I'm back in Colorado for a long weekend. The big excitement here: Kataleya is walking! She's taking those first hesitant, awkward, heart-wrenchingly beautiful baby steps.
On the flight home late Thursday night, as we feared being diverted to land in Pueblo rather than Denver because of snow ("springtime in the Rockies"), I read an article in the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine (I adore airline magazines) by writer Michael Kruse about a guy named Dan McLaughlin, who decided at age thirty to quit his job to work full-time on his golf game - although he had never played any golf. Calling it "The Dan Plan," his goal is to test the adage popularized by Malcolm Gladwell that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to achieve excellence in any field.
In the article, Dan is seen toiling at his golf swing in rain, in wind, in winter cold. His girlfriend breaks up with him. His funds run low. He still has 3963 hours left to go. He's a vastly better golfer than he was when he started (as a non-golfer!). He's not even close to great. But his goal is less golfing greatness than it is to test the 10,000-hour theory and offer himself and others a greater sense of life's possibilities.
Writer Kruse is a bit skeptical, asking "In Dan's effort to expand life's possibilities. . . has he reached a point where he's limiting his own possibilities?" And: "is it possible that the mess of modern life [which Dan has given up in his single-minded pursuit to log those 10,000 hours] is actually the fuel rather than the inhibitor of excellence?"
Good questions. I would say that the problem with Dan's pursuit (and I do admire the sheer quirkiness of it) is rather that it isn't fueled by any particular love of golf itself. He didn't quit his job to follow his lifelong dream of being a golfer, but to test a theory and write a blog and possible book about testing it. 10,000 hours of practice may be necessary to achieve a goal of greatness, but in my view it isn't sufficient. Love is necessary, too.
I couldn't resist doing the math about my own life as a writer. I've been writing professionally for around thirty-five years. To make the math easy (I always need to make the math easy!), call it thirty-three. 10,000 hours divided by 33 is 300, or pretty close to the number of days in a year, taking off weekends, vacations, etc. Which means that . . . ta-dah! . . . I've accumulated 10,000 hours of writing by writing, yes, an hour a day.
I don't know how much excellence I've achieved. I'm hardly the writing equivalent of a Tiger Woods. But I've published a lot of books, and some kids have written to tell me they loved them, and I've had a full and rich life along the way. And now: 10,000 hours. All from an hour a day.