I have mastered my craft as a writer. You might be raising an eyebrow at my arrogance. You might have several questions, including “Does this mean you think you’re awesome?” and “Do you think you can’t get any better?”
We do have an idea of “mastery” as “perfection,” or “superiority.” Certainly the master must be superior to the novice in some way. Otherwise, why would the white belt study with the black belt?
Have you mastered driving a car? Probably. Does that mean you’re awesome at driving, you’re now the best driver in your state, or that you couldn’t get better at it?
Let’s be clear. I do not think I am the best writer. I do think I will get better if I am conscientious (and live long enough).
I’ve spent my life trying to master a number of things: writing, playing the piano, playing jazz, composing, orchestrating. In each case, I’ve gotten to a fairly high level. In each case, I’ve discovered something amazing.
The better I get, the more I realize how incredibly good my role models are and how far I am from them. This is the real gift of mastery. Not that you can do something well, but that you can dispense with the illusion that you will ever be done learning it.
This is a tremendous gift, and I’d suggest it’s the best reason to master something. Not so you can show off, but so you can enjoy what you do without having to obsess about how good you are at it. That’s mastery, of your craft, and of yourself.
I draw every once in a while, but I am far from comfortable with my skills. I maintain a hope that at some point, when my life slows down, I will take the study of drawing seriously. Mastery has taught me that I can begin that work, even at an advanced age.
Should I say, “Why should I bother learning how to draw like a master starting at age 60? I’ll never be able to have the 50 years of experience I’d need to get really good.” “Chill,” mastery replies.
“Remember what I taught you about writing? The process of growth will always be there no matter what level you’re at. The only difference is how you treat yourself on the journey.”