Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Long Does it Take to Succeed?

I'll let you know when  I find out. The length of time for success depends on the scope of your goal.
Playing a professional sport takes ten to twelve years of dedication and that's only if you have the talent. Is the talent innate or can it be developed? The talent can be developed, though someone with extraordinary height is predisposed to excel, but even Muggsy Bogues at 5'-3" made it to the NBA as a first round draft pick.

That's a big scope, and I want to look at something attainable and relatable.

I write movie reviews. I've been publishing movie reviews since July 2014. I've been watching movies forever, and I've been actively taking notes on movies I've watched since June 2011.

My definition of success is self-defined. I'm a competent reviewer. I'm able to discuss the technical aspects and discern the themes of a movie. I'm not claiming I'm the best, but how long did it take me to become competent?

How long did it take me to become competent?

I've always liked movies. I watched a lot of television as a kid, and movies became a passion sometime in 2003.

I was in school, and I heard Jamie Snead talking about Gangs of New York. I don't know what he said exactly, but he was able to break the movie down from actors to cinematography, and I remember my thoughts, "I wish I could talk about movies like that."

I realized to form that vocabulary, I needed to study movies. Google helped me find a list of the best movies (Google was a thing even back then, though nothing like the indomitable giant it is now). The list that kept coming up was the IMDB Top 250. I then discovered my school's library had an extensive catalog of movies that I could check out at no cost.

I started watching movies on the list. Many of those movies I still remember rather well. They were classics, every last one of them. I never did watch all the movies on that list, but that's a different story.

I kept watching movies, but it wasn't until June 2011 that my passion for movies began bordering on obsession. I got Netflix. At any moment I could begin streaming a movie, and I devoured movies. All of the movies  I had wanted to see but didn't get the chance, now I could make up for that. Watching so many, so rapidly, I began taking notes to remember what I liked and didn't.

My earliest notes consist of, "It was good." or "It was okay with a funny ending." My notes became longer, critiquing the director against previous works, examining how the actors portrayed their parts, and what feelings did the movie's story  evoke. My notes became longer because I was learning the language.

In 2014, I decided to start publishing my reviews, which was daunting. Many of us, certainly me, think that we don't have any ideas to offer. Plenty of people write movie reviews. What makes my reviews special? Does anyone care?
I published my reviews because they were a project and my blog cataloged projects. I spent a fair amount of time each week on it, so I wanted something to show for that work. The reviews were for me anyway. I look back at the early reviews, and I realize I've come a long way.

In 2015, I saw a blog post about a movie review site looking for bloggers to review movies. I applied, and I started following the site. If I wanted a position with an official site, I needed to get better. How do 'professional' bloggers write a review? Are they better than I? Sometimes, but sometimes they weren't so  I worked to close that gap.
I focused on writing a review not just for me, but for anyone that happened to come across my site. Was it clear in my review whether  I liked it or not?
My application wasn't outright rejected (I followed up a month later), so that gave me hope. Maybe I wasn't terrible.

I started a specific site for my movie reviews, added TV reviews, and a podcast - Cross the Netflix Stream. The movie reviews had overtaken my project blog, and they needed a new home.

I was putting the pieces together but was I 'there'?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a big release, obviously. I recorded and posted my podcast on it immediately. A few days later I listened to another site's podcast about that movie to compare my coverage. I expected the other site to go into more detail and pick up on themes and technical details I had missed. They didn't. The information I covered had a huge overlap, but my podcast went into a few speculations theirs didn't. There was nothing they discussed, that we hadn't touched on. For the first time, I felt like I could competently watch and review a movie. I could go head to head with the pros.

This is my experience and it's movie focused, but you can apply this to your life, your hobbies, your interests. You don't become competent overnight. My focus has steadily increased over the years, but I started in 2003.

How long does it take to succeed? I don't know. I've been writing reviews for five years and I just reached competent.
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