By now, most of you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, which was made famous in the book Outliers. The rule states that in order to become an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.
In other words, a master writer has already spent 10,000 hours writing.
Working at it for 40 hours per week, it would take 250 weeks (or almost five years) to become an expert. If you can only spend half that time, or 20 hours per week, on your craft, it would take ten years to master. For people with busy lives and responsibilities (like full-time jobs and families to care for), it could take a couple of decades to master the craft of writing.
And why shouldn’t it? After all, an expert is someone who has put in the time to become proficient. And while some writers are born with talent, which gives them an advantage (maybe they only need 8,000 hours of practice to become an expert), even the most talented among us must practice writing in order to become true wizards of word craft.
Tips to Help You Practice Writing Every Day
These days, we’re all crunched for time. You’d think technology would give us more time for leisure and personal pursuits, but it seems to have the opposite effect. The world just keeps getting busier and busier.
Finding time to practice writing might seem like an impossibility, but if you know where to look, you’ll find precious pockets of minutes and hours that you can use to your advantage.
- Write in the morning. Many accomplished writers have done their work in the wee hours before dawn. This might cut into your beauty rest, but it’s a small sacrifice to make. Get up 30-60 minutes earlier each day and use the time to practice writing.
- Write during breaks and meals. The ideal mealtime is spent eating, not nibbling your food between sentences. But if your schedule is jam packed, you might find that writing during a couple of ten-minute breaks and a lunch hour each day add up quite nicely over the course of a year.
- Make a trade: Give up a TV show, your knitting club, or weekend parties. Somewhere in your leisure time, it’s likely you’ll find something less important than writing. And when you find it, make the trade. Scale back on your hobbies and focus on your passion.
- Balance the necessities. There are things we all need to do: clean, exercise, prepare and eat meals. But if you’re spending ten hours a week cleaning the house, you can probably put up with a little extra dust and give two of those hours over to your writing practice. Make bigger meals and serve leftovers a couple nights of week. Go to the gym five days instead of seven. You’ve just carved out a few hours for your writing.
- Multi-tasking. It’s impossible for most of us to write while we’re doing other things, but we can certainly plot and plan while we’re cooking, showering, and commuting. While it’s not technically writing, planning a project is an integral step in the writing process. You can also capture your ideas while you’re otherwise engaged by using a voice recorder (and then use a transcription app to convert the audio to text later).
- Don’t forget to read. Nothing will improve your writing more quickly or thoroughly than prolific reading. And while you may not be able to ogle at a book while you’re busy with other tasks, you can certainly listen to audiobooks while you’re driving, bathing, cooking, and cleaning.
- Be a night writer. I always find my best (and most sacred) writing time late at night, just before I go to sleep. If you can stay awake an extra 30-60 minutes each night, you could get quite a bit of writing done in a week.
It’s Your Time: Use it to Practice Writing
Not every writer strives to be a master writer. Some just want to get published or eke out a living. But most writers strive to produce better writing over time, and the only way to do that is to practice writing as much as possible.
I think the 10,000-hour rule is a good one, although I doubt it’s 100% accurate for all of us. Some will need to put in 12,000 hours before they can produce a masterpiece. Others may only need to invest 8,000 hours to become true experts at the craft.
And while perfection is, as always, an impossible dream, we can certainly do our best to make our writing as close to perfect as we can, each in our own time and in the way that best suits us. Well, you know the saying: practice makes perfect. So what are you waiting for? Go practice writing!