Jeff Nania is the author of the Northern Lakes Mystery series. You can find out more about him on his website, www.feetwetwriting.com, or by clicking here, read his last post here, and see his books here.
One the greatest American poets that ever lived was born 149 years ago on March 26, 1874. Robert Lee Frost’s work was recognized during his life and beyond, including four Pulitzer Prizes, thirty-one nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Congressional Gold Medal bestowed on him by President John Kennedy. He died in 1963 at the age of eighty-nine, leaving an unprecedented literary legacy.
Frost’s colloquial approach to language that he called “the sound of sense” resonated with people across America. The sound of sense—we know it when we hear it. Speak plainly and clearly with meaning. His extraordinary words described the actions of ordinary people.
The year Frost died, best-selling author, Malcom Gladwell, the descendant of enslaved people, was born. In his 2008 book Outliers, Gladwell discussed in detail the idea of an “outlier”—a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body of a system. He shared stories of those among us who shy away from convention, seeking their own path.
Frost’s poem “A Road Not Taken” was written almost one hundred years before Gladwell published his book. Both are tales of outliers. In Frost’s story, a traveler comes to a fork in the road and considers his options—with one path clearly more travelled than the other. In the end, the hiker says, “I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” The traveler’s choice, one of an outlier.
Gladwell said these outliers can take advantage of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. Hardwork? He says that it will take ten thousand hours of practice to attain a level of expertise in any field. Five hours each day for nearly five and a half years following a path they believe will ultimately lead to success.
I have been in every version of my life an outlier. A dear friend of mine who runs a great bookstore told me I am not just an outlier, but also in a subcategory of outlier—a writer outlier. I don’t write the way others do. It doesn’t mean I write better; it just means different.
He’s right, but it is not just me, it’s all of you too. Every one of you who dares to sit and craft words into a page, then turn the pages into a book, is taking the path less travelled. I am afraid that ten thousand hours is just the beginning.