Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Secret to Mastery (Why I Blog)

by Adriana
Twenty years ago I attended a writer's conference in South Carolina. Though I took several workshops that weekend, I only remember one thing:

If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

A published author told me this. (I wish I could remember her name.) Profound, huh? Though it sounds obvious, there is an underlying shard of truth. I have had a strong tendency to dream about being a writer and read about being a writer, but when it comes to hauling my carcass out of bed at 5:00 a.m. so that I can actually get down to the grueling business of actually writing -- that has only been happening consistently for a short time.

Starting this blog last year was a good decision. It has provided me with accountability and communication. I have a plastic storage container in my basement full of partially used journals that no one but me has ever read. That kind of writing is a dead end for me. Perhaps I lack the self discipline to be my own critic for years on end; I must communicate! Blogging offers that crucial feedback so necessary to fuel my fledgling writer-self.

It takes a lot of fuel, faith and feedback to become truly great at anything. Yes, anything! Maybe you have no desire to be a writer or read through the Great Books, maybe you want to be a superb violinist, or architect or a lion tamer. May I share a secret with you? (I just learned this -- it's SO exciting!) The following is a quote from neurologist Daniel Levitin -- this comes from Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book, Outliers:
Ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert -- in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.

This is true if your name is Bill Gates, or if you play in a band called "The Beatles" or even if your name is Mozart! 10,000 hours. I happened to be reading Outliers around the time I was studying Harriet Beecher Stowe and I calculated that she put in over 10,000 hours of writing time in before she wrote her magnum opus, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which as we know, changed the world! (And she wrote that book so fast it makes my head spin to think about it.)

Daniel Levitin goes on to say,
Of course, this doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

This information is empowering. I can master my craft even though I wasn't in the gifted program in gradeschool! Mastery is attainable, though it comes at the end of a long quest. As Gladwell put it,
...the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.

What skill do you dream of mastering? Are you willing to restructure you life for the next ten years or so to make this happen?


  1. I remember 'discovering' that the really great pianists at college practiced for about 8 hours per day, no matter how naturally talented they were. I couldn't believe it! We can never underestimate the power of work and character in our goals!

    1. So according to this chart, if a person practiced the piano 8hrs. per day, they could accomplish mastery in just under four years!

      It's interesting that you brought up the subject of piano studies, Hannah. Malcolm Gladwell touches on that in his book, but at the moment it I can't find the quote! (And it was such a good quote!)I need to just break down and BUY this book since I've already checked it out 3X! Then I could bend, fold, and underline to my heart's content.

  2. Sigh . . . . . this is such a hard reality for me. The "jack of all trades" style (or is it my short attention span?) may never TRUELY master anyting. Sigh . . . .

    1. You are already a master of encouragement Christine! No need to fret. Blessings dear friend!! :)

    2. What a way to think of it! I would love to be a master of encouragement! Thanks for the encouraging words. ;)

  3. Strangely that is VERY encouraging!! :-) Sometimes we're led to believe that mastery is nearly instantaneous if you're "truly" good at what you do. Onward!! :-)

  4. I know what you mean Krista! This information truly is empowering.

  5. This reminds me of Lady Catherine's comment on young ladies and the piano in Pride and Prejudice: "If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient." She was so opinionated about it, but also too lazy to have ever had a hope of gaining proficiency let alone expertise!


    P.S. Clicking on my name leads to a new and wonderful place. Or at least it leads to my new blog.

  6. So inspired by your posting! And I'm encouraged too as
    I am on a similar quest. Maybe it's not accidental that our paths have crossed for such a time of this??

    Looking forward to sharing the journey.....

    Best blessings and cheering you on as you begin this 'new' chapter in your own personal quest!

    1. Inspiration is the gift that keeps on giving! Months before I started this blog I was in a physical/emotional valley and you reached out to me with a sweet email. It came out of the blue! I couldn't believe you remembered me and thought to check on me when I was pregnant. I'm thankful for your friendship Brenda dear!

      It makes me feel so good to think that I could be an encouragement now to you! Blessings, friend.


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