Growing up, I was an avid musician. I played the flute and the guitar, both pretty well.
For various reasons I stuck with the flute longer, and ended up performing in lots of extra chamber music groups and orchestras.
While I was in journalism school, for a feature-writing class assignment I interviewed a bunch of musicians for an article on what it was like to be a working musician.
One particularly talented young cellist had given up working as an orchestral performer for a couple of years to work on her bank account -- by taking a job as a paralegal.
During our discussions, which were full of great anecdotes (including one where a conductor got so angry during a performance he stormed off the stage, and although the performers kept playing, in a fit he cut the power for the entire auditorium to the audience's shock) this woman was especially intriguing.
She noted that because she hadn't performed for two years, it would take her a good three to six months of solid practice - we're talking eight hours per day - to revert to her original level.
Three to six months? I thought. Impossible!
The other day, I picked up my tarnished silver flute and started playing a few things that years of practice and muscle memory made it impossible to forget.
And I was astounded at how bad it sounded.
At that point, I thought, yeah, maybe three to six months of daily practice for eight hours a day, and I'd be ready for a show again.