Taking on the 500 word a day challenge has made a profound shift in my understanding of what it takes for me to name and claim a writer’s life. It’s also given me great insight into why so far I’ve experienced sporadic and limited success with my writing.
Success at anything requires takes continuous effort. Anyone who’s been labeled as an overnight success will tell you it was twenty, thirty, even forty years in the making. It may also have something to do with the 10,000 hours of practice required for mastery as suggested by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers.
I could argue I have easy logged 10,000 hours into my job, looking for stuff, or trying to lose weight, and I’m nowhere near mastering any of that.
It may be the combination of effort, attention, and intention that make for eventual mastery. Well, that, and loving the practice itself.
It means being fascinated by how I feel when I eat less and exercise more. Or being more mindful in the present moment than trying to retrace my steps later. Or being open to learning as much from my students as I attempt to teach them.
It’s easy to tell myself I’ll make this kind of effort when I have more time and energy. The real challenge, of course, is to exert this kind of effort with the time and energy available to me right now.
Creativity guru Eric Maisel says, “You must be able to create in the middle of things or else you will not create.” The best time to practice my craft is whenever and wherever I can.
Before I could whip out a smart phone read a book, play brain games, or pin stuffwhile I waited, I learned to carry a small notebook and a trusty pen. This taught me to observe the world in a way that has served me well.
Instead of asking myself, “What’s wrong with this picture?“, I’d ask, “What’s wacky or wonderful or word worthy?” Then I’d set out to describe it.
My reason for writing is not to create new worlds and invent characters that warrant their own fan clubs, but simply to witness what’s in front of me and articulate it in such a way that makes you nod, smile, and say, “I know exactly what you mean,” or “That happened to me, too!”
Let’s just admit it. Weird stuff happens to us all the time. It takes a brave soul to blog about it.
Weaving the unsuspecting threads of our story lines together in such a way that leaves us all in stitches is a hoot for me. Consequently, 10,000 hours seems like a drop in the bucket when I’m having fun.
I will leave you with this question. What work is waiting for you? Not the drudgery kind but your life’s work, the I’d-do-it-even-if-I-didn’t-get-paid kind of work?
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