Good morning wonderful #FellowWriters,
Unfortunately DH caught the flu from myself and our littles (well mostly little, we do have a 12-year-old now) and that meant I spent hours awake worrying about him last night. That always gives me time—in between worrying—to think about writing.
I Think About Writing A Lot
Maybe you do, too. I also ponder books I‘ve read. Right now I’m reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell because I’m taking his MasterClass online (referral link because it’s amazing) and I’m doing research for an upcoming project about my late father-in-law’s life. This book illuminates so many important aspects of success, and one of the big ones is practice.
Gladwell states it this way:
“Their research [Ericsson’s study] suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researches have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
At this point I stopped reading and got out a calculator. I’m a writer, and I wanted to know how close I am to that magic number as far as practice hours go. I’ve been writing around 20 hours a week for at least five years. Most people don’t feel they can quit their full-time career to write 40 hours a week for almost no pay.* For this supposition I will ignore the fact I spent four years learning what components make up Literature for my BA.
Let’s look at my writing math.
12 x 5 = 60 months
60 x 4 = 240 weeks
240 x 20 = 4,800 hours in five years
I remembered that adage you see often in the writing world.
“It takes ten years to tell if you can make it as a writer.”
Or something in the same vein.
Now we have quotes from industry giants like Jeff Bezos:
“All overnight success takes about 10 years.”
It takes 10 years
If you connect my math and both Gladwell and Bezos quotes, you come to 10,000 hours equates to roughly 10 years. The connection is easy to make. If you want to become an expert in writing, work at it. In his MasterClass, James Patterson uses another way of speaking when he describes the most memorable review of his debut novel. He says he had heard it would take 1,000,000 words to become a proficient writer, and how a reviewer noted that he must have done a great deal of writing before he wrote that book. I don’t mean to use these numbers as an exact guide, but what I do want to point out is the correlation between writing—a lot—and learning whether you can ‘make it’ as a writer. The difference, as Gladwell points out in Outliers, is practice.
My argumentis that it takes about 10 years to become a writing expert, and the people who make it to that mark will undoubtedly find some type of success in writing. Of course, success is a subjective term. I’m sure Gladwell will address that in this book. I’ll keep you posted.
Where are you in your writing journey? Are you willing to invest the time it takes to make you an expert? Does 10 years seem like too long? Does this encourage or depress you?
*I’m not trying to start yet another argument about whether this is a wise decision. It’s just a reality I’m part of a group of people that can’t write 40 hours a week and maintain balance due to life circumstances.
The quotations used in this article are for educations purposes only.