Tag Archives: Malcolm Gladwell

Write 10,000 Words* A Day

(*not to be confused with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory) because I bet anyone can write 10,000 words in 10,000 days.)

Have you read Rachel Aaron’s blog about how she writes 10,000 words a day?

I was reminded of side one of her ‘triangle process’ the other day when I felt overwhelmed by the chapter I was revising. I knew where I eventually needed to end up with the chapter but I had SO MANY WAYS I could get there.

I was stumped. Stymied into inaction. Paralyzed.

But then I thought about what Rachel had tried to teach me. I got out a piece of school paper and started scribbling a truncated version of the scene. I crossed stuff out, added other stuff, drew a lot of arrows. But after about four minutes (yes, I checked), I had it figured out.

Side one of her triangle is Knowledge … knowing what you’re writing before you write it. Even though I knew what I was writing  ”” I mean, c’mon, it’s my fourth revision! ”” I still needed … something.

I don’t know if it is a matter of writing by hand, or free-writing, or simply dumping out the contents of your brain on a simple sheet of paper, but it absolutely worked for me.

The other two sides of her triangle are Time and Enthusiasm, fyi. But if you haven’t read the article, do it now. Anything that helps you write faster should be seriously considered, eh?

How many words can you average in a day? What’s your personal best?

10,000 Hours

In the November 24, 2008 issue of Time Magazine … which I’m feeling uber-smug for having already finished … there’s an article about Malcolm Gladwell. He’s a brainiac who has written his third book, OUTLIERS, which Time describes as, “a frontal assault on the great American myth of the self-made man.” It’s a book about exceptional people who “operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically possible.”

He’s a remarkable man and the book sounds like a good read. But I was stopped short when I read about Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. He says the key to success in any field takes simple practice, 10,000 hours of it … 20 hours a week for ten years, regardless of talent.

I read that paragraph three times because I’ve heard for many years ”” since I’ve become serious about writing ”” that only those who persevere will have a career as an author. I’ve heard a million stories, give or take 200,000, about authors who took ten years to become ”˜overnight successes’ because that’s the industry average. I know mediocre writers who are quite successful. Why? Because they don’t quit and they learn everything there is to know about the publishing industry. And I know excellent, make-your-heart-leap-into-your-throat writers who will never get published. Why? Because they give up or refuse to learn about the industry.

I also read recently, in the December issue of The Writer magazine, (again, feeling smug to be current in my reading) about William McGonagall (1825-1902), the world’s worst poet, whose “confidence far surpassed his talent.” Chuck Leddy, the author of the article, maintains that “to persist in the face of hurled insults and howling laughter, is a unique sort of genius that remains worthy of celebration.” I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, if I had my Wayback Machine all lubed and oiled, I’d buy Mr. McG a Guinness.

Mr. McGonagall obviously dangled his legs off the cliff of talent, but it’s clear he put in his 10,000 hours. After all, it’s 2008 and he’s still the subject of magazine articles. There are studies documenting Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule … it’s not just anecdotal, trying to make us feel better about trying to be published authors for all these years.

So I started looking at my timeline. I’ve been serious about writing … and let’s define that using Gladwell’s scale by saying it’s conscientious writing 20 hours a week … since about October 1999, to the best of my recollection. I never seem to do any writing on weekends, so twenty hours a week is four hours per day. If we count reading craft books, reading in our genre, critiquing others’ manuscripts, participating in critique groups, attending conferences, workshops and lectures … well, golly! I’m overdo for my breakout novel because I’ve put in more than 10,000 hours. And I really hope that “regardless of talent” piece is true.

But if the ten year thing has to be part of the equation, then I only have another year to strengthen my book signing hand!

Ready when you are, Universe!

Are you close to 10,000 hours of practicing something to fulfill your dream? If you could do anything in the world, what would you want to spend 10,000 hours practicing? (And I know that leaves me absolutely open to all kinds of funny, possibly obscene, answers, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take! Let ”˜em rip ….)