I’m reading Berserk.

There’s a part—almost 200 chapters in—where Guts is teaching Isidro how to fight. Here’s the panels:

The core of these panels seem to be drawing on Kentaro Miura’s musings on the creation of art more than they’re drawing on his knowledge of warfare and sword-fighting. When I first came across them, they struck me immediately as Kentaro’s thoughts in regards to others asking him “how do I become you?” And I think with just these six panels, we get the answer:

You cannot practice your way into becoming a master.

You are not, and never will be, Kentaro Miura.

Testing Yourself on the Field of Battle

To become a master in something, you must be employing your craft on projects. Once you have the fundamentals of your discipline, you must move on and begin applying those fundamentals to finishing pieces of work. When you practice, study, and grind endlessly you are never testing yourself where it matters—in battle.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever work the fundamentals or study the craft. But you should be studying, practicing, and honing the things you need for the piece of art you’re currently working on finishing.

Your mind is essentially a clever trickster spirit. It’s going to tell you that if you just got a bit better at the basics, if you just put in a few more months of dedicated practice, that making art itself will become easier. Your technique is learned through practice, but your intuition is learned in battle itself. You need to balance both of them to spark creation. The only way to truly get better is to find a thing worth fighting for… and then fight for it.

You Are Not Him

You will come across artists in your field that will amaze and delight you with what they create. If you’re lucky, you’ll connect with mentors that will push your skill and technique to new heights. One day you’ll come across a piece of art that, in your eyes, is so perfect that you’ll wish that you had made it with your own hands. Surrounding yourself with people creating beautiful works of art will make you a better artist. But within those depths lies the trap of idolization. When you look at something and turn it over and over in your mind, wishing you could make things like that, you’re looking at the outcome of someone else’s battle. You aren’t seeing the blood, sweat, and tears that went into winning that battle. You haven’t seen the lifetime war that they’ve been raging.

You cannot win the battles of your art by using someone else’s book of tactics and tricks. You can only win them by discovering how you fight best—and then struggling through the hardships that come next. You can take a lesson from someone and mold it into something that you can use, but no one out there has every answer you need. You must finish the battles you start even when the results of the fight are unsatisfying to you. You will not learn if you abandon every project you half-heartedly fight for.

Fear

Spoilers ahead for Gattaca, a science fiction movie that came out 27 years ago. The movie centers around two brothers, one of them “natural” and the other “enhanced” by having his DNA molded to perfection while still in the womb.

Despite the differences of physical aptitude between the natural brother and the enhanced brother, we learn that the natural brother always wins during their dangerous contests of swimming in the ocean. In the most important scene in the movie, they’ve grown up but compete against each other once again. The enhanced brother, afraid and once again not understanding how he’s losing, shouts: “how are you doing this?”

The answer?

“I never saved anything for the swim back.”

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