Paul Welch

On Fantasy, Writing & the Journey to Publication

Tag Archives: reading

Becoming a Master – 10,000 Hours to Master Your Craft

Malcolm Gladwell writes some fantastic books. My favorites include Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point.

In Outliers, Gladwell introduces a concept:

It takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something.

10,000 hours of investment in your drawing skills will lead to a level of mastery. 10,000 hours of the study of the history of Venice will likely make you an honest-to-goodness expert in the field. This makes sense to me, even though life can’t always follow the rules of a formula. But it’s a good general guideline.

So let’s do the math:

  • 10,000 hours / 365 days (1 year) = 27.5 hours/day (Impossible!)
  • 10,000 hours / 1095 days (3 years) = 9.1 hours/day (Possible, but exhausting)
  • 10,000 hours / 2190 days (6 years) = 4.6 hours / day (More likely)

Interesting to think about, isn’t it?

How many hours a day do you spend honing your craft?

To be a good writer involves an investment of time. This is where formal education does come in hand. It forces us to invest the time required to improve our skills. Additionally, we get feedback, critique, and hopefully some encouragement along the way. We gain a formal understanding, and pick up numerous tips and tricks. We’re more likely to develop faster than we would on our own.

But not all of us have pursued this sort of formal training.

I didn’t. I have 7 years of university under my belt, but it was divided between a 4-year BA degree in Psychology and Philosophy and a 3-year BFA degree in Acting. Sure, I did a lot of writing in both programs, but nowhere near the 10,000 hours needed to become a master.

However, there’s another component aside from education: practical experience. We can’t discount that. Any work – be it reading, writing, critiquing, or editing – definitely counts.

Lately, I’ve been reading tons of articles, books, and blogs about the craft of writing. I’ve learned a great deal and it’s really changed the way I approach my craft. I know there’s still so much for me to learn, and I am actively pursuing my own practical experience and training. Some days I’m discouraged, feeling like I’m so far behind. But then, when I look at what I’ve accomplished over the past 15 years, I realize I’m exactly on target.

As mentioned in my last post, I started playing online text-based roleplaying games when I was 13. In the gaming world, they’re called Multi-User Dungeons, or MUDs. They had no graphics, no fancy special effects or sounds. They relied wholly on imagination, and that made them both powerful and engaging.

I am afraid to calculate how many hours I logged on MUDs over the course of the 10 years I spent playing, administering, and running them.

I started out as a player and eventually became a staff member. I helped police the game, assisted with problems, resolve bugs, and even add content. I would also help encourage role-play by planning quests and special events for some or all of the players to participate in, and these events involved storytelling in its purest form.

Now, I know for a fact I logged well over 10,000 hours. It might be close to 30,000 (or more) – but let’s not concern ourselves too much with that. And not all of my hours were spent writing, but a good portion of them were. I cannot deny that my involvement in running and administering MUDs helped develop my craft.

My journey might not be conventional, but it definitely had worth.

How about for yourself? What unconventional methods helped develop your craft? Do you have a unique journey that led you to writing? During a typical day, do you find opportunities to focus and develop your skill? I’d love to hear your stories, so please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Feeding the Addiction – What I’m Reading #2

Okay, even though I have a huge stack of books I have to read, I went shopping tonight and picked up some more books. Here’s what I grabbed:

I promise I’ll write a book review for these and the other books I’ve recently added to my collection.

What’s your favorite genre of book? Do you cross genres regularly, and if so, where do you choose to read? Or perhaps you’re exclusive to one genre? If so, why? Please comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts, and get a taste of what you’re reading these days.

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading a fantasy short-story anthology lately, and I’m sad to admit that it has left me quite disappointed. I haven’t been enjoying the stories at all. They feel poorly constructed and highly uninteresting. Indeed, I had a moment two nights ago where I was losing hope in the fantasy genre.

So my decision?

Get inspired.

I went shopping and picked up some new books. I hit up a couple of independent and used book stores, and here’s what I came away with:

It might come as a surprize that I haven’t read either Dune or Game of Thrones just yet, but sometimes you get a little back-logged in your reading list.

Let the inspiration begin!

What are some of your favorite science fiction or fantasy books? Do you have any all-time favorites that always inspire you? What about hidden treasures that are often overlooked? Let’s discuss them in the comments below!

How We Spend Our Cash: A Reader’s Responsibility

As writers, we focus on developing a platform – the friends, fans, and colleagues who have a vested interest in our work. It’s what drives sales, playing an important role in dictating our successes or failures. And if we achieve any sort of success, our platform can grow exponentially. Our reach – and influence – explodes.

Public figures have huge platforms. Indeed, their platforms can extend beyond the scope of those who actively participate in the “work” they produce. Not everyone watches Jersey Shore, but most of us have an idea of who Snooki is – perhaps  through newspaper articles, interviews, commercials, or water-cooler gossip. (She even has a New York Times best-selling book, but let’s be very clear: her ghost writer is a NYT best-selling author, not her.)

Sometimes celebrities say or do things that irk us. For instance, Mark Whalberg recently made an insensitive blunder by claiming he’s a real-life superhero and shoulda-coulda-woulda changed the events of 9/11. He’s since gone on to apologize.

It makes me consider the moral and ethical responsibilities and implications of platform.

Some very successful writers have allowed their politics to creep into their platform, becoming very vocal about their beliefs – be it religion, sexual orientation, political parties, etc. In fact, it may even be another aspect of their platform. But very personal opinions and beliefs suddenly become highly public and political.

Now, we all have beliefs, including some that we’re willing to get aggressive about – be it emotionally, physically, politically, or financially. We are right in our belief, and others are wrong. Absolutely, 100%, irrefutably wrong, and we’ll use everything at our disposal to ensure our belief is maintained, that other beliefs are squished. This doesn’t make it right, but it’s an aspect of the human condition.

So what happens when a high-profile writer uses their platform to further their “controversial” belief? What happens when our support and readership – as expressed through the purchasing of the product they release – allows them to fund their aggressive actions towards the furthering their beliefs?

What are our moral and ethical responsibilities as readers?

We want to stay current, and we want to read the books that are extremely popular. But if those authors use the cash generated from the sale of their books to further their own agenda, we are funding a belief that we don’t wholly support.

To be clear:

  • Author X writes book Q.
  • Book Q is awesome and has huge success.
  • But, Author X believes A, and is very vocal/political about said belief.
  • Author X uses the millions of dollars of income generated from book Q to fund / support / further belief A.
  • We believe that belief A is wrong.
  • If we purchase book Q, we are funding Author X’s opposing belief.

See what I’m getting at here?

It’s a challenging topic, and it can generate a lot of controversy. We pay attention to it when it comes to the food we eat, the places we support or boycott, the products we purchase – from organizations and even countries – but do we consider it with the books and films we purchase and view?

What are your thoughts? Should readers support popular literature produced by authors who finance diametrically opposed beliefs? Should we educate ourselves about the personal beliefs of the authors we read and make our purchases based on how well their belief lines up with our own?

Please comment below and share your thoughts – but let’s keep it a constructive debate.