Do you believe that practice makes perfect?
That the more time that you put into a skill, the better that you’ll get at it?
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. So one could safely assume that the more you write, the better that you’ll get and after 10,000 hours of writing you’ll have the mad skills of Hemingway or Kingsolver, right?
So…if you wrote for 5 hours a day for 5 years straight, you’d be around 10,000 hours. (I think my math is right…)
That’s a lot of writing but not too much and I certainly don’t think you need to have the superpower writing skills of Hemingway to sell books. So let’s go with that number for a minute.
Now let’s take a look at the intention and thought you put into your writing practice. You see, I believe that you have to come to your writing practice with a bit of deliberate determination and joy in order for that 10,000-hour rule to even have a chance.
I think that if you practice but you practice randomly, without enthusiasm, and without focus or joy then it’s not really accomplishing much.
You have to actually believe that through practice you’ll get better and you have to WANT to get better.
That’s my take on it anyway. I’ve realized this not though writing practices exactly but through trying to become better at other skills. If I approach the practice and drills with a bit of curiosity and joy, and focus, I make breakthroughs and realize positive results – not every time but the pieces come together much more quickly. If I approach the practice with a “Sigh…this just isn’t making sense and I don’t want to do this” type of attitude well guess what…? Not much happens.
Bringing it back to a writing practice:
If you approach your daily writing habit with focus, curiosity, and a desire to improve then you will improve. In fact, you may get to that “mastery” point much more quickly.
I fully understand that some days you just aren’t feeling it. You sit down to write because you tell yourself that you should. And that’s fine. No one is perfect and no one has five years of ideal days. Heck, I can’t even have 5 ideal days in a row.
However, there are some simple things that you can do to increase your odds of having a productive and effective writing session – to pump up your mindset and give you a fighting chance.
I am a firm believer in affirmations – that’s why I wrote a book of them, 100 Prompts for Romance Writers (Writer’s Muse), because they work for me and for thousands of other writers.
I also believe in creating a writing system that supports you. For example, sit outside for ten minutes and make a mental list of what you’re grateful for.
Close your eyes and visualize a productive and joyful writing session before you sit down at your computer.
Chat with a writing friend on Facebook for a few minutes before you write and find your smile and motivation.
Do what works for you!
While it does take practice to improve your writing skills, I don’t believe that the hours alone are going to get you there, nor do I believe that you have to wait that long to become a really great (and selling) author.