You know those pesky little commercial jingles that get stuck in your head and play over and over? Or the line from some old song that you didn’t even particularly like that keeps playing in the back of your head? I just found out those things have a name. They’re called “ear worms.” I learned that from reading This is Your Brain On Music by by Daniel J. Levitin. Dr. Levitin is probably the world’s only neuroscientist with a solid professional background as both musician and producer of musical records. He’s also funny and brilliant and offers up some fascinating information about the relationship between neural structures and music. Since I don’t have an iota of musical talent or musical knowledge, I understand about three words in every sentence, but even so I find the book intriguing.
One of the little gems of information has to do with what it takes to become a world class anything — musician, fiction writer, basketball player, plumber, poet, watchmaker, water skier, whatever. It isn’t innate talent or having a first-class teacher or mentor. It’s practice. Specifically, 10,000 hours of practice. Researchers have consistently found that 10,000 hours is almost a magic number in arriving at true mastery of a skill. Do something for 10,000 hours, and you’ll be one of the world’s best at it. Caring about it what you’re doing makes the time spent practicing it even more productive.
For beginning writers, that means writing three hours a day for ten years. Or six hours a day for five years. Or twelve hours a day for two and a half years. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But years are going to pass whether or not you’re on your way to becoming a world-class writer, so if writing is something you really love, why not set out to become a world-class master at it?