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Gear Lust and Practice Avoidance

I took guitar lessons and played in a band when I was younger. I loved the Beatles, Doors, Led Zeppelin. Anything from the 60s or 70s was amazing to me during my adolescence. I should have been practicing guitar diligently during this time: playing my scales, mastering chord progressions and learning new repertoire.

Instead of practicing I wasted a lot of time. I’d peruse the latest Guitar Magazine and memorize the specs about a new distortion effects-pedal or I’d trot down to the local music shop to eye the latest amplifiers on display. Sitting down to practice was, inexplicably, far down the list of priorities. As a result, I failed to progress the way I should have.

Musicians have a word for this affliction: “gear lust”. I’m as guilty as any for falling for it. “Gear lust” describes the delusion that the acquisition and obsession over better equipment will lead to superior performance. For a guitarist this might mean obsessing about a new instrument or the best material for a pick (plectrum). But this malady applies to almost any interest or hobby. Interested in photography? Check out those titanium tripods or the latest Digital SLRs! Interested in writing? Are you aware of the latest software applications or online writing courses?

Gear lust is easy and enticing because accumulating cool new shiny objects is fun. It’s also a lot easier than engaging in deliberate practice and the glacial pace of improvement that sometimes comes with regular practice. Gear lust gives a false promise that massive leaps in improvement can be had instantly. All you have to do is open your wallet and pull out the credit card…

Thankfully, older me now recognizes gear lust for what it is: a big distraction (an “infinity pool” if you read my prior post) with a false promise.

I’m fond of this incisive quote by author Regina Brett:

“A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.”

She elaborates on her FAQ for Writers:

“Too many writers spend too much time talking about writing, thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, taking classes about writing, attending workshops about writing and don’t sit down and write.”

I constantly remind myself of Brett’s wisdom in order to counter the forces of distraction and procrastination:

  • To get better at piano I must practice the piano.
  • To improve at running I must run.
  • To improve at time management I must actively manage my time
  • To improve at writing, I must write.

Researching the best writing software isn’t writing. Listening to podcasts about writing isn’t writing. Making outlines isn’t writing. Bookmarking interesting articles isn't writing. World-building isn’t writing. Visiting the writing subreddit isn't writing.  Buying a nifty typewriter isn’t writing. Reading about writing isn’t writing. These things might be important in their own way, but they aren’t substitutes for the actual thing.

So a final note to my younger-self: forget the gear lust and other distractions. If you want to get better at guitar, play the guitar!

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