Remember when you were seven years old and you decided to count to one million?
I packed it in at an embarrassingly early stage, defeated by the mere thought of ploughing through all those interminable numbers. One hundred and seventy-one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven… one hundred and seventy-one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-eight…
Life’s too short, right? Ah, but if I’d known then, what I know now…. Simple things like breaking down large tasks into smaller tasks, taking heart from every milestone, and persevering to the end.
Back then I could count to a thousand. I just didn’t know that if I did it a thousand times, ker-ching! I’d hit the million mark. (And please don’t call that cheating, call it creative problem-solving, OK?)
These days, a million words no longer daunts me. Veny Armanno says he wrote a million words – ten complete manuscripts – before his first novel was published.
Writing just one page a day – 275 words – would not only produce a novel a year, but it would get me to that magic million-word mark within ten years.
And that folks is apparently what it takes – ten years or ten thousand hours of deliberate practice – to become expert, at anything. Playing the violin, performing colonoscopy, writing a novel…
I’d like to think I can get there. I wrote for a living for a good fifteen years – nothing fancy, just news and current affairs items, articles, speeches, a couple of documentary scripts, reports and the like. Now I’m five years down the track with writing fiction, novels mainly.
I think I can get there, by taking it one step at a time, by breaking that mountain of a novel down into something workable – small achievable chunks called scenes, with each new scene building on the last, progressing plot, character and theme, into that irresistable story that I can’t get out of my mind until I have gotten it down on paper.
I figure my little red engine is halfway there. Halfway up that expert hill. Halfway home. You can hear me if you listen hard to these blogs… I think I can …. I think I can… I think I can … And you’ll really, really hear me if I ever make it to the top – hoo-oooo!