Doing the Time

Maggie Stiefvater recently wrote about the proper education necessary for success in creative writing.  She mirrors what I have heard dozens of times – it isn’t necessary to get a Creative Writing degree or even really take a proper Creative Writing class, but there is the necessity of an education.  

If you have read the bio’s of the contributors on this site, you will notice that we know a thing or two about education.  However, as each of us are working through this new kind of education, we have discussed our learning of the creative writing process, this time a little differently than we have learned before.  

This education, like the ones before, does share something though.  It’s the time.  I’m sure you have all heard Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule – that the key to success in any field has nothing to do with talent. It’s simply practice. 10,000 hours of it, which would work out nicely to be 20 hours a week for 10 years.

So how to get this education?  

One, READ.  Every single great author EVER was an avid reader.  I’m guessing most readers of this blog are successful readers.  If you are like me, you probably hit that 10,000 hours before you got a high school degree.  

Two, WRITE.  Every single day.  If it isn’t the actual text of your book, consider how to revise, think about the overall outline of your story, where can the holes be filled in, where are there still questions.

Three, LEARN FROM EXPERTS.  While the experts are more easily identifiable in a proper school setting, there are many different experts, both in publication form and electronic form, who share their words of wisdom, suggestions, pet peeves, absolute disastrous no-no’s, etc. 

But the most important is always to put in the time.  Mette Ivie Harrison and Rick Walton recently told a group of writers that they could not think of one single person who put in the time and didn’t get published.  


But remember that the time can’t be cheated.  Sped up possibly – and I think many of us have more hours than we think – but the time must be put in.  Period.

What was the best book you read as a writer?  How do you get in your daily writing time?  Which experts, either in book or blog, do you consider to be “the best?”

2 thoughts on “Doing the Time

  1. I haven't read enough writing books yet-I have a couple (Orson Scott Card and Stephen King) on my Christmas list. But I really loved Annie Dillard's Bird-by-Bird.

    I'd add just one more way to learn to your list: teach/critique. I'm constantly amazed what I learn about writing by giving feedback to other writers.


  2. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird… I've only read the chapter on “Shitty First Drafts”- pardon her French- but it is one of the best things I've read. I make my students read it, too, and it always helps them calm down and just start writing. Her premise is that first drafts should be garbage, and then cleaned up from there.


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