Just Show Up

It takes a brave man to swim in the mermaid pond but I think today’s guest is up to the task. Derek Dodson has a Master of Education in professional counseling, and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for a number of years working with at risk kids and families. He is an accomplished musician (guitar/bass), has a number of black belts in martial arts and is knowledgeable in Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese weapons. Derek has been a college athlete, a rodeo rider, fought as a semi pro kick boxer, and even worked as a bouncer in some really bad bars when he was working his way through grad school. This has probably come in very handy as Derek is also married with four—yes, you heard me right—FOUR beautiful daughters.

And did I mention he also writes romance?

Derek has published several “forgettable articles and lots of academic crap” in his areas of interest, as well as written music and poetry. He began writing fiction a wee bit more than a year ago and is taking that on like he does everything else—full steam ahead. Today he’s here talking about the long road to mastering any skill. Take it away Derek…

The past 30 or so years I have had two great loves in my life beyond family, martial arts and music. During these three decades, I somehow managed to complete a couple of college degrees, get married, raise 4 kids, and change careers three times. All through the demands of job, school and family, I found time for the two pursuits I love the most. Martial arts and music. Certainly there were breaks during times of illness, births, etc., but for the most part, I continued to show up.

Teaching has always been a favorite activity, and with the many years I’ve invested in my two hobbies, I am now viewed as a bit of an authority by some. I think maybe it is just because I am getting old. Over this span of time I can’t tell you how often I have heard people say they wished they could do martial arts or play guitar, but they don’t have the time, talent, money, etc. They often go on to opine about how gifted/talented/blessed/unique I am. BS.

In Geoff Colvin’s excellent book, Talent Is Overrated He lays out all the research done thus far around the topic of talent as it relates to things like business, science, music and other arts. What he so convincingly shows is there is NO evidence for what we call talent when it comes to these interests. What the research does show is those who are considered “talented” in their field are individuals who have a single-minded focus on their one activity to the exclusion of others.

One of the books Colvin cites is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell takes a close look at the habits of those who are highly successful in their field. He is most often quoted for coining the 10,000 hour rule. That is, mastery of most subjects require approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice.

As a novice writer, I am swimming in a sea of amazingly talented people for whom writing seems to flow as effortlessly as breathing. Since I have chosen romance, most of these uniquely gifted people are women. Being active in two local and two online RWA chapters, attending over a dozen online workshops, and reading several of the “must have” books on the topic, I have come to a conclusion. Writing is no different than anything else.

The reason I am surrounded by this chorus of amazingly talented writers is because you ladies put in the time and work your butts off. Jobs, kids, spouses, PTA, etc., all pull you in different directions. Still you find the time to write. The 10,000 hours is no guarantee of success, as there are other factors involved when it comes to publication. However, the self pub world has exposed us to wonderful writers and to those who haven’t reached the 10k mark yet.

Perhaps there is some hope for me as a writer, as I spent 500 words to basically say “just show up”. I would love to hear what others think.