W.S. George
writer composer

Making a New Habit

You've probably been through some habit forming exercise and failed at it. Perhaps several, and like throwing clay balls at a wall, few of them eventually stick. Some of those will be bad habits.

I've been through the mill and only recently come out successful. It was a good habit I picked up: daily practice on the violin. I've been doing this since the first Saturday of September, 2015.

Throughout my four months studying the violin, I've missed practice a total of nine days. Seven of those were consecutive, because I injured the base of my left thumb due to bad posture and couldn't touch the instrument until it healed appreciably. The other one day was to relieve severe shoulder pain, again due to bad posture. I missed one day when I got very angry at work and moped all evening instead of practicing.

Building the habit of touching the violin everyday has led to my rather quick development, considering I had never touched the instrument until seven days before going out to buy one on impulse.

Why did this clay ball stick to the wall? I have a theory: I wanted it that badly.

For a decade, playing the violin has lingered on the fringes of my mind after one lazy afternoon watching Peter Weir's Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (starring Russell Crowe). I've dilly-dallied for ten years because I thought it will be a bother going out to wherever the National Symphony Orchestra was to learn to play. I never asked around for violin shops. I sat at home and pretended to play the keyboard; an instrument I now admit I had little interest in all along.

Had I the same desperation I had when I was fifteen (or had I been forced by my parents; a situation that leads to the same gravity of the necessity of an action) I would have been by now a violinist for ten years. And probably a very good one. I may have been a pop soloist or a musician with the NSO. I would have already played at concerts and maybe, created a name for myself as a local star violinist.

I would have played at weddings and funerals. I would have been forced to learn music theory: enough music to play more important (and coveted) roles in the Aggrey Memorial Chapel Choir at Achimota School and Pax Romana Choir, KNUST.

All these dreams I had too late, and I fell utterly short of the competence needed to attain them. Perhaps it was the congregation of past musical failures that dragged me down like a millstone with such force that, after buying the violin, it became a master or die affair.

Boy has that helped!

I carry that insight now with me. It doesn't matter how hard you throw the clay ball against the wall. If you don't want it to stick so badly, it will never stick. And you should stop wasting your time trying. Of course, this relates better to habits than clay balls.

Happy New Year.

© 2017 William Saint George