The Art of Mastery

After a day of frustrated writing, I went for a walk around The Rose Bowl. “This script will never work.” “The whole plot is flawed.” “Why did I take this job?” “What if Tony, the neighbor’s dog, had a limp?” “A limp?” “I can’t write.” “Why did I ever leave Days of Our Lives?”

Eager to escape my dance into hell, I turned to a Ted Talks download on my iPod. That’s how I discovered Sarah Lewis and her book, "The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery."

As an art historian, curator and critic, Sarah had the opportunity to meet with successful, well-received, artists and talk to them about their work. She became intrigued by the way several very talented painters described their early endeavors. Hits and misses that led to new forms which led to better work. From these conversations, Sarah arrived at a deep conviction: a near miss can turn an ordinary artist into a master. Walking through fear and failure often leads to success. She uses the analogy of an archer aiming the bow for the center target, missing, retrieving the bow, and aiming again. In the archer’s repetitive movement, his body is learning to aim and hit the target every time. Becoming a master is a process.

The art of doing over and over is something writers know well. Rewrites, attempts to work in different genres, ideas that lead to nothing…these heartaches aren't sudden death. They are teachers and trainers that enable an artist to win. The failure is only a temporary appearance and should not be taken as a sign that one should return to college and get a degree in accounting. It is a necessary component for success. The art of working toward a literary goal creates momentum, expands possibilities, and often sheds new light on a project. But it also teaches a writer how to write well.

In a time of instant download, texting and Skype gratification, when it seems that every completed tome should be published and then optioned for a series on Netflix…what if? What if a writer trusted the process….embraced the little failures…

And kept aiming for the target?

That writer might discover the key to success....courage, continuation and dogged determination...and become a master at the craft.

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