Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing in an instant world

Recently, on one of my writer’s loops, we were discussing the long path to publication and how difficult it can be to wait--especially when we live in a world focused on instant gratification. Whether it’s fast food, shopping on line (Amazon’s ‘Buy now with 1-click’ is way too easy to push), or losing weight, almost everything we do can be done with a flick of a button or a ‘magic’ pill.

We simply hate to wait.

But while we might be able to instantly upload the latest bestseller onto our ebook reader, author Mary DeMuth says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master writer, just like it does in many other professions. 

Ten thousand hours might sound like a long time, but I believe she is right. Because the truth is that with anything truly worth it, there is no instant success. Writing takes hard work, sweat, and a dedication behind the scenes that the readers will never see.  

In the book world, I’ve known many people who have kept writing even with one rejection after another. They have stuck with it for five, ten, even fifteen plus years before they were finally published. With today’s changes in publishing, one of the great things is that a writer doesn’t always have to wait on a publisher, but can publish a book themselves online. But even going that route still takes time, learning, and patience until the work is ready to be seen by the world.

This is a concept I’m trying to pass on to my own children. I want them to learn that it is still important to work hard in life, to sacrifice, and put in their 10,000 hours of practice. And while the concept might seem overwhelming, it's important to look at the entire process in smaller pieces.

Here are some ideas for breaking down that 10,000 hours of practice with specific goals.

1. Set a daily (and weekly) word count that is practical for you to reach. I typically plan to write 1000 words a day, five days a week. Some people will need to make a smaller goal, while others are able to write much more. 
2. Read one book a month that deals with the craft of writing
3. Join a critique group (Most crit groups have monthly goals/expectations of members)
4. Read one book a month in the genre you are writing 

You will be amazed at how 'quickly' your writing ability grows when you take these baby steps.

What about you? What are your writing goals. Is there something you’ve had to wait on that was worth it in the end? Something you’ve put your time and energy into that in the end paid off? I’d love to hear what you think.

LISA HARRIS is a Christy Award nominated author who has over twenty novels and novella collections in print. She and her husband, Scott, along with their three children, live near the Indian Ocean in Mozambique as missionaries. As a homeschooling mom, life can get hectic, but she sees her writing as an extension of her ministry which also includes running a non-profit organization The ECHO Project. To find out more about her books you can visit her website.


  1. Good to hear from you again, Lisa. Was thinking just yesterday that I haven't seen or heard anything from you for a while.Love what you have to share!

  2. Excellent post, Lisa. I totally agree. As to my own goals, a few months ago I read the advice to write 5 pages a day. I've found that a very workable goal for steady accomplishment without getting overwhelmed. I agree that reading books on our craft is important, but reading the best literature is even more important--and finding time to read is the hardest of all.

  3. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, ladies. Love hearing from you. I've been traveling, Linda, and feeling a bit removed from the cyber world, so it's good to finally be home.

    Be blessed!


  4. Welcome 'home' Lisa! Good to have you back on the continent. Thanks for this excellent post. As you know, I keep trying to tell younger writers this. You can't just sit down and write a best-seller. You have to put in the hours . . . and hours!

  5. Perseverance is the name of the game. Don't give up at the first hurdle. If you really feel called to write, then you have no other option than to carry on. Excellent article and advise Lisa. Thank you.

  6. You're so right, Shirl, about young writers needing to understand the hours it takes. It's not easy, but worth it in the end.

    Thanks for the comment, Ann. You're so right about the need for perseverance!