Serving Your 10,000 Hours

There’s a much-quoted theory that 10,000 hours of quality practice can make you an expert in anything. While the notion of becoming an expert by this method has been debated for nearly 25 years, it is true that quality practice makes you better at what you do.

If you’re a long-term reader – and there must be one or two of you out there – you know I’m upfront about not being a lifelong writer. I started to pen fiction seven years ago at the age of 26; my last creative writing before then was done at high school, at which time I was more interested in music and computing. I’d entered my thirties before I felt comfortable calling myself a poet.

Creative writing class-fine arts center (40269...
Creative writing class-fine arts center (402690951) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the purposes of this entry, let’s convert the 10,000-hour theory to more manageable figures. It’s near-impossible to calculate accurately, but let’s say I practised my writing for two hours every day. If we enter that into the 10,000 Hours Calculator, it gives me a figure of 13.7 years. Eight hours devoted to my field per day brings that down to 3.4 years.

By this measure, I’m not convinced I’ve reached 10,000 hours yet, but does it matter?

As I started relatively late, I used to believe I’d forever be catching up with more established writers. These days, however, I lean toward the view that once you’ve practised for a certain length of time, the gap begins to close. The writer who’s done it for two years will know far more than the one who started 12 months previously. Yet when you’ve written for five years, say, you’ll probably have more in common with someone who’s written for 20 years than two.

The message here, of course, is not to stop practising once you’ve been at it for two decades. On the contrary, the more a relative newbie learns, the narrower the gulf will be between their knowledge and those with more experience. Every day is a schoolday.

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2 thoughts on “Serving Your 10,000 Hours

  1. Love this post and I hadn’t heard about the 10, 000 hours expert theory before. I think if we feel passion in something, it can maybe become less than 10, 000 hours over it. I would see it a personal journey of sorts, rather than hours we clock in or out of over something. I love how you write and I love your passion and imagination 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your words, Katy. It means a lot to me that you’ve taken the time to say so.

      Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory is wide open to dispute. There are plenty of rebuttals online, and even Gladwell has now clarified that it’s only an average figure.

      From my own point of view, what matters is not just repetitive writing practice. It’s having people around me to give feedback and suggest new ideas, some of whom have most definitely devoted 10,000 hours to their craft.

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