10,000 Hours

I wrote my first “official” weblog entry on May 27, 2004. So says Blogger, where the first one I created resides to this day (thanks to Yahoo! Google for keeping Blogger running and maintaining blogs that lay dormant for years). I’ve had an on-and-off, love/hate relationship with my blogs, posting frequently for a few months then abandoning them for more months. I migrated from Blogger to WordPress on February 10, 2005. Many of my blog posts have been private. The majority of my public posts have been book, movie and game reviews.

Over ten years later, I was still unconvinced that a blog helps with my writing ambitions (what’s left of them) and compulsions.

I was growing frustrated with myself because I’ve always been a voracious consumer of media of all kinds, and there’s a LOT of bad media out there. You can walk through a book shoppe (if you can find one) and see stacks upon stacks of books on clearance. When I pick up a few of these and leaf through them, I can’t help but think that I could write a book that’s way better. I see a movie or TV show with the most insipid plot and wince-inducing dialogue, and know that I could write a screenplay that’s at the very least not awful.

Big words from someone that’s not come close to finishing anything even novella-length in the 20 years that he’s been trying. I have the usual excuses. I work long hours. I have writer’s block. I lack inspiration. I work long hours. Everything I write is trash. I need a new idea. I’m suffering from depression. I work long hours. I’m too tired. I can’t write when I’m tired. I can’t write when I’m stressed. I can’t write when I don’t have a perfect day, with a perfect cup of coffee and a perfect keyboard and mouse . I can only succeed if I can write as a full time job. I can’t of course, so that’s why all this bad media is out there and my brilliant work isn’t.

In other words, total unadulterated bullshit. And I know that my attitude as someone who thinks that writing is his vocation stinks.

Malcolm Gladwell‘s research in Outliers has drawn some fire, but it’s still a decent leaping-off point for an argument:

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

Ten thousand hours is 1,250 working days of eight hours a day. That’s 62.5 months of 20 working days, or just over five years of doing something every day to have any chance of being considered an expert in whatever it is you’re doing.

I’ve done that in my day job. Thrice over. I’m quite good at my day job.

There’s no way I’ve had anything close to a year of real writing. Nor could I really expect to have had that, since I invested over fifteen years becoming an expert at my day job. If I made the decision to invest in writing earlier, and managed my time to accommodate writing reps, maybe I’d have paperbacks of my own in the bargain bin today! Sadly, I didn’t and I don’t so all I can do is rage at the charlatans who have the novel they spent three years writing on clearance for $0.99.

So what does all this have to do with blogging? Blogging is practice. It’s reps. It’s like friendlies for football players, or war games for military men, or simulator training for pilots.  It’s not the same as working on your novel or screenplay, but it’s reps nonetheless because it lets you put words to print. Just as seeing the ball go into the hoop or the arrow hit the bullseye in practice, seeing paragraphs flow onto the screen helps visualization and rhythm. The more you do it, the easier it gets to break inertia the next time.

That’s what blogging is to me now. It’s practice writing, for when I just can’t get to the novel or screenplay. When it takes too much mental or emotional strength than I have to boot up Scrivener or Final Draft, I pull up WordPress instead.

This is the longest engagement I’ve had with a blog since the mid 2000s, and certainly the most varied. It’s also the most feedback I’ve ever gotten from the community and for that I’m grateful. In the past I never thought that it would matter to me that there was someone reading my stuff, especially since I think that a lot of what I write here isn’t really good (it’s usually not edited at all). So to everyone that’s actually read a post of mine in full, thank you. To everyone who’s ever left a comment, even more thanks. And to everyone who drove by a post and hit the like button without reading, know that I appreciate that as well.

Closing in on 850 words written over 30 minutes. Kind of like running on a treadmill, but for writing muscles instead of cardio. That’s both interesting and surprising.

Here’s a visualization of Gladwell’s theory from Outliers, from Zintro.

10000-hour-rule-gladwell-outliers1

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13 thoughts on “10,000 Hours

  1. Many times I feel just as you’ve described. I know about Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory, but it was nice to be reminded of it as well. It was a pleasure reading your 850 post, it flowed quite well actually.

      1. 🙂 Thank you! Ali is my aunt whose photography she has allowed me to use until I get up to speed on my own (was a bit intimidated at the beginning to blog my own images, until I realised it is a blog after all, so overcame that fear, I am Vonita, pleased to meet you 🙂

        1. Oh geez I’m so sorry, I visited your blog a couple of times from Sugar’s and thought that that was your name. I tend to try to use people’s names so I can try to establish identities in my head for people that comment. Hello Vonita, and thanks again for dropping by and commenting. I do hope you join in the crazy music posting Sugar and I have been doing, it would be fun to have another perspective on music. 🙂

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