Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10,000 hours to Writing Success?

Outliers: The Story of Success 

Does it take 10,000 hours of practice to become a star in the writing world?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell gives the example of a study done by K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at the Academy of Music in Berlin. Violinists were divided in three categories of stars, good, and those destined to just be teachers. And it was discovered that the stars practiced more than everyone else (Gladwell 38). That the "elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice" (39). The good, eight thousand. The "future music teachers"? Just over four thousand. Basically, Ericcson didn't find any people that were born stars, bypassing this number, nor did he find people who put in the hours but just couldn't cut it. It was hard work that made the difference, and as Gladwell points out, the stars work far harder than anyone else (39). Ten thousand hours, after all, is a lot of hours.

But that is the figure researchers come across time and time again as necessary to excel at performing a complex task like violin performing . . . or fiction writing (Gladwell 40).

To me, that is inspiring, especially with the crushing expectations of today. While TV shows like Undercover Boss push the message you have to be excellent on day one, able to compete against the vetern of ten-plus years, Gladwell's research comes like a breath of fresh . . . realism. It takes hard work and a lot of hands-on experience to be decent and a great deal more to be excellent. We all have to put in the time.

But having a spark of talent, a lot of passion, and some success sure makes it easier to reach that number.

So, the question is, have you done your 10,000 hours yet?

Cite:  Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Back Bay Books, 2008. Print.


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