10,000 hours to writing success?

I’m reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point, and I just finished the chapter about how it takes 10,000 hours to become an “expert” at something. He gives the reader many examples of this phenomenon, including the cases of Bill Joy, the founder of Sun Microsystems, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and how they were able to log 10,000 hours (many more actually) of time writing computer code during the birth of the personal computer revolution and how they used that experience to capitalize on those moments when their skills were needed.

Gladwell points out that not only is it about the 10,000 hours, but it’s also just as much about using that experience when the opportunity strikes. I happen to agree with him. Now, there’s no question that these people have talent, but it was their commitment to practicing their craft, making it better and better and better with time, that made them become the success stories that they are. Agree? Disagree?  

Now, 10,000 hours for a young person like Gates and Joy were at the time, would only take them a few years to log due to the fact they hod alot of discretionary time and would stay at the computer labs for countless hours. Most of us are adults with jobs, children and other responsibilities. So, the question must be asked, how long does it take to get to 10,000 hours in “adult time?” Well, let’s reverse engineer it.

Let’s say you budget 10 hours a week writing. That means 500 a year (52 weeks in a year minus 2 weeks off for vacation 🙂 ) So, at 500 hours a year, it would take you 20 years to become, in Gladwell’s eyes, an expert on writing. Just some food for thought.

And here’s another morsel for the old noggin: what about the opportunity part of it? The publishing industry is at a crossroads. We have a completely new world in the form of epublishing. As writers, we can also now be publishers. We have never had the opportunity to wield so much power over our own destinies. If you have 10,000 hours of writing  experience under your belt, how can you use that to take advantage of this amazing opportunity?

BTW, as long as we’re talking about food (sort of,) I am doing something really exciting tonight. It is called Pots&Plots. Our local grocery store, Market Street, has a cooking school and the director, Judy Waitkus, invited me to attend their class as they are cooking one of the dishes from my latest thriller, The Brink. We’ll be doing crab cake sandwiches and chasing them down with Shiner Bock beer. Doing a cooking school appearance is certainly new for me, and I bet its something that most of us are not used to doing on our book tours. I can’t wait to share how the class went so that maybe you too can get involved with your local schools. At the very least, you’re guaranteed to get a free meal out of it. You only have to make it first.


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Signed copies of The Brink are available 20% off the cover price at www.shop.markfadden.com.

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