The Middle Process

Door #1 – Beginning: inspiration, curiosity, exploration, elementals, basics, adventure, small steps, learning, humility.

Door #2 – Middle Process: depth work, grinding out, problem solving, honing, refining, developing, repetition, drills, flux, losing and regaining direction, challenge, obstacles, work, sweat, anxiety, frustration, small victories, the midnight oil.

Door #3 – Ending: accomplishment, completion, final touches, perfection, maturity, full development, appreciation, gratefulness, intensity, energy, fruition, beginning at a new level.

Hmmmm. I’ll take Door #1, please. I love to begin. I love the moment of inspiration and making plans, the newness of new stuff, and beginner’s mind. I was born on the New Moon, so it’s much easier for me to start something than it is to finish it. Typically.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love finishing things; I live for accomplishment. But getting there is like trying to make water run uphill because I always have to face…the Middle Process.

Raise your hand if you’ve been there, singers. Uh-huh.

You remember the thrill you got when a new, exciting piece of music landed in your hands, and you fantasize about a future performance day when you will dazzle the whole world with your vocal brilliance.

But you will have those moments in-between where you throw your water bottle across the room in disgust because you flubbed that run again.

What does it take to get through the Middle Process? First, accept that you’re there. Be aware and present to it. And focus on it such that the beginning and end process don’t distract you. Your time in the Middle Process has to be private. Schedule it, hole yourself up, and defend it from all interlopers, including the ones in your own head. It’s a time to go deep, to dive way down and leave the surface waters behind, so that your concern over them doesn’t haunt you or get in the way of the present action.

We often don’t learn to enjoy the Middle Process because we’re obsessed with beginnings and endings—past and future, and not the present. Those worries take us out of time and physical reality, and the task at hand becomes distorted and fogged up in our view. We also don’t enjoy it if we feel beholden to something outside ourselves – our teachers, music directors, and so on. If we make our Middle Process truly private and protected, the only thing we need to be concerned with is ourselves – Why did I commit to this? What do I want to accomplish?

It’s just YOU in the NOW.

And this is where mystery can still live. Allow yourself some curiosity and play “what if” once or twice while you’re there. You may not be new to this music, but there’s no reason you can’t bring newness to your approach, if you find yourself getting stuck. You may discover the piece unfolding before you for the first time…again.

Ultimately, if you fully embrace the Middle Process, rather than grudgingly slog through it, you may come to see the full web of possibility in it…and maybe never feel the need to resent practicing again.

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