One of the emerging “rules” over the last decade has been the 10,000-Hour Rule. I first read about it in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Basically, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you’ll become an expert at it.
I remember at the time thinking of some aspiring writers I have met over the years and wondered if the rule could possibly be true. I knew they must have written for at least that many hours, but were they really “experts” at writing?
Every Sunday morning I receive the Brain Pickings newsletter. Love this! Last weekend I was happy to read a new psychological study overthrowing the 10,000-Hour Rule—and it makes so much sense! We need to spend focused, quality time – not just biding our time and filling it with the act of writing (or whatever field you want to be an expert in). If we are not seeking advancement, stretching our comfort zones, learning from more advanced writers, we will just become “proficient”—according to “Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What it Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence.”
What does this mean for writers?
- Critique groups rock–but make sure you are surrounded by writers who improve your work and who you learn from. If you find writers in your critique group are less advanced, you may be doing them a favor—but what about you?
- Writing classes are gold! Learn about new areas of writing and publishing. My friend poet Angelika Teuber recently gave me a great example. She said she was in a class where one person said she was waiting until she retired to write her memoir. The instructor’s response: Why don’t you pick up a cello then? Don’t expect you know everything about a subject you have never learned about. Always look for something new to learn in your field, and don’t postpone educating yourself.
- Keep writing. Persistence is a big theme in the research. Without your focus to keep going, someone else will take your spot, and some other publisher will publish your book.