We all know that the key to improvement is to challenge yourself, but how much are you actually challenging yourself? Are you guilty of being too realistic? What do I mean when I say realistic? Well being realistic in terms of scratching and the challenges you take on, simply means assessing you're current scratch skills and then creating challenges for yourself that don't go too far beyond your comfort zone. While this is actually not a bad strategy for decent gains in skill over the long term, it is not a be all, end all way to approach scratching.
Lack of Comfort Creates Comfort
Sometimes you have to take a challenge that you normally face and double or triple its difficulty. The benefit to this may not be obvious at first. Of course your natural instinct is to feel that if you're already struggling with an easier challenge, why is multiplying its difficulty going to be any easier or less frustrating? It starts in the mind. Your mind is virtually capable of doing anything you set out to do, so if you're always playing it safe, you're just setting your belief system up to think you can only achieve minor things.
Being Unrealistic Pays
When you get more accustomed to thinking unrealistically, what seemed unrealistic before becomes reality. Aside from the mental aspect, you need to become physically used to high levels of physical difficulty. You'll never get a feel for what it's like to scratch at ridiculously high speeds for example, if you never attempt to do so. Sure you could wait until you're truly ready, but you're going to do that anyway. You might as well attempt to now so when the time comes for you to scratch comfortably at such speeds, you're already mentally and physically prepared to do so.
Don't Get Carried Away
I realize that my advice may sound amateurish, but that's only if taken out of context. I am not saying to do what many beginners do and scratch wildly out of your comfort zone regularly. I'm merely pointing out that you should integrate going way beyond your level of comfort into the other scratch skill building strategies you are or should be using to reach the level of scratching you aim to achieve.
There are many times where multiplying the difficulty of what you're working on will not be so helpful. Just as being realistic is not the only way to achieve your goals, neither is being wildly unrealistic. You must find a balance between the two as one feeds the other and vice versa.
Being Unrealistic in the Real World
Here is a challenge to give you a better feel for how you can actually apply this strategy. This exercise has to do with increase of speed, but keep in mind that what I've spoken about thus far is not only limited to challenges dealing with speed.
Put on a 4/4 beat that you can comfortably execute four notes per beat over. A regular challenge would be to increase your speed to five notes per beat. Instead what you will attempt to do instead is scratch eight notes per beat. Don't worry about how comfortable you feel or how clean it sounds. Just push yourself as hard as possible and keep trying even if you don't achieve it by the end of the exercise.
After you complete the exercise, drop back down to the more realistic challenge of five notes per beat and see how much more comfortable and at ease you feel now. When you started the exercise, four notes per beat was your comfort level, but now five notes per beat, whether you can execute it yet or not, will seem like nothing compared to the extreme challenge of doubling what you're currently able to handle.
Mental Barriers Come Tumbling Down
Navigating through such extremes will take the edge off more realistic challenges and you'll begin achieving higher levels of scratching faster. This happens because your mind is your biggest barrier to achieving anything. If you don't believe you can handle something with ease than you won't. It's really that simple.
Unfortunately suspending one's belief is easier said than done, which is why creating physically demanding challenges like the exercise above, will force your mind to accept the truth that lies behind mental barriers in scratching and what it takes to push past them. Seeing is believing rings very true here. Thus, I invite you to get creative by thinking of, then trying many ways of being unrealistic.