Thursday, April 8, 2010

Free Throws, Muscle Memory, and Letting Go

Yes, I'm on a basketball kick right now.  And it has made me realize that there are some striking parallels between free throws and songwriting/ performing.  Take a little journey with me...

As the Kaenon receptionist, I used to have a set time for lunch every day.  Like clockwork, noon brought with it the promise of a burger or tacos or a chicken salad sandwich then about 20 minutes of reading articles on  A pretty sweet respite in the midst of business, but not very productive and certainly not life-enriching.

Now in a new position, I don't have a set time for lunch.  In fact, I'm so busy that I have to make time for lunch.  Most days are spent eating lunch at my desk while sifting through the day's numerous tasks.  It's much more efficient that way.

BUT... I still have to clock out for lunch.

AND... the weather has been much nicer lately.

AND... we have a half court right outside our building...

SO... I spend my clocked out lunch... shooting free throws.

I've begun a daily log which keeps track of my free throw shooting progress.  After warming up for a bit, I shoot 10 free throws and keep track of how many I make.  Day 3 is tomorrow.  The first 2 days I shot 7/10 and 2/10.  A whopping 45% free throw shooting, which is really, really, really (think Shaquille O'Neal) bad.

SO... I spend time during warm up working on my form.  Making sure my arm alignment is good.  Remembering to flick my wrist.  Concentrating on focusing on the basket as I shoot.  Trying to keep a consistent trajectory.  You know, focusing on the minutia of free throw shooting.

All of this focus is fine and dandy.  But there's another aspect of free throw shooting that I find interesting.  Every couple free throws, I forget about focusing on the minutia, and I just let go.  I don't think about anything really.  I just shoot the ball and feel it going into the basket.  And, lo and behold, it goes into the basket.  Without me doing much more than relying on muscle memory and instinct and the good habits I've established.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

Free throw shooting is a lot like songwriting and performing.

Yes, you need to focus on scales and chord shapes and tempo and lyrics and rhythmic flow and the minutia of songwriting.  But, every once in a while, you forget about all that, you let go, and you just feel your way through the song.  And it clicks.  The ball goes in the basket.  The crowd gets it.  The song accomplishes its task and touches the listener.

I'm looking forward to shooting more free throws and writing more songs... and letting go...

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