Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The 10,000-hour Rule

Ernest Hemingway famously said, "the first draft of anything is shit." If you agree with that -- and I most certainly do -- then you could say that the second draft of anything is "organized shit." I don't mean that in a bad way -- I'm quite happy with my second draft -- it's just that it is far from publishable quality. But at least the story is getting clean and organized. 

I'm making great progress. I didn't write at all the week of Christmas, and by the fifth day I was freaking out about it. So when I got back into town, I worked my ass off for four days straight. It helped that everyone I know was out of town. Now, I'm caught up -- on schedule to complete my second draft by January 15th. And then I'll start on the third.

Meanwhile, I read a book called Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, the influential author of The Tipping Point and Blink -- and owner of really cool hair. I know, I recently berated y'all for reading too many nonfiction books, but I got this one for Christmas and I couldn't put it down. (In a previous post, I referred to Gladwell's New Yorker article, which highlights one of the same concepts as his book).

According to Gladwell, one of the main things that separates extraordinary successful people from others is PRACTICE. Tons of it. He discusses what he calls the 10,000-hour rule; essentially, it takes this many hours of practice -- about ten years of working nearly full-time -- to get really good at something. This holds true even for people we think of as prodigies or geniuses. He gives numerous examples, from Bill Gates to Mozart (Mozart actually developed "late"-- he'd been composing for over ten years before he produced anything good -- he just started really early).

But my favorite example is the music group, The Beatles. Everyone knows the story of how John, Paul, George and Ringo came to the U.S. in 1964 and took the American music scene by storm. But what's interesting is what happened before they landed in America. In 1960, while they were just a struggling high school rock band, a club promoter invited them to play in Hamburg, Germany. At the time, Hamburg didn't have rock-and-roll music clubs -- it had strip clubs. So that's were the Beatles played. The promoters wanted to keep this huge strip show going around the clock, so the group was forced to play up to eight hours a night, seven nights a week.

(sorry... distracted... wondering how I could get someone to pay me to write in a strip club for eight hours a night, seven nights a week...)

By the time they hit it big in 1964, they'd already performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Most bands today don't perform that many times in their entire careers. Factor in offstage practice, and The Beatles had easily hit the 10,000 hour threshold by the time they arrived in America.

I could go on about this topic for hours, but I've got to get back to work. Just 9,027 hours to go...

1 comment:

  1. So that means I have a ways to go before I become the next Annie Leibovitz. Good to know...