Perspective is a beautiful thing. Keeps us sane. Smacks of reality therapy. Lets us know we are not alone, yet we are the primary architects of our own destiny.
You may have heard of a guy named Malcom Gladwell. Looks a little like Richard Simmons, but with something important to say.
He’s actually a brilliant journalist and researcher with several bestselling non-fiction books on his CV. One of them — “The Tipping Point” (2oo2) — explains why some books become bestsellers and why other worthy books (not just books, but anything that catches fire, culturally-speaking) don’t.
One of his other books is called “Outliers: The Story of Success” (July 2011). It addresses how some unconventional thinkers become massively successful, and in doing so he draws some baseline conclusions that we can apply to our writing.
Because we all have that in common… we’d like to become massively successful.
Did you know that…
… Bill Gates spent 10,000 hours programming his high school computer, beginning at age 13, before he became the richest man in high-tech?
… the Beatles spent 10,000 hours performing prior to coming to USA to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, which changed music forever?
… the guy who (basically) invented the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, spent 10,000 hours in some dreary basement lab before he joined that team?
Though he doesn’t claim to have invented it, Gladwell lands on what he dubs “The 10,000 Hour Rule,” which he explains as the ante-in before a “cumulative advantage” sets in, which in turns sets the stage for massive success.
Do the math. If you worked at something for two hours a day, every day, that’s a 13.7 year apprenticeship before you join this club. And if that sounds like a lot… look around. Look at the best in any field and look closer at when they emerged as the best, and the time it took to get there.
You think all those pro athletes haven’t spent at least 13.7 years working their game? Even if they were Rookie of the Year? That the best surgeons and teachers and scientists and game show hosts and chefs and pilots and preachers and architects haven’t logged at least 13.7 years of anonymous practice and growth before getting to wear that nametag?
The NaNoWriMo Relevance of it all.
So yeah, writing a novel is hard. Meeting your NaNoWriMo goal is hard a total time-suck. But think of it this way: if you log three hours a day during November getting your story down on paper, that leaves only 9,910 hours to go before you, too, can have lunch with Nora Roberts and Dennis Lehane.
I’m just sayin’… you’re in this. On the path. Out of the gate. Celebrate that.
Make every hour count. And don’t be too hard on yourself if, say, six or so years into this you’re still not on a bestseller list. It is what it is… and it takes 10,000 hours of your blood, sweat and commitment to make it so.
I sold my first novel 22 years after declaring I wanted to write and publish one. I gave my first writing workshop 25 years ago. And I’m still learning new stuff all the time.
So I feel you.
A suggestion on how to log 20 minutes on that road.
Yesterday I did a radio interview with a writer who had attended my presentation at an event held on the Oregon coast last week. Turns out she hosts a regional radio program, and was sufficiently engaged to invite me to participate in an interview, which aired on KCUP out of Newport, Oregon.
The interview, as it often does, turned into a little mini-workshop on story planning and the writing life. Something you might enjoy, and benefit from.
You can listen to it HERE.
I’m in the process of assembling last month’s NaNoWriMo planning posts into an ebook, with embellishment of the articles (and some necessary editing) and inclusion of the many linked reference posts. I’m also including the entire manuscript of my novel, “Bait and Switch” for use as reference and example, as well as, I hope, your reading pleasure.
That’s well over 317 pages of content, for which I’ll be asking about $8.95. The book will be available through various venues, including PDF direct from Storyfix, Kindle and other eReaders, and possibly a paperback version.
Title: “When Every Month is NaNoWriMo — Principles, Guidelines, Tips and New Thinking to Make Sure Your Novel Doesn’t Tank”
I have to confess, my original title was “… to Make Sure Your Novel Doesn’t Suck,” but my wife intervened.
Not saying the content is brand new — many of you have my book, Story Engineering, already, and again, the primary content of the first half of the book comes from last months 31 posts in 31 days — but it’s buffed up and optimized for NaNoWriMo, with an application for any writer, in any month.
Will let you know when it’s ready. For now… keep writing, keep dreaming… and keep churning out those hours.