For some reason, I am cooking a lot now. Of course, I have always cooked, but for the first time, I am seriously flipping through sumptuously illustrated books, choosing recipes, trying them and feeding the results to other people who seem to appreciate the process. Fascinating.
Practising is a similar process. It too requires time, materials and the eventual participation of others to make it worthwhile.
Both activities require planning, preparation, compromise and outcomes that are improved by how much energy and steadfast interest I can bring to them.
To stay in good playing shape, to be ready to play the repertoire that I have programmed for the first weeks of the new year and beyond, I have to practise a few hours each day. I am celebrating the holidays in the company of my parents, and their amazing caregiver, all of whom appreciate both my cooking efforts (today was roast prime rib, glazed carrots, Brussels sprouts with bacon and apples, beet/orange/walnut salad, mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower with leeks) and my practising (Bitsch Concertino, Braun Solos, Lussier Bassango, St-Saens Sonate, Jean-Jean Prelude & Scherzo, Boismortier Op 50 #2, our new arrangement of Flight of the Bumblebee and this is half of the music that I will be performing in January). Though I planned to shower and change into a nice outfit for dinner, I ended up wearing my workout clothes, decorated with bacon sizzling.
My life rarely fits normal timetables… in order to perform well, I have to spend time playing and that is often late at night or instead of fun social events. I have felt guilty about this for years. To play really well, time also needs to be spent every day studying music and making reeds. Plus the physical conditioning necessary to play very well i.e. exercise. It would be possible to fill 12 hours per day with the work needed to prepare to be at my performance peak yet this remains an unlikely prospect.
Just like cooking, I get better and better at understanding the parts that make the whole, how to pull it together quickly and make something that will be interesting to others. It is an endless puzzle but such an appealing one.
There are no failures in this approach, only lessons.