This is the tenth article in a series about surviving as an independent magazine publisher. If you want to start at the beginning, check out the Introduction to The Ball Bearing and the Beach Ball.
In his new book, “Outliers” writer Malcolm Gladwell
explains that in order to become an expert in your field, you need to
dedicate 10,000 hours of practice. I understand this, because I have
lived it. I don’t feel I will ever become an expert in
magazine publishing – but I definitely feel that the 10,000+
working hours I put in give me some credibility.
10,000 hours is not an easy number to comprehend because we tend to think of a “5 day work week.” The fact remains that when we are at work at a traditional “eight” hour day, we aren’t always working. Lunch kills an hour. Meetings that go nowhere can kill quite a bit of time. The endless timewasters that are parodied each week on the tv show “The Office” indicate that a 40 hour “work” week is a bit of a misnomer. But let’s say that you do wind up working 40 hours in a week. With 2 weeks off for vacation, that will leave you with 2000 actual working hours. In five years, with complete focus and dedication, you will have hit 10,000 hours. Now you understand how much effort is required to make something happen. You have to put in the time.
So what do you do? Well first off, chip away at things over time rather than worry about trying to do it quickly. I started my first magazine in 1999 while I was working at another magazine. I probably dedicated 20 hours a week to work on the magazine and enjoyed it immensely. It was a learning curve like no other, but the work was immensely satisfying. The other factor was that I didn’t quit the day job so there was NO pressure financially on my head. This is a crucial point. A ball bearing publisher makes the best use of his or her time. But equally important is the knowledge that there is time to slowly evolve. It’s been 10 years since the first mag rolled off the press and I am only now just beginning to feel we’ve hit 50% of the way there. Yep, you read that correctly: 10 years.
For the record, I spent four years working away at my magazine while working at a day job. It was not an easy experience, but those 4,000 hours or so really helped prepare me for that moment in October 2003 when I quit the day job.
Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.