writing, Writing advice

Deliberate Practice (Part One)

I’ve written before about the 10,000 hour rule, which states that virtually all who excel in their chosen avocation, from Bill Gates to Michael Jordan to The Beatles, only reach that level by putting in 10,000 hours of practice first. They only seem to become overnight successes because all those hours of practice largely go unnoticed by the public. Whether this theory is true or not, whether you actually have to devote yourself to 10,000 actual hours of practice, I cannot say, but it certainly makes sense. In the real world, people just don’t become overnight successes. Oh, there are few that get extremely lucky, or have friends in high places, but they are rare and almost never last very long.

I don’t know about you, but my goal as a writer is not to be a flash-in-the-pan.

So I need to practice. I need to practice writing. But there is practice and then there is practice.

The author of the article I was reading when I came across this (sorry, but I can’t remember your name or even where on the web I stumbled across it. Believe me, I would give you credit if I could find you again.) used basketball as an example. He presented two players practicing their jump shots. One would take a shot, retrieve the basketball, take another shot wherever he was, chase the ball again, pause to chat with some friends, take another shot. The second player had another person with him. That person retrieved the ball for the player, but also had a clipboard where she noted each shot the player took, where she took it from, and whether she made or missed the shot. Every so often, the player would stop to check the results from her assistant’s notes.

Both players are practicing, but which player will be making the most progress in their game? The author of the article posits, and I have to agree with him, that while both players are practicing and both are improving their jump shots, the second player will improve her shot faster than the first. This is because her practice was deliberate and scientific. She was keeping track of her attempts, noting where her strengths and weaknesses were, then concentrating on improving her weaknesses. The first athlete was using a scattergun approach, arguably wasting practice time on elements of her game she already performed well and useless time-consumers like retrieving the ball.

The author called it deliberate practice. Focused practice would also work, as would conscious practice. The point is that while we all need to practice, whether we’re writers, musicians, actors, or surgeons. A good first step is setting aside a block of time every day to practice our chosen craft, but to get the most out of that practice time, we need to be focused, deliberate. Thirty minutes of highly focused practice targeting the weaker areas of our skill set could be much better than an hour or two simply flailing away blindly, or repeatedly doing whatever it is we already do well.

So how do we go about a program of deliberate or focused practice?

Well, we’d have to create a system to create that, wouldn’t we? But that (explaining how to create it) would take too much space for this post. So I will reveal my personal plan to create and implement a deliberate practice regime in my next post.

Stay tuned!


One thought on “Deliberate Practice (Part One)

  1. barn7777 says:

    So true–and I like the example about athletes having to put in 10,000 hours before they become great or reach success. It is true. There are generally no short cuts in life, especially when it comes to writing–great post!


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