Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? It is said that in order for one to become skilled at something, one has to put in 10,000 hours of work to hone said skill. Sci-fi writer Brad Torgersen could be an adherent of this rule. No, scratch that. I don't think he believes in the 10,000 hour rule; I have a feeling he won't stop at 10,000 hours. He'll probably keep on chugging past the 100,000 hour mark.
In his blog post, On Not Quitting, he writes that writers must keep on plugging despite getting all kinds of discouragement along the way. He's had many reasons to quit writing before his novelette, “Ray of Light,” was nominated for the SFWA Nebula award. (It's one of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature’s top awards.) But he didn't.
Don’t be the writer who knows deep down in his or her soul that you burn for the stories inside of you, they excite and inflame your spirit like nothing else, but you’re too lazy to put in a 120% effort to overcome your amateur tendencies, fallacies, foibles, and short-sightedness. So you settle into being a sniper against other writers. Or, almost as bad, you become a bitter-ender. Someone who haunts writing forums or conventions and complains endlessly about how the game is rigged, success is about who you know, not how good you are, or that only random, pure luck determines the winners — everyone else gets to be a loser.
That’s horse shit.
The truth: winners across all competitive arenas of popular culture have this one thing in common — they never quit.
He wrote that he produced "a lot of stinker manuscripts" before managing to sell one of his stories. But practise makes perfect, as they say.
Boy, did I also produce "stinker manuscripts". I was looking through my file of old, typewritten stories - some of which were 15 years old - and I could only cringe. But were they wasted work? No. The years I spent producing these stinkers were my apprenticeship of sorts.
When I started out as a journalist, my writing certainly needed the expert and firm hand of an editor. It was not tight, and sadly, was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. (Being exposed to American and British spelling and grammar, we Malaysians are a confused lot.) Over the years, I did my homework: I read a lot - even books on grammar - and, of course, I produced lots of articles. Over time, I wrote articles that didn't make me or my editors cringe.
There's just no other way around it. (Unless you're a genius and could write like Shakespeare from birth. If that's the case, we hate you.)
So you want to be a writer? A professional writer? Take Brad's advice: Don't ever quit. Keep on producing crap until the crap turns to gold. It will in time.
This post was originally published on March 14, 2012