Art and Fear

What do you fear as a writer?

If you’re like me, you fear beginning, and not even because the blank page is so daunting, but because a lot times when you begin something, you never finish. Finishing what I start is something I’ve been struggling with especially hard lately. I’ve started short stories and not finished them, and I even have ideas for a novel, which I am afraid to begin because of the difficulty I know I’ll face in finishing something that large.

This week, Kate DiCamillo posted a story on her facebook page which helped give me the extra push and encouragement I needed to, if not start a novel, at least pick up those half-finished short stories that have been sitting in my “new works” folder.

“One of my favorite bits from the book Art and Fear (by David Bayles and Ted Orland) is about a class of pottery students. Half the class is told that they are going to be graded on the quantity of their work (that is, the more pots they make, the better their grade), and half the class is told that they will be judged on the quality of their work.

Quality vs. quantity. Simple, right?
And it is simple, because it turns out that the students who ended up making the best pieces were also the ones who made the most pieces. It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I am working on a novel, so these words are a good reminder for me. How does the book get written? How does the story get told? I have to roll up my sleeves and put my hands in the clay. I have to be willing to make mistakes. I have to work.”


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