10,000 hours

10,000 hours

So, what about this:

You’ve heard that whole “the first million words are crap” thing, right? I read a corollary to that recently, that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.

That’s a lot of hours.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a Story-a-Week project for a long time now, and I can never quite bring myself to do it. It feels like setting myself up for failure, because I can never predict with any kind of accuracy how long something is going to take to be done. Like right now, I’m editing “They Are Living Still” and I’m trying to fix one paragraph. It’s a bad paragraph: all tell, no show, totally out of the blue and doesn’t flow with the story where it is but contains important information. I have to put that information somewhere, and I have to do it in a better way, but right now I’m stuck. And I don’t know how long it will take to fix it. So “done” is completely unpredictable right now, and if I say “I have to have it done in a week,” and then it’s not done, I have failed.

(I realize that if I ever intend to get a novel “done” I will simply have to overcome this, because novelists work to deadline.)

So Story-a-Week may not be for me.

But a Ten Thousand Hours Project… maybe.

Lifehacker recently posted about a personal time-tracking tool called Klok. I downloaded and checked it out. It’s slick. I like it. It’s got me thinking.

I have no idea how many hours I’ve put into being a writer so far. I’ll ignore everything before 2002, because that was when I really decided to put some sweat into it and learn something. And what exactly goes into learning to write, anyway?

Word count, of course, but just making words without any kind of input or seeking out the knowledge of people who do it better would just result in a consistent level of crap, with maybe a slight trend upwards over a very long period of time. So the learning needs to count. Learning comes from a number of places: reading writer’s blogs, articles, and books on writing, going to workshops and critique groups, reading fiction and noticing what works and what doesn’t. Editing my own work counts. How about the time spent researching markets, and preparing submissions? Does that count too? What about this blog, where I take stock of what I’m doing right and wrong, and hang it all out there for you good people to see?

10,000 hours is a long time. I would be retired by then, (I hope,) which means it can’t be a real goal. A goal that takes decades to reach isn’t something I can really handle. But it can certainly be a standard to rally to.

Still thinking about it.

One thought on “10,000 hours

  1. It’s helpful to see that another writer has run into the 10,000 hour mastery thing and is thinking about it! Lately I’ve been thinking of writing more like a lifetime craft/journey and less like some destination. I put together a Google Spreadsheet and am trying to calculate out how many hours per week at how many years will get me to that mark. I’m also trying to figure out which hours to count. I’m not sure whether to be encouraged or discouraged by this!

    Anyhow, thanks for the pointer to klok. I’m going to stop procrastinating now. :)

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