5 Steps to Writing Success From Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers


These steps to writing success are from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. To be a successful writer, you don’t need to be brilliant, talented, or even all that creative. Here’s how to increase your chances of getting published — key writing tips from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success.

Gladwell is Canadian, like me! 🙂  Here’s a quip from his interview with David Hochman, a Reader’s Digest writer:

“What surprised me most were the ordinary methods successful people use to achieve all they achieve,” says Gladwell.





Fellow scribes, this means us. We don’t need brilliance or overwhelming talent to become successful writers…we just need to stick to ordinary tips for success. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success for more info, and read on for five steps to writing success…

5 Steps to Writing Success From Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

In Outliers, Gladwell explores that which separates highly successful people from everyone else. Here are some of his findings, which apply to writers of all genres…

1. Tackle your limitations or constraints. What are your biggest obstacles to writing, getting an agent, getting published? To succeed as a writer, find creative ways to overcome them. “Sometimes constraints actually create success,” Gladwell says. “Not being able to swim made me run. And running taught me the discipline I needed as a writer.”

2. Put in your time (practice, practice, practice). Did you know that Bill Gates programmed computers at university for 10,000 hours before he started his own company? Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in recent history (or perhaps of all time) – but he spent 10,000 hours practicing before he took the leap. That’s 416 days of working around the clock. So, a step to writing success from Gladwell’s Outliers involves writing as much as you can, as often as you can. “Talented? Absolutely,” says Gladwell. “But they [successful people] also simply put in more hours than anyone else.”

3. Focus on the magic number. Gladwell says the magic number for success is 10,000 hours of time pursuing your passion. To become a successful writer, you’ll probably need to scribble, edit, and polish for 10,000 hours. That’s how Tiger Woods, Gates, and even the Beatles succeeded: they practiced for more than 10,000 hours.

4. Don’t expect to be an overnight success. According to Gladwell, there is no such thing as an overnight success. “And that’s my concern with a show like American Idol,” he says. “It encourages the false belief that there’s a kind of magic, that you can be “discovered.” That may be the way television works, but it’s not the way the world works. Rising to the top of any field requires an enormous amount of dedication, focus, drive, talent, and 99 factors that they don’t show on television. It’s not simply about being picked.”

Gladwell’s Five Steps to Success

  1. Find meaning and inspiration in your work.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Discover the relationship between effort and reward.
  4. Seek out complex work to avoid boredom and repetition.
  5. Be autonomous and control your own destiny as much as possible.


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To become a successful writer, focus on these tips from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for six months. I can almost guarantee that your writing will improve…which takes you one step closer to success.

If you have any questions or thoughts about these steps to writing success, please comment below. And, read 10 Tips for Achieving Your Writing Goals for an extra push!

To read David Hoch’s entire interview with Malcolm Gladwell, go to Malcolm Gladwell on Outliers: The Story of Success.



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7 thoughts on “5 Steps to Writing Success From Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments — I totally agree that if you do what you love, then you’re not actually working. That’s why I love blogging SO much!

    It is good to know that the 10,000 hours doesn’t necessarily guarantee success…but if you’re loving what you’re doing, then you’re already successful. Sweet!

  • Barrnon

    I like his points. I certainly like the way he speaks/writes. The hours thing is an interesting mark. I have been at my passion for many years and what I have found is that it’s not marked in hours you schedule, but is record in hind sight from a point attained in the future. I have found, and I believe this is what Malcolm is saying, is that, if this is your PASSION, then you will be motivated to do it all the time. Writing is more then sitting a keyboard and typing, it thinking out your work as you walk or drive, or talk to friends or read other works. If it’s your passion and calling so to speak, then you are working on it all the time with-out realizing it or marking the time. Living in your passion is the best life anyone could live. I was taught as a young boy by my father, ” Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life ” I have found that to be very true.

  • Meg Houston Maker

    Thanks, Laurie. You’re right of course! My brother is a professional musician, composer, and pianist. His favorite pastime? Practicing! He practices for an average of three hours per day. He’s probably hit his 10,000 hours at this point (he’s 49 years old), and yet he’s not the Bill Gates or Tiger Woods equivalent, either. So the 10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee *success* — though it does guarantee mastery. I’ll keep plugging away at it, striving for mastery in whatever form it comes!

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Thanks for your comments, Meg and Kelly! Funny how that 10,000 hour thing can be so motivating for one and demotivating for the other…..interesting.

    Meg, remember that the 10,000 hours is for people who are wildly successful – like Bill Gates and Tiger Woods. The majority of us aren’t outliers like they are, I’m sorry to say. So, if you lower it to 2,000 hours or even 1,000 hours……you’ll still be a successful writer! Just not like Stephen King or John Grisham 🙂

  • Meg Houston Maker

    I’m reading Gladwell’s book now. I’m enjoying it, but I’ve found the 10,000 hour estimate dispiriting. I can write, on average, only about one hour per day. At that rate it will take me 27.5 years to hit goal. Stepping it up to (a currently impractical) 3 hours a day would get me there in 9 years—somewhat less disheartening, but is still a long way off!

  • Kelly Watson | Womenwise Marketing

    That 10,000-hour figure is a surprisingly good motivator for me. Even if I’m only just writing in my journal, I remember the 10,000 hours and it inspires me to put in a few more sentences.

    It’s a good excuse to always be looking for opportunties to write and improve my writing ability.