Deliberate Practice

We all suck horribly whenever we take it upon ourselves to learn a new skill. For most people, anything that requires any level of skill does not come naturally. I have taken a look at my writing from five or more years ago; it’s embarrassing to see how poor my writing was. It lacked style and it was mostly curse filled rants with no direction or purpose other than to make one laugh. I’m glad to see that my writing has evolved, even if I only just learned how to use my cursing more sparingly.

So we all suck, it doesn’t mean we have to stay sucking. We all know the saying “Practice makes perfect”, well it’s missing a key word: Deliberate. Deliberate practice makes perfect. What does that mean? It means that in each session where you practice whatever your craft, sport, or profession is, you’re actively seeking to learn, refine, and improve as opposed to going through the motions. This is perfectly explained in “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, with the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell explains that in order to be a master, not just proficient or an expert, takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. He uses The Beatles as one of his examples, who played live as a cover band in a strip club in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times for eight hours a night from 1960-1964. It takes twenty hours a week for ten years for a person to get their 10,000 hours in.

This makes me wonder where the hell I am in this spectrum. I’m sure I am very near the beginning of it. I can say that I’ve probably have put 250-300 hours of work into my writing throughout my life. When you compare it to 10,000, it seems like a very daunting task and like I’ll never get to the level of mastery. But seeing the vast improvements I’ve made with 250-300 hours, it gives me hope. While I don’t believe my writing is great by any means, I do believe its solid and I can write way better than 90% of people. I don’t compare myself to the 90% of people though, because those people aren’t doing what I want to do and don’t live the life I want to live. When I do compare my writing, I compare it to writers that I look up to.

In his book, “On Writing”, Stephen King says ”Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this, Hell, I am doing better than this!” Its true. I remember the moment when I decided to grow the balls to create this little blog and put my writing out there. One night I decided to take a look at the first entries of the writers who’s blogs I follow and writing I respect. What I found were entries dating back four to ten years ago (depending the writer) that were just plain bad. Nothing close to the level that they write at now. This was a very happy epiphany for me. I knew that I was not as good a writer that they are at their current state, but I am way better than they were when they began blogging. Cowardice was the only thing holding me back. What made me different then them? They just kept driving on until they produced pieces that people actually wanted to read.

I want to get to master status in my writing. As cocky as it sounds, I know I have what it takes to be great at this. Every letter, word, paragraph, and piece I complete, I improve. As I write these words, I’m trying to figure out how to communicate more effectively and how to say more while writing less. I’m trying to figure out and develop my style and what I bring to the table as a writer. The answer to those questions and many others will only come with time and me putting my hours of hard, deliberate practice in.

~Raul Felix

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