Monday, March 02, 2009

10,000 Hours

This is how long it takes to become "good" at something.

10,000 hours. This is one of the statistics buried in OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell's treatise on success.

That's 600,000 minutes. Since there are 525,600 minutes a year, I figure if I write non-stop for a year with no sleeping, eating, or potty breaks, I'll be a "good' though exhausted writer.

Just thought you'd like to know... maybe by then the market will have improved as much as I.

I spent about 3 of those precious hours enjoying the snow, the kids, the hot cocoa and popcorn. It was about time we got a real snow day.

THE READING... Finishing up Jane Hamilton's A MAP OF THE WORLD. It's scary how I can relate to her protagonist's fumblings as a mother. This story tugs. Also reading BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN by Charles Bock. Got one book downstairs, another upstairs. I won't tell you about the third book carried around in my purse - yet. It's my debut pick for March.

THE WRITING... Lots of short stuff spewed since the beginning of the year. Not sure if it's the muse or procrastination, but it's been fun. Every single prose piece found a home. PURE percolating, slow but steady. Writing letters and prepping samples for summer workshops - cross fingers. One of my trusty BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT beta readers delivered, and in a wonderfully daunting way. Some great suggestions and ideas, and I'm already on it. Thank you.

LISTENING TO... JIGSAW FALLING INTO PLACE. About time RADIOHEAD got the grammy nod. This album is brilliant... "What's the point of instruments, words are a sawed-off shotgun..."


  1. that's... very interesting.

    can you factor in blogging time? or reading time? is the skill you're becoming "good" at perhaps use of the english language?

    how does one then explain a debut novelist?

    or an 18-year-old pro baseball player? in theory, he shouldnt be good at baseball yet.

    but anyway. i suppose i have at least 8000 more hours to go before i'm a good editor :) better get back to that egg timer.

  2. I'm not very good with numbers. I think blog writing time does count as well as email letter writting, yes?

  3. I'm just curious how a person knows when she's become 'good'. My good might be someone else's terrible.

  4. "Every single prose piece found a home."

    Excellent! I'm very happy for you.

    I expect the debut novelist has put in close to 10,000 hours of writing before he breaks through. And a rookie baseball player most likely spent many hours in Little League, Khoury League, high school, tossing balls to pop, etc.

    10,000 hours does not seem to be an excessive amount of time to get good at something. People with a passion for something probably pick up that much experience without even being aware of it.

    Too bad time served doesn't supply a guarantee. I'm pretty sure I exceeded the 10,000 hours long ago, but can't claim mastery. I expect I would need orders of magnitue more than 10,000 hours of practice to get good at many things - a musical instrument, for example.

    Then there are prodigies, who break every rule of thumb. I wish.

  5. Ah Moonie, Mr. Gladwell does not pontificate on what counts as an hour. I def count blogging, commenting on others' blogs, and reading (critically?). I wonder if waking in the middle of the night, imagining a scene, and committing said scene to memory counts? Seems I should get some credit for writing-induced insomnia.

    You're a DAMN FINE editor. As witnessed by your promo - a hearty congrats. Hope that comes with an expense account! Peace, Linda

  6. Paige, every syllable HAS to count - right?

    Elle, hello! Ah, good... how to measure. Wish I could illuminate, but I'm struggling with that one myself. Now, I consider myself 'good' if any of my public writings gets at least one 'ah-ha'. since I writer serious stuff, a 'ha-ha' is a thumbs down.

    Jon, 10,000 hours seems monstrously huge to me. I've been a bona fide academic researcher since 1993, definitely put in considerably more than 10k hours, and still feel like a hack. Yikes. Maybe it's just my insecurity :^)

    Peace, Linda

  7. I understand where you're coming from on the time issue. I'm on the six year plan. One year would be too much.

  8. Yeah, I think I'm on the 5-year plan myself... my day job keeps me hopping and hopping, and my batteries are kinda weak... Peace, Linda

  9. You impress me being able to juggle multiple books at the same time. I get ansy just breaking up my mono-fiction reading when my weekly Newsweek subscription arrives.

    I think you're already "good" at writing; you've certianly proven it with your fiction and non-fiction successess. You're just looking to whet the blade.

  10. John, aw shucks... scuffing feet... thanks.

    And thank you for allowing me to monopolize your reading time (except for that Newsweek). I am honored - and indebted. Peace, Linda