There’s a theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a complex topic, whether it’s writing, computer programing, tennis or anything. And the people who are masters of their art typically put in their time very early on in their lifetime.
I read once that you aren’t a master writer until you’ve written a million words.
What’s the best way to accomplish this? I think it’s natural interest and a desire to immerse yourself in learning and practicing.
The Adventurer is immersing herself in writing by choice. I mentioned before that she entered NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program for the month of November. She reached her word count goal on her novel, but that isn’t where she spent most of her writing time. The novel was on the side of a different writing project.
She spent far more time in the collaborative writing forums, working on a variety of stories with other teens. The topics of these projects ranged from fan fiction and sci-fi, to adventure and mystery.
One person sets up the story and the plot. Others join in by adding characters, events and scenes of their own. The kids work together to build stories they want to read.
What has she learned? Aside from working well with other students all over the world? And how to write for an audience of her peers and enjoying every moment?
Well, I’ve been harassing her (just a little) for some time now, to use capitals and punctuation all the time. Texting “style” was starting to ooze over into everything.
I was worried. That’s what I do. I worry. I wanted her to see the value in writing well all the time.
To my surprise, the other students in the writing forum insisted on proper usage. The Adventurer quickly adhered to these self-imposed rules and has been happily participating in the collaborative story telling ever since.
“I hate when people write without using capital letters and punctuation,” she said with disgust today. “It’s irritating.”
Oh, is it? I smiled at her. That’s my girl! I couldn’t have said it better myself.
She’s well on her way to mastery. I haven’t counted the hours or the words, but I know that every time I look over at her she’s busy typing, creating. She spends many hours a day consumed in writing.
I’ve considered trying to distract her from her work with something else, for balance. And then I realize that I need to respect her choice to pursue this right now.
It’s important to her. It’s part of her journey as a writer. She’s putting in the hours.
Writing is like playing the violin or hitting a tennis ball. You need to pay attention to the details and access the flow all at once. Essentially, you need to teach yourself.
The greatest literary masters of all time didn’t have MFA’s or even BA’s. Many never graduated high school. Hemingway was self-taught. And Faulkner, Tolstoy, Dickens and Poe. Agatha Christie, JD Salinger, Robert Frost, John Cheever, Herman Melville and Elizabeth Barrett Browning too. The list goes on here.
Teachers, mentors and editors can help, but ultimately we teach ourselves in the hours spent at the keyboard continuously evolving.