I’ve heard people say it takes 10,000 hours to master your style or your line or something, but to be honest I think it takes 10,000 hours to become boring and mediocre. The moment you master something is the moment you stop being creative.*
When did you first notice you were bad at something? And then what happened?**
Dilettante, from the Italian dilettare, meaning “to delight.”
Amateur from the French aimer, meaning “to love.”
Arthur Brooks suggests our decline comes sooner than we think:^
For athletes it comes the soonest,
But even for scientists and musicians
it arrives in the mid-forties
or a little later at best.
This is not good news for me,
Tracing, as I do,
My starting point to forty five.
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers
you’ll be well-versed in how ten thousand hours works,
But it has never made sense to me as a destination;
Passion and competency and grit have brought us here for
To answer Lynda Barry’s question,
There were things I always thought I was bad at,
But it was only in my late forties to early fifties that I came to
I wasn’t very good at the things my work included,
Or at least it felt like that.
Whatever the reality, it became a starting point
for what really matters to me
and is open-ended,
The things I love and delight in.
You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.^^
*From The Comics Journal: If the Marks are Perfect How Can You Relate to Them?;
**Lynda Barry’s What It Is;
^Arthur Brooks’ From Strength to Strength;
^^Annie Dillard, quoted in Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing blog; Olfactory work.