Practice Makes Perfect

According to Malcolm Gladwell, in order to become proficient or successful at a skill, you must practice for a total of 10,000 hours. In Gladwell’s book Outliers, he says that both The Beatles and Bill Gates practiced their skills and talents for 10,000 hours – and that is how they became so successful.

I’m not sure how Gladwell came up with such a precise number. I’m not sure if there’s truth in that theory. What if you’re practicing the wrong way? What if you’re not following the correct techniques, and you still reach 10,000 hours of practice? Does that mean you’ll still be proficient?

I do agree with the common statement “practice makes perfect.” Practice and determination are absolutely necessary in order to do well in anything, whether it’s writing, playing a musical instrument, programming computers, etc.

It’s so easy to call yourself a writer, or to say that you’re a guitar player or a lead singer. But in order to succeed, you must practice and continually work on your craft or your hobby. If you’re a writer, it’s not enough to write intermittently, whenever “the muse” decides to strike. If you play an instrument or you’re in a band, it’s not enough to practice every few weeks. If you dream of success, you must make an effort to really work on your hobby.

Part of practicing is getting things wrong occasionally. Feeling rejection. Getting negative critiques or reviews. Having people tell you you’re no good. But if you love your craft, you will put all that behind you and try again. Practice harder. Find out what you’re doing wrong and correct it. Use negative critiques to your advantage.

You may reach 10,000 hours of practice. But don’t let that be “the end.” You can still keep on learning and growing and getting better. Even though you may be perceived as an “expert” at your chosen craft or hobby, don’t become complacent and prideful. Sharing your talent with others and helping them is also part of practice – you can learn from others as well.

8 thoughts on “Practice Makes Perfect

  1. I agree with you in every thing you say here. I play the piano and whenever learning a piece, I practice every other day at the least. It’s not really like I’m trying to achieve something in learning these pieces, but it’s just for my own amusement. Also, this Christmas I’ll probably get the carols out and play a few – it’s moments like that when you know that practice has paid off.

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  2. I think some people see the need for practice more clearly with a physical skill, such as playing an instrument, but they don’t see writing as being the same. With writing, they do have the “wait for inspiration” approach, but I agree that writing is the same as anything else.

    Practice may not make “perfect,” as you point out in the last paragraph, but it is essential. If A Sane Woman is any good, it’s because I’d been writing for 20 years before I started it. Mostly writing junk, but writing.

    I disagree with the 10,000 hours, though. Citizen Kane is often cited as the best American movie ever, and it was Orson Welles’ first film. He studied and prepared very seriously, but nowhere near 10,000 hours. I can think of some other examples, too. But the overall point is definitely true.

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      1. And if there was a work of art which was perfect, perhaps designed by a very advanced computer, would it move us? Would it resemble life in any way? Many great directors, including Welles, have said that most of the best moments in any movie are the accidents, the things that weren’t in the script but just happened.

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        1. Accidents and coincidences give a work of art its character. It’s like how all our flaws and imperfections make us who we are as people. Interesting…

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  3. I think he pulled 10,000 hours out of his . . . *hat* because it sounds impressive.

    Child prodigies exist and have proficiency far beyond their hours of practice because it’s what they were born to do.

    The rest of us have to practice, practice, practice. 😉

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  4. “Feeling rejection.” *sniff* Yesterday I got my first rejection on my new manuscript. It was a nice rejection, but STILL.

    Anyway, the beauty of what we writers do, and the Beatles, and anyone who obviously loves their work, is that we love the practicing. I can practice all freaking day and be totally content, even if none of it is ever seen by the world.

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