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April 1, 2014
Vol. 71
No. 7

Writers on Writing / Jeff Kinney on Taking Your Time

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      Writing is a skill that needs to be developed over time. I think most people (myself included, at least at first) think that they can just sit down and grind out the next great novel. But like any craft, good writing requires expertise. You can't short-cut the process. It took me eight years to develop the Wimpy Kid universe, and I don't think I could have worked it out in a shorter time frame than that.
      Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers speaks to this idea. He says that in order to become an expert on anything, you need about 10,000 hours (or 10 years). Then, when the opportunity to use your expertise appears, you'll be ready. That's what happened to me. I took my time in developing a concept, and when the opportunity came, I had a fully fleshed-out world to present.
      But even after all these years, every aspect of writing remains difficult for me. I admire people for whom ideas seem to come in torrents. My ideas come in tiny little drips—and sometimes not at all. I was recently reading about Carl Barks, the creator/genius behind a huge volume of comic books about Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge that were written in the 1940s–1960s. He said that there were times when the ideas were flowing so fast, he couldn't keep up with them.
      I've never had that wonderful problem, and I doubt I ever will. I have to set aside time to generate my ideas, and there's no guarantee that even if I sit for hours, any good ideas will come. I wish I could get around this difficulty because if I could, I'd be a much more prolific writer.
      Copyright © 2014 Jeff Kinney

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