Saturday, October 20, 2012

“10,000 Hours”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Blame it on my cousin, Monica.

We had a shared love of Rock & Roll in common. The subject kept us trading messages through cyberspace, despite the fact that we were more than a decade apart in age.

She worshipped the ‘hair bands’ of the 1980’s. I had come of age listening to Dylan, the Stones and J. Geils.

Yet our faith in the music endured.

Years ago, she sent forwarded issues of the ‘Lefsetz Letter’ to explain how the industry was evolving due to the rise of new technologies. Her interest in his writing had come from being involved with radio broadcasting while attending college in the Dayton area. She felt that he understood this shifting paradigm like no one else.

Bob Lefsetz, I soon discovered, was an entertainment critic who passionately offered opinions about popular music and modern culture. In addition to discussing the decline of traditional record labels and physical-format recordings, he also spoke about skiing and youthful adventures while attending Middlebury College, in Vermont.

He held great disdain for old-school promoters and pundits who had controlled the industry with tight-fisted authority. Instead of trembling at the revisions taking place, this iconoclastic figure offered prophecy that was on target and insightful.

He remembered each vinyl release with the devotion of a true fan. But there was no reluctance in his heart to embrace the dawn. The new age gave him hope.

When he long ago predicted that Facebook would eclipse MySpace, I thought him to be reckless and reaching. But, with visionary zeal, he comprehended the transition that was about to occur. The notion of social networking had not yet come to fruition. Yet he saw what we missed.

He talked about Zuckerberg before any of the media bobbleheads had a clue about this young rebel’s importance. Later, I felt guilty for doubting his wisdom.

A favorite Lefsetz topic for his e-mail letters was the Malcolm Gladwell book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success.’ In particular, he promoted the idea contained therein that, to master any craft, one must invest 10,000 hours of study and practice.

Gladwell, who had written for the Washington Post and the New Yorker, based this rule of conduct on research by Swedish psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson. As evidence of its credibility, he cited both the Beatles laboring away in Hamburg, Germany, and Bill Gates practicing programming on a high school computer.

Having heard Lefsetz repeat this mantra many times over, I began to wonder about my own creative odyssey. Did Thoughts At Large meet the 10,000-hours criteria? Or my three decades of freelance wordsmithing?

To quote former President Bill Clinton, A bit of arithmetic seemed in order.

The exact amount of time required to produce a newspaper project was something difficult to quantify. Yet it seemed safe to assume that I devoted at least one hour per day to professional writing.
One hour. Certainly, that was a lowball estimate. But, workable for the purpose of calculating my lifetime proposition.

One hour multiplied by seven days in a week, and then by the number of weeks in a year would form the basis for this calculation.

1 x 7 x 52 = 364.

My tenure with the Maple Leaf had lasted over fourteen years.

14 x 364 = 5096.

Using the same basis, thirty years of work would equal a great deal more.

364 x 30 = 10,920.

Of course, there were long periods when I wrote motorcycle features for McMullen Publications of California, or when I was Sports Editor for a paper in Ashtabula County, during which I invested far greater amounts of time than one hour per day. 

But the basic premise remained intact.

Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule appeared viable, even in my own humble experience.

Originally, I had entered the field of professional writers having been inspired by a bit of flawed logic - namely, that if I could sling ink for a grade in school, it followed logically that I could do the same for a paycheck.

Because I grew up in a family where creative writing was a habit contained in our DNA, this idea seemed undeniably correct. Scribbling words came naturally, like breathing or eating or walking.
After a few years of effort, I realized with regret that finding a dependable source of income through typing on a keyboard was a dubious pursuit.

But the lure of being published kept me chasing this personal dream.

My 10,000-hour odyssey had begun.

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