In 2009, when I started writing fiction full-time, I expected I’d get that big fat publishing contract in 3, maybe 4 years tops. I planned to learn everything I could from the best teachers I could find. Most small businesses don’t start showing a profit until the third or fourth year, anyway. In fact, I told myself that if I wasn’t supporting myself with my writing in 5 years, well…I just wouldn’t let that happen. I may have known a little about business, but I didn’t know anything about being an artist.
Some say, it takes a million words to attain mastery of the craft as writer. Based on writing 4 pages a day, every day, that’s more than 3 years (or10 novels). Others say it takes 10,000 hours to attain mastery in any artistic endeavor. Based on a 40-hour work week, that’s more than four years. Still others insist that it’s 7 or even 10 years of writing full-time before a writer is producing consistently at the professional level (lucky for me I didn’t hear that one until just this year, or I might have been too intimidated to start).
So I studied the books, and took the classes and attended the workshops. I wrote my million words. I put in my 10,000 hours, and this is what I’ve learned: I don’t think ten years is enough to learn it all. Looking back on how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned since I started, I now realize that a writer’s learning never stops. Mastery isn’t a number, or a destination–it’s the horizon; you have to keep practicing and learning, and stretching yourself.
Learning is a never-ending process. The day you think you’ve learned it all; the day you think you don’t need to keep studying or practicing or trying new techniques is the day ‘mastery’ slips over the horizon and out of sight.
And that’s the thing of it. If you’re watching the clock in this business, or constantly asking ‘are we there yet’ you’re missing the point. The learning never stops.
Gotta love it.