A remarkable thing happened to me last weekend — my DSL connection died (which shouldn’t have been a surprise, since I live in the technological backwater known as Silicon Valley). Try as I might, I was unable to access the Internet and felt vaguely panic-stricken. My daily routine had been suddenly and utterly compromised. I couldn’t down my first cup of coffee while perusing online news. Nor could I check my email, wind through video threads on YouTube, or track the number of people who had trolled my MySpace page. Man oh man oh man. What was I going to do?
It took a few minutes to calm down and remember that there was life before the Internet. While still sitting in front of my computer, my eyes landed on a towering pile of documents that I had been meaning to go through for … weeks? Months? So, I started sorting them, filing some, shredding others. Minutes later I tidied up the kitchen, and then cleaned out a drawer whose bottom hadn’t been visible for a decade or so.
On a roll, I pulled out my favorite drum set, polished the shells until the red sparkle regained its luster, re-headed every drum, and even replaced the snare wires on my trusty nickel-over-brass snare — something I had procrastinated about doing for God knows how long. My productivity didn’t let up until late afternoon, when I visited a downtown coffee shop, sipping a latte and poring over The New York Times. I felt incredible. It had been a truly great day.
It made me think how easily shiny objects with little substance can distract us humans. Sure, it’s cool to have a MySpace page, but I used to keep track of upcoming gigs perfectly well using a Day Timer. Most of the stuff on YouTube is pretty depressing when you think about it, involving people either fighting, arguing, or falling down. Newspapers are infinitely more informative and better written than online news services. And 80 percent of my email is either useless spam or some unscrupulous heathen trying to trick me into revealing my banking information.
After all these years as a drummer and a writer, I’ve come to realize that almost everything that applies to life also applies to drumming. So my question to you is: What distracts you from doing the things you need to do to become a better drummer? It can be something as serious as booze and drugs or as benign as watching too much television. Either way, you should try to recognize the outward symptoms — the drummer’s equivalent of that towering stack of papers long waiting to be filed.
But there’s one more important step to take once you’ve identified your source of distraction. Put aside that shiny object and begin drumming. It’s as simple as that.
As always, thanks for reading DRUM! Magazine.