Monday, March 05, 2012

10,000 Hours (or Talent + Persistence = Success)

In OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell makes the assertion that to become 'good' at something takes practice. About 10,000 hours worth of dedication. That boils down to a year and another month or two of full-time effort: no sleeping, no eating, no bathroom breaks. I don't know about you, but on good days (and today was not one of them) I get in maybe one hour of writing time. So it should take me another 21 years to get 'good' at writing.

I wonder if I will still be able to form a word by then.

Of course, I read--a lot--and think about my writing--a lot. And I guess all that down time does make a difference, because it sems easier to sit down and fill a blank page than it did a year ago, and infinitely easier than five years ago.

Practice may not make perfect, but it can make life less painful. This was made clear to me this weekend when my son, almost 13, struggled to come up with a 'protest song' for his Language Arts class. It took him a long time--and a lot of anguish--to even figure out what he wanted to sing about. A Saturday night party where he witnessed some arrogant, almost bullying behavior, gave him the theme. He must have slept on it because by 10 am Sunday morning he had a decent draft of the lyrics down.

Watching my son tussle with his muse made me realize how easy it is to take for granted the accumulated benefit of constant practice. Talent is a rare commodity, and a prized one, but in today's market even the most talented have a tough time finding homes for their creative endeavors. It is the butt-in-chair that makes a creative inkling tangible, and maybe even bring success, however we measure it.



  1. Butt in chair.. . you're right, it all comes down to that. I parked mine today for a little while and after a bit some words started flowing out.

  2. There is something to be said for but-in-chair time. But I think you are right in that time thinking is also time working.

  3. Butt-in-chair is always productive, even if you don't get a single word down. Because it builds discipline.

    I write a lot in my head. I'm getting to the point where I don't remember all my great thoughts, though, and that ticks me off! Peace...

  4. I totally agree with you, Linda.

    Practice seems to be so underrated these days. People just expect instant results and they don't understand that results come from hardcore dedication and practice. Butt-in-chair is important and so is that aside thinking time where we process our thoughts and come up with cohesive ideas.

    As for me, I should practice what I preach! I haven't been doing nearly enough writing lately. It's an awful feeling to not be practicing when I know I should. I do write a lot in my head though. That's where I compose most of my blog posts before I come here and type them up.