Leave It Behind to Improve It?

I already knew that perfectionism had no place in my Minnesota Brass adventure. As a first-time spinner, I have no hope nor expection of perfection, and I’m not a perfectionist, anyway, in any areas of my life. I’m a pretty-darn-goodist at best. 

But, when I know I need to improve in something, I will practice it fairly relentlessly until forced to move along to the next thing.

So last week at practice, I was thinking, “Hey, I’m doing sort of OK, here!” I could keep up with what was going on during the spinning (flag-spinning and tossing) part of practice. My moved weren’t sharp enough or precise enough or fast enough. But I could at least complete the exercises reasonably well.

But before I could give myself a big pat on the back, Heather said, “OK, now we’re going to try this left-handed.”


Drop spins, under flats, triplets, thumb flips, and some combination of single tosses while traveling in plies that I don’t know the name of–I had just barely been able to handle those with my right hand. When I tried to do them with my left hand, I didn’t even know where to start, other than constantly dropping the flag and/or hitting myself with it.

But here’s the weird thing. As I’ve been practicing the left-handed stuff at home since that practice, I’ve realized that moving ahead to something even harder has made the right-handed version feel so much easier! And by trying to learn something that builds on the prior skill, I’m still improving the prior skill while focusing on the new skill. In some bizarre way, the overwhelming new task moved me forward in my old task, too.

Or maybe my right-handed stuff just looks better to me because the left-handed stuff is so pathetic!

This has me wondering about writing, too, though. Do I keep “working on” certain things in my writing because I’m really trying to improve them? Or is it just habit? Is it time to say good enough on certain levels of skill and try to take them a step further? Is that when the real improvement will happen on the good enough ones? As I struggle with the brand new and totally overwhelming ones?

Writing isn’t visual nor quantifiable like flag-spinning is. When I drop the flag or catch it before it rotates the proper number of times, that’s pretty obvious. I know I didn’t do it well enough. Writing and other artistic pursuits are much harder to judge. Still, I know there are techniques I work on, whether it’s coming up with better titles or using stronger imagery in my poems, that I’ve been working on a long time. So I’m wondering if there are ways I can push myself beyond those expectations to something harder, a new level of those same areas. I might not hit the something harder, but maybe the titles and imagery will get stronger as I struggle to reach for what seems totally unreachable. (Huh. Cue “The Impossible Dream” here.)

What do you think? Am I crazy? Has this happened to you, too?

P.S. I’ll be at the hospital today with my daughter, who’s having an evaluative procedure. Please keep your fingers crossed for good results–thanks!

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