Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm Not Bitter

What I'm reading right now: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 

Okay, who am I kidding? Like any fan of The Hunger Games I pre-ordered the book and finished it pretty quickly. I know there were those who felt the third book was "disappointing" but I imagine they felt that way because it didn't end as they hoped or though it might. I was not disappointed.

The great thing about fiction is you can do anything you want, provided you justify it. I thought Ms. Collins justified everything she did. I found the series to be quite satisfying. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then 1) shame on you and 2) get on board--it's not too late!

As a side note, this past weekend I attended the League of Utah Writers' annual conference. At these conferences, presenters often reference either Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to illustrate a point. Since I have read neither, sometimes the example is lost on me (although I can usually surmise the point.) This time reference was made to The Hunger Games and I was able to contribute.


As mentioned above, I attended the League of Utah Writers' annual conference, called Round Up. I don't know where that title came from, but I'd be up for changing it, if I have a vote. Anyway, The keynote speaker at the dinner/awards banquet on the last night was Anita Stansfield.

As part of her address, she mentioned a study she had once read (I Googled to find this study, but my Google ninja skills failed me. I got the impression this was in some univeristy journal or the like.) In the study, they did a comparison of musicians. Group 1, musicians deemed successful by their peers and society in general. Group 2, musicians not deemed successful, but who felt they should be considered so and were "bitter" about the disparity.  

The study found that the members of Group 2 (the bitter group) had devoted approximately 5,000 hours to their craft. Those of Group 1 (the successful ones) had devoted . . . wait for it . . .

70,000 hours to their craft.

Drawing my own conclusions, do you suppose the members of Group 1 were more talented than Group 2? There may have been a few prodigies, but the numbers suggest that talent was likely equally distributed; it was hard work that differentiated the two groups.

I've mentioned this quote before, it's one of my favorites from Stephen King:

Talent is as ubiquituous as table salt. What separates the talented writer from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

As I reflected on Ms. Stansfield's address, I realized that I don't even work hard enough to be bitter. I have new resolve to, at the very least, become bitter (not really but you get what I mean) on my way to successful. Here's hoping I sustain it.

In addition to that, it was a great weekend. I got to hang out with my writer friends, read to each other from our works, learned a few things, and shmoozed with published authors like James Dashner (he's so awesome to allow a plebian like myself to hang with him.) Speaking of published authors, Elana Johnson gave two fantastic workshops and I got to rub shoulders (literally) with her as she cut in line in front of me at the buffet table because she forgot the ranch dressing for her salad. I told her I would explain it to people just like this!


Jordan McCollum said...

Oh, I think Stephen Covey or his daughter mentioned that study last year at Book Academy. Which means I probably have the reference around somewhere...

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh, here we go. I'm pretty sure this is the right study (couldn't find my notes, so I went to Google), but if I remember correctly there's more to the story along the lines you mentioned:

Just how important is practice? A recent Indiana University study attempted to correlate early promise or talent (prodigy) in very young children with subsequent levels of music proficiency after 15 years of musical training. This study looked at some 240 violinists from the Academy of Music in Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and divided these professional musicians into three groups based on proficiency. Group 1 consisted of first-chair, virtuoso soloists; group 2 was made up of highly proficient second-chair professional performers/orchestra members; and group 3 encompassed professional music teachers who did not perform professionally. The study showed that there was no correlation between early promise and subsequent musical proficiency in the three groups. All groups contained what had been considered child prodigies, and all also had people who had not shown exceptional promise as children. The one correlation that was found within each group was ... practice hours! The first group of exceptional musicians had practiced on average more than 10,000 hours between the ages of 5 and 20. This is an average of 2 hours of practice every day for 15 years. The second group had practiced an average of 8,000 hours, or 1½ hours daily. The third group practiced 5,000 hours, or 1 hour every day for 15 years. So the lesson from this is that if you want to succeed in music, a goal of an average of an hour a day minimum is required during your formative years of study.

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

The book Outliers is all about this. It makes my head spin.

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