Emily Dickinson guitar practice

Emily Dickinson on How to Live a Life of Music

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!

“Forever is composed of nows.”

Emily Dickinson

When we first begin playing guitar, we dream of a life of music and challenge and fun.

Loaded with enthusiasm, we gear up. We get an instrument. We dive into Youtube or buy some books.

But after a while, the glow wears thin. The honeymoon ends. What once was play becomes work. We think we should be better than we are. We set unrealistic expectations and fail to meet them. We fuss at ourselves.

Life gets busy. Practice becomes inconvenient. We feel unsure and insecure. We “forget” to show up and sit down to play. We lose momentum.

To play guitar takes time. To play well takes more time. And that means dedication.

And the reward of dedication is not an arrival at some climactic event.

A dog doesn’t chew a bone to finish it. A dog chews a bone to chew a bone. It’s the doing that matters, not the end result.

And so it is in music. The point of guitar is to play guitar. It’s to pull our focus to a single point.

When we put our entire attention on a hard-but-not-too-hard challenge, time disappears. We connect with something beyond the chores and dramas of life. We call this “flow”. Flow makes life feel meaningful, regardless of the product or outcome.

But flow doesn’t always feel flow-y. Sometimes it feels anything but. And this is the test.

George Leonard said that to step onto the path of mastery is easy. To stay on the path of mastery takes work.

And part of that work is forgiveness. Sure, we may skip a day, week, month or year. No matter. We can start again. We have today.

Whatever we can do today is enough for today. Small steps forward add up over time. Before we know it, years pass. Decades pass. And even then, we’ll still face the option of picking up the guitar or not. We’ll still have distractions. We’ll still feel the push and pull.

A life of music means doing what we can now, today. “Forever is composed of nows.”

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


~ Michael Immel

-Michael Immel

Life is good, still enjoying [The Woodshed Program], the progress is life altering, I love it. The physical challenges of my situation have rained havoc for over half my life. In spite of those little pests this 40$ Yamaha classical who needed a new home and your course has given me the "part the clouds for the sun to shine through" outlook. You see, even when I am unable to play I know she patiently waits for my return as I do. A giant void in my journey was filled with light.


~ Ken Montz

-Ken Montz

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