I read this post which talks about how you have to do a lot of work to get good at something. It seems pretty obvious, though for someone just starting something, whether drawing or composing music or writing, it can be frustrating at first. You have to create a lot of terrible stuff before you start getting good. Before I became the most amazing brilliant composer the world has ever known (what? don’t you agree?), I wrote pieces such as The Toy and The Workshop. Not exactly the most thrilling pieces of music ever written. (And, of course, I’ve still got plenty more to learn about composing.)

Also, I don’t think that just doing something over and over will alone help you get much better. You must also have in your mind something you’re trying to achieve, some skill you’re purposefully working for and know you don’t have yet. You could doodle scribbles all day, but that won’t help you draw like Rembrandt; you must consciously pursue drawing what you know can not yet draw.

I can easily imagine meeting a person who says “oh man, I’ve been drawing for 10 years!” or “writing for several decades!” or “composing almost my entire life!” and their work still seems terrible to me. Of course, when it comes to art, it’s also a matter of taste, but merely putting in the time with no effort to get better is worthless. (And I can also easily imagine people just plain lying about how long they’ve spent doing something.)

Anyway, the post mentions working 10,000 hours to get good at something. That’s a lot of hours. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent composing. Maybe an average of 12 hours per piece (some more, some less) for 51 pieces. 51 * 12 = 612 hours. That’s about 6 percent of 10,000 hours. I got a long way to go.

But that’s just a very rough estimate. I haven’t been keeping track of how many hours it takes me to do anything. So I started a new project called The Hours Project. You’ll see a new link to it on the side of this blog. Basically the goal of the project is to keep track of how long I spend doing stuff. I’m sure I won’t be able to keep it up forever, though, but I think it would be really interesting if I could keep it up for at least a year. I’m guessing sleep and work will take up the most of my time. I’m also not keeping track of how long I spend chatting online, surfing the web, or blogging… or other random stuff.

This is also partially inspired by the game The Sims 3… but you’ll have to play it to realize why, because I don’t feel like explaining…

Categories: My life

4 Comments

LanthonyS · August 16, 2009 at 9:32 PM

If you’re 21, you’ve lived around 180,000-190,000 hours. If you don’t have 18-19 amazing talents, you’ve been wasting your time, SEVERELY. We can discount sleeping and eating, in which everyone has their Ph.D. Third highest: social interaction or quiet solitude. Are you an expert??

LanthonyS · August 16, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Also, take a class up to once a day to speed up your skill acquisition, but only for the first few levels.

S P Hannifin · August 16, 2009 at 10:56 PM

Do you think I should’ve spent more time composing? 😀

I will be the first one to admit that lots of time was wasted in high school and college… but I’ll spare my blog yet another education rant…

Since I got out of college, though, little time has been wasted… depending on how you define “wasted” … I’ve either done work for money, necessary house chores, or did what I wanted. If I want to watch TV instead of write music, I wouldn’t call that wasting time… it all depends on what I want to accomplish and how fast I want to accomplish it.

A class can be helpful, but I think it depends on the class, the teacher, and, again, what you want to get out of it. I have met some music teachers who I would hate to take a class from because they might try to get me to write a piece like Bach or something, which I just don’t want to do… so I think class-takers just have to be careful that the class doesn’t actually get in the way of what they really want to do and become a distraction.

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