Books re: the artist's journey
June 9, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest some older (or not) books/films/things that talk about the idea that you're just going to be bad for a long time before you're really successful at, or really master something (particularly an artistic pursuit).

This Metafilter post reminded me of this Ira Glass quote, both of which were just really good (ymmv) presentations about, for lack of a better phrase, the path to artistic achievement. And I thought, this isn't a new idea, it's just presented particularly well. So can anyone recommend a book or film or another thing with this same kind of detail about the same kinda thing?

Now that I think about it more, I am probably looking for histories/stories of particular people who became masters at their chosen thing - not even necessarily an artistic pursuit (Or maybe all things one can master are arts). Do you have any favorites of this sort? Bonus if not written by a professional writer/filmed by a professional filmmaker (or maybe that doesn't matter as much. Or maybe it does.)
posted by Glinn to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years
posted by mnemonic at 6:57 PM on June 9, 2011

My father-in-law keeps trying to get us to read this: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.

Maybe you can read it and tell me what it's about?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:01 PM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: Oh my. The Talent Code one seems cult-y. :P
posted by Glinn at 7:09 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Two of my favorites:

Julia Child arrives in France without knowing how to speak French, never having tasted French food, and not even really liking to cook! She describes her long, humbling, but delightful road to mastery of the French cuisine and bringing it to the American microwaving masses in her book My Life In France with grace and so much charm.

And the recently published Robert Altman oral biography was originally meant to be an autobiography - but the way this book ended up is so much better. It's like an Altman movie itself, all overlapping dialogue and characters drifting in and out, no hagiography, human flaws and all, as the book starts out from Altman's introduction to movie-making and goes through every single film he did (quite a few that could be deemed failures) and how he learned painfully and fruitfully from them.
posted by sestaaak at 7:10 PM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: The first thing that came to mind was the autobiography of Richard Feynman. It's a great and easy read and traces the path of achievement in science, but it's never mentioned explicitly as such. Lots of great insights about learning and "expertise" to be found here.
posted by jeremias at 7:36 PM on June 9, 2011

Not about artistic pursuits necessarily, but Malcom Gladwell's Outliers touches on the idea that you have to do something for many, many hours before being amazing. He uses a few famous people as examples.
posted by violetish at 7:43 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

How They Became the Beatles. All those hours in Hamburg
posted by Ideefixe at 9:16 PM on June 9, 2011

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