Writing the Rust Out or Why We Love That Ira Glass Quote

Writing, like all art forms, gets better with practice. And the only way to get better is to do more, which means you’re going to do bad art.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, states that it takes 10,000 hours to be good at a thing.

Playwriting, I think, is this unique animal. You can write alone for hours and hours, but to put on a play, you have to somehow convince actors or a director to put on a show even when you’re terrible, in those 10,000 hours. You need an audience to react.

It’s not an art in a vacuum. It’s meant to be public. That’s why Fringe, and open submissions, and open workshops are important. Every playwright has to sludge through 10,000 hours of writing (give or take) to get to their voice.

In these 10,000 hours we hold onto the hope that we will be accepted enough to hear glimmers of our voice. That’s why this quote by Ira Glass resonates (listen to it here: https://youtu.be/PbC4gqZGPSY)

We know, during these 10,000 hours, that we aren’t very good. We hit send on submissions knowing it’s not the best, but it’s the best we’ve got right now. We get rejected, and we know exactly why, but we keep doing it.

Intrinsically we know, the only way to get better is to keep going, to ‘write the rust out’ as Lin-Manuel Miranda says:https://twitter.com/lin_manuel/status/805705285465731072?s=21

You have to keep getting back on the horse, through disappointing news, through losing opportunities you really wanted, through being told no again and again.

Rejections mean you’re writing and rejections mean you’re getting your 10,000 hours in.

See you on the other side of 10,000. I know it’s going to be killer.

1 Comment

  1. I remember seeing it on Tumblr, but I don’t remember the origin. But there was a ceramics class where they decided to divide up the class in two. One half was told to just make as many clay pots as they could – bad, good, whatever. The goal was to make as many as they could in the time allotted. The other half, however, was told they had to spend the time making ONE pot.

    Turns out the group that did the many pots actually ended up having some really good pots in the end, while the ones focused on just one pot were for the most part frozen with terror at the idea that this one pot had to be PERFECT.

    The first time I came across that post was when I truly understood that you only get better by doing it a lot.

    My theatre reviews really started shaping up the year after my NEA Fellowship when I committed to writing up a review for EVERY show I went to. Prior to that, I only wrote reviews for when I was especially moved. I ended up writing something like 75 reviews that year (partially thanks to seeing a BUNCH of shows at Fringe).

    Anyway, long story short, I heartily agree that the only way you get better at any art is by doing it. 😉

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