Saturday, November 21, 2009
How Blogging Has Helped My Writing
The moral of this story? Canadian parents, if you want your kid to be a hockey superstar, time his conception wisely.
Okay, I'm just kidding for that. NO, WAIT, DON'T GO, I'M SORRY, IT GETS BETTER. It's pretty intense stuff to think about, that so much of our success may be out of our control. However, Gladwell also describes the "10,000-hour" rule: basically, that masters and experts in ANY and ALL fields have only accomplished their success after 10,000 hours of practice. Do you know how much time 10,000 hours is? A heck of a lot of time. Bill Gates skipped gym classes and stayed up all night fiddling with computers for years to achieve 10,000 hours of computer practice by the time he dropped out of Harvard to become a multibillionaire.
The moral of Bill Gates' story? WHAT THE HECK AM I STILL DOING IN SCHOOL WHEN I COULD BE OFF WRITING 24/7 AND GETTING 10,000 HOURS OF WRITING PRACTICE?
(Okay, kidding. Kidding. Toooootallyyyy kidding. Pretend I didn't say that, or else my professors will think they're wasting their time on me, and my family will think they're wasting their money. Teehee. I luff you!)
The gist of it is, 10,000 hours is about the unconsciously universal threshold for mastery in anything. Gladwell's findings indicate that there is a marked difference in the success of violinists who've practiced 10,000 hours and violinists who've practiced only 8,000, or 6,000. Constant and dedicated immersion in one's passion or interest is a crucial factor to success.
Which brings me to blogging and writing. This year has been a year of almost explosive growth in my reading and writing habits. A few days ago I crossed the 200-book mark in number of books I've read in 2009. I've taken two writing workshop classes at school, started and finished writing a novel, and started another one. I don't even want to know how many hours I've spent on book-related websites such as Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and blogs, because that will just make me feel kind of sad at how much time I could've spent reading or writing.
All of this is PRACTICE for my dreams of becoming a published author. Reading all those books? That's research. I've gotten a better sense of what writing styles I like to read, and what works for others, and what I can write, and what I'd like to write. I've read enough this year and in past years to develop a sense of plotlines and story ideas that I feel have been overused to the point where I either want to stay away from them for my life's sake or am determined to rework them and reach the core of what they used to be about. (Read: vampires. And a slight explanation for what I'm doing with my NaNo...)
I've also learned the zillions of things that I want to work on in the years to come. I'm atrocious at writing families. Research kills the spirit in me. Writing three-dimensional siblings? Fugghedaboudit. I let my characters tell us what they're thinking too often, instead of letting them show their thought process in actions. And, oh yeah, I still need to figure out how to write that "THAT'S IT" first sentence in query letters, instead of writing summaries that sound suspiciously like book proposals or book jacket descriptions. I keep lists of the questions I have for my stories, myself, and my writing, and I look forward to when I'll be able to answer them. Through practice. Always through practice.
So yes, I have been clocking some serious practice hours for writing this year. And the best part? It's all been so enjoyable, so effortless. I love all the new friends I've made through blogging and Twitter. I love going to bookish events and actually be able to connect to people there. And, yes, I even very secretly and guiltily like being the children's and YA lit "semi-expert" in my Children's Lit class at Penn. (And if you, Phil, are reading this, I hope you don't take it in a bad way!) I like striking up conversations with the bookstore employees who ring up my purchases for me, and recommending that they read such-and-such a book if they like this-and-that.
Fellow aspiring authors (and book lovers who don't want to be authors, or writers who are already published), I hope you don't lose heart, especially if you're doing NaNo. Consider the blogging community experience as research and practice towards whatever dreams you have. I know you're all passionate about books: you wouldn't be flittering through the blogosphere or reading this now absurdly long blog post if you aren't. Whatever you read and write counts towards your 10,000 hours. Think of it that way, and it'll be a lot easier to reach mastery in whatever you desire. :)