Stuck in a Rut?

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut, musically? Do you ever felt like a hamster on the wheel, doing 300 miles a week but then finding out you’re still in the same place? Does the time you spend practicing feel similar to those days when you went to the gym, pedalling for hours on a stationary bicycle but getting nowhere?

Being “stuck” is something you might not even notice at first. These feelings can build slowly over time. Day after day, you might follow your same practice routines but, eventually, it feels less like you are working toward something and more like you're just killing time. Here are some of the signs that you might be stuck in a rut.

  • Every practice session seems the same. You play the same ole’ songs, day after day, and one song seems indistinguishable from another.

  • You feel like you’re just trying to get through another practice session, so you can mark it off your list. Your goal is to keep on keepin’ on, so you dutifully spend the time practicing as usual. But it's not much fun for you any more.

  • You feel unmotivated. The music on your practice list has become boring to you, but you haven’t looked for anything new to practice either.  You might briefly think about finding something new to do, but you just can’t summon up the energy to search.

  • You feel unfulfilled. The joy has gone, at least temporarily. You don’t feel satisfied or excited when you finally set down your instrument. And you don't keep an eye out for the next festival coming to a town near you.  

If your heart recognized any of these signs, you need to get UNstuck. Sooner than later! So, as usual, I have just a few suggestions.

  • Get “out there” with your instrument and meet new people. Talking to new people in our dulcimer circle is a great way to expand your musical connections. You will get new ideas of tunes to learn and techniques to try.

  • Be spontaneous. Instead of always playing the same songs and practicing in the same place every time, do something different. Pack up your instrument and go to the beach to play, or in the park, or in the woods. Researchers have discovered that being in nature has a positive impact on the brain and our level of motivation.

  • Find your purpose. It’s easy to fall into a rut when it feels like you’re not really working toward anything. Having things to look forward to - like festivals, jam sessions or even an upcoming performance – are key ingredients for taking you out of the doldrums musically.

  • Boost your motivation with a reward. Sometimes getting out of the rut happens spontaneously. You might have felt stuck for days, and then suddenly something clicks in your mind and you’re off again. Reward yourself the day that happens.

  • Squash perfectionism. This is probably my personal biggest issue. No matter how hard I try, it seems like what I’m working on is never good enough. If unchecked, this feeling can keep you spinning on that wheel far too long.

    Embrace the fact that you have given it your best effort that day, and keeping moving forward. You will become much more productive (and motivated) when you’re not tethered to perfectionism.

Feeling stuck in a rut can be frustrating. But with a little effort, you can add a sense of novelty, adventure, and excitement back into your dulcimer world.



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