How long do you practice something for? Is it a lifetime? A few minutes? Ten?
How often should you practice?
Well, I think only you can answer these questions. We are all unique learners. We do know that mindful practice is more important than practicing without intent. Doing it slowly and deliberately. Rather than being a happy snapper. Taking each photograph with intent.
Having a clear understanding of what we are doing when we practice may help you figure these things out. When we practice a skill we are trying to change the brain. It actually grows when we develop a new skill. You are trying to strengthen its pathways with the new skill. You practice until the skill becomes automatic. You are increasing the synapses strength by repeatedly using it. The stronger they get the less we have to think to use them.
Binge learning isn't as effective as distributed practice. Some may say this should be daily, while others think three or four days a week will lead to a better success rate. Giving your body and mind time to recover is also very much apart of the learning cycle.
Personally, I think fifteen minutes a day is better than a solid hour, spread over four days per week. Not that I am into timetables. There is no need to practice until failure either. A small dose of concentrated and eventful practice regularly is the secret.
So you might wonder why I am talking about all of this. Well, it is because I am practicing my painting with light techniques. I am wondering why I gave up last year on it so quickly. The answer to that was the lack of success. Without the motivation of a successful image I gave up way to easily. This year with at least one successful image I am motivated to keep practicing and experimenting. Short bursts at each location is working so much better than a long full day of never ending practice. Just as the research confirms. Distributed practice. Perfect practice produces perfect performance they say.
So I intermingle different types of photography, with quiet times, walks and reflection. I intermingle processing, driving, eating and sleeping with very intense short sessions of practice. If you wanted a more zen metaphor, just go with the flow, and if you are not into it, come back when you are fresh and stimulated.
Do you practice? How often and for how long? How do you practice? You should know the answers to these questions.
On the banks on Macleay River, near Smithtown and Summertown. South West Rocks. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018