No-Win Situation?

September 11, 2019, 4:03 PM · I am not sure if it is the appropriate title, but I ran into a strange situation lately. I just wonder maybe some of you who had experienced this before can give me some pointers.

Long story short, I have been made redundant by my company recently. The bad news is I am jobless (for now). The good news is I have time to practise (finally), which is more or less the first thing came to my mind when my boss told me about the redundancy.

So in the past few weeks, I gradually increase my practice time. However, I notice that I feel increasingly unsatisfied. I feel that when I was working, there is very little time to practise the violin. On the negative side, there is annoyance on never being able to practise that technique, passage, etc. On the positive side, I feel that I have made an effort. I was doing my very best to squeeze time out from the busy day to practise.

Now, when time is on my side, I feel very unsatisfied. I feel guilty when I am not motivated to practise (even I was still practising, just not very motivated). I feel guilty when the day passes so quickly and I haven't been squeezing more time to practise. I feel annoyed very easily that I make the mistake on something I thought I fixed the day before. Taking the violin out from the case and do a few scale doesn't give me any credit like before, because I don't have any reason/excuse of not practising now. I have a feeling that it is either I don't really know how to manage free time (don't have much back then when I was working), or have unrealistic expectation on how the free time will benefit me.

I am just curious if anyone who went from a busy office job to freelance, or jobless, or retirement. Do you get a feeling of uneasiness at the beginning? The feeling that you finally have time but at the same time, not enough time. There is a constant restlessness. What did you do to make peace with your mind?

Thank you very much!

Replies (11)

September 11, 2019, 4:38 PM · I have noticed that I structure my time better when there is less free time to structure, but I'm also more stressed. I think that getting yourself to practice is its own practice, which gets easier with time, provided you are getting over the initial hump of being uncomfortable and getting yourself to practice. If you are deferring to other tasks every time you are thinking about practicing, then you are probably only getting better at deferring to other tasks.

You really have to find what works for you. Some people have trouble working at home because they get distracted, and so some people leave the house in order to work in certain other spaces, because it allows them to get their head in the game. I personally think that if you can help it, it's best to not play too many games with yourself, but you need to figure out what works for you.

You might tell yourself that you are going to go on a short walk, and then as soon as you do that, you will get right to practicing, or you might practice, and then immediately reward yourself with a fun activity, or a snack , or whatever.

September 11, 2019, 6:53 PM · Violinists need paying jobs just like everyone else, actually often more so, and especially those violinists who don't practice very very well. So it's no surprise that you haven't entirely engaged in your practice wishes, because at the back of your mind you must know that you can't just do that.
Edited: September 11, 2019, 7:24 PM · You need structure in your day. We all think, "if only we had more time to practise". But, as a student fresh out of summer vacation, I can say thay everything just falls to pieces when you have the whole day to yourself with no obligations.
It's important to keep yourself busy, with woodworking or maintenance or volunteering or working out or whathaveyou. And even if you hate schedules, you will benifit from at least thinking about how you will spend your day and how much time you will allot for everything.
September 11, 2019, 8:14 PM · Well, at the back of your mind there maybe this thought...'I have to go back to work anyway, so whats the point'..

I recently retired and have been doing more practice than when working, but there's much house maintenance to catch up on, and thus I become to tired physically to take the violin out, but I took this opportunity to play through my pieces in my head which I neglected while working.

And being retired there isn't much incentive to go out playing for payment, but I am now more determined to play my pieces at the local open stage venue.

September 11, 2019, 11:55 PM · Sorry about your job loss, never easy. You need to get in a routine. After I retired I started practicing in the morning, then dedicated the greater part of the day doing whatever (in your case, looking for employment I assume), then practice some more early evenings and stick to that routine no matter what 7 days a week. It's always easy to skip otherwise, you get distracted.
Edited: September 12, 2019, 7:59 AM · I'm with Cotton. Structure your days. Also, get to work! If you are between decent-paying jobs, and you have resources to carry you through the lurch, then volunteer someplace and let that be your job. (In addition, of course, to the "job" of finding suitable long-term employment.) I'm no psychologist but I think what's happening is that your violin practicing is at least subliminally disturbed by musing about your circumstances. And keep posting here! Your friends are keen to share a few words with you day by day.
September 12, 2019, 8:54 AM · I made myself redundant by quitting a job a few years ago, and left myself three months to recuperate and look for a new job. I spent the first month visiting family and friends and catching up on housework and other chores. I had a routine that I stuck to, took daily walks when the weather was nice (my work sabbatical was in the middle of winter!) and worked on my creative projects several hours a day. The thing that fell by the wayside, funnily enough, was having meals prepared - I thought I'd make time to have dinner at an earlier hour, but I stuck with the same meal prep/dinner time as my employment days, much to my husband's chagrin!

When I've had extended days at home to practice now, I will get ready as if I were going to work, do work on the computer (I have a side-business), practice for a couple of hours, break to do something else, return to practicing, break to do something else, cook or whatever, and so on. I love routines, and feel most people perform at their best when they stick to them.

I also think, even though I'm not a psychologist, that your situation with the violin is a mirror/metaphor for how you are feeling about your work-life and life in general. (For me, how I feel about the violin is usually a fantastic metaphor for how I am feeling about my life... my therapist told me that this a rather common thing.)

Keep posting here!

What are you currently working on with the violin, in addition to your scales?

September 12, 2019, 4:34 PM · Thank you very much for all of you to take time to share your experience and suggestion with me. As what Cotton mentioned, I definitely have in mind "if only we had more time to practise".... I sort of expect somehow I will be happy when I have all these free time. I haven't thought in detail on exactly how, or even set a violin goal before I find a job.

At the moment, I am rotating between a few different tasks: 1. look for a job, 2. learn a new programming skill that may help me in looking for a job, 3. play violin, 4. household chore, 5, procrastinate. Sometimes I will do one more, and sometimes I will do less. One thing I notice is, now I am not working, I can bail on any task if I don't feel like it. If I struggle to sleep at night, I can just stay in bed longer in the morning. I eat when I am hungry, not during the usual office lunch break. I go shopping for food not on weekend, but on random days since I am not at work. It is total freedom for me, but I feel a bit lost.

Maybe I really need to stick to a stricter schedule/routine and set some goals. One thing I do worry about is, one day when I retire, I probably will struggle to adapt. Assuming I get a job soon, it will happen in 10 years or so.

@Pamela, I am working on the Wohlfahrt book. I bought a copy after reading Laurie's interview with Rachel Barton Pine. I progress rather slowly on this. The orchestra session is starting in a week. So I am expecting probably 4-5 pieces to work on for this semester. Hopefully nothing too crazy. Before the summer, one conductor gave us a Jazz piece that had a few very difficult bars. I think at least half of the section just air bow there.

September 12, 2019, 7:06 PM · I think all of the above is excellent and caring advice from smart violinists to another violinist. From my medical perspective however, there are some hints from what you have said that there may be a (completely understandable) element of depressed mood In reaction to your recent experience. When substantial life changes are in the works confiding in a physician who knows you, if you have a sufficiently holistic and caring one, may genuinely give direction to navigate the changes thrust upon you. Violin is an unequalled outlet for expressing emotion, but perhaps should not be one’s only refuge. Apologies if I over-step, but my motivation is solely supportive.
September 12, 2019, 9:42 PM · I don't think Charles overstepped. I think he said what we were all thinking.
September 14, 2019, 4:50 PM · Just to add - the only time it's difficult to make myself practice, and impossible to do this in an effective way, is when I'm really down. It's the perfect barometer for my soul.

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