I adore cooking shows. They are my reality-tv sin, and I am more than willing to binge a season of Masterchef or Nailed It any time of day. I’m mesmerized by the struggle. I love the drama of trying something daring in order to create something beautiful and delicious.
The Great British Baking Show is really where my addiction began. It was so fascinating seeing these very kind people who are not professional bakers create works of art. The meticulous care that went into each dish, the struggle to fix something when it goes wrong, the triumph of creating something delicious on the first try — these were the things that I craved to see in each episode.
Similarly, I love shows about design and designers. Fashion, makeup, products, anything. I want to see the process that goes into the creation. I want to see experts at creation create something skillful I never would have thought of.
I want to imagine that I could do that same.
There is nothing like watching a master at work. Whether it is skillfully executing a pirouette, or baking a cake, or reciting a monologue, nothing beats seeing somebody do that with that graceful ease that comes with mastery. There is great magic in watching an idea spool out of them from start to finish.
That is the kind of mastery that I crave to possess myself.
For a long time, what has kept me from pursuing that mastery in any one field is the fear of missing out. If I become a writer, what about the other arts I love? What about acting? What about my ideas for dance? Painting? Sculpture? Installation art? If I only ever have a finite time, how can I hope to have mastery if I am forced to labor to survive instead of working on my craft?
I am missing that refinement that is required by mastery. I am missing that dogged wearing away of imperfection that is the hallmark of a master. I hardly ever go back and read what I have written, besides a cursory edit. I never really break down my work to see what it says and what I can do to improve it.
A master must be mindful, disciplined, discerning, and committed.
I am missing those tools from my toolbox.
I want to be a master of writing. As for the other art forms that I love… mastery of them can come later. I need to insist on working something until it is as perfect as possible that will lead me to mastery, despite any negative self-talk, despite how difficult something becomes.
I want to be a master of myself.
Let’s break down what I said master must have:
This means being fully present with the task that I am working on. Respecting the creation to give it my full attention. How can I see what I am creating if my eye is always on the horizon?
I always associate this word with punishment, but it is actually one of the most freeing words. Discipline is doing the work even though it is not fun, and doing it consistently. It is winning that mental battle between the fear of change and who I want to be. Discipline demands I give only the best every time. It also reassures me that I have that to give.
See and do with clarity. Plan and create the structure needed for creation. Knowing when to say no. Be selective in how I conduct myself in my day, what I give energy to, how I feed myself, and how I speak to myself.
Commitment is not a single decision, but a constant affirmation that the thing I am pursuing is the thing I want to achieve and that I have the strength to get it. Commitment is centering my life around creation.
I cannot flee from the world as much anymore. I cannot retreat from trying just because the way is dark and unknown. I must choose each day to renew my vow of mastery. Failure is not the opposite of success. It is an opportunity to create future success.
What is it that you want to master?