Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10,000 hours


I have been doing some writing, other than my blog, for some time now. Whenever I get discouraged, my husband reminds me that Malcom Gladwell in the "Outliers" postulates that success often comes after hours and hours of practice. Some 10,000 hours for people who are at the top of their game. We're talking Mozart here, and I have no illusions, but practice may be important even for us neophytes.

Other factors play into success, not the least of which is privilege and luck. But since I believe in attracting my own luck, and privilege is not in the cards, I started to take a look at what is actually in my control; said 10,000 hours.

Let's see, there would be a childhood of reading, definitely a part of writing, so that should be good for at least a thousand hours. Then there was school. I can't say I was an overachiever in high school, so maybe another thousand hours, total. I like to comfort myself in the knowledge that the developmental goal for adolescence is social, not necessarily academic. Thin, I know.

So that leaves college and years of reading on my own. I did my best in college. I usually have more than one book going at any one time. Another two thousand hours.

Now for the actual writing. Not counting college papers, which I admit were numerous - the structure of human development and family studies - which is still evolving - required tons of writing. But what about lately? Work emails and your usual business correspondence doesn't really require much creativity. And that's been a while anyway. So that leaves my blog.

Three hundred and one posts to date. How many hours? Well, some took a little research, some quite a bit of research, but mostly an hour or two for each one, max.

That's not many hours! I'm probably only halfway to my 10,000 hours. Which actually makes me feel better, in a perverse way. It explains a few things.

What about you? Does your craft or dream require practice, or can you rely on luck and/or privilege?

30 comments:

Star said...

I love to write because I love to read. I want to entertain people with a story that they can engage with. What are you writing? Is it fact or fiction? Is it ready yet? or a work in progress?
Blessings, Star

Lydia said...

I know you are right. I must construct the time to work at my writing. It's been a long time since I had the discipline to do it. You're a real role model in this regard. Any pleasure I have had in my own writing has had nothing to do with privilege, that's for sure. But it's always a privilege to read your blog!
*see ya* when I get back from the stormy Oregon coast...

Brian Miller said...

nice. i love to write as well...on the 17th it will be one year for me in blogland...i can honestly say time and practice helps to refine you as well. so are you going to give us a peek at your writing?

Leah J. Utas said...

Oh, count emails and work. They still require organization and ideas rendered coherently.
As to the rest, just write. The best way to learn is to do.

Joanne said...

Oh I think writing does take practice, as often as possible. The skills grow, almost unseen, as we develop the craft, writing and rewriting again. It's a craft I love, and use as often as I can.

Deboshree said...

Oh well...as far as I am concerned, the moment I hold the pen and put it to paper, I know that I am lost, that I am entering a world where I know there are no limits. My imagination takes over and reason takes a back seat. Thats what happens to me.Don't think practice can help me though.
But keep going at it Nancy!
I wish you the best!

Love
Deboshree

willow said...

Practice makes perfect, or so they say!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I loved that book and had completely forgotten the 10,000 hours! Thanks for the reminder, Nancy.

DJan said...

It's interesting to speculate on what would make one proficient. If you really enjoy something, 10,000 hours would be easy to obtain by the time you've reached half a century or so, don't you think? I think talent and desire cause one to spend a lot of time doing things you enjoy. Writing and reading -- I can certainly see who does (or doesn't) when I read their blogs. Yours is always interesting, well written, often provocative. Keep writing and let us see some of your "other" stuff if you're willing (like other commenters have already begged).

Inty swetha said...

i love to write.. thats why i blog.. so that i can write something and make people understand what i want to say!!
so, what are you writing about? an autobiography?

Gaston Studio said...

Practice, practice, practice is my mantra... it's demanding the time to do it that's the problem.

Marguerite said...

My life-long love of reading and writing has brought me so much joy. Not sure about how many hours it adds up to, but I know that it's been time well spent. Would love to see some of your other writing, too!

The Good Cook said...

Anything that you wish to master takes practice. Whether that be athletic prowess, musical excellence, writing, cooking (yes! cooking) and patience.

ellen abbott said...

People tell me a lot that they wish they could draw as well as I do. Do it every day for 20 years, I tell them, and you will.

Nancy said...

I've been writing a book, and it has morphed many times over the last few months. I have been talking about writing a book most of my life. I've read some amazing books and some that seem as though the writiter jut threw something out there and it became a book. So I know I can do this - it is just going to take me doing it. The book in its current form is like a second blog, but in more detail. It has my woldview, it talks about some bloggers, but mostly it is just an extension of my voice here.

I don't think it matters what happens after it's finished. I hope it gets published because I would like to think it will help people connect. But we all should do what we feel we must, and I've been talking about this for a long time. My blog has been my jumping off point, and all of you have given me a sense that anything is possible. Thanks.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I write every day, for at least three hours. There was a time when I owned my own design firm, that I would hole up in my office and put a sign out saying...writing the next great American novel, don't bother me unless it's an emergency. (That trick never worked, they always bothered me.) Then I opened a coffee house, which was perfect, we had poetry night, prose night, I was hanging around with writers--at last! Now I write for a living, and I make time for my fiction.

Writing takes time, it eats up time, that's for sure.

Keep it up!

Shrinky said...

Oh Nancy, the harder you try, the luckier you'll get, trust me! (Now, if I could only follow that advice, myself, eh? Rolling eyes). I tend to fall back on the old adage, "What's for you won't go past you", which is better suited to my laziness! I am also trying to "write", as opposed to write, and it's sheer bloody hell, sweat and tears - hmph.

I am certain whatever you are writing will be well worth the wait - you go, girl!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

No luck or privilege. All practice (plus putting yourself out there.) I don't know any writers that sit down and it just happens unless you want to count all the celebrities who hire ghost writers.

As they say, writing is rewriting. I think you get to count those hours also.

lakeviewer said...

I've been wanting to write fictional pieces all my life. Work, however, required expositions, reports, research and reviews. Non-fiction. Secretly, I knew one day I would devote my life to fiction. Now, after a few years dabbling with fiction, I'm happy to say, it's a difficult task that will take the rest of my lifetime to master.

I love your attitude!

Sylvia said...

I have the darkest and strangest luck. I always talk to God and say - with all respect - that he is a Joker with my life. No priviledge either - I'm the black sheep of my all VIP family. So, hardwork and sacrifice... All the time. Oh, what a life!

Verily I go. said...

I'm published. I just clicked that little tab and my heart soared. My daughter laughed her socks off for me. I'm having way too much fun here and with all the love too and YOU Nancy are all inspiring. There is so much magic.

commoncents said...

Great post! I love your page!!
COMMON CENTS
http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

ps. Link Exchange?

GYPSYWOMAN said...

hmmmm.....great exercise just to calculate what one's actual hours might be - let's see - i have:
childhood - library book clubs every month all my life plus enormous reading on my own - was in art most of school but did write poetry constantly - college art also but sociological research papers - tons of those - also newspaper articles and several short stories - and then, work, could not estimate the number of legal briefs written in about 30 years - so i may be edging close - but - still would not consider anywhere near "top" of anything - i think it all has less to do with "hours"/quantity than quality in many ways and there is that whole thing of one's own particular "gifts" so to speak - i mean, some may have more a propensity for the written word or for sculpting marble or painting frescoes or for composing operas - although i do realize certainly that practice does make perfect - does any of what i just wrote make any sense at all? long day - just drove 200 miles to an appointment that the other person had to cancel and i wasn't notified - pouring down rain with winds about 35 mph and cold - oh, and couldn't find an umbrella this side of california! sorry, i digress!

neat post, lady, as usual!

Deborah said...

When I moaned to a friend that my slowness at writing must be an indication of lack of real aptitude, she replied with 'But all the really good stuff seems so easy to those of us who read them, or with music, who listen to it. Don't you realize all those concert pianists have spent months perfecting that piece just so it sounds effortless?"

I used to teach piano, so I knew that. But somehow I'd forgotten it or never thought to relate it to writing. So, in my book (!), it's all about practice. And more practice. And gradually, you get better and better, or at least it should get a bit easier after all that effort.

otin said...

I love to write, but don't read much, except blogs! weird?? I think so!

Lori ann said...

Nancy, I think some people just do it and maybe never count the hours. Anyway I think the passion behind your writing would contribute to at least another five thousand.
I think your book will be brilliant.
I left you a comment on my blog, yes, the award is for you. ☺

Betsy said...

I envy people like you who can write. I am dreadful at it, I'm afraid! So...I'll just enjoy yours! Congrats on 301 posts, too!

Pat said...

I love to write, too. If my posts just consist of writing, it might only take me an hour. But if there are photos to go along with the writing, then it can take 3-4 hours. I know! I spend a LOT of my time blogging!

rwenderlich said...

I was also inspired by the 10,000 hour rule and started thinking about how far along I was, so I wrote an app to track my progress and keep motivated along the way.

It's located at http://www.vmwstudios.com/LevelMeUp in case it can help anyone else!

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

I'm having a hard time identifying with my dreams... All of them are just now taking flight, and even as they are taking off, tend to be land capped again.

I certainly hope I can achieve something, as indecisive as I am.

You're a beautiful writer. All those hours have paid off.