“It resists definition yet can be instantly recognized. It comes in many varieties, yet follows certain unchanging laws. It brings rich rewards, yet is not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey. We call this journey mastery, and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery isn’t reserved for the supertalented or even those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It is available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it — regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.” George Leonard, Mastery
What an encouraging promise! These uplifting words come from a little gem of a book I love to dip into whenever I need to recharge. The full title is worth noting — Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. It’s a wonderful handbook filled with insights that we all can apply to our writing. Here are a few to keep in mind:
Mastery is a form of slow cooking: It takes time and in an era of instant gratification, we are bucking the trend when we pursue it. “The modern world, in fact,” says our boy George, “can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery.”
Mastery begins with a strong foundation: To develop any skill requires a solid grasp of fundamentals and the willingness to practice them over and over. Impatience is bound to arise, but it is the enemy of mastery.
Mastery leads to integration: At a certain, the basic elements become second nature — you’ve integrated them and they seem a part of you. You are applying them without conscious awareness. You may feel empowered and overly confident.
Mastery also leads to plateaus: Just as you feel you’ve made solid gains and improved, you hit a wall. You feel that you are not getting better: You encounter the unchanging rhythm of mastery — a pattern of progress followed by plateau. “There’s a seemingly endless road ahead of you with numerous setbacks along the way and — most important — plenty of time on the plateau, where long hours of diligent practice gain you no apparent progress at all. Not a happy situation for one who is highly goal-oriented.” Your choice: quit or go on.
Mastery requires grit: “The journey will take you along a path that is both arduous and exhilarating. It will bring you unexpected heartaches and unexpected rewards and you will never reach a final destination.”
Let’s always remember that the road to mastery is a rocky one — and then, let’s write on!