Reproducable scientifically-based research into exceptionally talented people in all human pursuits (including writing) reveals a clear conclusion that anyone who is committed and has the right opportunities can become an talented in their field.
The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient. The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice—practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. (1)
Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. The advantage that an aspiring author has, is that they aren’t racing the clock in quite the same way as an aspiring sports person. (Though in the WritingExcuses podcast (S08E08) they do talk about the physical damage that being a professional writer can do).
Many people are naive about how long it takes to become an expert. Leo Tolstoy once observed that people often told him they didn’t know whether or not they could write a novel because they hadn’t tried—as if they only had to make a single attempt to discover their natural ability to write. Similarly, the authors of many self-help books appear to assume that their readers are essentially ready for success and simply need to take a few more easy steps to overcome great hurdles. Popular lore is full of stories about unknown athletes, writers, and artists who become famous overnight, seemingly because of innate talent—they’re “naturals,” people say. However, when examining the developmental histories of experts, we unfailingly discover that they spent a lot of time in training and preparation. (1)
The experts say that it will take 10,000 hours to learn to become an expert, regardless of innate aptitude. I’ve heard it said of writers that it takes a million practice words.
The moral of the story is: anyone can do it, if you have the time and are disciplined.
- The Making of an Expert
- Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century
- The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance