Writing and the Craft of Sushi Making

It really comes down to making an effort and repeating the same thing every day.

Last night Mick and I watched a great documentary called Jiro Dreams of SushiIt’s gotten fantastic reviews, we both love sushi, and since visiting Japan in 2007 I’m kind of enamored of the place in general, so we figured it would be interesting. It turned out to be more than that–it was inspiring.

Considered by many to be the best sushi chef in the world, Jiro Ono is a national treasure in Japan. So, what does it take to become the best sushi chef in the world? Well, for one thing, Jiro has been practicing and perfecting the craft of creating sushi for seventy-five years.

He tastes every piece of fish, trains his employees meticulously (even after ten years, his senior apprentice is still sometimes regarded as a novice), and thinks about sushi and how to improve his craft in nearly every waking moment. As the title says, he dreams of sushi.

Says Jiro:

Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is it’s the key to being regarded honorably.

 

While I’d say that Jiro is not a man who has achieved balance in his life (he doesn’t seem to need it as he’s content to put all of his  energy into his occupation), I couldn’t help but be inspired by his work ethic. After only four years of studying and practicing the craft of writing, I am still a mere beginner. I must practice my chosen occupation every day.

Will I some day become a true master? If it takes 75 years, then perhaps not, but it’s certainly something to strive for. With every word comes improvement, albeit in small increments, but still there is progress. With every sentence comes increased mastery.

It’s not the first time I’ve compared a Japanese craft to the craft of writing. In 2009 I wrote a post called Secrets of the Samarai Sword:

The level of expertise required to make a sword can be applied to any field, whether it be sword making, jewelry making, or in my case now, writing. Young people apprentice in this work at an early age and through the years become experts themselves, thus preserving a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It is a reminder that to be good at anything, even if one possesses natural talent, takes years of practice. It is affirming and daunting at the same time–I am a novice at writing, at least as it pertains to novels, and I have a lot of work in front of me to become an “expert.”

There is still much work to be done, but in the end, it is worth it.

Holly West

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