Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why I am 9% of the Way to Becoming a World-Class Author

Ever hear of the 10,000-hour rule?  If not, then like me, you never read the book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  (Or, if you are more interested in the original work, the research of Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, some of which I have read.)

In the book, Gladwell suggests that the key to achieving world-class skill in virtually any field – sports, music, business, and yes, writing – is largely a matter of, you guessed it, 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

So, with 10,000 as my goal, I started tabulating my hours…

I have writing scattered across a long career, and even allowing that this activity was only a small portion of my job, I am sure I have spent at least 6,000 hours already.  Great, 60% of the way to becoming a world-class author!

But wait, that was technical writing, which is not quite the same thing.  I am sure of this supposition, as I would guess it took me 20 seconds to find the quotation marks on my keyboard the first time I tried my hand at dialog.  Who ever heard of quotation marks in a technical paper?  And I am still working on typing, “Dunno”, rather than, “I do not know”, or worse yet, “The data are insufficient for drawing a conclusion with certainty.”

But while some might argue that my technical writing background is a detriment, I am going to give myself 75% credit for the hours I have spent.  Where did 75% come from?  I made it up, but doesn’t it sound good to claim I am 4,500 hours or 45% of the way to becoming a world-class author.

Of course, a claim that 10,000 hours of practice makes perfect is not going to go unchallenged.  Perhaps one of the strongest tests of that generality is a study that statistically combined results from 88 experiments on the effect of practice hours on skill mastery.  While this study did not report findings for writing specifically, it found that practice could explained as much as 21% of the variance in becoming an expert musician…which is close enough for my purposes.  So, I am 45% of the way to obtaining 21% of the goal, or 9.45% of the way to becoming a world-class author.

What, you might ask, is the source of the other 79% of being able to pen the next great American novel?  No one knows, but among the factors most commonly mentioned are personality, cognitive ability, imagination, creativity, motivation, passion, inspiration, opportunities, encouragement, support, and just plain luck.  Personally, I’m counting heavily on luck.

Happy writing,

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