The Struggle to Approach 10,000 Hours

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that, to achieve mastery of something, you must practice it for 10,000 hours. You’ve probably heard mention of this before. There are a lot of people who talk about the 10,000 hour rule, way more than who actually have read the book, and it’s knocking on a very important door.

I don’t believe there is any exact number for mastery of anything, but the idea is important. If you want to master something, you must practice, A LOT. Sports, sciences, business, whatever you do, you must practice. This leads into writing in a very big way. Every single successful writer will tell you that the most important thing to do is to write, every day, because that’s how you improve. You become better by writing and reading.

For me, this can be difficult sometimes. When I am particularly taken by an idea I can knock out a ton of pages a day, but too often I can become distracted. TV, comic books, movies and video games. I consume so much media that there is always something new. I can open up Final Draft, my screenwriting program, but then I’m on my laptop and the internet beckons.

Last month I moved to a new house, got a new job, had one housemate start an army tour for a year, had another one move out, and then changed bedrooms before a new housemate moved in. I think I wrote 10 pages total and I am not at all proud of that.

But then a couple days ago something changed. I’ll probably write a whole post about this later, but I do better in a structured environment. I am good at meeting a deadline and performing well within a schedule. So when I joined a writers group with a couple Temple and other recent college grads, suddenly I had a flood of new ideas.

I’ve started a draft of a pilot that’s essentially Fringe or Eureka but set in a college. I’ve got two more ideas that I want to write so badly that it’s forcing me to focus more on that first one. My creative juices are flowing and it feels great. If I can keep this going, while writing at least an hour a day, I know I can make this a part of my every day life.

It’s like exercising, I used to never do it but once it became a part of my daily routine I almost never forget.

And there is an excellent support structure out there. It is a known fact that there are sub-factions of twitter. Film Twitter, Fashion Twitter, Political Twitter. Writers Twitter always talks about remembering to write on any given day. They want each other to be successful. Jane Espenson, who wrote for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created Warehouse 13, and is the showrunner of Husbands on CW Seed, will often send out tweets demanding a “Writing Sprint” where she and her followers take an hour to only write. It’s effective, and fun, and you feel like a part of a group which compels you to write even better.

I won’t deny that this change has come in the wake of starting this blog. I’m forcing myself to post on here, and the simple act of writing at all seems to be making me remember to do it more. Knowing that whatever I write will be read, both blog posts by you and script drafts by my group, forces me to finish whatever I start. I didn’t expect this when I started but it feels amazing. I don’t think I will ever reach 10,000 hours, although who’s really keeping track, but I do believe I can become great as long as I keep working at it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a draft to get back to work on.

-JP

P.S. My next post is going to be about superheroes and comic books. So this is me warning you that I am going to go DEEP NERD.

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