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Sunday, 4 March 2012

Writing and the 10,000 Hours Theory


Last Thursday, appropriately on World Book Day, I met with the university’s other Royal Literary Fellow, Linda Cracknell to chat about my book- or lack of. My work in progress is not making much progress at all.



But there’s really no need to worry about the WIP as I must be an expert writer by now.  Expert? How can I dare to call myself an expert without having published anything or finished the MLitt course? You can blame my good friend Jill.

When Jill (who abandoned me to live in Michigan 10 years ago- I still can’t forgive her) came home to visit recently she told me about the 10,000 hours theory. I’d never heard of the book the Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and it claims that expertise is all about practice: You, too, can become Bill Gates (at least the talent part) or Tiger Woods if you spend 10,000 hours writing code or hitting a golf ball.



Basically, raw talent isn’t enough. You need to put in the time and effort as well. This was confirmed when I watched a short video clip made by one of my favourite writers, Kate Long in which she answers the question, “How did you get your first novel published?”




In the video, Kate tells wannabe writers that she had been writing for 10 years and completed three manuscripts before her best-selling novel-The Bad Mother’s Handbook was published. Kate describes her journey to publication as a decade long apprenticeship.

Unfortunately, I know that hard work by itself isn’t enough either. I believe that you need some degree of talent as well. Just by spending 10,000 hours writing, doesn’t mean I’m going to be an expert. I’ll probably be better at writing but that alone won't guarantee success. In the meantime, I'm off to clock up some writing hours...