Thursday, May 12, 2016

Practice Makes Perfect: The Myth
A Guest Rant by Michael H. Hanson

Just my silent rant to all those wannabe young writers out there who whine about how "unfair" the "system" is in recognizing their genius. 

You know, man, I find myself embracing the much too oft-quoted Malcolm Gladwell maxim from his book OUTLIERS (that was based on a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance") that 10,000 hours of practice is required for a person to become an expert in most fields of endeavor, whether they be athlete, musician, teacher, chess-player, author, sculptor, painter, whatever.

Of course, what is overlooked in this initial statement is Gladwell admitting that one has to be BORN with an innate, genetic-based potential (talent) for a particular vocation first, before 10,000 hours of practice can polish it to chrome-plated brilliance.

And therein lies the rub. All the effort in the world will not make you great at anything, if you are not born with the needed basic building blocks.

But don't pile on to me too quickly, Now!

One thing I feel is for certain, is that continued, focused effort WILL make you "better" at something. Whether it be physical contests, or mental ones.

I was a horrible runner in high school (I engaged in both Cross Country Running & Track and Field), and my top athletic performances were mediocre at best, but, from Freshman Year to Junior Year, I radically improved my times, got in great shape by transforming from a near-obese 5'6" 14 year old to a very slim 5'9" 17-year-old, and enjoyed the heck out of the competition and training. But the buck stops there. I trained hard, running off-season, and all the personal effort in the world could not make me a Good or Great runner. I was NOT born with the innate, genetic talent needed as the foundation to become a great athlete. My physical proportions, etc. did not allow for superior performance.

And yes, I think this applies to the mind, also. I honestly believe that imagination and creativity are a muscle. And that the more you use them, and exercise them, the stronger they become. However, that is no guarantee they'll ever be strong enough to place you in the upper echelons of successful writers and/or poets in the world.

So what does it all mean? Merely that old trite truth. There are NO guarantees in life.

If you love writing short stories and poetry, then just do it... for the love of it, while also making the effort to learn a practical skill for a day job that can pay those bills that keep food on your table and a roof over your head. And if you win the writer lottery of becoming successful, famous, and rich selling lots of your work, then good for you. If not, then welcome to the real world that the vast majority of us share with you, because, beg your pardon, nobody ever promised anyone a rose garden.

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