The Page a Day Writers Group

Ten Thousand Hours to Genius? Full Speed Ahead!

Posted on: February 18, 2010

By Trish Wilkinson

Do you ever feel like it is taking you forever to accomplish the goal you set out to meet? In my case, I decided to become a writer about 18 years into my teaching career. I wrote my first novel about eight years ago. When I finished the rough draft, my sister and I read it together on the plane to Puerto Rico. Of course, she LOVED it. How encouraging to have the first person who ever read my work LOVE it, right? I set out to revise the prose to make it more grammatically correct, but the truth is: I had no idea what I was doing. Looking back on the draft pre revision-with-a-clue, my face burns red, even reading it alone in my room.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, among others, makes a good case for spending 10,000 hours at any skill before we expect to get really good at it. At the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego last weekend, the agent I spoke with told me I need to work on my Grade by Grade concept to make it more marketable to publishers – and I need another 10,000 followers on my blog to strengthen my platform. There’s that number again. Sigh.

Here’s the good news: I didn’t pitch my fiction to an agent, but at the read-and-critique sessions, even seasoned writers universally said that my writing, stories, dialogue, blah, blah, blah, totally rock! I wonder how close my key clicking  is to approaching the 10,000 hour mark. Could I be closer than I thought?

For the past couple years, I’ve tried to break up my days into blocks of hours to get both fiction and nonfiction writing in. Have you ever felt like there were so many demands on your time that you couldn’t get anything done – or done well? The due dates I set to reach objectives toward my publication goals became laughable.

Here’s my new goal: I will get an agent for my YA series by the end of 2010. There. One project. One focus.

Objectives: by the end of March, I will finish the revision on the novel I’ve been working on for nearly a year. By the beginning of June, I will polish it and start sending queries to agents. I plan to go to another 10-day writers’ workshop in Kentucky in June, so I’ll work on the sequel at the workshop.

In the meantime, if my nonfiction projects call to me, I can pick them up occasionally for variety, but my laser beam focus will be on fiction until the end of the year. In December, I’ll evaluate my progress and set new goals. That’s it. No more messing around.  In five years, I’ll be five years older, regardless of whether my novels are published, regardless of whether I write.  It’s time to strap on  my helmet and charge full speed ahead! Why the helmet? I figure on occasions when I miss my path and plow into a wall, it will come in handy. With my head in tact, I’ll pick myself up and get back on the path. Better to glance off a cinder block once in a while than to lose the target behind the old tennis shoes in the closet.

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2 Responses to "Ten Thousand Hours to Genius? Full Speed Ahead!"

Well said. Gladwell really explained it well in his book. One project at a time. Before you know it, 10,000 hours will add up. We’ll be looking for your book on the YA shelves in no time.

I like your decision to zero in on one goal as your primary focus, Trish! That’s inspiring. And Ray Bradbury is also a proponent of the long view. In Zen in the Art of Writing he says, “One thousand or two thousand words every day for the next twenty years… You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before your are comfortable in this medium… I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality… Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come…”

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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