Monday, February 20, 2012

Being Masterful At Something

In order to be masterful at something, you must spend a certain amount of time doing it. My brother and I have discussed it more than a couple of times. Apparently there are experts somewhere that say it takes 10,000 hours doing a particular thing to reach that level where you are a master of something.

I've pondered it a lot lately. Just going over the numbers in my head.

I figure I'll spend at least 200 days just writing this year to meet my goal. I calculate that's something like 1600 hours spent just making text. I'm probably being brutal to not consider the writing I've done since the summer following the 3rd grade when I really started to write. I fell in love with the craft within the confines of a program at the University of Idaho, back when people thought I might be gifted in some way.

I filled up an unknowable number of composition books with my (at the time) indecipherable handwriting in middle and high school. As far as I'm concerned, none of it counts because I don't know where any of it is. Those composition books are probably lost somewhere in my parent's house, or more likely, a landfill.

I can build my vocabulary, read the works of others, attend writing workshops, and similar but none of that logs time making text. None of it contributes to that mastery I so desperately crave. It makes me glad I logged my time spent writing since September 2009 and that I've kept everything I ever wrote during that time period.

Technology has really helped give me perspective. Apple's Lion operating system keeps track of every version of the documents I create and the times and dates when I did. I never regret the money I've spent on tools. Well, mostly never.

I've got roughly 29 months doing this now and probably 3700 hours spent making text in that time. That 10,000 hours seems infuriatingly far away as I creep along toward it. It's beyond maddening to think my best work won't see itself fixed in an electronic format for years. Everything I'm doing right now is, hopefully, just somewhat commercially viable practice.

Taking something seriously like this makes you think about every day you spend resting, relaxing or maintaing relationships with people. It's hard because those are hours toward the 10,000 you can't ever get back in this life. However, you can't only be the thing that you do. I've seen a lot of people I know learn that the hard way after their lives became violently lonely or they departed the good things about themselves to be what they do.

I've had my doubts about continuing to blog beyond just being a place to record the monthly numbers to provide statistical perspective. I think everyone needs a little more than that. It's foolish vanity to assume I'm any different.


  1. If it makes you feel any better, I've spent roughly 30,000 hours working at my craft and still don't feel any kind of "mastery" in it. I think what's more important is how we continually strive to improve our craft, no matter how long we've been doing it. Maybe it's those who think they've reached their plateau who inevitably fail.