Sunday, February 13, 2011

10,000 Hours

When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed,
Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens,
"Why god? Why me?" and the thundering voice of God answered,
"There's just something about you that pisses me off."
-Stephen King


Stephen King says we need to have written one million words before we can call ourselves writers. No offense, Stephen, (just pretend I'm on a first name basis with him), but I just read something that makes even more sense.

According to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, humans need 10,000 hours of practice before we get really good at something.

What?! 10,000 hours? That's an eternity!

Yeah, but the Beatles put in the time. Bill Gates did too. And I'd be willing to bet Stephen King has as well.

Anyone can write 1,000,000 words. Just because you've written them doesn't mean you've edited them- that's the hard part. Nor does it take into account the critiquing you've done for others or the reading you've done to study the craft. That should count toward a writer's 10,000 hours.

I really have no idea how many hours I've spent working to be a writer- I doubt I'd want to see the tally. But I'm inching my way toward 10,000 hours every day.

What do you think? 1,000,000 words or 10,000 hours? Where are you on the spectrum?

21 comments:

Margo Berendsen said...

I agree with you, 10,000 hours makes more sense than a million words... then again, you could just as easily spend 10,000 hours just writing first drafts and never editing, studying, critiquing, etc. But I still like it better. It implies more than just getting the words out.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Margo- That's what I thought. I'm no where near 1 million words because I've spent a looong time on my first book.

So I'm really picking the number that works best for me. Ha!

Jessica Bell said...

Gee, I dunno! Wel, I've been consistently writing every dayfor five years. What would that add up to, if say it averaged out to three hours a day? Wait .. need the calculator ... that's over 5000 hours. Well, those theories are bollocks. LOL

Anne Gallagher said...

I'd say with 3 books under my belt, x 100k words = 300k words. Now if I took the time to figure out how long it took me to edit and revise those 300k words I'd say I had a million hours.

Oops, I made a mistake somewhere. I hate math. That's why I'm a writer.

I don't think it's how many words or how many hours, it's how good the book turns out to be. Some debut authors make it right away. Others, like Stepehen take years.

Happy Valentine's Day.

J. L. Jackson said...

I tend to agree with the hours, although I know I haven't neared that number, yet.

The longer you write, the better you become.

Congrats on the first line mention on Brenda's blog! I love your line.

Just Another Sarah said...

That is really interesting! I think you're going to be pretty comparable--the words require the time, the time includes the words. When you count reading and editing and everything else--yikes! That's a lot of time that I never put any thought into!

Brenda Drake said...

Well, that's very interesting. I like the hours bit better than the words. If you change words during revisions or add new words, isn't that writing words? Then there's blog posts and stuff like that. Interesting post - a lot of math involved in figuring out if you can call yourself a writer, eh?

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and if you didn't see, participants (any genre) get to query Weronika even though she's closed to submissions - see my post for the deets on how to query her.

Susan R. Mills said...

10,000 hours for sure! Like you, I don't know how many hours I've already spent, but I'm working toward the 10,000 every day.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Um, is it just me or is that a teensy bit depressing? LOL. :-)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I read Outliers last year (and promptly went on to read Blink and Tipping Point) and think this fits nicely with the common wisdom that it takes an author 10 years to arrive.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I read Outliers last year (and promptly went on to read Blink and Tipping Point) and think this fits nicely with the common wisdom that it takes an author 10 years to arrive.

Cher Green said...

You have an award waiting for you on my site: Footsteps of a Writer: http://chergreen.blogspot.com/2011/02/2nd-stylish-blogger-award.html

Jemi Fraser said...

I hadn't heard that before - but I agree with it! Putting in the time is what makes it happen! :)

Terresa said...

I posted on this same topic (Gladwell & the 10,000 hours concept) a few years back. It's true, isn't it? (and so memorable, once read/learned, to keep in mind mastering an art, for us, writing, and know it's a process, a journey...)

Thanks for visiting my blog today, I've nearly given up on blog visiting like I used to (hence, my mantra, I'm a writer, not a blogger), but all the same, I love and miss all my blogging writer friends. I hope you're well & writing!! And know that whenever I come across Hatshepsut & anything Egypt themed (which is, well, a lot these days), I think of you.

xoxo
Terresa

Mark Noce said...

To an extent I believe in both concepts...in order to do 10,000 hrs of work, you should have written 1,000,000+ words. That's the measure of it:) I'd say I'm between 1/2 to 3/4 there...but a lot of those words need more editing;)

VR Barkowski said...

Hours may result in a million words, but it's the time, that matters. And those hours better count. Quality over quantity.

I'm sure it's okay if you call him Stephen. I always call him Uncle Stevie because that's how he refers to himself in his editorials. It always makes me smile.

Court Ellyn said...

It was Mr. King who said this? I was wondering who it was.

Okay, so this got me curious about my overall word count, so I added it up. Mind you, this only includes the stuff I've got typed up and saved on this particular computer, which amounts to about a decade's worth of writing. I'm currently at 1,094,409 words. That's not including the early drafts that no longer exist, nor the crappy, scary novels and stories and poetry I wrote in high school and college. Yikes. So what does this mean? Someone publish my novels already? Hehe.

Hours? I'm not even gonna try. :D

WritingNut said...

I've heard this before... both of them, and I think it's very true! I definitely not near anywhere near 10,000 hours though.

Nate Wilson said...

I'll pretend those benchmarks aren't minimum values, but averages. That feels much more manageable, don't you think? Some people will become really good before the 10,000 (or 1,000,000) is reached; others may never get there. And I'd like to think we're on the above-average side.

caterpillar said...

Am nowhere close to either of the benchmarks, but I think I'll go with the hours...

Amalia T. said...

I think I like this better than pure volume of words-- quality over quantity. I passed the 1 million mark last year, but now I'm trying to do the math in my head for hours put in-- that's so much harder to track!-- but I think I've vanquished that benchmark too, in these last couple of years, especially if you count reading!