Counting hours

That last post was starting to get a little long, so I decided to break this into its own post, but it’s a related thought. I talked about how case studies seem to indicate that you need to put in 10,000 hours to really become outstanding at something. That’s a lot of hours. I mean, seriously. I draft at 700 words an hour, on average, so assuming 70,000 words / 100 hours per book, that’d take me 100 books. Maybe by the time I’m 90?

So. Two things to add to that thought. The first is it’s worth remembering that that 10,000 hours is for the sort of incredible skill that leads to world-renowned soloists. But 8000 hours is good enough to get you into the symphony. And 4000 hours is perfectly sufficient for the more modest goal of teaching. Teaching still pays respectably and not everyone wants to be standing in the middle of the stage with all eyes trained on them.

Second is that, in most acts of creation but I think writing especially, the actual creation of the product is only one small part of bringing it to life. A novel doesn’t start and end with typing the first draft. The numbers may differ by individual, but for every three hours I spend at the keyboard drafting, I probably spend an hour plotstorming and problem-solving, while walking the dogs or driving or showering, etc. And then there’s revisions, and the thinking time that goes along with those. And more revisions. And the non-manuscript tasks that are still vital to your success: queries, synopses, even blogging and developing a discoverable online presence. When you add up all those hours, too, the target numbers are not nearly so daunting.

I personally try to spend at least a little time every day on something that will help forward my aspirations, even if it’s as minor as just thinking about a plot knot. I know the journey is going to be a long one and there’s really no shortcut around it, but if I keep my momentum moving forward, no matter how fast or slow I’m going, I know I’ll get there eventually.


2 responses to “Counting hours

  1. I’ve definitely seen the 10,000 hours thing before, and the longer I write, the more I see how true it most likely is – which is both discouraging (given the time required) and, I guess, encouraging b/c I’m slowly but surely making my way there.

  2. Another way to look at it is that it’s a little less than six years of working full-time at something. Not really very long in the scheme of your life. I’ve now put almost 10,000 hours into my job. In fact from the time you finish school and are released into the world until you retire and decide you don’t want to master anything new (if you reach such a point) at, say, 60ish, you should be able to reach that level of proficiency in at least six different things if you wanted. ;)

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