Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Gadwell’

“Reseachers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
Malcolm Gladwell

The second chapter of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers is called The 10,000-Hour Rule. Every time you read about a first time screenwriter selling a script for six figures it would be good practice to read that chapter. Chances are pretty good that that screenwriter is one of those overnight successes that took ten years.

Gladwell uses the Beatles as an example of the 10,000-hour rule. While the talented group had been playing in their hometown of Liverpool their stage time was limited to an hour playing their best numbers. But according to John Lennon that would change when they began playing in small clubs in Germany. “In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing.”

It is estimated that before the Beatles hit the scene big in 1964 they had performed an estimated 1,200 times. Gladwell writes, “Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”

“The emerging picture…is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything.  In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.”
Daniel Levitin
Neurologist quoted in Outliers

The thing that gets overlooked in someone like Diablo Cody’s success of her first screenplay Juno is that she was around 28 when she sold that script. In interviews she has said that she had been writing daily since a youth. Daily. Poetry, short stories, journaling and eventually blogging. She also earned a BA degree in media studies at the University of Iowa. While not a part of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop she has said she was drawn to Iowa because of the famed writing MFA program. In her mind she was a writer. My guess is between ages 12 and 28 that Cody probably spent 10,000 hours writing.

Then thrown on top of that her self-confessed obsession with the Internet where she has said if allowed she could spend 19 hours a day on the Internet. Where do you think she picked up all that hip slang lingo tossed around in her scripts? I wouldn’t be surprised if she has 10,000 of hours of Internet surfing, which she turned into research. The truth is she wrote a lot before she was discovered. (In fact, back in 2006 she even appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote a book she wrote.)

The same is true for novelist Stephen King who began submitting stories (and collecting a shoebox full of rejection letters) at the age of 12. So when the 25-year old sold his first book Carrie he too probably had hit the 10,000 hour mark before going on to write books that have sold over 300 million copies.

So keep writing, but don’t forget to do the math.

Related post: Screenwriters Work Ethic (tip #2)
Screenwriting Quote of the Day #83 (Stephen Susco)
Screenwriting Quote #87 (Ray Bradbury)

Scott W. Smith

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