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How Does One Master What They Do?

As I think about how my own passion for my practice became an art form, I also begin to explore what I consider to be my mastery, as posed by this question by WyzAnt:

How did you master a subject or concept that challenged you in school?
 
I then thought about why I like art. I believe art is limitless because it is freeing, it allows us not to think in binaries but to put it in a large grey scale. It allows us to put into perspective something that we have discovered to be a passion or interest greater than what we have known it to be before provoking it.
 
I went into school believing that I found what I was interested couldn't be found in it. It's true. I discovered I loved poetry. I loved conceptual writing, which is a little like weird internet poetry but more directed towards looking at writing as an art. In other words, writing that in itself can indicate a relation with something else outside of it. For example, the font, weight, colors and size can indicate something that might be found on a Trader Joes' sign or from the internet of the 1990s. This stuff was not taught in a class; this was discovered on LiveJournal. I found my eyes scrolling on my feed of my online friends' blogs on LiveJournal as I was studying 'yellow journalism'.
 
Discussions about conceptual writing or LiveJournal seemed to be the antithesis to the class discussion we were having at the time, which felt formulaic and historical. We had discussions about books, print magazines or movies available on VHS at the time or we talked about the golden age of Journalism. And yet I stuck with the boring stuff. I found that somehow every subject I have academically pursued, from Journalism, to Art, to Creative Writing, to Digital Art, to New Media, became intertwined in my own pursuits of learning about writing as an art form. It became easier to see years after I finished these courses. I found that I fell into what I enjoyed. I became editor of my online journalism newspaper and explored writing through it. I explored collage when copying/pasting quotes for news articles. I explored text and image while I experimented with writing and photography in darkroom photography classes. I explored internet poetry while writing a dissertation inspired by internet poetry collages. I explored, explored, explored: I would blog about it, write it, get feedback, create a Twitter account for it, write a very long Ph.D. dissertation about conceptual writing and publish it.
 
And it struck me: what I mastered was something that I didn't find, or it didn't find me. It was something that landed on my lap and I held onto it. It was a mutual relationship. It didn't really matter which academic major I was in, my passion and what I held onto was from the pursuit of finding it. It helped to have a variety of academic experiences because my interests all intertwined to something that became my mastery. My mastery was something I held onto and didn't let go of it. And yet my mastery, which started from an elusive interest to something so specific and finite, encompassed in a variety of research fields.
 
Every skill I have acquired has helped me along the way. Would I say I am a master of Photoshop or PHP/Java? No. But they are part of my research field and are fun to make interactive poems with. I think that is what the purpose of education is to hold onto something one loves, let it embrace them with everything else one learns. Mastering something can not end, it is a constant relationship, like a friendship. Maintaining a friendship is important to the friendship. When the friendship is ignored, it becomes distant.
 
It matters to keep up in school and it matters to take a broad range of classes. Every bit of information that one acquires intertwines with everything else that one has been introduced to. Interests expand as one learns more, as one's art becomes one's research, and becomes one's mastery, that pursuit connects to a variety of fields.
 
How does one master what they do?
 
By holding onto it and not letting go.

Comments

Great comparison and a good advise!

$60p/h

Christoph G.

Web and Media Designer with Ph.D.

50+ hours
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