Not long ago, I was listening to The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast, and an author was being interviewed and was talking about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hours” rule and how it really made a difference in his writing. For anyone unfamiliar with the rule, Gladwell states that it takes about 10,000 hours of work and practice to become an expert in a cognitively demanding field. He uses as an example The Beatles, who had performed in Hamburg for over a thousand times, and had practiced for eight hours a day, from 1960-64, He attributes their later success to this high amount of hours performing and practicing music.
Does this rule hold as well for writing? Does an aspiring author need to spend 10,000 hours writing before attempting to publish their work? Or, is it even possible that, somehow, those 10,000 hours might have accumulated over the course of many years?
I had occasion to do some thinking about this after listening to the podcast, as this rule was mentioned before and after that interview as well. How does one accumulate such hours?
Writing for school
Writing in your journal or diary
Writing blog posts
Writing fan fiction
Writing novellas and short stories
Writing all those first drafts…
Surely, one might have had an occasion to write something in the course of her life that could contribute to the 10,000 hours rule. I know I managed to do it, though I was stunned when I realized it. I had started writing little stories when I was in seventh grade. I had a small day planner that my father had given me that had been made by the insurance company he was working for at the time. I also had a pen that my friend had bought me for the holidays, which resembled a piece of red licorice and was able to be tied into a (not very tight) knot. It had a light purple-blue ink color, and it was fine point, so writing small letters in that day planner made it go a longer way.
During history class one day, my friend (the same one who gave me the pen) got a hold of my planner, with the short story I had started writing in it. I was frantic and distraught that someone was reading my material, but she wanted to read more of it. Since then, I’ve written large bodies of work (over 140,000 words long, at times) as well as shorter, but I certainly managed to put in the 10,000 hours. I can’t count the words of some of my old writings, as they do not, to my knowledge, exist anymore. I had composition books filled with school journal work, never on a computer. I’d have to count the words by hand, if I could even find them! I wonder how many words even translates into 10,000 hours work…
I think the point I’ve been trying to make is that even if you’ve not published anything yet, you’ve more than likely put in the time, little by little, year by year, possibly without even knowing it!