Reflections on the Joy of Mastery

Reflections on the Joy of Mastery
Watercolour painting near Sorrento beach and reflection on the Master's joy by Robert J. Haddon
Summer near Sorrento, reflection on the joy of mastery by Robert J. Haddon (1866 – 1929) via State Library Victoria

It’s getting to the end of the year, and my well of creativity is drying up. I was looking for a different kind of picture for a different kind of post when I found this reflection on the joy of mastery. The picture’s not bad either.

The satisfaction of finishing a task is something I have come to enjoy relatively recently. Most of my life I have spent taking up new things with gusto and dropping them shortly after as I ran out of interest and motivation. Only to pick up the next thing, before dropping it for something else. And so on. Especially after the head rush of having a transplant when my brain was all over the place.

I did think about going back and finishing some of those things, and in fact compiled an enormous list of “unfinished business”. But after this amount of time, most of them don’t have any relevance, which is why the list isn’t getting any shorter. I’m in two minds about it now.

Finishing things is amazing, but doing it again only better takes guts. Each time I publish anything, I experience an almost paralysing terror, wondering what people will think about the work (and me). But I publish anyway.

So far this year, 103 blog posts and 24 letters. Each one is incrementally better than the last; a more elegant turn of phrase here, a nice metaphor there, or more picturesque language. But because they come out frequently the change is difficult to detect.

Finishing my first book was an incredible feeling. Finishing my second book was pretty good too, and I did think it was much better than the first. As my third book nears completion, I already feel that it is infinitely better than the second. Though no one else has seen it yet, so that might just be my imagination.

The joy of mastery is a good way to describe it. The satisfaction of learning, developing and ultimately (one day) controlling a skill. The elation of not dying in the attempt even though you thought you might. The delight when someone tells you that what you wrote made an impact on them – that you made a difference in someone’s life.

You can’t get much better than that, can you?

This page comes from a four volume collection of original artwork, called The Calendar Book of Robert Joseph Haddon. Each volume contains three months, and each day includes a watercolour painting and a reflection. The reflections don’t seem to directly relate to the pictures, nor do the months seem to have a theme; they look quite random to me.

Robert Joseph Haddon was an architect who arrived in Melbourne in 1889, setting up his own office in 1901, and from 1902 teaching some of Australia’s best-known architects at an institution now known as RMIT University. He specialised in simple and balanced designs with plain facades and minimal ornamentation. His designs suited Australia’s unique conditions and used local materials. He was well known for his architectural illustrations, and architectural books.

The calendar books were released between 1924 and 1927, and I haven’t been able to discover whether they were published privately or through a publishing house. Haddon died from cardiac disease in 1929, and the books came into the library by bequest in 1931, which suggests a private print. I’m tempted to order them from the picture collection stacks to look at them first hand.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.