Frank van Pamelen: Talent
Comedian, writer, poet, grand artist and alumnus Frank van Pamelen reflects on talent.
Ten thousand hours. That’s how many one needs to put in. So it is said. To ripen. To mature. To realize one’s full potential. Goodness me: ten thousand hours. How much is that anyway? For Pete’s sake, how long must one toil to style oneself a professional with impunity?
Let’s see. I graduated in 1989, in the arts, and for the next eight years I worked as a communications consultant, mostly part-time. I fear those ten thousand hours slipped from my grasp: just before crossing the magical threshold, I went independent, in the process throwing a potential pro status out of the window. But what did I know back then?
What did I do next? I started making theater shows. Twelve in all, since the late 1990s. That amounts to twenty-odd hours on stage times, say, fifty performances per show, netting about one thousand hours. Not even close, not by a long shot. Even with rehearsal time included, the ten thousand target remains well out of reach. Mere dabbling.
Books then. Novels, collections of poetry, children’s books, this and that. Forty publications in all, averaging about 150 pages each at roughly 90 minutes per page. Nope, doesn’t get me there either. Close, nine thousand hours of writing, and it did land me some nice checks now and then, but apparently still shy of what some rigid rule of thumb sets as the bar for true professionalism.
What else? Moderating conferences? Presentation gigs? Musicals and revues? Writing songs for others? Some organizational stuff? These can’t be added up just like that. Too much of a motley crew. And all of it too little to go pro.
Yet it’s not frustration that fuels my fervent typing of this column. You see, when I decided to tackle this topic, I deployed the old numerical skills. A column (whether for broadcast or print) takes me about 94 minutes to compose. This is number 6,383. Ergo, I breach the ten thousand hours barrier as I am writing this. I am maturing in your face. At long last I seem to be officially good at something. Can’t wait to tell mum.
Date of publication: 30 May 2023