15 of the 10,000 Hours



The LIghthouse Writers Workshop sent me the following email:

Congratulations! Hundreds of writers from all over the country applied for spots in our 2016 juried intensives, and your application for the Advanced Memoir with Alexandra Fuller has been selected for a spot by our jury. Yay for you!

This will be the first time for me to be in a writing intensive with someone of Alexandra Fuller’s caliber. Several years ago I read her book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, and I remember being astounded at her vivid descriptions of her parents who left England to settle in Africa, and her heartbreaking childhood in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and in other parts of the world few Americans have seen. She’s a wonderful writer and I’ll be lucky to absorb a small portion of her talent.

So many people are interested in writing that the competition for these writing programs and classes have also intensified. A friend who is a writing instructor at the University of Colorado sent out dozens of query letters to no avail. Literary agents talk about being overwhelmed by hundreds of inquiries from writers. Another writing friend told me that all his applications to MFA (Masters degree for creative writing) programs around the country have been turned down. So what’s the best way to become a writer?

Somewhere I heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master any particular trade—and I think that applies to writing as well. Perhaps I’m being a bit naive but persistence is probably more important than just talent. But of course, it’s not just a matter of putting in the hours. One has got to be willing to share the writing with critical reviewers, be willing to push oneself, and be guided by mentors. Most important of all is the mental attitude. For a long time, I felt writing was in the realm of the Gods. Something that I (who learned English in elementary school) would never be able to master. But as I read many books, heard talks by professional writers and participated in several critique groups, the profession of writer has become real.

For the intensive with Alexandra Fuller, I plan to submit another  portion of my current manuscript about my father, an immigrant from Japan. (I already submitted one part as the writing sample in the application to LIghthouse).  This manuscript needs a lot of work but it has already caught the attention of two literary agents so my hopes are high as I work on this narrative non-fiction piece.

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