Once upon a time, when I was quite young, I mentioned to a friend’s father that I was taking a pottery class. He pontificated on the ceramic arts for a few minutes, then said “When you can sit down at the wheel in a floor-length black dress and throw ten pots and not get a spot on you, you can call yourself a master potter.”
Some twenty years, a few college semesters, and the occasional class to keep my hand in later, I cast my mind back to this incident and thought “Wow, what an idiot!”
Why would you even try something that stupid? You couldn’t get a black dress through the door of a pottery studio, they’re wall-to-wall clay dust. And why would you want to? Half the joy of clay is that you are elbow deep in muck. Splash pans are there for a reason, but you wear pottery pants, because dude, that’s just life.
Well, remembering him now, he was a great explainer-of-everything and I suspect inventor-of-authority-out-of-whole-cloth on the side. I’d call it mansplaining, but I’m pretty sure he did it to everybody. I was young and polite and had a large vocabulary and visited this friend often, so he enjoyed expounding at me.
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The important thing about all this is that the measure of a master is creating damn fine work, not looking good while doing it (unless that’s your field, like ice dancing or something) and not meeting random people’s definitions of mastery. The world is full of idiots who will tell you that you are Doing It Wrong, often before you’ve even done it.
I won’t tell you to ignore them, because frankly, some of them are hard to ignore and you’ll probably spend years tying yourself in knots trying to figure out how to Do It Correctly, because that seems to be the way of life.
But sooner or later, if you’re lucky, you do get to the point where you can look back on some of those givers of lousy advice and tell ‘em where to go.