Of Cats And Dragons

Nights Gift Book Cover

How easy is . . .

Published 2017-06-07
Carol E. Leever

As a college professor I frequently get asked the question, how easy is it to learn...[insert some subject here]. Doesn't matter the subject -- the question is universal. You see a skill that you want, and you try to figure out what you have to do to achieve some sort of competency in it. The old saying is that it takes 10,000 hours (which is between 6-8 years for a normal person) to 'master' a subject. So just wanting to achieve basic competency -- that should take considerably less time.

I've been writing fiction since I was a child (that was a long time ago). I've been programming since the 90s. And I've been painting since winter of 2014 (unless you count my attempts at oil painting using Bob Ross videos -- maybe I'll blog about that later). And I can confirm unequivocally that the 10,000 hour rule is misleading. It isn't a simple equation: Put 10,000 hours into this subject and you will become a brilliant master at it. Rather it's more like: Put 10,000 hours into this subject and it won't be as hard to do next time you try it.

I write, program and paint because I enjoy it. I love writing -- I snarl and whinge and bash my head against the table when editing. That's hard -- that takes work. But ultimately I enjoy the process even when it frustrates me. Cutting out stuff that doesn't work, rewriting, fixing mistakes -- that takes time, lots of time, and lots of intense concentration. You have to look at a paragraph and ask yourself -- does this say what it needs to say, does it advance the story, can I say this more succinctly. That takes time and effort, and you will never be perfect at it. Anything I write today, I can write better next year, or next decade. I'll never master this process -- but it will get easier.

I love programming -- but I go insane when things don't work, and get so frustrated that I actually bruise my fingers by typing too aggressively on my keyboard. Editing, debugging, cutting things that don't work -- that takes time and intense concentration. When you program, you have to look at a block of code and ask yourself -- does this do what it needs to do, does it work with the rest of the code, can I write this more succinctly. Anything I code today, I can code better next year, or next decade (assuming the languages I program in still exist in a decade -- gotta love computers!) I'll never master this process, but it will get easier.

I love painting -- but nothing about it is easy. I simply haven't put enough time into it yet. It's all difficult -- and I'm not yet at at a point where I can edit my own work, or fix my own mistakes, because I'm still learning how to see them. When you paint, you have to look at your work and ask yourself -- does this look like I wanted it to look, does it convey the original idea, can I clean it up and make it clearer? But I have faith that anything I paint today, I can paint better next year or next decade. I'll never master it, but hopefully one day, it will get easier.