random thoughts: creativity and practice

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he posits that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is to practice your craft for a total of around 10,000 hours.  While the number itself feels a bit arbitrary, I've no reason to doubt him.

I've been shooting pretty consistently since about this time in 1994, which means I've been playing around with my camera for about 22 years.  Assuming I've been shooting an average of hour a day every day during that time (arguably a pretty big assumption), that would mean I've only got just over 8,000 hours of photography experience under my belt (and I think that's generous -- while certainly there have been days when I've had a camera in my hands for hours at a time, there have also been weeks when I've barely touched the machine).  So, according to Gladwell's theory, I've still got quite a ways to go before I get anywhere near "world class mastery."  From where I sit, this feels right:  it's actually only in the last 6 years or so that I've really started to feel like I truly know my way around a camera.  At this point, I'd call myself a competent photographer.  A solid photographer.  But I know there's still much to learn.  And if I continue to practice, I would hope that 6 years from today I'd look back on my work, and think, "Goodness.  Thank heavens I've made progress."

Anyway, I've always loved this "10,000 hours" theory of Gladwell's though -- to me, it's incredibly empowering.  I think it's easy to believe that the best of the best in the world -- the athletes, the mathematicians, the artists -- are simply gifted in ways that we can never be.  And of course, it's true that some folks are prodigious at their craft.  But the 10,000 hours theory makes it possible for the rest of us to still obtain a level of mastery in just about anything that we set our minds to -- it just takes committing to the 10,000 hours. 

And then, when you add creativity to that ... well.   I think when we add our own spin, our own viewpoints, our own techniques -- I think that's where the magic happens.

So here's to continuing to practice our crafts.  In our own way.

Speaking of a practice, join me for a journaling and meditation practice, with cues from the colour wheel -- right from the comfort of your own home.  Registration for the Light & Colour A/V Journaling Course is now open.