Three months ago, fearing my life had gotten too comfortable, I decided to stretch myself and do something that scared me, something for which I had no inherent talent.

I signed up for singing lessons.

It took every ounce of resolve I possessed to make it to the first lesson. When I arrived, I sat down on a high stool and tried to ignore the microphone on the music stand before me. The teacher, Joshua, asked me what goal I wanted to achieve.

“I’ve made it,” I said. “I’m here.”

He laughed. “No, really. It’s good for you to have a goal to strive for. Any ideas?”

“I’ll come back a couple more times.”

The look on Joshua’s face told me I wasn’t giving him what he wanted. “What about an open mic night?” he asked.

I looked at him in disbelief. An open mic night? I was three minutes into my first-ever singing lesson and he’s talking about an open mic night? “Baby steps, Joshua, baby steps.”

He nodded and turned to face the black upright piano. “Okay. No goals. I get it.”

For three months now, I’ve been going to weekly lessons and they’ve become something I look forward to even though I appear to have no natural ability and seem to be making little progress. But at least I know why I’m not progressing.

I don’t practice.

Every week, Joshua and I set practice goals. Every week I leave excited to pursue them. Then, the next lesson comes around and I’m chagrined to admit I’ve done nothing to improve my voice since I last saw him.

Despite that, I’ve been okay with not practicing. It’s easy not to practice, much easier than singing. When I don’t practice, I don’t have to confront my always-cracking unformed singing voice. I don’t have to embarrass myself in front of my husband. I don’t risk failure.

It’s not that I don’t think about singing. I do. I’ve listened to a MasterClass taught by Christina Aguilera. I’ve watched before-and-after YouTube videos showing the impressive improvements a voice can make with the proper training. I’ve listened to Joni Mitchell and tried to determine when and how she moves from her “chest voice” to her “head voice.”

What I haven’t been doing is singing.

“Why not?” a good friend asked the other day. “Why aren’t you practicing?”

That’s when it hit. Resistance. That brutal, unforgiving, can’t-see-it-touch-it-smell-it force whose sole mission is to prevent the creator from creating, the meditator from meditating, the dieter from dieting, and the singer from singing.

As a writer, I have a history with resistance going back decades. Newspaper columns, magazine articles, personal essays, books. I’ve put them all off for hours-days-weeks and even years in some cases. And every single time, the writing felt far better than the punishing self-criticism I walked around with before sitting down to write. You’d think I would have learned.

Naming my reluctance to practice as resistance lifted a burden. My failure to practice wasn’t an indictment of my character. I wasn’t a failed human for not practicing. I was merely dealing with a force known to every person who’s ever wanted to pursue something that mattered.

Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I know what to do, which is to experiment with the same strategies I’ve used with writing. Schedule a time, be alone without distractions or an audience, take baby steps, (I’m only going to sing for five minutes), pay someone to keep me accountable.

Most important, I’m going search for the answer to Joshua’s original question: What is my goal? By understanding the deeper reasons I keep showing up to lessons every week, I’m certain I’ll be able to push past my fear, self-doubt and lazy rationalizations and find the joy in practicing.

After all, that’s all it is.


If you’ve been dealing with resistance in your writing life, join me at the next free meeting of The Memoir Collective on Wednesday, February 9, from 9-10:30 am (mst). Together, we’ll find strategies to get you writing on a regular basis.

Another suggestion: pick up The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. In it, you’ll learn how resistance operates and how professionals get the work done despite this menacing and omnipresent force.