My Other Thing
Despite her initial panic, The Regulars author Georgia Clark discovered her ceramics class had many parallels with her career as a writer—and helped her give up her need for control.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time in my head. A LOT: my busy brain is overstuffed with wild yarns, fictional people, imaginary lands, obtuse historical facts and imaginary arguments I have with one-star Goodreads reviewers. In order to bring some balance to my overly intellectual life I recently took up a new hobby. After receiving some rather explicit instructions, my girlfriend “surprised” me with an 8-week ceramics course at Choplet Ceramics Studio in Williamsburg, New York.
I’ve always loved ceramics, and by that I mean, I’ve always loved buying ceramics. Nothing makes me more excited than finding a small handmade bowl (the tinier the better!), for my other love, assembling cheese plates. There’s something about the marriage of functional homeware and handmade clay that scratches my every itch. But I had no idea if I’d actually like making ceramics or if I’d be any good at it.
Because I’m a novelist and thus, under no one’s thumb but my own (okay and my editor. Okay and my agent), I signed up for the Friday morning class. I had everything the introductory email said we should have, because I am insanely Type A and will have a panic attack if I’m unable to follow instructions. This, it turns out, is not the ideal personality type for ceramics. Because while my approach to novel-writing thrives on strict schedules and stricter work ethics, making ceramics is chhhhhhhiiillllll, man.
And that was a bit of a learning curve for me. See, when I teach writing, I like to be extraordinarily prepared with a thousand handouts. I love packing as much as I can into a class. It’s fast-paced, it’s intellectual and it’s theoretical, and that’s how I like to learn, too. But a ceramics class is less this, and more an easy-breezy self-directed workshop. You do have a teacher, but her role is not lectures-and-handouts and rather a laidback-pal-here-if-you-need-me type. And as I relaxed into this, I discovered parallels with the art of scribbling.
It’s trial and error (just like writing). You’ll make mistakes and terrible, terrible work (just like writing). It’s a lot harder than it first appears (just like, you guessed it, writing). The studio is a place to get lost in the squishy world of clay, just like my Writer’s Room is a place to get lost in words. It took me a while to ease into it and understand that, just like Neo in the Matrix, there is no spoon. I am the spoon. Or at least, I am just here to mold, and stroke, and press, and pinch, and have fun.
And I did have fun. Over the course of eight weeks I made some crap stuff and some stuff I kind of like. I’m not about to open my own Etsy store (if only!), but I’m so glad I got the chance to get out of my crazy head for a few hours a week and turn a grey lump of clay into cute things for my many cheese plates. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I gave up my need for control and overachieving, and I was the better for it. And if I can do it you can too.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to try? Let me know in the comments: maybe today’s the day to sign up for a class!
Georgia Clark is an author, screenwriter and performer currently living in New York City. Her third novel, The Regulars, is out now through Emily Bestler Books (Atria/Simon & Schuster). Sign up for more musings like this at georgiaclark.com. Follow Georgia on Twitter and Instagram at @georgialouclark.
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