For eight hours a day, Mark Rothko stared at his canvases, waiting for inspiration. He clocked in an out like any 9 to 5 line worker, putting in his time with faith that the answers would come to him. (At least, so he’s depicted in the terrific play Red by John Logan).

Therein is a lesson for me and all other aspiring authors. Writing takes time and practice. To finish a novel requires that you write a page a day for at least a year. To edit and polish it takes even longer. To become expert at something (it’s been said) takes 10,000 hours of practice. After 12 years of work, I’m approaching that threshold. Does that mean I’m ready to be a professional author?

I prefer the answer given by Mike Magnusson, one of my professors and mentors at Pacific, who compares writing to bike racing. “You’ve got to get up every day at five and write for two hours,” he tells students.
Although I don’t wake that early, I put in my hours every day. Just like in sports, you have to train to improve.

Or as Frank Gaspar, my current advisor and mentor, said of writing a novel “Touch it every day.”

Good advice for all of us.