from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #40: 10,000 Hours

with 3 comments

Last week, I drove out to the airport at Incheon to pick up my brother. He has been traveling around the world for the past several years although most recently concentrated in Southeast Asia, working as a scuba guide in Malaysia and diving for fun in the Philippines. He asks what I’ve been doing lately and I tell him my life hasn’t changed,  still making my daily trip to the coffee shop to write. He brings up Californication, one of my many distractions, and asks if I remember a particular scene.

From “The Ride Along,” season 5, episode 5

Hank, Charlie, and Samurai Apocalypse go on a ride-along with a police officer, who suffers from a stroke, giving the boys free reign with the cop car. Charlie allows a hooker in the car while they stake out a club and Hank and Sam leave them in the backseat to take care of some business. Alone, the hooker feels the urge to “reward” Charlie for his kindness.

Charlie: God, you give an exceptional blow job. I mean, seriously. Something to be said about putting in the time. (moans) Have you read Outliers? Malcolm Gladwell. He claims that the secret of success in any field is a simple matter of practicing a specific task for 10,000 hours. (giggles in satisfaction)

Charlie reaches down the hooker’s panties for a reciprocal fingering but instead makes contact with the hooker’s junk.

Transvestite Hooker: What, you want to suck my dick now?

The reason my brother brought up the scene wasn’t because of the tranny but because of the Outliers reference. The insinuation was that I spend an awful lot of time here. I haven’t read the book but I’ve heard of the 10,000-Hour Rule. According to Wikipedia, this is “accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.”

It made me think. How many hours have I spent in this coffee shop, working on my writing?

It has been a little more than three years since I’ve start coming out to this coffee shop to write. I’m not including the years and hundreds of pages I had written before that point because it was inconsistent and frankly awful, amateurish and embarrassing. I would say that the first day I sat down here and started writing my last draft was the actual beginning.

While there are weeks I manage to come every single day of the week, when factoring in brief vacations and hangover-recovery days, I would say that I spend maybe around 300 days a year here. The amount of time I stay here has varied depending on my condition but can range anywhere from four to twelve hours. I would say that the most common amount of time is roughly five hours. That would make 3 x 300 x 5, which equals 4,500 hours*.

I met with Dan, one of my co-workers and writing buddy, last Sunday to discuss the first section of my manuscript. He remarked that he was surprised that it was a first draft, and the sections that were awkward were actually two sections that I recycled from my previous draft. This is heartening because it signifies that I am actually growing as a writer and that this draft’s first draft is stronger than my previous draft’s revised version.

I mentioned what my brother had said on the drive from the airport and he remarked that at the pace I’m going, I probably won’t be able to reach the 10,000 hour mark until my second book. It’s a bittersweet thought but something I’m looking forward to, as my second book will be my first actual novel and the kind of writing I want to do.

*Unfortunately, the proportion of the time I spend here productively is very small; 20 percent is a very generous estimate. As it is, I’d prefer not to think of it in that way.


3 Responses

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  1. Unfortunately, the proportion of the time I spend here productively is very small; 20 percent is a very generous estimate. As it is, I’d prefer not to think of it in that way.

    I suppose it depends on what qualifies as “productive.” Sipping coffee, pulling on a cig, and staring into space might actually be productive behavior for writers if such behavior leads to printable insights.

    Hope your bro is having fun in Korea.

    Kevin Kim (@bighominid)

    March 24, 2012 at 3:11 am

    • Good point. Even when I’m not producing, I still think about the writing. I try to keep a pen on hand or use the recording function on my phone when something worthwhile pops up because they come randomly and fleetingly. However, this usually happens when I’m walking around my neighborhood or drinking. Most of the time I spent at the coffee shop doing something other than writing, my mind is completely blank.

      I’ve found that my brain can only focus on a task for short periods of time. If inspiration hits, these periods can go on for much longer but it’s a shame that inspiration doesn’t come more often. I put in the time in the consideration that the more time I waste here, the greater the quantity that 20 percent will produce.


      March 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

  2. […] * Six years is a long time to write one book. (I expect my next book won’t take nearly as long, hopefully somewhere around a year or two.) The six years was a learning experience, and the manuscript went through two major overhauls with countless partial edits. I think I re-wrote the introduction at least fifteen times. Having no formal writing education, working on this book was my education. I wonder if, by now, I’ve attained my 10,000 hours. […]

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