There’s this well-known idea that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert in something. But of course, it has to be ten thousand meaningful hours of practice. Meaningful here means that you are actually learning something from your practice. If you are repeating the same hour ten thousand times, that’s not worth very much.
Instead, we should be actively learning while we practice. This means identifying our weak points and learning how we can improve. It requires that we have a feedback loop that tells us whether we are doing well or not. It also means taking on bigger and more challenging tasks. Only then can we walk the path to expertise.
As an example, I’ve been posting on this blog on a regular basis since 2016. Aside from that, I’ve also been trying to write fiction in my spare time. So I figure I’m getting a lot of writing practice and I’m doing well, right?
I recently took an online exam about how well I would do in editing work. Now, I’m pretty confident in my grammar and spelling, so it was no surprise that I got perfect scores in those categories. Yet I got poor scores in diction and sentence parallelism and style and such things. My overall score was still above average, but the test highlighted some weaknesses that I can work on.
To help with those, I’ve started going through the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s a bit boring, especially near the start, but I’m learning a lot. I also found out about this webapp Hemingway which scores your writing for readability issues. I’ve found it pretty useful – already I can see that my blog posts use way too many adverbs and have a lot of hard-to-read sentences. My 2016 Nanowrimo manuscript got a higher score on this app compared to my posts though. (But I’m not proud of that work for nontechnical reasons haha). I’m also looking into a few other tools that can give me some feedback on how good my writing is.
The best feedback of course, would be from those of you who for some reason deign to read my posts. I already corrected my tendency to not end paragraphs with punctuation since someone called me out on it. So I would appreciate any further feedback about how I write and where I can improve.