Somewhere I read (Malcolm Gladwell said this, I think in Outliers, but am not sure) that in order to achieve mastery of something you must practice it for a certain number of hours. I’m saying 10,000 until I can find the real number. I think it is greater than 10,000, but the point is made that if you do something a lot, over a long period of time, you get good at it. I look at the work of painters whose work I admire, and I think, “I could never do that, I wouldn’t know where to start.” And that, of course, is the whole point. I have never started. If I did, I would learn to do it. There is no dismissing natural innate talent, of course, but I know that I have a good sense of color and balance and if I learned some technique, I could probably at least enjoy painting. With 10,000 hours who knows what I might learn?
I just read an article about a family with a large lavendar farm about 25 miles from Redding. They began with 23 plants in 2003, and now have acres of plants, hundreds of varieties and make things from the flowers. They spent the time and have achieved something. They’re having a festival this weekend – I might have to go and see what they have created. 10,000 hours.
I used to make quilts. At first I made little things that I could do on the machine, things that wouldn’t take too much time. I loved playing with the rich solid color cottons, always combining them with black for zing. Eventually I began hand quilting and found that satisfying. I got good at that. Later I expanded my designs to include writing on the back, appliques and stories quilted in. I’d quilt lines of poetry in shiny gold thread around the borders. Just as they were getting really great, I became a teacher and quit quilting. Teaching used up my creativity and my time, and I just quit my passion. I know why, yet I have regret about that quitting. I know I could start again, and I think of it. But I don’t.
Lately my passion (0bsession?) has been with photography. The more I do it, the more I learn about how to do it better. I go through my iPhoto sometimes and look at the multitude of sunsets I’ve captured. I think I am excessive in my obsession with the sun’s daily tucking in, but it makes me happy to see it and to record it. Will I ever use those photos? For what? No idea, but it makes me happy to be there. Lately I’ve strayed from my riverside vantagepoint. My kids have been over at that time, or I’ve just forgotten to go look. Am I working on 10,000 hours of something else? Not really, and I think I’m missing that act of focusing. I think it may be essential to some little niche of my psyche, a way to stay grounded in something that makes no claim on me, that only gives me joy. Hm. Interesting…10,000 sunsets. Poetry stitched in gold, all around the borders of my days.