Sep 052012

As I write this I’m listening to a concert with legendary jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz. You can tell his stamina isn’t what it once was, but his ideas are still incredible. The 82-year-old Konitz held his own quite well with his 20-something piano player.

As long as you can physically hold your tools and wave them around — or even dictate your ideas to someone else, you’re not too old to do this. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t get published until her 60s, and Grandma Moses was even older than that when she did her best work.

In the creative world, there’s no such animal as “too old” or “too young.” The right age is whatever yours is right now.


Jul 262012

Jazz great John Coltrane had such facility on his instrument and such advanced harmonic thinking that Lee Konitz, one of his contemporaries, suggested Trane practiced 10 hours a day.

Bassist/composer Charles Mingus took his practice a different way. As he progressed he spent less of his practice time actually playing his instrument and more time listening to others play. His reasoning was that physical practice existed mostly to a) build up his stamina, b) improve his facility and speed, and c) increase his muscle memory. Writers may not spend more than a few hours actually putting stuff down on paper or disk, but the best ones read everything in sight.

Your practice should include time when you’re actually doing your work, and immersion time studying the work of artists you admire. Both count as practice; the trick is to find your ratio and to be consistent about it.