When you work with a really useful teacher, you learn not only specific techniques for whatever you are working on together, but also a criteria for how to teach yourself and develop your own work. This may be explicit, as in the Alexander Technique, or, as in my study of Indian singing, oblique. (It was not explained to me exactly what were considered to be ideal qualities, but by trial and error, getting feedback -usually a smile or a sad little head shake- I was able to develop a sense of what worked and why.)
Criteria for experimenting and innovating is key in making practice meaningful. It is key in work, but also in play- which is essential in creative pursuits. Arbitrary experimentation is marvelous and can lead to discovery- but I also see it producing a lot of confusion and non-starters for people. If you haven’t accurate understanding of the underlying processes, it can lead you down vague and even harmful paths.
One of my favorite places to go for great bakes is Huckleberry Cafe run by Zoe Nathan, whom I once heard say about her exquisite but not excessively complicated food, “Of course you could do it yourself! I just probably do it better.”
Of course, learning the Alexander Technique is not like buying a muffin. You are not given an end result, you are learning how to do for yourself, that’s why they are called lessons.
But that line stuck with me as a useful way of thinking about learning.
I can do it on my own, but I could do more by working with someone who does it better.