Sunday, November 8, 2009

On Writing, Deliberate Practice and Renaissance Excellence

I've been reading Geoff Colvin's book Talent is Overrated and I was struck by a couple of points, particularly in regards to blogging and writing. As someone who has had a lifelong ambition to write, I found Colvin's book to be both inspiring and despairing.

The one sentence summary of the book is as follows: Talent means little compared to ten years of deliberate hard practice if you want to achieve greatness.

Inspiring because it means I have to work hard -- despairing because it looks like I've got about nine years and eleven months to go on my writing goal. I went back and discovered that in the past I've done a little over 350 blog posts on various sites, not to mention comments and discussions on-line and the reams of digital paper that I've filled up on my computer.

The other inspiring aspect of Colvin's book was I realized the huge amount of room I have for progression and improvement. Much of what was suggested I already knew, but it is always nice to get a booster shot for reinforcement.

One of the least discussed aspects of blogging is the ability for blogging to act as a method for writing practice. As you can see there have only been about 17 posts on this blog, so my other posting forays have been spread out over numerous sites and different times. I'm particularly interested in developing a writing style that invokes engagement with the audience whether through duration of reading or through direct response and comments. Stat counters feed the feedback loop with their mountains of data on where the audience comes from, how long they stay and how they leave.

Given the huge amount of information and entertainment competing for our precious time, developing a writing persona and style that attracts an audience seems to be the most critical.

After reading Colvin's book I wonder if I shouldn't take my writing practice and devote it to concepts of bankruptcy and personal finance, since I've got more than ten plus years in legal practice and countless hours of talking to people about how money and debt is ravaging their lives. If nothing else, it would help my legal career -- if not my writing.

I've always wished I could be a Renaissance man with excellence brimming from everything that I touch, but the realm of knowledge has expanded so rapidly that there is no chance I'm going to be excellent in relativistic physics, quantum mechanics, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, 17th Century French Literature, 20th Century Japanese literature of Abe, Murakami and Mishima, criminal law, constitutional law, history, computer science, philosophy, politics, business management or even current events. I don't even have time to work out properly, let alone become a master of the intellectual universe. No one has that kind of time. All we are left with is varying degrees of ignorance and a fairly poor concept of epistemology. It seems at 46, going on 47, that I need to focus.

Which brings me to my lovely and beautiful wife. She has resisted Colvin's ideas as I've tried to discuss them with her. She has a strong sense of innate talent dictating how well people perform at certain tasks -- for her, painting and writing specifically, since those are her passions. I would definitely describe my wife as a talented painter and writer, but that is not what separates her from the thousands of painters and writers that are also "talented."

If Colvin's book inspired me, I've been living with an inspiration. I've never seen anyone work as hard and deliberately on writing as my wife. I'm not sure where she is on the whole ten years of hard practice before achieving world class excellence and 'overnight' success, but I can tell she is close. She has seven or eight books completed and the last one she has just finished is her best yet. I hope you all get to read Away from Eden soon and if I don't get lost in my quest for being a 21st Century Renaissance man, look for my novel in about ten years.

1 comment:

JulieAnn said...

You are too kind, Love. You inspire me.