10,000 hours is what it takes to master a craft. I did a little figuring the other day. That is a crazy amount of time to spend perfecting your art. To put 10,000 hours into prospective it would take four hours a day, seven days a week for seven years. Obviously it takes less time if you work on it eight hours a day and more time if you practice less. I guess that is why they call it art.
I love the idea that it takes a really dedicated person to achieve mastery. I sort of hate it at a the same time, because I would like to be a master of many crafts but I realistically I will only master the piano in my lifetime. I restarted piano five years ago and it will probably take me at another five years before I will be able to pass the 10,000 hour mark. I heard Chick Corea say that he would love to learn the guitar but he didn’t have enough time to master it.
I never really thought about mastery when I was younger. I was quite happy with being able to accomplish a task. I was thrilled when I figured out how to sketch objects. I didn’t need to get any better. I was totally ok just drawing an object that an observer could identify. I still like to sketch. I have no desire to sketch for 10,000 hours.
I think this attitude is what I call a craft mentality. If I can learn to crochet well enough to make a hat and scarf, I feel like I can crochet. That by no means makes me a master of crochet. In fact it probably means I only know two different stitches.
Music is no different. I have seen many people approach music with a craft mentality. They will learn three or four chords. Upon doing that, they find out that they can play most songs and they stop developing their craft and are satisfied with playing through multiple songs using those same four chords all the time. I have also seen people who learned to read music and were satisfied with playing printed music for the rest of their lives. I have been both of these people in the past.
I could, after all, find any song I wanted to play. It is called sheet music and it is wonderful. I never actually felt like I mastered the piano. I kept bumping into my personal limitations on the piano. I was quickly bored my the I IV V chord progression. It took a little longer for me to get tired of playing other people’s arrangements of songs. I started ordering four or five different arrangements before I liked one. I finally got frustrated and I quit playing all together for a few years.
I love playing the piano and I am now working towards mastery. I really don’t think there is anything wrong with the craft mentality. Many, many things get done because I can dig in and accomplish a task. I made a piano cover that I am thrilled with even though I have no ambitions of being a seamstress.
However, I would like to acknowledge the true artists of the world. The ones who have done their work, put their time in and become artists. I am striving to become just that, an artist. So whether it takes five years or ten years, I am heading towards the day when I can say, “I am an artist!”