It’s not difficult to get depressed about being a writer. Even before ebooks, the Borders’ fiasco and Snooki; publishing a book was as easy as growing wings or applying fake eyelashes.
But recently I found hope for my general writing malaise in a book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled OUTLIERS. The book is about successful people and what makes them so. It’s not a self-help book or a Horatio Alger-esque non-fiction tome. It’s a study of what has made people leap to the top of their professions – like Bill Gates, Oprah or Madonna.
Unfortunately Mr. Gladwell didn’t provide any short cuts or magic elixirs to such success. But I did learn one thing that changed the way I think about my writing. Mr. Gladwell determined the amount of practice time that it takes for one to become a master in their field – be it sports, music or even (gulp) writing is 10,000 hours. That’s right, 10, 000 hours of butt-on-chair typing. If you are writing eight hours a day, forty hours a week that’s about five YEARS of working on your craft.
At first I didn’t believe it. Who has that amount of time? After all, I have a Facebook profile to maintain. But then I thought about the blockbuster writers in YA and Children’s Literature and the number of hours they must have spent writing before their big break. For example, I’ve heard that J. K. Rowling wrote eight adult novels before submitting her first manuscript of Harry Potter. And if you follow Jane Yolen’s blog you know that she writes relentlessly STILL. 10,000 hours for these ladies was achieved years ago – and their subsequent success proves it.
So what does this have to do with you, me and the rest of the pre-published writers of the world?
I can’t speak for you or anyone else, but it gives me hope – because every day, week and month I spend pounding away on some word document I get closer to my goal.
So off goes the Internet, my iPhone is sequestered in the next room and I’ve put on some comfy pants. I’ve set the timer for 600,000 minutes.
Ready, steady go!