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Journey to the West*

July 16, 2017

After a night of packing (and thank you, my dear friend Serena for the moral support!) and a 2.5 hour long sleep – I am finally on my way to Plymouth!

 

 

I spent my morning wondering whether it was more exciting or more insane to actually be going on this trip. I realised all of a sudden that I hadn’t been properly backpacking for over a decade now, and doubts started surfacing – did I pack too much? Did I pack too little? Am I risking my personal safety? (For some reason this is the amongst the first questions people ask me) Is the backpack going to be too heavy for me to carry around? (With an amplifier in it, it sometimes threatens to pull me down to the ground) Will the road be too lonely? Will I even have the courage to step out and play on the streets? Have I been careful enough in planning my finances?

 

An hour or so into the train ride from London, the views are getting greener and hillier, and I am deciding that for now, I will let excitement take over fear and uncertainty; and sense of adventure take over the somewhat dim feeling produced by lack of sleep.

 

 

Yesterday I found myself writing a letter to my three-year-old nephew, in which I told him that I was about to go on a journey. “Do you know what a ‘journey’ is?” I asked him and myself at the same time. “It is like a trip, but with a purpose in mind or in heart” I replied to myself, and on paper to him.

 

I think I’m going to stick with this definition of a journey – a trip with a purpose.

 

So what is my purpose in this journey?

 

To him I explained that my purpose in this journey was to get to know my harp better; to play it every day until I get better at playing, until I understand it and learn its secrets. But I think that beyond this me-harp acquaintance, my purpose in this journey can be defined in one word as practice.

 

I want to practice my harp playing. I want to practice my writing. I want to practice my practicing skills; to learn how to construct and maintain practice habits.

 

My performance experience with the harp has taught me that the best way to practice (for me…) is through actual performance. This is what I call ‘applied practice’. So here, by putting myself in front of an audience, I’m making myself play, I take responsibility for my technique and mistakes and deal with these. These performances will also provide me with the motivation to practice daily outside of performance context.

 

Same goes for writing. Without getting into details – it was a challenging year research-wise. I tried, but ended up not following my (wise) supervisor’s (wise) advice – Just write. Write on a daily basis, he says; write whatever; don’t wait until you’ve ‘done all your research’ – do research while you write it. Just write - aim at a thousand words a day. Yet time and again I found myself sitting in front of a blank screen and… well… one could say this year I specialised in the art of not-writing.

 

So this blog will be my ‘applied practice’ for writing – it will be to writing what performance is to playing.

 

On the streets I will ‘just play’, and here I will ‘just write’, and if I do that enough I will hopefully manage to turn both into habits (I know that academic writing and blog writing is not the same, but the idea of making something into a habit is what I need to work on, and hopefully one would nourish the other…). I am also hoping to try and discipline myself into maintaining an almost-healthy lifestyle within and despite the travel context, so maybe add a ‘just run’ to the ‘just play’ and ‘just write’ bits.

 

**

It is morning in beautiful Plymouth (yes, it took me a while to complete this entry) and I’m about to hit the road for my first busking attempt! In the next post I’m hoping to report how it went and tell you a bit about how the beginning of my adventure has been. In the meantime – you are welcome to comment down here and let me know – What are your practice tricks and tips?

 

Wishing you a wonderful day from Seagull-ruled Plymouth (I might tell you about the 'Seagull-ruled' thing later on...)

 

 

A wandering harpist

 

 

*If you’re not a Sinologist you are welcome to google this title…

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