Definition: insanity: performing the same action over and over again, expecting different results. –Albert Einstein
Fact: Excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – researchers have settled on that minimum level as being 10,000 hours (just google “10,000 hours excellence” and you’ll get oodles of hits)
Conclusion: All writers are therefore insane.
I can’t remember how it came up, but my husband and I were discussing this the other day, and he said, “So practicing makes us all insane?” It was said in context of his attempts to master a particular guitar part for some song he was learning, but the idea stuck with me because, really, this is the same definition of perseverance. You don’t get better at something without doing it repetitively. A lot of the 10,000 hours research has dealt with music—but I don’t think anybody would argue that writing definitely qualifies as a complex task.
It seems to vary day by day for me whether I consider myself to be persevering or totally insane. Some days or weeks (or longer) go by when nothing seems to work right, where I can’t find the inspiration to write, such that the words wither up and die somewhere between my brain and the page. Entire years have gone by without my finishing a book, where it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing of value (even though I have because I’ve usually learned something new about craft). These are the times when I feel like this dream of mine to write for a living is total insanity. Certainly it’s not what one could call a practical career. There’s a lot of hard work and uncertainty involved. To those who choose not to take risks, to follow their hearts, maybe it is insanity.
But then there are the days, weeks, and years when things jump forward. When I finish things. When they turn out to be good. When sitting down day after day, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, finally seems to pay off. When something that made no sense whatsoever before finally clicks, and the rest of a story spills from my fingers with the ease of pouring a glass of wine that leaves me heady and a little drunk with excitement and joy. These are the days and moments I focus on and remember. These are why I persevere in the face of crazy odds. Because above all, I love what I do. I love telling stories and sharing them with people. I love that leapfrog jump of my soul from insane to perseverance.
It’s that leapfrogging cycle that keeps writers and other creative types coming back to their craft, continuing to practice, to try and improve. Because there’s just something so powerful about seeing the payoff that makes all the other moments of insanity totally worth it.
So how about you? Do you consider yourself insane?
Banished from their world with his memory wiped, Cade Shepherd doesn’t remember his life as Gage Dempsey, nor the woman he nearly died for. But when Embry Hollister’s father is kidnapped by military scientists, the only one she can turn to is the love from her past. Will Gage remember the Shadow Walker skills he learned from her father? If they survive, will Embry be able to walk away again?