I listen to a lot of podcasts in the studio. It's my solution to my lack of coworkers and the long, sometimes lonely, hours. I believe this is a common solution among potters. Recently, I finished listening to Big Magic, a new podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert with the same name and topic of her new book, just released last week. Each episode alternates between her calling someone who has written Gilbert with a creative block of some kind and her interviewing one of her friends (typically a professional creative/celebrity of some kind) about the particular creative problem expressed by the caller. With kindness and wisdom and a bit of tough love, Gilbert talks the person through the challenge they are facing that's keeping them from their creative calling and gives them a homework assignment with the goal being to shake them out of the funk and get creating. In the final two episodes, she called back each of the people she talked with to check on their progress and then does an interview with Brenne Brown. This last was by far my favorites episode, although there was lots of good stuff throughout.
Gilbert and Brown have a long, intimate conversation about what it means to create even in the face of failure, how to be appropriately vulnerable with your art, and the importance of breaking down myths about creatives, including the myth of the tortured artist. This last idea gave my pause and I've thought about it quite a bit in the past few weeks. I do sometimes slip into tortured artist mode, and I think the reason is because I encounter the opposite idea so much. People romanticize my work to a ridiculous degree and I often feel obligated to disabuse them of this notion that every day in the studio is like Ghost. (Seriously, don't ever reference that movie to a working potter.) I even had an acupuncturist once who asked me in kind of a shocked tone when I said I was feeling tired and kind of stressed, "but isn't pottery relaxing?" No, it's not. It's work and it's often hard and frustrating, and disappointing, and yes, stressful, because deadlines! clients! But what I realized listening to Elizabeth and Brenne (I feel they would want me to use their first names) is that even while those things are true about my work, it's also true that I deeply enjoy it, find it immensely satisfying, and feel I'll probably be happy making pots for a good while longer. I look at my life and frequently think, wow! how did I get this lucky? In putting on the 'tortured artist' persona a bit too much, I might be discouraging others from pursuing their own creative dreams. I don't want to give myself too much power over others here, but more than dissuading others, I'm also not doing myself any favors. When I focus too much on all the hard parts, I start not enjoying the process and it shows in my work. I don't take risks, I drag my feet going out to the studio, and I end up making boring pieces with no spark
So I set an intention to approach the studio with a renewed sense of enjoyment, to focus on what is interesting to me, to follow my curiosity more. And I have to say, while it still hasn't been Ghost, I have been having more fun and have maybe even recaptured a bit of the magic.
What about you? How do you capture the magic in what you're making?