There is a belief, or at least a generally agreed upon assumption, that it takes about 10,000 hours to truly master something. A man named Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers which discusses this very thing. “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness”, Gladwell writes. He then goes on to write about The Beatles performing in Europe over twelve hundred times for periods often exceeding four hours, and all before they ever came to the U.S. He also cites Mozart and Bill Gates as people who, more than being brilliant, simply spent hours, days, and years practicing something. Basically, if anyone ever wants to be a master they have to put in an enormous amount of time. This all makes me wonder, how many hours have I devoted to the mastery of the written word? Am I even close to the magic number?
I first want to break down ten-thousand hours.
10,000 hours = 416 and 2/3 days
That means if all I did was write, it would take over a year to reach my goal. To put it in perspective, consider that a person working forty hours a week clocks-in about two-thousand hours a year. It would take five whole years of working forty hours a week to reach the magic number. Even with a lot of practice it is difficult to hit ten-thousand hours in less than ten years.
Now that you understand that ten-thousand is hard to reach, I will attempt to calculate my hours.
Since we’re already here, let’s begin with the blog. This will be my 185th post. I figure it takes between 45 and 120 minutes to write most posts. There are some that have taken nearly 4 hours, but they are rare. As a conservative estimate I will choose 80 minutes as an average.
185 * 80 minutes= 14800 minutes
That’s only about 247 hours! It would take me 10 and 1/4 days to re-write all of these posts.
The next thing I want to look at is the number of hours I invested in college writing. I went to school for 4 years, which is a total of 8 semesters. As an English major I had many courses that featured a significant amount of essay writing. I took about 5 courses each semester. A very conservative estimate for the number of essays in each course would be 4. So that’s 20 essays per semester. The average length of an essay is between 4 and 8 pages, or 6 pages. Figuring an hour per page it took me 6 hours to write. Some quick math tells me that is 120 hours each semester.
8 * 120 hours = 960 hours
And since one of those papers took 40 or so hours to write I will increase it to 1,000.
1,000 hours of writing in college.
Throughout the last 10 years of my life I have written a few stories. They have ranged from 3 to 25 pages, and I’ve written about 20 of them. I’ll estimate that 15 hours is the average time it takes to write them.
20 * 15 hours = 300 hours
I did a fair amount of writing in high school as well. There were speeches, essays, and a creative writing class. I think 500 hours over the course of 4 years is a reasonable estimate.
I also need to include miscellaneous writing from my life. Things I have typed or written down that weren’t blog posts, essays, or short stories. Journal entries, movie scripts, emails, love letters, IMs, Facebook messages etc. I think all of these can account for 150 hours a year. And let’s make it span the past 14 years since it was in 5th grade that I discovered a passion for writing.
14 * 150 hours= 2,100 hours
So how many hours have I devoted to writing?
That’s about 173 days.
Unfortunately this means that I am only about half way to ten-thousand hour mastery. I’ll see you when I’m 50.
I need to write about reading. Any good writer understands that reading is a critical component of writing. I didn’t include the hours spent reading in my calculation because I wanted to focus on the specific act of writing. It becomes much more complicated when reading is factored into the mastery of writing. That being said, the amount of time I’ve spent reading is probably between 3,000 and 4,000 hours.