Do you want to become an artist or become a better artist? The answer is in the old Jack Benny joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”, with the answer being “Practice, practice, practice”. Fast forward to today. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly ten thousand hours to achieve mastery in a field. He came to this conclusion by studying the lives of highly successful people. I’m going to explore the exciting conclusions of Gladwell’s work, and then put in my own $.02.
We’ll start with a synopsis of Gladwell’s work. He found the following points to be predominately true in the lives of highly successful people:
• Natural talent is not important
• It is important to find time to practice - make time if it is not readily available
• Practice does make for improvement
• Highly successful people fall in love with practice
In summary, natural talent is not necessary when a person finds time to practice regularly. The practice improves the skills of the person, practice becomes second nature, and the ascension in skill level is ongoing.
I sat down and wrote my thoughts on practice. I wrote down the majority of these before I researched Gladwell’s findings, so I am tickled that they parallel Gladwell’s work.
• Anybody can be a competent if they want to be
• Do some practice, in some way, to push yourself to produce your art
• Practice regularly, daily if possible
• Practice little, practice big, just practice
• Practice can be difficult some days, with the results well worth the effort after the struggle
• Practice makes you focus on your art in a way that spontaneously generates new ideas and techniques
• The output of the repetition of practice generates a portfolio of work that helps prove artistic credibility to others
• Improvement is gradual, with lots of learning, and this learning is called mistakes
• Practice can start privately, but improvement is quickened when you force yourself to put your artistic product in front of others for review
• The audience for the review of the output should become more sophisticated as the artistic output improves,
• Practice will become second nature, and will it will transform into a lifestyle of artistic creation
How do I embody these ideas? I strive to write and photograph something every day. Sometimes I rework a past writing, but this is becoming more rare as I pursue practicing. I have a daily photoblog. I’ve progressively put my material out to bigger and bigger audiences. I’m going to speak more about that in another article. All in all, I’ve found practice to the thing that has brought me to the point I’m at now, and the love of practice will continue to move me forward.