Sunday, June 29, 2014

10,000-Hour Rule


I've been thinking about the "10,000-Hour Rule" in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, which postulates that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to master a skill, be it excelling in sports, computer programming, music, or writing the great American novel.

Gladwell points to the success of the Beatles and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates as evidence of the 10,000-hour theory and even notes that Gladwell himself took exactly 10 years to meet the 10,000-Hour Rule, counting from his days at The American Spectator until his tenure at The Washington Post.

For the record, the Canadian writer has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written five books, The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), What the Dog Saw (2009), and David and Goliath (2013). And, in case you didn't know, all five books have been on The New York Times Best Seller List. Nice to know he didn't stop practicing his craft at the 10K mark, because I have all of those books, and I absolutely loooooove reading them--the books challenge my mind in the most intriguing, compelling ways.

So... I've been thinking about the time we creative people spend on our craft. We write, we paint, we sculpt, we strum our guitar, we blow our harmonica, we click our heels and soar through the air because there is a wildness in our spirit that has to be expressed; it is as necessary to our creative spirit as breathing is to our physical bodies. Truth is, we create our art for the sheer joy of creating. 

Often, however, when we begin a project, the internal critic rears its satanic head. The internal critic  is the villain who is always looking for the opportunity to kill the spirit in anyone's creative life. The internal critic whispers, "Don't put it out there in public view. You'll be destroyed by the bad press. You're not good enough. Face it, you can't create with the same perfection as the Great Ones."

Here's my response: "To hell with that malarkey. It's called practice, and I'm racking up my 10,000 hours with every sentence I write."