Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb —
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.
Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-leveled sands.
So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again —
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
And a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.
— Jeanette Winterson
THE TALENT CODE - By Daniel Coyle
A very interesting (to say the least) book that I accidentally stumbled upon on Amazon as I was purchasing a different book. The idea seemed attractive; “Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown”, so I took a chance on it.
Coyle spends much, if not the whole book, centered on the idea that deep practice produces a biological action in which a cool little fellow called “myelin” insulates neural circuits, this neural coating creates “broadband” for the firing of said neural circuits. So basically when you practice deeply myelin is insulating certain neural circuits (by the continuos firing of them), and therefore wrapping them so that they can be fired faster and more precisely. Which brings the question, “Are you firing the right neural circuits (and thus coating it with myelin) when you practice?” Coyle makes sure to define what he means by “deep practice”.
Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways - operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes - makes you smarter.
"You can do the same practice two different ways. The brilliant way is the way of thinking, learning, and building. The other is just a waste of time."
"You will become clever through your mistakes."
Now, to be straightforward, I was off put by all the scientific and neurological terms/ideas, but Coyle was very aware of this potential brick wall for his readers. He swiftly introduces it, and then hastily moves on to a more pragmatic approach.
All in all this book seems to be more geared towards athletes and musicians, and other skill-based professions that involve a direct and clear way of practicing. I had trouble trying to integrate the information into the art world, where subjectivity makes “mistakes” complicated. It seems that all modern art is, nowadays, are just glorified mistakes. “Well I was trying to paint a cat, but instead I messed up and painted this abstract masterpiece.” But that’s more or less the nature of creativity, mistakes are welcomed, encouraged even.
So yes I struggled trying to imagine what “deep practice” looked like to me, as an actor, especially an actor who thrives on creativity and the mystery of the unknown. I enjoyed the stretching of my mind though, because it did birth in me some very tangential ideas which I found very appropriate and timely (somehow). It’s funny how that works. I learned a lot from this book, maybe not exactly what Daniel Coyle intended, but in the end it seems trivial for that to matter.
A challenging, yet surprisingly docile, read. I finished it in about 4 days total over the course of a week.
(My struggle with integrating the ideas Coyle presented. Stretching is an understatement. )
Want to borrow or a recommendation for another book? Just ask.
— Daniel Coyle “The Talent Code”
— James Baldwin, 1961 (via manufactoriel)
— Maya Angelou