Monday, October 14, 2013

10,000 Hours, Really?

In my reading lately I was reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's observation in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. The idea that all 10,000 hours don't need to be deliberate practice hours is intriguing. Elizabeth Hyde Smith in Make Art Make Money suggests that as we look back on our life in relation to what it is we are trying to master we can see many different ways we have been practicing all along. In my, case as an artist, when I look back I see many melted crayons: some in the car from leaving them behind by accident, some near the porch from sitting in the sun drawing too long, some specifically melted to get a certain effect on a project. I would explore my dad's art making tools wondering what each was for. I learned that Xacto blades are really sharp and when used with enthusiasm can sometimes cause trips to the hospital for stitches. Mom's are good to provide transportation in such a case.

The hours turning tissue boxes, brass fasteners and other bits of this and that into cars for Barbie dolls and friends; hours making up the stories that went with all the stuff that my friends and I made, using our imagination to see what we could make from the bits of this and that-- all of these hours are part of my 10,000. Look back, see the connections, how many of those hours do you already have? What can you do to get more of those hours in a similar way? How can you follow the passion you've had for such a long time? I think I'll look for my answers as I dream as I did as a child and play a bit more so my work can be more play.


  1. I need more play in my work too. If I think back on my childhood, I've easily clocked in 10,000 plus hours of imagining, creating, playing and reading. Every life experience, even small ones, become possible creative experiences. Love the picture too.

  2. While mastery easily takes ten thousand hours, I have found that I need to have the illusion that a short-cut is possible, too. Otherwise it's hard to begin...

  3. I've been creating stories since elementary school, so I think I've put in my 10K hours. lol