As I mentioned yesterday, I finished “On Writing”, and I neglected to talk about a point I disagree with King on. He says in the book that a mediocre writer can never become good, and a good writer can never become great. A competent writer can become good, but no more.
It’s something I completely disagree with. I hold much more to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory: that anyone can become great at something by putting in enough time. There are obvious physical limitations. For instance, someone who is a metre tall is unlikely to become a basketball player, and someone two-and-half metres tall isn’t going to become a jockey.
However, if there isn’t a physical limitation there, I think anyone can do anything. I think the deciding factor is dedication. If someone is willing to use all of their time to further their dream, then I think they’ll get there.
And I think, in a backdoor way, King agrees with me. He also mentions that you don’t need to force someone to become a writer. If they’re going to be a writer, they’ll write any chance they get. Which I take to mean that if someone is dedicated enough, they’ll succeed. But dedication is a built-in thing.
However, even there, I disagree. I think someone can force themselves to be dedicated. The deciding factor is when you actually enjoy lots of things. Then it can be difficult to settle.
As a father of teenagers, it’s often annoying to see my sons repeating the same mistakes I made. I guess it might be in our DNA somewhere to flit from interest to interest, without settling on anything. I certainly did enough of that in my teenage years and twenties. At every stage of that, though, I kept coming back to writing. It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided that 100% of my time should go to a single dream, rather than spreading it thin.
I wasn’t a good writer in my teens. I was enthusiastic, but not good. My writing could best be described as mediocre. In my twenties, even competent is too strong a term for it. It had moments of entertainment between muddled thoughts and passages.
It wasn’t until my thirties that I became competent, and not until I took it seriously that I became good. Of course, being good is subjective, but some of my more recent books are ones I’m really proud of. They might not rise to the level of King, George RR Martin or JK Rowling, but I believe they’re good.
I’m not aiming for good, though. I’m aiming for great and I believe the only thing in my way is the time I spend in this chair. Perhaps I’m deluded, but I think you can give anyone decades to get there and they can go from mediocre to great. I guess the only way to find out is to wait another forty years.
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