10,000 Hours … Done!
What is the difference between these two photos of Scruffy and I?
Twenty-one years of marriage, twenty-two of camp ministry, three fabulously grumpy teenage sons, two Newfoundland dogs, perhaps a pound … or several, and 10,000 hours of writing.
Yep, I finally got my 10,000 hours of writing practice in.
Why is this a thrilling milestone? That is a good question. One that may well be end up being answered with adroit sentences like: “Duh? It means I practiced tons and tons!”
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell gives 10,000 hours as the number of fabulous greatness. I’ve seen writing pros mention this magical 10,000 hours again and again. At writer’s conferences, editors and agents said they were looking for authors who had gotten in their 10,000 hours. Blogs urged writers to shoot for this huge and daunting goal. Therefore, in 2003, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, I started keeping track of my writing hours in an amazing burst of meticulous activity that perhaps I should have devoted toward dusting.
Looking back, maybe these editors and agents were simply tired of chatting with the dewy-eyed newb I used to be and wanted conversations with what I have become, a grizzled and jaded writer veteran so used to rejection that I simply cut and paste the dismissing missives into my huge file labeled “rejection” and move on with nary a tear. Perhaps they were hungry for writers who resembled beef jerky more than peaches and cream.
So, that son who was just a bump in my belly back when I started tracking writing hours is now eighteen years old. I have achieved my goal. What does this mean?
Well, when I looked up the 10,000 hours practice rule to provide a link, all of the articles were about how this has been debunked.
But that is alright.
While I may not have gained writerly brilliance, pursuing those 10,000 hours has given me several things.
- I gained the joy of setting goals and watching myself accomplish them.
- I learned the value of keeping track of my work. It showed me the weeks that I’d gotten distracted and the ones where I’d pressed forward and accomplished more than expected.
- I’ve written 29 book manuscripts in that time for a total of 30. Practice makes better!
- I’ve learned to pour my heart into a wide variety of projects. From blog posts, articles, and short stories to book manuscripts that range from 1,000 words to 118,000 words.
- I have learned so much about the craft of writing as I’ve toiled along.
- I’ve learned how to fast draft instead of take five years per story.
- There is a value in creating. Even without “brilliance,” creating is something God does and made us to do and just stepping out and trying is brilliant in and of itself.
- I have worked up the skill and speed so that now I can participate in NaNoWriMo, which is very fun and satisfying.
- I have met so many amazing writers over the years at conferences.
- I’ve learned how to write a top-notch proposal.
- I’ve learned how to pitch my work in a professional setting.
- I’ve had articles and stories published. Watched five books published with a small press and self-published two.
- I’ve learned how to submit my work to contests. I’ve learned how to both lose and win.
- My three sons have grown up watching me strive for excellence in a craft that I love. Yes, my focus was on raising them, but they also know that one must struggle to achieve your goals and sometimes that struggle takes 20+ years, ha!
- So, perhaps 10,000 hours of practice is no longer considered the number of brilliance. But that’s all right. I have achieved so much during those 10,000 hours of struggle that I don’t regret a single one.
What about you? What are you striving for that brings you joy, whether or not you achieve your ultimate goals in that area?