Saturday, 1 June 2013

Putting the Time In

I am participating in a 30 for 30 challenge in the month of June. It's 30 mins of sword fighting related activity for 30 days. Oh yes, that means doing 30 mins of mental/physical/spiritual workout for an entire month. I am already tired, and it is only Day 1.

Apparently, 30 days is what you need to form a habit. If you do something for 30 days, it becomes habit, and so you do it because you want to, rather than because you have to. (If only practicing piano was like that...I still shudder at the thought!) It also feeds into the 10,000 hours until mastery, which is an interesting theory. Essentially, you need to do something for 10,000 hours to become a master at it. This is different from having a skill; if you can do something 3 times properly, it is a skill, which means that even things like spraining your ankle or acquiring other bodily injuries can technically be skill. The 10,000 hours to mastery goes beyond that, into the idea of focusing solely on a skill for that entire time, until you know it inside and out and could probably do it in your sleep or while skydiving or battling zombies.

I started watching an address by Ray Bradbury at a writer's convention. This one to be specific. It was too long for me to pay attention to the entire thing, but closer to the beginning he offers some interesting advice. He tells his listeners not to write a novel, but instead to start by writing short stories. He advises that they should try to write a short story every week, so that by the end of one year they will have 52 short stories. It's the idea of putting in your 10,000 hours; not all of the short stories will be good, but you will have put in the time and effort to write them, developing a personal style, and learning how not to write. A second point he makes, is that his audience should read 1 short story, 1 poem, and 1 non-fiction essays a night for 1000 nights.

Kind of a strange suggestion right? Actually, it's not at all. Because by reading what other people have written before you, you can figure out what you like, what you don't like, and what actually works. You can learn to pick out beauty in a phrase, and to make your prose more poetic. You can also expand your mind, so that all of the things you learn from reading an essay can filter into your work, enriching it. So his advice is actually really poignant.

Writing well requires that time be invested into the effort. While some innate sense of story is helpful, anyone can be an amazing writer, if they put in their 10,000 hours.


  1. That's a very interesting idea. Personally, I don't usually enjoy writing short stories. It's probably because I'm long-winded. I remember in school when we were supposed to write a short story, mine would just continue on and on and on and on... x) On the other hand, I know people who only write short stories and no matter how much they try, they just can't seem to write a full-length novel. Then there are awesome people who do both with ease. I'm jealous of those people. Maybe I should try it, though. Expand my horizons. We'll see. :D Nice post!

    1. To be perfectly honest, I don't necessarily agree with all of Bradbury's advice, because he's coming from a different time and place. To be fair, I and 99% of other authors won't reach the level of awesome that is Ray Bradbury, so maybe if we were aspiring to that level of skill then writing as many short stories as possible would make sense.

      I was a short story writer because I was too intimidated to write a full-length novel until I did NaNoWriMo and finally realized that I had a novel in me. :P

      Thank you! <3