10,000 Hours

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he details the concept of the 10,000-hour rule. That’s a reasonably well-accepted theory that to become thoroughly proficient at something, a person needs to practice for about 10,000 hours. Gladwell’s most famous examples include the Beatles and Bill Gates.

Prodigies — the exceptions who prove the rule — are popularly known. However, they account for a very small percentage of the people we consider “successful” at anything — music, sports, business, math, whatever.

The real distinguishing characteristic between average and great is less talent and more dedication.

Writing every day is the only discipline that gets you closer to that 10,000-hour proficiency marker.

Reading doesn’t do it.

Reading about writing doesn’t do it.

Thinking about what you want to write doesn’t do it.

Thinking about how rich and famous you’ll be after your first glittering book tour really doesn’t do it.

Writing does it.

Writing every day, for as many minutes as you can dedicate, is essential practice to improve your writing. We’re busy. Writing often seems the easiest thing to defer. But you can’t defer — every moment you defer stack up on the other side of 10,000 hours. It seems daunting.

Frankly, it is daunting.

Fortunately, a compelling writing prompt can help inspire your daily writing. I started Prompt Inspiration to help writers towards their goals, whether those goals are personal, professional, aspirational, or anywhere along that spectrum.

Signing up to receive a daily writing prompt chosen to appeal to your writing project is easy — all you need is an email address.

It’s safe — no one but me will ever have access to your address, and I’ll never do anything except send you writing prompts. You can quit receiving the emails at any time.

I hope you’ll participate, because it can help you become a better writer.

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    5 Responses to “10,000 Hours”

    1. Thanks. I needed this.
      Susan

    2. Patti Brooks says:

      Yes–I’d like to receive daily email prompts for writers. I do fiction. Check out my website.

      Patti

    3. dbschlosser says:

      You cansign up for the daily emails of genre-specific writing prompts on the home page (along the right side) or on the genre pages you’ll find under “Writing Prompts>>” in the menu across the top.

    4. A qualifying comment: I put in my 10,000 hours on the piano bench, and became reasonably proficient. A significant portion of those hours were spent accompanying ballet classes, chopping the master works into square, thumpin’, eight-measure phrases, hour after hour, and lo, my repertoire, my technique, my joie du musique (if there is such a thing), all went into the septic field.

      Pouring words onto the screen for 10,000 hours is not NECESSARILY the same as working on my craft for those hours. The conservatory successes also took music theory, went to concerts, played in ensembles, attended master classes as auditors, and otherwise sought the truth of their art.

      I have to write and write and write, but I also have to work on my craft. Word count is necessary but not sufficient to move me toward the goal of improving my writing.

    5. Great post. To be proficient at anything you need to put in the time and pay your dues. Everyone thinks they can someday “write a book” turns out less than five percent actually do it. Most give up when they see it isn’t all fuzzy white dogs and bon-bons. Darn it. I want my bon-bons!

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