Monday, December 29, 2008

The Write Sisters Introduce: Mentor Mondays!

The fourth goal of the Write Sisters' Mission Statement is to "Educate other writers, and the public in general, including children, about all aspects of writing." With that purpose in mind, and a new year looming, we present Mentor Mondays. Every Monday we will share hints, lessons, or skills we've learned in our own writing journeys. We hope you find them helpful.

Today I'd like to share the lesson of time. Time=work. Time= patience. Time=the ability to enhance skills.

Too often, in my years as a critique group leader, I've met people who thought they wanted to be writers. They believed they had an innate skill because they did well writing essays in school, or other people had commented favorably on their ability to write letters to the editors or spout rhyming jingles. What these people failed to recognize is that each of those things was merely an indicator of possibility. True writers know the journey is ongoing.

I'm currently reading a book that deals with the concept of success. It is the topic of a lot of discussion: Outliers-The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell writes about people that have attained almost unbelievable success in business, the arts, etc. One of the reasons they have gone above and beyond the average is something Gladwell calls "the ten thousand hour rule." He posits that innate talent is not the real reason for success. High achievers (those he calls Outliers because their achievements are so outside what we consider the norm) not only had some talent, they also had certain advantages, and they put in the time.

Bill Gates happened to attend a middle school whose Mother's Club felt it was worthwhile to fund a computer club--in 1968, when even many colleges had not yet jumped on the computer bandwagon. He spent hours working on these early machines, and later did the same at the University of Washington--even when the only time available to him was between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.

The Beatles were considered musical geniuses. In the late 50's and early 60's they were hired to perform in Hamburg, Germany. They were required to play 8 hours a night, seven days a week. (When was the last time you went to a club that hired a band for that length of time?) They needed a lot of music to fill up that time. They covered all kinds of music: jazz, rock, country. They honed their musical abilities in order to keep getting hired.

These are but two examples that Gladwell includes in his book. The truth is that most "geniuses" put in hours and hours and hours of practice before they are considered outstanding examples in their fields.

Writers need to do the same. We need to put the words on the screen or on paper over and over again. We need to write every day. We need to try different types of writing. We need to read, read, read. We need to put in the time.

So as the New Year approaches, make it a resolution to keep practicing. Write anything and everything. Critique yourself. Rewrite. Put work in the mail. When you get a rejection letter, don't think of it as failure. Think of it as just one more brick on your road to becoming a genius. You're only 10,000 hours away.


Diane said...

Nice post, Mur! I wish I had the time to comment further. --Diane

Anonymous said...

Malcolm Gladwell. What a coincidence. I was at B & N the other day and made an impulse purchase. The book is called BLINK: Thinking Without Thinking. It was written by Gladwell. He's got a marvelous style and relates things through anecdotes. It's a great read. I'll be blogging about it some time soon.

I'd like to read OUTLIERS.

Nice post, Muriel!

Sally said...

Where did you find that signpost?? It's perfect!

Anonymous said...

Put work in the mail.

I've just taped it above my computer.

I will!
I will!
I will!