Practice Makes Perfect (the 10,000 hour countdown)
October 5, 2011 § 16 Comments
If you’ve spent any amount of time reading what authors, agents, and editors have to say about what it takes to be a good writer than you’ve probably heard that you need to write. A lot. Sometimes this feels like a diversionary tactic, but, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of truth to it.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell takes a look at what he says is the misconception that natural talent is the determining factor of success. It’s a great read and I would recommend it to anyone. Gladwell talks about how everything the month you were born, your culture, and even the spelling of your name heavily influences who you are as a person. What I want to talk about is what Gladwell says about practice.
Gladwell talks a lot about the 10,000 hour rule. Basically it’s the idea that to master something, you need to invest 10,000 hours of practice into it. The Beatles played 10,000 hours of music before they hit it big, Bill Gates spent 10,000 hours programming computers before he founded Microsoft, the best concert pianists in the world have all practiced 10,000 hours, etc.
So if you want to master writing (or anything else for that matter), the most important thing is to practice it. It’s encouraging to think that random writing prompts I’m never going to revisit and short stories that crash and burn are all time spent improving my craft. It’s a great encouragement to sit down and write something every single day, whether I like it or not. Simultaneously, it’s the most depressing thing in the world to think about how many years it’s going to take me to hit that 10,000 hours at the current pace of 2 hours a day (12 more years).
Write as much as you can and continue looking for ways to improve your writing by reading more (both books in your genre and books on writing), joining critique groups, and continuing to take lessons from your experiences with storytelling and the writing process.
Moral of the story: if you’re eight years old and want to be an author, you should start now.