At a dinner a few nights ago, a good friend, in between sips of Nova Scotia Maple Wine, talked about the importance of thinking before speaking. You see, she is a French teacher, and in her years of pre-teaching, would disappear into the far reaches of the Province of Quebec for immersion with a French family.
Once, while sitting around the dinner table, she spoke to the family in what she thought was an understandable way. Her Quebec ‘mum’ was confused and reminded her that she should be very clear in her use of language, to think carefully before she spoke. This became the turning point of beginning to learn and understand the depths of language. She began to form sentences in her mind before speaking them, they were clearer, more understandable and gradually, this deliberate process of learning took her into a career teaching.
In his book, ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell writes about ‘deliberate practice’ as being a process that enables a deeper type of learning, where ideas and techniques are repeated with deep concentration and right action.
I have coached soccer for many years and have applied this principle with my athletes. I ask them to think about their actions, their movements, the place they strike the ball, how it feels and then repeat, slowly methodically speeding up, helping their nervous system learn the new techniques with a level of awareness and deep learning foreign to most of us.
It is no different with the visual arts, there really is no substitute for many hours of deliberate practice. In my early days I would push and pull paint around the canvas in all manner of ways but then gradually, learned to hone the skill, to pay attention, to go slow, this was an apprenticeship of sorts.
We must all go through a process like this if we want to get good at something. There is another very important key to getting it right and getting good, and that’s lighting a fire inside yourself, finding your passion and working deliberately through the hard times. I see it with my soccer players, the ones who do the work using deliberate practice, get really good. It is a joy and a love of doing that keeps them motivated. The wise ones understand that learning is a continuous process, that the hills and valleys are an important part of the journey and that there never is an ‘end product’.
End Quote, “Love is the spiritual essence of what we do. Technique is the manifestation of the preparation and investment as a result of the love.”