“It is the time that you’ve wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, describes the amount of “pure practice and investment in time to move beyond mastery to actual expertise as somewhere around ten thousand hours.” Perhaps there is such a thing as innately talented writers, but in reality, writing requires extensive practice. Trial and error directs most of us as we struggle to get words on the page.
Gladwell cites studies in which “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation and practice seems to play. . . . Excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice and it surfaces repeatedly in studies of expertise. It takes the brain about ten thousand hours to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” The 10,000-hour rule translates into more than ten years of consistent practice where the daily process accumulates, increasing proficiency and expertise.
Even if you are smart – if you don’t work at getting in the practice time you’re not likely to play at Carnegie Hall or anywhere else – other than your living room.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once and then you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” Writers, like concert violinists, don’t get their expertise from thin air. They work at it. Writers tending their rose are not wasting time; they are nurturing the rose to find its beautiful center.