Master of (n)One

I see so many people tossing around words like “masterpiece” and talking about how many hours it takes before you “master” something (I believe 10,000 hours or ten years is the going rate right now.) But what does that really mean?

The term “masterpiece” originally meant the grand work that a journeyman craftsman would create to be judged by masters of his chosen craft. If this work passed muster, then he was deemed a master and that was his master piece. Just because a work is good, or if you like it, or even if it is the best work you’ve ever done (or will do) doesn’t make it a “masterpiece.” Just because you’ve worked in your chosen medium 10,000 hours (or for ten years) doesn’t mean that you are a master.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Does everyone have to be a master at something?

Took this awesome action shot and then realized I'm wearing the same shirt as my avatar.  I really do own other shirts!
Working toward master level smithing…

While becoming what passes as a master in this day and age is one of my life goals, that doesn’t mean that it should be yours. I’m also not even sure that it is an attainable goal for me. I like the journey to become. I’m a journeyman craftsman. It’s the striving that keeps me going. Plus I’m sometimes drawn to other creative outlets.

You know that old saw “jack of all trades, master of none” right? Well, I like knowing a little something about many different things, but this runs counter intuitive to becoming a master. A master focuses deeply on one particular craft. I think that you can learn new ways of viewing your chosen craft by seeing how other mediums work. It helps you think differently, approach ideas from a new angle. It can also be distracting though.

So are you a master dabbler or expert novice? Or do you focus entirely on one way of working, one medium, one technique until you know all there is to know about it? I think both are valid and my journey lies somewhere in the middle. Where does your journey take you?

6 thoughts on “Master of (n)One

  1. Wendy,
    You always give me something to think about. I especially like the next to last line. Learning where to focus is a life long process and may we never tire; no matter what medium, process or technique.

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