life stuff / writing

10,000 Hours


Visiting a local school

I love doing school visits. It’s brilliant to meet pupils and to spend a day talking about books, writing and storytelling, illustration and graphic novels – all the stuff I am really, really passionate about. I particularly love ‘live’ drawing – sometimes on a flip chart with chunky markers and sometimes with the students at their desks, drawing stuff together – and from time to time, while I draw, a sigh will drift over my shoulder from one of the pupils, followed by the question ‘how can I learn to draw like that?’

The answer is just practice!

face sketches

I’ve done lots of sketches in lots of sketchbooks…

No, really! I’ve been drawing every day, for hours and hours, for a long time (quite a few years?!). I’ve practiced. A lot.

But it’s not just me who thinks it’s all down to practice.


A sketchbook…

There is a theory that you don’t need talent or good genes, all you have to do to be amazing at something is to practice it for long enough. How long is enough? 10,000 hours. I’m serious, there have been actual scientific studies and they’ve done the maths! (If you don’t believe me research ‘10,000 Hours Rule’, ‘Malcolm Gladwell’, ‘Outliers’ or ‘Anders Ericsson’)

The studies have looked at all sorts of different people like violin students at a music school (the best pupils had practiced for 10,000 hours or more), or 60s supergroup, The Beatles (at the beginning of their careers in Hamburg, Germany, they performed 8 hours a night, 7 days a week and came home to England sounding totally awesome!) and the Microsoft mega-tycoon Bill Gates (aged 13 he got permission to use his school’s computer – a rarity in 1968 – and spent all his free time programming it).


…and another…

It is said that you can apply this rule to everyone who has ever been successful – footballers, singers, athletes, artists, even writers. 10,000 hours practice is all you need to be awesome. Whatever you want to be good at, whatever you are passionate about, whatever you love doing, you could be totally amazing at it if you practice enough.

You are probably going ‘oh, poop, that sounds like too much hard work, Cathy’, to which I reply ‘10,000 hours is nothing. It’s only 2 hours a day!’


…and another…

Here’s the maths*.

2 hours a day x 5 school days = 10 hours. Then add a bit more at the weekend, say 5 hours a day (you can manage that and still have fun), and that’s 20 hours a week. Good so far. If you multiply 20 by 50 weeks (notice I gave you 2 weeks off to rest) and you get 1,000 hours in a year. Cool! Then all you have to do – you are way ahead of me – is do that for 10 years. If you are 10 now you’ll be awesome by the time you are 20. Excellent!


…and another…

But, if you are impatient like me and don’t want to take that long, you could do it more quickly. Let’s say you get home from school at 4pm and go to bed at 9pm, allowing for food and homework, that’s around 4 hours a night. That’s 20 hours. If you practice for the whole weekend you could manage another 20, 25, maybe more, so that’s 40-50 hours a week. How long would it take to reach 10,000 hours on this ‘fast track’ regime? Just 200-250 weeks. You could be awesome in 4-5 years!!!!


..and more sketchbooks (stacks more in my studio)!

So, what are you going to practice and be awesome at? It could be anything – gardening, flute-playing, ballet-dancing, skateboarding, chess-playing, hair-styling, mountain-climbing, paper-folding, bridge-building, cake-baking, dry-stone-walling, dog-grooming, gadget-inventing, drawing, writing, maths(!)…

What are you waiting for? Get practicing and good luck!

* I usually hate maths but this maths is SO AMAZING that I simply had to share it with you. I even got out my ancient, steam-powered, school calculator!

12 thoughts on “10,000 Hours

  1. Great post, Cathy. I was at a school on Friday (I visit schools every Friday) and I told them exactly the same thing! I love that Gladwell book – it’s fascinating. And The Tipping Point. Putting in your own 10k hours certainly worked – your sketches are wonderful. Best, Sarah

  2. Wow Cathy, 10,000 hours! I play the flute and have done so for 9 years- worked it out and I’ve done about 7,000 hours on average so I’m nearly three-quarters of the way to being Awesome! Thanks for posting this because I often wish I didn’t have to practice ( it can get dead boring) but those scientists seem to be right. I’m doing grade 7 in July which is the 2nd highest grade and then I’ll have two years for gcse’s and do grade 8 in July yr 12. Those extra 2 and 3/4 years would make up the extra 3,000 so when grading says I’m awesome, science will too! Thanks, makes me feel like 9 years since I was five was worth it 😉

  3. I spent most my time at home working on homework and revision! I most have spent at least 15,000 hours on it so far. Maybe that’s why I am good at school.
    I believe this rule: even the romans knew it – “Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe
    vincit – Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdoes both
    intelligence and skill.” (Cicero – roman lawyer) !!!!!!!!!!!!
    Katie XXXXX

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