Smoke Grey and Pink Butterfly Gown by Charles James via A Dress A Day

Click for larger version; click for the list of dolls.

This dress is based on one of Charles James’ “Butterfly” evening gowns, although I’m not thrilled about how it turned out. Erin from A Dress A Day linked to an ivory, fall-colored version as an example of her dream dress, and I really like this smoky, pink version. I’m thinking about Erin and her blog today because recently she wrote about a new book Outliers: The Story of Success, condensing it into a sentence: ten thousand hours of work will make you an expert in your field, and it has little to do with being “naturally talented.” That, of course, made me wonder what percentage of that I’ve already gotten through. I estimate I spend one to four hours on each new blog post I make here. For example, the Metafilter dress probably took about an hour, because it’s a very simple design, the post itself is mostly a collection of links, and I wanted to get that sucker posted while the posting was good, not three days later when my Metafilter traffic was all gone. Something more complicated like my version of the Star Princess dress? Probably three hours to sketch out and settle on a design, finish the drawing and write the post; that’s not including the time I spent looking at other web sites to see what other versions looked like. For simplicity’s sake, I think I can average it out to about two hours per post. Between this blog, the 2004 one, the Boutique and all the other paperdoll related things I’ve done, I think I can safely say I’ve put in 800 – 1000 hours towards my 10,000.

I’ve been thinking about success in this way for a little while; I’m used to skating by on natural talent, things I already know and short bursts of inspiration, and keeping up with a project consistently feels very unnatural to me. (Although the Boutique was up for a couple of years, I updated it in bursts, not one a day like I try to do now.) It was actually zefrank’s the show that helped me see value in long-term approaches. He did a short video blog for a year, one every day, writing songs, making jokes, inviting his audience to participate, and some of his videos were OK, a lot of them were great, and a couple of them sublime. My style was usually to do something great in a rush, with all my attention, then to be done with it. (Or as I told one of my friends, I do my best work in the grip of an obsession.) the show was really Brian’s thing more than mine, but I certainly took this away from it: a new video every day for a year, even if it wasn’t the best, delivered a greater impact than ten wonderful videos alone. Ten wonderful paper doll outfits, I can do that easily if I’m in the right mood. Beyond that, it gets hard.

A new paper doll outfit every day isn’t easy for a perfectionist. You all see the cute ladybug costume, I see “wow, one of those shoulder thingies is so much bigger than the other, and the lace is so sloppy, and why didn’t I put in the red first and draw in the black dots later, instead of smearing the black into the red parts and getting the shiny part all messy?” But at last count 11 of you voted for it as your favorite. Wow. Someone like me has to stop and think about that, because it doesn’t make sense from my perfectionist perspective. It says to me, this is a good approach, that that ladybug costume was created and I learned from it and someone likes it, and that makes it OK.

I’ve got a lot yet to learn in my remaining 9,000 hours — how to draw humans, obviously, and their annoying hands and feet, how to make fabric look right, how to get the most use out of my 160-some colored pencils and how to draw delicate seafoam and seaweed to wrap around my mermaids. It feels like it’s going to take a while, but hey! I’m only 26. Hallelujah, it’s a brand new day (a-chicka quack quack)

This poll ends the 21st, so do get your vote in. I’m so curious if Miss Daae will pull through with the win, if the dark horse ladybug will be ahead or if my gypsy girl will have some good luck for once.