If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself bogged down with a variety of questions I call “the shoulds”. For a musician, these questions might be:
What should I practice?
How should I practice?
How long should I practice for?
What kind of song should I write?
What chords/notes should I use in this situation?
I wasted many years stressing about these “shoulds”, which led to a lot of paralysis and far less action than would have been beneficial. All that changed for me, however, when instead of always asking what I should do, I started to ask: “What if?”.
What if I practiced x?
What if I practiced in this way, or using this practice technique?
What if I practiced for this amount of time?
What if I wrote a song about y?
What if I tried these chords/notes in this musical scenario?
Operating from this place of curiosity cleared up years of anxiety about getting everything exactly right. Instead, I feel much more open to experiment and explore. If something I try doesn't work out, or sound the way I want it to, then I know better for next time, and can now try something else.
While there are certainly going to be essential things for you to work on if you want to move the needle in a particular direction, and choices you’ll want to make within specific musical settings, approaching your musical life with a bit of a lighter touch can allow you to practice and create with more ease. This will open up options and opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise explored.