The Day 8 section of reading for the digital book club I’m in has a couple of great sections on the idea of developing a practice. Although he doesn’t specifically use this word, I think a concept Steven Pressfield is trying to describe in his book Turning Pro is the concept of a kata. I’m not one of those weird white dudes creepily obsessed with Japanese culture (seriously, dudes, cut it out!), so allow me to mangle the definition by saying kata is basically the idea that there is a right way to do something, and you should practice doing it that way over and over.
****HUGE OVERGENERALIZATION ALERT!****
I think the part that makes this an Eastern rather than a Western concept is that even once you feel like you’ve “got it” you keep doing it. Mastering a practice means that you find satisfaction in doing something well. It becomes its own reward. In the West, I feel like the moment we master something, it’s time to move on to the next thing we can become “experts” at.
****END HUGE OVERGENERALIZATION****
Pressfield puts his own spin on this concept in his chapter entitled “The Professional Mindset as a Practice”:
A practice implies engagement in a ritual. A practice may be defined as the dedicated, daily exercise of commitment, will, and focused intention aimed, on one level, at the achievement of mastery in a field but, on a loftier level, intended to produce a communion with a power great than ourselves — call it whatever you life: God, mind, soul, Self, the Muse, the superconsicious. (p. 108)
He continues with this theme in his chapter, “A Practice Has a Time”:
The monks in their saffron robes mount the steps to the zendo at the same hour each morning. When the abbot strikes the chime, the monks place their palms together and sit.
You and I may have to operate in a more chaotic universe. but the object remains the same: to approach the mystery via order, commitment and passionate intention. (p. 110)
There was a time in my life I would have found this concept so boring I might have fallen asleep in the mddle of it. I was raised in a situation that wasn’t exactly chaotic, but wasn’t exactly the most orderly existence either. So to engage in this kind of ordered practice, day in and day out, seemed like a death sentence. Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the spontaneity??? I had gotten a little too used to the drama of it all. In Pressfield’s terminology, I was still an amateur.
My first steps towards this “turning pro” life came a few years ago when I came across this quote by Gustave Flaubert:
Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
I’ll leave you with that, because it kind of says it all.