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Inspiration to Keep Going: Ira Glass and his Advice on 'The Gap'

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

by Kimberly Moravec

One of the odd things about writing a novel is that folks expect to be good at it straight away. No one would expect a person off the street to be able to fly a plane or perform heart surgery without some training, but a lot of people believe they'll be able to sell that first novel they've banged out during Nanowrimo. (I certainly thought I would!) Like a lot of skills, writing takes years of practice, and in today's saturated market, an aspiring writer has to come up to an extremely high standard to break through.

This truth is depressing, but there are ways to get your writing to a high standard. For instance, the concept of "deliberate practice," invented by K. Anders Ericsson, which combines hard practice with expert, timely feedback, is a good start.

Even so, how do you keep your spirits up during the long, long stretch of time before you actually get good? Ericsson estimated that in some fields like chess and elite sports, 10,000 hours of practice was needed, but your mileage may vary.


Many years ago, Scott Meyers and some collaborators were travelling around the country, interviewing people on their careers. They interviewed Ira Glass, producer of the NPR show This American Life, in four parts, and in the thirs part, he addressed this question.

The video hit a nerve, and it's been adapted several times by others.

But I like the original.

Over the years, especially when I've hit a low spot in my writing career (and there have been many), I've gone back to listen to his advice and be comforted. I hope you find this video inspiring as well.

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3 commenti

Loved this. I think 10,000 hours figure - the Hamburg Crucible - is a bit over used and not accurate for writers. Some of early work of writers (Hemingway, King, Margaret Atwood, etc) is quite good.

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21 ott 2022
Risposta a

You're absolutely right! I think I even heard an interview with Ericsson a few years ago (maybe on the Freakonomics podcast? I can't remember) that this number was only valid for a few fields like chess and elite sports. I added an edit to reflect this. 🙂

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Des Patten
Des Patten
19 ott 2022

Thank you Kimberly! Lovely article. Love the clip. Love Ira Glass. I had not seen that clip before and it is an important message that I needed to hear.

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