Curious? Turn An 8 Into Something Great

Aug 09, 2023

There’s a very good chance that you’ve heard of the 10,000 rule, which posits that you need just that many hours to become an expert at something. That’s a lot of hours. And what if you spend the majority of those hours just doing the same good enough motions? Well, you won’t really get anywhere.

To brush up against becoming truly great, we have to meet a different part of ourselves. But what it takes to make it to that meet and greet won’t be easy. It won’t be repeating the same stuff we’ve always been doing for the next 10,000 hours.

It will require something else, something more challenging.

When I met what was required of me recently for the next revision of that novel, I really didn’t like it. It seemed to me that I was notttt getting something I was supposed to be “good” at getting. Because over the course of my lifetime, I’ve spent more than 10,000 hours writing. So why what’s supposed to be “shaping” a novel…not rewriting. Not restructuring. Not anything that’s inherently rocking the foundation of the plot or the characters…why then was it so / damn / hard.

I wasn’t sure. I just assumed it was me.

But then in the midst of climbing that upward curve of clawing my way to the gloss and polish this revision required, I walked into my favorite book store on my favorite morning (treat morning. Saturday morning. Early hours full of writing and baked goods and farmers market and chats with neighbors and puppy licks and simple, sweet, southern joys). In the bookstore was a guy from my gym and his daughter. We got to chatting about all the things, but especially his experience owning a comedy club and teaching improv. He said something that threw horseshoes right around the stake of my knowing.

“I can teach anyone how to do improv,” he said. “But what it takes to become great is more than most people are willing to give. Going from an 8 to an 8.5 will require infinitely more of you than zero to 8.”

What it takes to become great…It all clicked.

Anyone can write a book. I truly believe that. Myself included. But what it takes to shape a book into something really great, something that can sell in this market, something that does this great historical figure justice…requires walking myself and this manuscript into greatness territory. A place I’ve never had to go before. Which is very very hard, especially if you’ve never done it, which I haven’t.

There’s a helpful framework for going from good to great, which is much more insightful than the whole 10k hours thing. When I stumbled on it, it made far more sense to me than slugging away for a million hours ever did. Because it’s not always about the time you’re doing something. It’s often about what you’re giving in the time you have.

Deliberate practice. It’s picking the parts of your craft, your life, your practice that you’re not good at. That give you frustration. That are hard when you do them. And doing those with focus and intent and passion.

Because an amateur will play fun chords for the rest of their life and it’ll always be fun and they’ll never be great.

A master will practice the parts that will make her feel like she’s struggling. She’ll meet the parts of her skill that test what she’s capable of. And she’ll get feedback - whether from coaching or watching herself or both - that critiques but ultimately improves that execution.

Because that’s how you become great. That’s the madness required to move past an 8.

And that’s the same understanding I was missing.

Instead of beating ourselves up when things are getting hard. Instead of believing that we can’t or never will or are failing or flailing, we should pause to remember that actuallyyyy this is how it goes! This is how getting better, and how getting really really good, goes.

I’ve spent a long time coasting in my writing. Longer than I’d like to admit, because I got pretty good at some formats and so I kept doing them with enough commercial success to not really worry about what it would take to push past that. But that’s changed. And moving past a hard 8 has been more years and accountability and investment and deliberate practice and frustrated feedback than I can possibly communicate. On the other side of coasting, is a part of myself and my abilities that I’m excited to meet at the door. I’m finding the point five baby.

And I hope you’ll welcome that 8.5 version of yourself at the threshold of whatever it takes, too.

While you’re there, might as well make it a 10.

Woman on xx


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