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The Journey: Leaps and Plateaus

Dottie Case

Written by
Published: January 15, 2014 at 2:30 AM [UTC]

Early on in my adult learner journey, I seemed to detect a pattern to my improvement levels. For a long time, it might seem as though I was staying at the same place, not getting noticeably better nor worse, and then, out of the blue, there would be a day when I'd think to myself, while practicing, "Wow...I'm sounding pretty good today!". (Good of course, being a highly relative term). Then I would practice the next day and it would be the same and I would realize that 'this' had become the 'new normal'. My progress all along the path was like that...if I were graphing it, it would be a relatively flat line, then a sudden jump, where I would then level off onto a new flat line. Like climbing a hill, then walking along a plateau for some length of time before the next climb.

Nineteen years into the journey, I'm delighted to realize that the same thing is still true. As I've written before, I have more time this semester than I've had in many years, and my focus (OK, perhaps obsession may be a more honest word) is violin....focused practicing like I've not had a chance to do in a decade. Or maybe ever, since I realize that I have so many more tools to bring to my practicing now.

This 'new' focus has really just been since the New Year, and I'm sort of stunned and delighted to have already hit a 'new normal'...and one that is blowing me away. There were times today when I'd play a passage and it sounded sort of amazing, and I found myself thinking, "Is this me and MY violin?", and then I'd play the passage over and over and over, just to wallow in the sound and the ease and the freedom.

There's more I could write but I want to bask in the happy for a while....


From Bill Teng
Posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:51 AM
Very interesting. I've experienced something similar in my own violin practice. And, in my running (http://billrunningshoes.blogspot.com/2013/06/punctuated-equilibria-recent-examples.html)!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 16, 2014 at 10:45 PM
Excellent! Much of what we do in life in terms of learning skills is characterized by the plateaus/leaps sequence you experienced. I felt it most acutely when I went to a French high school in Paris at age 15 and learned to speak French. The day I realized that I was speaking fluently in French and no longer thinking in English and translating was one of the most thrilling and memorable of my life. Violin playing is similar, although I have never had so dramatic a leap in that area.

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