An expensive habit
Sometimes in lessons or masterclasses I see a moment occur when someone is learning new information and a new way to do something that is indisputably better, more effective than what they were doing before. It is a solution that they asked for, and that achieves their desired goal. They can hear and feel the effectiveness of the new thing, there is excitement and elation, but then a cloud crosses their face…
…but I paid a lot of money to learn to do it the old way.
I have had numerous artists tell me this outright. They have invested time and money in learning an ineffective model, and they experience resistance to change because of that past investment. Not because the new way is insufficient, but because they feel the burden of what seems like wasted time and resources.
For some, this is enough to inspire retreat. The reality of changing their thinking, even if it is in service of their own goals, is going to take additional work and they do not wish to pursue it.
For others, they are also serious, committed artists who are very invested in their technique- but also hold it lightly. They can see a way of thinking dispassionately about their work, a given technique or method, and appreciate it for its value while recognizing its limitations. They are happy to try something, knowing they are not defined by it- they can always make another choice.
I often tell groups of students, “I am not interested in getting you to substitute good habits for bad habits. I am not interested in getting you to use a particular technique. I just want you to know you have choices. And if some point, if you wish to, you can change.”
Doing something that doesn’t work might be familiar, but that does not mean it’s easy. It’s work either way. What can be changed is the amount of satisfaction derived from it.