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Don’t be afraid to smash your story

by Bettie Boswell

Jeremiah 18:4 “ And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”(KJV)

Sometimes writing can be like creating something beautiful out of a muddy and unco-operative piece of clay. I first experienced natural clay on a visit to my grandparent’s Alabama farm. Along the banks surrounding a fresh cut farm path, layers of natural clay peeked out between streaks of sand and pebbled red dirt. My dad helped me dig some clay from the earth and I dreamed of making pottery like the Natives that once lived in the area. However, it wasn’t pliable like the salt and flour clay my mother made, so I carved a little book shaped slab of clay. I even gave it a sandy cover to make it look like a pocket New Testament. I had fun creating, but neither my art nor my first little book were ready for the world.

Jeremiah’s biblical potter realized the vessel he formed wasn’t ready so he took it apart and began again. Writers face this decision as they revise. A potter and a writer both have to prepare. The potter must work the clay by kneading out bubbles that would make their pottery explode in the kiln. The writer must gather words, push them together, and then eliminate unnecessary ones.  Once the work begins to take shape the artist may have to destroy their rough draft pottery or manuscript. The destruction or revision of the rough draft provides the foundation for creating something better. Each step is a learning process and the creator’s skill grows with each attempt.

The clay pieces I made as a child do not resemble the pottery I made in high school. In the same vein, the first stories I wrote are far different from what I’ve written after attending workshops and conferring with critique partners. The Master Creator gave Jeremiah instructions to encourage people to change. Don’t be afraid to start again, revise, and never give up, especially if the Lord has laid life changing words upon your heart.

I recently had my first novel published called “On Cue.” The story went through many revisions and destructions along the way as I pushed it into shape. I wept as I tore it apart but stood in admiration when parts of the story began to take form like a good piece of pottery. The publication process was exciting, overwhelming, and shaped my life in a new way. At first I thought I knew what I wanted but didn’t have the experience to put the story into the right vessel until I gained experience and instruction along the way from masters of the craft. When I finally had a tale my publisher and I both liked, I felt pride and a new understanding of how to shape a story.

Previously I had a short story and some educational pieces published. Several friends, who had read my earlier works, noticed an improvement in my writing. Surprise and dismay filled my mind as I pondered over their comments. I was a little shocked but then realized that I really had grown.

Never be afraid to keep growing and allow yourself to be molded into a better writer by God and the master craftsmen that you meet in your writing career. Jeremiah’s potter wasn’t afraid to break apart things that weren’t working and change them for the better. Happy smashing/revising!

Bettie Boswell is a minister’s wife and now a published author. Her novel On Cue was released November 1, 2020 by Mt. Zion Ridge Press.

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