This interesting looking fellow is the author of the new book, Outliers, The Story of Success, that Lisa brought up in the comments on Sunday. She took what he had to say and applied it to writing: ". . .those that are really successful, be it music, writing, business or anything else PRACTICE. Many, many more hours than the average."
True dat. Ten thousand hours, to be precise, according to Gladwell. (Read the book--it's short and fascinating--to find out how he reached that number.) This accords nicely with the ten-years-to-get-good-at-anything rule that I've heard preached for years. It also accords with the fact that every career writer I can think of has served his or her own version of a long apprenticeship.
As she read about all the time and practice it takes to be a success at anything, Lisa said that at first she felt disheartened--and too old!--until she realized she was already doing exactly what Gladwell says it takes. She has already put in three years or more, and many, many hours of "practicing" her writing. She does spend the time. She does practice, and practice, and practice, and she is getting better over time.
I think there comes a moment in every aspiring writer's life, no matter what our age, when it hits us how hard it is going to be to do what we want to do. I know that when I first plunged into fiction, it seemed fun and easy. I was exuberant and had all kinds of dreams and fantasies. But then came that inevitable moment when I realized with a shock: good god, if I really want to finish this and even get it published, this is going to be a lot of hard work! I wasn't ready. So I put it aside, knowing I didn't want it seriously enough to persevere. I didn't even feel any regret about putting it away, because I just didn't care enough. It would be another few years before the desire in me was strong enough that I found myself actually wanting to do all that hard work.
Personally, I think when an aspiring writer reaches those moments of realizing what it's really going to take, and feels discouraged, but then realizes, "I want this," and puts their hands back on the keyboard, then that's a meaningful point. It's humbling, and there are few things more honorable and realistic than simple, humble practice.
(Gladwell is also the author of Blink and The Tipping Point.)