Friday, April 13, 2012

Entry # 54 - "The 10,000-Hour Rule Applied to Writing"

"Clouds in Sunshine" - Jan Bowman 4/2012
In July 2011, I reread sections of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. And I wrote a Reflections 2011 Entry about my impressions after I had processed it for a while. I was then, and remain now, particularly interested in Gladwell’s idea of the "10,000-Hour Rule" that essentially describes the amount of “pure practice” and investment in time required to move beyond mastery to actual expertise. 

Gladwell asks, Is there such a thing as an innate talent for writing or does writing require practice?” He explored this idea across disciplines and cited numerous studies. He said that "The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play."
In fact, “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise.  Researcher have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise:  ten thousand hours.” So perhaps the reality is that “It takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” Even if you are smart - if you don’t work at getting in the “practice time” - you’re not likely to “play at Carnegie Hall” or anywhere else - other than your living room.

Writers, whether they write fiction, nonfiction, poetry or plays are quite a lot like concert violinists; they don’t get their expertise from thin air.  All (not most) work at it.  Even in the face of all the distractions of their worlds, if they don’t spend time on their rose, their rose won’t bloom or be appreciated. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once and then you’re good.  It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” The 10,000-hour rule translates into more than ten years of consistent practice where the daily process of trial and error accumulates, increasing proficiency and expertise. Gladwell says that you need some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives you a chance to put in those hours of practicing your craft, whether it’s playing the violin, or hockey, or writing novels. In fact, to get in the time, you might need to quit your day job or find another way, short of criminal activity, to finance the time required for practice. 

"Later That Same Day" - Jan Bowman 4/2012
   “It is the time that you’ve wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”  from  The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery.

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:


1 comment:

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