Malcolm Gladwell is associated with the ten-thousand hour rule. This holds that ten-thousand hours of deliberate practice is required if a person is to become world-class in any given field. Being world-class in precisely no fields, I can nevertheless safely assume that in many cases such practice must necessarily comprise a high ratio of tedium and repetitiveness. Colonel Sanders’ recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken was rejected over a thousand times before he hit upon the secret which would make him famous, whilst Michael Jordan estimated that his nine-thousand missed shots contributed to his ability to score baskets under pressure.
Whilst Jordan and Sanders doubtless received an excellent return on their incredible efforts, it strikes me that writers are unusually lucky in the variety of forms in which they can spend their ten-thousand hours. Thankfully, the writer’s lot is not to spend the wee hours practising gross motor skills or to eat enough fried poultry to clog the arteries of a blue whale. Ours is an altogether more pleasurable undertaking.
In his book ‘On Writing’, Stephen King recommends that aspiring authors should spend four or five hours a day reading and writing. There is nothing prescriptive about such a recommendation. Simply read and write. As I top one-hundred posts on this blog, I glance back and remember the fascinating and frankly bizarre subjects which I have researched and subsequently written about. Some of these include:
- How to perform liposuction on yourself
- Swearing in Urdu
- The symptoms of agoraphobia
- Life in the 1800s in the Outer Hebrides
- The art of phishing
- Trafalgar Square on VE day
- Mass production of chip boards
- The longest non-stop flights
- National Rail safety inspections
- British geology
- The treatment of corpses in Puritan England
- The history of performance enhancing drugs
- What causes undertow on beaches
- Topographical features of rivers
- Animal tracks
- Responses to shipwrecks on the Cornish coast
- Court artists
- How deep coffins are buried
- Sleep paralysis
- Pawnbroker procedure
- Terrible food reviews
- The work of street pastors
- How many camps there are on K2’s Abruzzi route
As I scanned through it struck me that, along from making me very difficult to profile from my internet search history, there are very few other hobbies that would have pushed me to learn any of this strange information. Rather than being trammelled down a predetermined route, we are required to take the scenic route. What a bizarre and wonderful journey we encourage our imaginations to take us on!
Learn something rare and put it into a new context. Tell a story that no one has heard before. Repetitiveness is actively discouraged. No RSI for us. Oh wait…the typing…
What are some of the weirdest things you’ve had to research for a piece of writing?
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order