Recently I read Malcom Gladwell's The Outliers about why some people are super successful. It is an interesting book but missing a concluding chapter. He does point out that success is more than an individual. It is based on a web of inheritance and community that gives the individual the drive to take full of advantage of opportunities. Some of the opportunities may be masquerading as obstacles but ultimately the lessons learnt provide incentives.
He explodes the Amadeus myth -- basically that there are some people who are so blessed that they never have to work at achieving. He also points out that raw intelligence scores do not tell you very much about how someone will succeed as being successful takes more than just intelligence. Beyond a certain threshold, it is more a matter of drive and desire. Gladwell pointed to a study done by K Anders Ericsson of musicians who attended the Berlin Academy of Music. Those who were thought to the ones who would teach basically spent three hours a day practising so by the time they were 20, they had amassed 2,000 of work. Those who were tipped to be concert soloists practised significantly more, increasing the time spent with each year and by age 20, had amassed some 10,000 hours of practice. He then looked at professionals and found the same thing. Those who succeeded worked much much harder than anyone else. They did not find any genius who simply was. And neither did they find a grind -- someone who had actively put in the hours practising and got nowhere.
The need for putting in the hours also goes some way towards explaining why people are generally super successful in one area and not necessarily so clued in in others. There are literally only so many hours in a day.
Mozart is not touched by God but a man who was hothoused from an early age and encouraged to devote his life to music. Without his father and the era into which he was born, it is doubtful that Mozart would have become as great. He lived and breathed music. He put the hours in at a very early age and was encouraged to do so. He was lucky because of the encouragement. However despite his undoubted mathematical talent (music depends on maths) Mozart was not over gifted in managing his money.
The same holds true for authors. Those who really succeed have generally put the time in. They have learnt their craft and put the hours in. They did not just dream about it but worked hard. They are also supported and encouraged along the way -- mainly Sometimes the public have been able to see the journey --for example Hemingway learnt his craft through journalism. But others have stacks of short stories, half finished novels etc gathering in the attic. Still others spent hours recounting stories to their children, siblings etc before they ever started to write them down. I think it would be impossible to find a highly successful author who did no writing or storytelling BEFORE they wrote their first book. Equally it is entirely possible for aspiring authors to take courses etc and never put in the hours practising. They simply want to be. The will to succeed is not there or perhaps so many other things hold the person's interest. Not everyone wants to be as single minded as an outlier. Some people like to have a life. It is always about the choices the individual makes.
So what do you think? And are you willing to put the time in to pursue your dream? And how have you encouraged others to pursue theirs?
Michelle Styles still reckons that she is putting in the hours to make up the 10,000 needed. It takes about 250 -500 hours to write a novel. Her next novel, her 10th published for HMB, The Viking's Captive Princess is published in December 09 in the North American market.