Every aspiring professional knows they need to practice in order to improve their skills, but those destined for a lasting career recognize early on that the journey towards perfection with your art is one that never truly comes to an end.
There's always room for improvement, whether you're trying to be the best artist or the best publicist, and practicing your art on a regular basis is key to further developing your skills.
But what does that mean exactly?
The dictionary will tell you that practice is defined as the "repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it." That's a perfectly generic way to explain the term, but if you approach your work on your art with similarly vague intentions, you'll stunt your development.
To truly practice something means to be fiercely focused and driven toward specific goals, taking every opportunity to improve and further refine your abilities. You don't just play guitar for an hour a day – you work on specific songs and/or song creation. You don't just write to read your own wordplay, but to get something off your chest that feels like it might suffocate you if kept within. To practice is to work towards something with purpose, whether or not you actually achieve your goal.
1. Practice familiarizes you with your art
As creative people, it can sometimes be hard to revisit things we make once they have been shared with the world. Our basic instincts tell us to move forward and continue creating, but it's supremely important we don't give into these urges and instead spend time reflecting on just what it is we're doing with our time and minds. Is your latest work better or at least on par with everything you have done before? How can it be improved? Do you need to scrap the majority of your current project and start over with the handful of honestly good lines you have been able to create? Practice forces us to look at our art and question whether or not we are representing ourselves to the best of our own abilities.
2. Practice allows you to create the future without committing to it
Your next book, album, or press release may change the world, but you'll never complete that project if you don't first practice and refine your current skill set. When we practice we're not only preparing for the future, but we're also taking steps to create it. We're reaching into the ether of creativity and forging something into existence that never would have been seen, heard, or otherwise experienced without our mind and body bring it to life. That's a beautiful thing, and all too often, we forget that it's in the regimen of a strong daily routine that the best ideas are born. By practicing, we can dabble in the possibilities of tomorrow without commitment, giving us the ability to make mistakes free from judgment, and then grow from them before taking steps to further expose our art to the world.
3. Practice makes you stronger
Whether you use your time to work on new projects, spitball future possibilities, or refine already developed works, practice allows creative people the ability to strengthen their skills. To what degree this occurs is directly related to how focused the effort is on the part of the individual. Those who have specific goals and work towards them are more likely to find happiness with the result of their efforts. Those who don't choose a goal or specific task to work towards lack focus, and their practice sessions will ultimately suffer as a result. Practice is meant to be fun, but purposeful fun is far more rewarding than simply messing around.
4. Practice reminds you that there is still room to grow
Have you ever created something you loved only to look back on it days or weeks later in disgust (if at all)? Sometimes we avoid practice because we know it will force us to confront our downfalls, and those are things we as people prefer to leave unexposed. To be a true professional requires us to be honest with ourselves, which includes admitting that we're nowhere near as perfect as we sometimes like to think we are. We are flawed, but if we practice our skills and focus on becoming better, we will, in time, develop both as people and artists.
5. Practice keeps you humble
You know who never practiced? Me either. You know why? Because they never accomplished anything worth remembering. Everyone who goes on to do anything of value with themselves does so through dedication and practice at refining a skill or craft to the best of their abilities. When we practice, we force ourselves to realize that we're not where we ideally want to be. That's okay, though, because so is everyone else walking the planet today. We are all going through our own individual struggles with becoming who it is we feel we are meant to be. If we ever hope to get there, we must come to terms with the fact we're going to have to work – probably quite hard – to achieve the goals we've set for ourselves.
6. Practice reminds you that humility is worth much more than ego
Your practice space should be considered a sacred location. It's the place you shed all the armor and disguises you wear to otherwise avoid the harsh realities of the world and allow yourself to be truly free. Those who gain the most from practice sessions do so because they allow themselves to be honest with where they are as an artist. They must face the fact that the entertainment world will go on with or without them, then find it within themselves to forge ahead and continuing creating in spite of what the rest of the world may think of the final result. They create for the sake of creating, because they know to do anything else would be to stunt their own development as a person and nothing else. If fame and fortune follow, that's good, but true professionals realize during their time in practice that neither reward is everlasting.
True success comes with a feeling of completion. That you finally overcame whatever mental hurdles stood between you and what you were attempting to create without giving up your artistic vision. It doesn't matter if everyone in the world loves it if you know deep down you could do better. Purposeful practice will make you better, but it requires the abandonment of ego.