Deliberate Practice

A few posts ago I wrote about how introverts are normal people (gasp!) and introduced you to Susan Cain's warm and informative book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I wanted to revisit it to talk about Deliberate Practice, a concept that the author gives credit to researcher psychologist Anders Ericsson for identifying and describing.

There are times when only solitude will do. Catching the Breeze, an original oil painting, signed limited edition print, miniature study, and note card by Steve Henderson.

There are times when only solitude will do. Catching the Breeze, an
original oil painting, signed limited edition print, miniature study,
and note card by Steve Henderson.

Deliberate Practice is another way of saying "lots of time spent alone working on whatever it is that you're passionate about"—athletics, music, chess, oil painting, drawing. Whatever it is that you're striving to get good at the more time you spend, alone, tackling it, the better you will do, according to the idea of deliberate practice. Indeed, Anders has identified Deliberate Practice as "the key to exceptional achievement."

"When you practice deliberately," Cain writes, "you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor you progress, and revise accordingly."

Well, why not do this in a fun, noisy, gregarious, extrovert group? Because Deliberate Practice takes intense concentration, something that is not conducive to group situations, Ericcson, through Cain, explains. It also requires deep motivation—self-generated—again, not something you find in a group. When you work in a group, you subvert your interests and passions to, generally, the interests and passions of the group, at best, but sometimes just the loudest person in the group.

What does this mean for you as an oil painting artist? Well first, it should take the pressure off of you feeling that you're unsociable and unfriendly because you crave studio time. You need studio time. And second, it emphasizes the tremendous importance of learning how to paint on your own. Go ahead, use oil painting art resources, we're not vacuums after all, but don't ultimately depend on those resources or oil painting techniques alone to guide you. Glean from them what works, identify what doesn't, and get to work—painting, painting, painting.

Deliberate practice. What a concept.


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3 thoughts on “Deliberate Practice

  1. I think this is true in a lot of venues, especially in reference to my time with the Lord in our quiet place – His Chamber! A safe place where I can learn and hear from my God. A place where I can cry out to Him and not be judged! The intimate place where I can love my Lord.

  2. Yes Carolyn and we do need to be deliberate. I recall some time ago you asked if you could be a part-time artist. I changed my mind. No you cannot – at least I’m finding it difficult to do so. Part time means stop and go and being deliberate needs to be planned. Art needs to be lived and breathed on a continuous basis.

    I’ve met a few very extroverted artists and designers; they tend to be very successful. Having people skills help. I’ve met a few who create masterpieces while chatting on the phone! Yet all of us do need to spend time alone at some point in time. Then we need to deliberately interact with other artists. No one generally creates from a vacuum nor does anything come out of the blue. Generally, ideas are built upon.

    The reality is that we need a balance between time alone and time with others.