Creativity in Retirement:

Let the Instrument be the Teacher

I started playing guitar in the last few years, so improvement is the name of the game.  I wanted to advance from being a beginner to playing music I enjoy listening to. I got invited to play with a group of about five other people, all more advanced musicians, and playing with them has helped me improve the most. I also took a semester-long guitar class at a local community college and a few shorter courses at UCSD Extension.  I had the good fortune to have excellent instructors for both and have continued private lessons.  This has been a lot of fun, which drives wanting to improve. When I hear something I like, I try to play it, even at a beginner level.  

Learning a song or a technique on the guitar is itself creative. If I can play a tune better than I did a week ago, that’s gratifying.  Figuring out how to play a tricky part of a song creates the ‘I can do it!’ feeling.  Playing music is an immediate gratification experience, so if I play something that sounds good, I want to play more.  The most fun thing has been playing music with other people; it’s a great environment to develop music skills.  And there’s a lot of collaboration, cooperation, and organization when playing a song together.  Interacting and learning from my music teachers has been very motivating because they are so engaged in their music.  Listening to different musical genres at local venues has been inspiring and has resulted in fun nights out. 

My goal is to continue developing what I’m currently working on. Learning music has been a humbling experience, and I greatly appreciate the complexity and work involved. I try to have a ‘beginner’s mind’ about learning and playing and to relax unrealistic expectations.  I’m okay with trying complicated songs, even if it’s a struggle to get them right. 

My development plan is to keep playing more advanced (to me) music, to keep playing with other people, to play different genres, to learn different guitar skills, and to be a contributing member of my music group.  

Personal development fits in the plan too. Being realistic about what I can accomplish and being happy with gradual improvement.  Feeling grateful that I get to play with other people.  Expecting many challenges and frustration, then breaking down what’s difficult and solving the problem.  Letting the instrument be the teacher.  Playing to my strengths.  Being receptive to instruction (don’t re-invent the wheel, especially when learning from a master wheelmaker).  Most of all, enjoying the learning process.  Playing guitar is an engaging and fun personal pursuit!  

Peter Libero, Ph.D is a retired psychologist living in Encinitas, California. In addition to playing the guitar, his past passions included skiing and bike riding. Peter is married to fellow psychologist Linda Helenski, Ph.D. He is a Fellow and long-standing member of SDPA.