Jilly–The 10,000-hour rule

Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 best-selling non-fiction book, he examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. One idea that recurs throughout the book is the 10,000-hour rule.

In essence, he argues that the key to achieving a world-class expertise in any skill is mostly a matter of practicing in the correct way for a total of at least 10,000 hours.

Personally I think that to become world-class the person doing the practicing must also have a certain level of talent, and getting the right kind of expert help makes a huge difference, but I’m willing to believe that with consistent application the average person can reach a high skill level in many areas.

Told you that to tell you this: I just received my final formatted files for The Seeds of Power, and I’m expecting the paperback covers some time in the next day or two. Which means that after almost eight years of toil, sweat and tears in the writing trenches I should be in the position to publish my debut book before the end of the year, and I’m proud of the way it’s turned out. I honestly don’t think I could have done any better.

More on that next week, and no doubt the week after as well, but as I was contemplating just how long it’s taken me to get here–so much longer than I ever expected–it occurred to me to do a rough guesstimate of how many hours I’ve spent learning my craft. I plucked some numbers out of the air, and guess what? Six hours a day, for five days per week, for forty weeks per year, for eight years, makes 9,600 hours. Huh.

I’m not saying that means the book is good or that I’m a world-class writer, but I’m choosing to take it as a sign that I’ve earned my chops. That the time is right.

How about you? Have you learned a musical instrument, become a pastry chef, a calligrapher, or a dog whisperer? Or do you know somebody who mastered a skill? I know Elizabeth makes quilts, Michaeline plays the ukulele, and one of our commenters, Penny, is an artist. How long did it take you (or them) to become proficient?

Do you believe the 10,000-hour test is a good rule of thumb?



10 thoughts on “Jilly–The 10,000-hour rule

    • Thank you, and I hope you like it!

      You might be amused to know that Karen Dale Harris, my developmental editor, worked extra hard to make sure I didn’t put in any Deus ex Machina “…and suddenly, I can fly!” moments.

  1. That 10,000-hour rule sure applied to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I’d like to think it applied to writers, too, except that I’ve seen Jenny smack her head on the table when somebody asked her if it got easier as she went along. And in my case, I need about 10,000 hours for every book no matter what. I don’t think competence porn is in my wheelhouse.

    Congratulations on finishing your book and being happy with it. That is a truly great accomplishment.

    • Yeah, I don’t think it gets easier, except maybe if you’re Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I do remember when I first looked at joining the Romantic Novelist’s Association’s New Writers Scheme, I read that it was usual for members to spend around eight years on the scheme before publishing. I wondered why it took them so long. And now, eight years later…

      I am proud of the book, and I don’t think I could have done any better. Which makes me one very happy bunny πŸ˜€

  2. Congrats! This is fabulous news!

    TBH, I haven’t mastered very much at all (although, if I were asked to play ukulele professionally, I could probably put together a 20 minute set in a week — it’s more about singing, though, than playing like a virtuoso, and I’ve definitely sung more than 10,000 hours in my lifetime). OK, so there’s one. Singing. Speaking Japanese in a casual setting is probably my other one.

    I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell; he pulls together a lot of research and puts it into a logical and easy to read form. I have read some things that argue with the 10,000 hour theory . . . but the thing is, if you love doing something, you’ll get to 10,000 hours eventually. Might take ten years, might take longer.

    I’m glad you put in the work and are ready to see your baby fly free!

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