Can You Ever Master the Writing Craft?

Ernest Hemingway with capHow would you feel if one of the most celebrated writers of our time complimented you?

Think about that for a moment. (I’ll wait.)

Ernest Hemingway, while complex and controversial, is clearly one of the most influential and honored writers of our time, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 and writing seven novels, six short-story collections and two non-fiction books in his lifetime. Yes, only seven novels, but they remain landmarks of literature if not for the tight prose and understated style, for his mastery of narrative.

I have read his work, admired his style and revered his talent. And while he had his share of critics, he was clearly a master. Which makes the compliment he gave you (and me) all the more inspiring. Just what did he say?

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  Wait a minute! How can this be a compliment if he believes we will never master our craft?

Well, can you admit you’re always in a hurry to get something published? We all rush to achieve publication, right? Our article cannot be published soon enough. An agent can’t be found efficiently enough. Our novels can’t be printed fast enough.

Yet, what’s the hurry if we can never achieve master status? After all, Hemingway illustrates by his own life, regardless of our level of writing achievement, we never arrive. Instead, we’re always in a state of “becoming.”

As I ponder his quote, I realize that becoming a better writer (not a master) is really the ultimate goal, because as I have mentioned in this blog before, when it comes to writing, the process is the end. (See archive at right, May 28, 2011.)

So, relax with me and take Hemingway’s quote as a personal compliment. Why?

Well, because while we would never put ourselves in Hemingway’s company as a writer, isn’t it inspiring that he put himself in our company?


The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.

Blog entries are posted every other Thursday.

You may contact Jim Magruder at:

Published in: on April 11, 2013 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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