I started reading that book today, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Listening to it, actually; I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks since I found out I can rent them from the library. So far I think it's a wildly interesting book. It's hard to tell how far into it I am, when he only passingly mentions the start of a chapter, but I'm already very intrigued with the way it's going. I listened to David and Goliath a month or two back, and I'm glad that I finally decided to give Malcolm Gladwell a shot. If you're reading this, I would recommend you get onto your library's website right now, see if they lend audiobooks, and then see if you can get something by the guy.
I've probably only listened to a chapter or two; I listened to some at my desk, then went for a walk to take the edge off the wicked caffeine buzz I was working on and clear my head before I got some writing done. I'm right in the thick of his discussion of the principle of ten thousand hours, that it takes that long to master something. It's good stuff - and some good fodder for the anxious mind of a writer of fiction. He even mentions us, that Malcom; he gave a list of professions that have been studied for the amount of time that it takes to achieve mastery, and fiction writing was one of them, which of course made me perk up my ears a little.
I love the idea that there's an amount of time it takes to master something, almost as much as I love that the amount of time is such an enormous number. Ten thousand hours? He says that's basically the amount of time you would devote to something if you actively engaged yourself for three hours a day, every day, for ten years.
There's a part of me that wants to say that's an impossible amount of time. I mean, for most it probably is, which would explain why there are so few masters of anything living in the world today. That part of me wants to point out that I have a job and a family and a dog that needs to be walked and a sink full of dishes that need to be washed and shows that need to be watched and books that cry out to be read and beer to be drank and so many things to be done that I will never have ten thousand hours to do anything, except maybe sit in my grave.
I hate that part of me. It's a real dick.
That's the part of me that feeds off the sweat on my palms, that laughs when I sit down to work on a novel only to be paralyzed by fear, of writing something terrible, of failing as an author, of missing out on life because I'm throwing myself at a silly hobby that soaks up so much of my life,
There's another part of me though, the part that laughs at the fear and the monster that feeds off it. The part that knows this may be impossible, but that spending a few hours of writing feels damn good, and that understands that even if this never pans out into any kind of career that it's still worth it. That part of me is really enjoying this book by Gladwell. It's really getting a kick out of the ten-thousand-hour thing - it sees that as a goal so ridiculous it's not even worth thinking about.
And it isn't. At least, not every day. I've thought for a while now that the very best thing I can do to make myself better at this, to give myself some shot at feeling good about it when I tell people I'm a writer, is write. Just write. Just do it, right? Every word counts, I think, at least every word written with the intent of bettering my craft, and that is just what this book I'm listening to is reaffirming. Just write, because the more I do the closer I will come to mastery. Or may come, I guess, but I think it's safe to say that I won't get any worse but writing a ton. As much as I possibly can.
I took a hiatus this year, and I'm not really proud of that. It was fear-driven, mostly; my second book hasn't done as well as my first and I know I won't have the money to self-publish another novel as soon as I finish it, so I let it be okay to take a break. That was foolish. I need to write, and that's what I'm going to do. That's the place I'm at right now; I've got a couple books under my belt, some experience in the field I guess, and I've got some small presence online.
Hell, I've got this blog where I can write. These are just my thoughts at the moment, but if you think I'm not analyzing what I'm writing as the words pop up on the screen, you would be mistaken (forgive the typos that I'm sure are there anyway; I'm trying, alright?).
Ten thousand hours. I've put in a few already. Chalk up one more.