Have you ever watched a potter at work? It’s a beautiful sight and can be a little daunting. Potters lovingly guide a misshapen lump of clay into something worthy for display on a table. We marvel at the shapes, the baked in glazes and wonder how the artist could create something so exquisite.
The pottery process, however, can be similar to writing a novel. I’ve watched artists guide a clay piece on the wheel only to ruthlessly smash it down and start over again. Each time they seemingly destroy their art, it begins anew, like a phoenix arising out ashes. The clay is softer and more pliable. It becomes that vase we pin on Pinterest and sigh over in some little art boutique.
Especially skilled potters have the determination and skill to start over and over, creating from the same piece of clay until it takes the desired form. As I tackle the editing phase of my novels, I find the image of a potter immensely encouraging. I like to leave things alone thank-you-very-much and close my eyes tight against the sight of lumps and lopsided lines.
Yet, I need editing with my writing. All writers do.
I never send my first draft out except to my husband. The times I have shared the earliest drafts with beta readers, I’ve regretted it. Honestly, it’s no different sending out a lopsided cup and asking for feedback. Chances are, even with rewrites, there are still plenty of ripples to work out with editors and beta readers.
Do I have a team of beta readers? Absolutely. Hiring an established editor is even better.
How many rewrites do I attempt? Each book is different. I have rewritten some countless times over years, each scene reworked and honed until I can finally rest with the end product. Other times, a deadline looms and I need a surgical knife to cut away what isn’t working. I need radical action and I can’t get sentimental about what I’ve written.
Yet, I also must find balance in writing and the wisdom to know when to let a project rest. No art will ever achieve perfection.
An old friend shared with me a similar art story that happened during his college years. The teacher observed the student so obsessed over the painting he snatched the canvas out of the student’s hands and tossed it out the open window of the studio.
As writers, we can strive for excellence as opposed to perfection. We can untangle our emotions regarding our art and allow the process of revising to flow unhindered until we find the desired shape.
Going a step further here, I think it’s no mistake that Jesus is described as the master potter, reworking us until we become something altogether new. We find ourselves shaped by life’s circumstances, feeling sometimes crushed in the process and yet the outcome can still be lovely.
If we humble ourselves and come under His direction, always keeping an attitude of “your will, not mine”, we experience something better. Something new. I wish I could promise God’s workings in life to be simple. Dealing with sin is never easy or pain-free. But it is necessary to find a place of freedom and growth.
How precious to think God lovingly tends to each of us if we allow it.
Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Jeremiah 18: 1-6 (NIV)
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.