I didn’t have a routine at all. For nothing. The result was kind of bad: I gain 14 pounds in a year (no regular meals), I played like crap (no practice routine), I felt like crap (no regular sleep patterns, no exercising routine…), all of this crushing my self-confidence and keeping me in a downward spiral.
It ended when I moved to another city and change my mindset. Maybe unconsciously I felt it was time for a radical change in my life and decided to go away. This change happened: I got finally caught in an upward spiral again after sticking to routines again. If I had known before the importance of a routine, it would have spared me lots of trouble and disappointments.
When it comes to piano practice, remember Horowitz: “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” You see the point: the less regular you are in your practice, the worse you play.
Today, having schedules and routines has for me several purposes: get better at what I do, having realistic goals, relieving stress. I have a practice schedule to be able to have works ready on time. I have schedule daily routines to help me get things done without stress. If I totally understand it can sound boring, it is not: I enjoy every single action of my day.
The artist’s life is far from being disorganized. It is in fact the most organized life in the world. You need to sleep well, to eat well, to feel well because what you do is hard. As a musician, you need solid unbreakable patterns, something to hang onto when everything is constantly changing around you. You need to structure your life because no one is going to do it for you. You need to stick to your routine whatever happens to be able to deliver the best performance you can.