In the midst of the house process and end of school craziness I am also preparing to participate in an Arts and Jazz festival at my cousin’s winery in Michigan over Memorial Day Weekend. Lemon Creek Winery has hosted this event for several years and although I live in Georgia, I have sold books and jewelry at the show for the past two years. My father and step mother have a stained glass and mosaic booth next to me and this year my mother will also be in town to help and I am looking forward to spending time with each of them.
I work in a medium called metal clay which comes in a variety of metals including silver, copper, bronze, and steel. I teach classes in metal clay for adults and during the summer I teach week-long camps for kids ages 8 to 12. This year one of my students wanted to learn how to set glass and stones in copper clay. I’ve done this many, many times in silver but not copper. After several weeks of searching, I found one article that explained how to do this. I supplied the clay and my students and I experimented. Everyone’s turned out perfect except mine. The clay shrinks in the kiln so you have to allow for that when you create your setting. Mine came out too small. I had to pound and work the piece until everything came together.
My husband loves the piece I made and said I should make more to take to the Michigan show. While this is a labor-intensive process, the results are wonderful so I said, “sounds like a good idea.” I’ve made six additional pieces and 4 have been fired, each of them too small for the glass that I intended to use. As I struggled to make one of the pieces work, I realized that it isn’t that different from writing.
First, you have a concept, a brilliant idea and you put together your story with great care and planning. You work hard to create a first draft that might not be perfect but it is a good start.
Next you let it sit a bit, like firing the green clay in the kiln. You come back to the story and read it through again and realize that it doesn’t quite work. Somethings don’t fit and other things are just plain wrong.
Now you edit, hammering out the rough edges, making them smooth and appealing. For me this involves clarifying statements and eliminating unnecessary words, like changing, “He walked towards the man” to “He approached the man” which is more concise and interesting.
Sometimes hammering alone isn’t enough, you have to grind out pieces that don’t belong. Sometimes I’ll read a paragraph and stop to admire it. Such wonderful prose. Then I realize that what is really stopped me is that the paragraph, however well-written, isn’t necessary to the story. So out it goes, in all it’s unread glory but pacing is better for it.
Finally, everything works. It all fits and comes together. One last polish and it’s ready to find a home out in the world.
The process of writing a book or making a piece of jewelry really aren’t that different after all.
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