A couple of days ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote a review of the book, Outliers. I haven't read the book yet, but I had seen the author, Malcolm Gladwell, last week discussing it on all the talk shows.
The subject is success, and Gladwell shows that raw talent has less to do with success than I had thought. While he discusses many of the other factors that are more important than talent, the one I find the most encouraging is the 10,000 hour rule.
When I was young, I spent some time dabbling in activities like gymnastics, piano, tennis, and singing. As I got older, I also tried drawing, knitting, painting, and now writing. I've pretty much always operated under the assumption that if I wasn't great at something right off the bat, I lacked the raw talent, and would never become really good at that endeavor. So, I never stuck with any of them.
I figured I hadn't found my "true talent," because I hadn't found the thing I was good at right from the get go.
While, of course, there must be a bit of talent to make someone truly successful at something, the great news from Gladwell's book is that, really, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for someone to really excel.
To some that may sound like terrible news, TEN THOUSAND HOURS? But for me it gives me hope. My writing isn't where I would like it to be, and I often get impatient and frustrated with the progress. But the thing is, I love it. I want to do it even if I'm not any good at it. So how great is it to know, that if I keep at it, I might actually be a real writer someday?
I know 10,000 hours is a whole lot of time, but now I have an actual excuse for the practice of writing. It doesn't feel like idle, wasted hours. It's not just something I like doing, it's also something I actually can get better at.
For all of you that kept at your piano lessons and drawing classes, I suppose you already knew this. But for me, it's a very exciting thing to learn, even if it did take me nearly 45 years.