How Often Do You Get to the Strip Club?
We’ve probably all heard it by now. Even I’ve heard it, and I can’t tell Help! from Yellow Submarine.
Did you know that before becoming the world’s most enduring pop band, The Beatles were the house band for a strip club in Hamburg, Germany? According to a speech Malcolm Gladwell gave at the AIGA Business and Design Conference, it’s true. Apparently they played eight-hour sets, seven days a week, for months on end.
Gladwell argues that this time at the strip club was an essential part of preparing the Fab Four to revolutionize the world. Essentially, by virtue of having to fill all that time with music, they were forced to master their instruments, their chemistry as a band, the popular repertoire, and music in general.
By 1964, he says, when they came to America, The Beatles had played live together 1200 times (while most up-and-coming bands probably haven’t played together more than 400 times). “They were off the charts in the amount of time they devoted to their craft.”
Gladwell uses this story to support a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of concerted effort to master a cognitively complex activity (like composing, or engineering, or writing). When I heard this, I didn’t really have an idea of how long 10,000 hours actually was. So I broke out my calculator.
10,000 hours =
27 hours a day for one year
13 hours a day for two years
9 hours a day for three years
6.8 hours a day for four years
5.4 hours a day for five years
2.7 hours a day for ten years
And that’s if you’re working seven days a week.
It looks a little daunting if you ask me. I mean, where do you find three hours a day, every day for a decade to work on your craft?
Well, you need a strip club.
It occurred to me that I’ve been lucky enough to have a few very helpful strip clubs. The first was my mission, where I spent at least 15 minutes a day writing in my journal (which I never really looked at again, strangely enough). The second was the job I landed writing Internet courses for Utah Valley University. The third was my four years writing news articles for first my college newspaper and then for a daily. During that time, I would usually write three articles a day, every day. Then I spent three years in an M.F.A. program where I ate, slept, and breathed writing, and another three working on my Ph.D. in narrative studies.
Even though that probably amounts to the requisite 10,000 hours, I don’t think I’m quite up to Beatles level. But when I look back at my earlier work, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. I can tell that all that practice was an essential part of my growth as a writer. And that I needed every minute.
So, what kind of strip club gigs have you landed? And how often do you go?