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Making Practice Tangible

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Making Practice Tangible: Using a Practice Journal for Growth. | Photo: AND Planet | Link | Practice, Notes, Apple, Rehearsal, Bellydance,

Using a Practice Journal for Growth

What do you have to show for your practice?
As an art form, dance is incredibly temporary. We take the stage and pour our hearts and souls into whatever piece we’re presenting, be it improvisation or choreography. We create a bond with our audience, and then – poof! – the moment is gone. This is so different from drawing, painting, writing, and all the other art forms that result in a tangible “thing” that can be enjoyed again and again. Yes, we can use video to capture a performance or practice session though the essence of the piece doesn’t seem to stay captured.

What does this have to do with practice? Everything.

When you committed to yourself and the improvement of your artistry last week you took the first step in crafting a practice plan. You gave yourself the gift of focusing on yourself as an artist for at least 5 minutes a day. Can you see the difference today? Right now? Is it crystal clear how much you’ve grown thanks to the 35 minutes of practice you put in?

Nope. Growth takes time and patience. And patience is hard to cultivate, especially without a tangible product.

When you start a practice plan, the best tool you can add to your success kit is a notebook. This can be electronic or good old-fashioned paper (I prefer the paper option) – the important part is that you write down what you did and how it made you feel in the moment. Adding this journaling piece to your daily practice ritual will benefit you in both the short and long term, and it will only take a couple of extra minutes out of your day.

Here’s a prompt for you to use:

    Practice Notes
    Date:
    Time:
    Elements Completed:
    Thoughts/Feelings:
    Next Time:

Date & Time – you’re recording this so you can get a sense of what works best for you and what patterns you might want to cultivate. Do your notes have a different flavor when you practice in the morning vs the afternoon/evening? Are you consistently practicing daily or do you go in fits and starts? All of this will help you figure out the best practice rhythm for yourself.

Elements Completed – What did you actually do with your practice time? The more specific you can get here the better. Looking back at notes that say “improv” won’t be quite as helpful as notes that say “Freestyle Improv to Dead Can Dance” or “5-minute knee shimmy drill with 3-1-3-1-3 zill pattern”, so document what your focus was for this practice session. Be sure to list everything you included (regardless of what you had planned).

Thoughts/Feelings – This will become incredibly helpful when you’re up against the stuck feelings we often face, or when you’re really dreading a practice session. Recording how you felt after practice and what thoughts your practice session brought up can be quite inspirational when you flip back through your notebook. It is also really common to have eureka moments during practice, and writing them down will help ensure that you can do something with your brilliant ideas!

Next Time – Here’s your chance to plan for tomorrow or for the next time this particular element will come up in your practice cycle. What do you want to do next time? Continue with that drill as-is, or add something to challenge you even further? Did you uncover a rough patch that needs some smoothing out? Did you use shuffle and land on the PERFECT song? Capture these plans here.

These notes shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to jot down, and yet they can make all the difference in how you approach your practice and track your growth.

Keep up with the 5 minutes a day of practice, and start logging your efforts. Next time we’ll talk about how to adjust your practice plan to reach a specific goal, so start thinking about what that goal might be!

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Updated Apr 18, 2017 6:49 AM EDT | More details

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