Today’s Daily Prompt asks “Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.”
I’m always attempting to learn something new. At the moment on my list of failures is Italian, Haskell and Lisp. My current partial success is drumming.
My failure with Italian is, I think one of application. I don’t apply myself sincerely and strongly to the task and I don’t have somewhere to apply the learning.
With Haskell and Lisp it’s not a matter of applying myself or not, I certainly apply myself. With these it’s more a matter of not needing to learn them, not having a task that requires a solid dose of programming.
These days most of my programming is short scripts in shell, Python or AppleScript for small system administration tasks or to ease my workflows rather than large, serious applications. So while I have tried to learn a new programming language I have never had the need to use one.
Drumming is another thing entirely. Almost four years ago I decided I wanted to learn the drums and bought myself an electronic kit. There are a number of reasons that I enjoy my slow progress in learning the drums.
The first are the drums themselves. Since most of what I do on a daily basis is mental I really enjoy the physicality of hitting the drums. It’s relaxing and loosens up the tightness in my arms and shoulders from hunching over a keyboard.
Another reason I like it is that progress is obvious. After I practice a series of exercises for a day or two I can feel them getting easier, I can turn the metronome up twenty or thirty beats per minute. Even on the days when it doesn’t seem to be working I can see that I have fallen back to a level above where I was a month ago.
On the good days when the exercises seem to be coming to me easily I step up to the next level.
These are the times when I analyse the drumming in a song, grab a copy of the sheet music for it and spend a few weeks slowly working through it practicing the rhythms and fills so I can eventually follow along. Even after a lot of time practicing and learning it is only the simplest of drumming that I can master but it is surprising how many great songs require only a little talent and skill to perform. The difference between me and a good drummer is that they can pick up a song easily and play with a lot more style and accuracy than me.
My slow progress is sometimes a little disheartening but when it seems I am getting nowhere I try to remember how far I have come. I know I should practice for longer, I know I should practice much more regularly.
It seems to me, however, that I am not trying to be a great drummer. I’m not even trying to be a good drummer. I think it’s the journey as much as the destination that makes it something I continue to do.
That might be the difference between learning Italian and learning the drums, perhaps with Italian I need to find a way to enjoy the journey. If you’ve had success learning a language I’d love to know how you kept the motivation up, how did you make the journey the reward?