Fear, Clay, and Takeaways: Creative Persistence

Fear, Clay, and Takeaways: Creative Persistence

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending time at the Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina. Montreat is one of those oasis-type spots where time stops, people are unusually friendly, square dancing occurs on Friday evenings, creative expression abounds, and conversations renew.

This time around, there were a lot of firsts I encountered: the first time my kids had the joy of visiting this sacred space; the first time I stood among a thousand youth waving glow sticks wildly while words floated over each and every one of them that they are the light of the world; the first time I helped create three larger than life banners that would be used as visuals for Sunday worship AND the first time I stepped foot into a pottery studio to create.

Some “firsts” we anticipate with excitement… like seeing the ocean for the first time or trying a new flavor of ice cream. But other “firsts” have a tendency to cause anxiety only thinking of them. For many, I believe creative endeavors bubble up this anxiety. And, as much as I consider myself comfortable with creativity… a medium I’ve never worked with causes me to fret.

Since I like being proficient at what I partake in, beginning anew with unknown material creates mental barriers. Last week, as I took hold of clay for the first time, fear showed itself in several forms: fear of doing it wrong, fear of making ugly pottery, comparing myself to those around me and fear of being rebuked that I was messing up.

As the week progressed, my fears ebbed and I saw clay as a beautiful metaphor for the creative journey. (Isn’t this usually the way it works? When we decide to move through our fear (rather than talk ourselves out of an opportunity), we find treasure. Here are fifteen takeaways from the clay studio. May they bless you on your path:

  1. Centering is imperative. Close your eyes – it helps the mind/body/soul connection.
  2. Both firm and gentle (physical/inner/outer) guidance is necessary.
  3. Slow and steady! One swift motion is able to cause an unfortunate ripple effect.
  4. Practice, practice, practice.
  5. Be encouraged – the great creatives around you were once beginners.
  6. Speaking of that, the best teachers are those who remember how it was to begin. Surround yourself with those who breathe life!
  7. Sometimes, all hell breaks loose and clay goes flying; it’s good to have a friend to laugh with when this happens!
  8. Your body is full of wisdom, emotion and experience: use it and let it flow into what you create.
  9. The whole blessed thing is a process! Stay in the moment of where you are; let yourself be okay with where you are.
  10. Listen to all the different voices of guidance: try, experiment, play – then, decide which works for you and go for it… without apology.
  11. Look around, supports are there for you to use! Go ahead, use them! Otherwise, (physical and mental) sagging may happen.
  12. When pottery is glazed, all the pieces placed in the kiln affect one another through the firing process – similar to how our presence affects one another when we share (or don’t share) common areas. We are all connected!
  13. Transformation in dark, dry, hot spaces is a holy mystery… but on the other side comes delightful divine surprises!
  14. Absolutely, no doubt … beauty is evident in the flaws. Rejoice in the accidents!

AND, LAST BUT NOT LEAST: What you create is unique to the world… no one else will do it the same as you! Stay with it!

I made the face mask, pictures above, out of clay. My favorite project, I call him Saint IgCLAYsius. haha.

Post written by Ally Markotich. Original post HERE.

Ally Markotich is passionate about the meeting place of creativity and faith. She loves developing kinesthetic small group experiences to broaden awareness of the sacred in the ordinary. Her weekly blog allows her a play space for poetry, ponderings and soul art. This creating place is her meeting place with God. An altar of sorts. A place of give and receive. A push and pull. A fed and be fed. The pain in her life and that of the world is often the starting place for her work. From grief, she is able to offer words and art of healing and hope. She serves as lay leader and (inactive) elder at her local church. Ally has a BFA in Graphic Design from Alfred University and is currently enrolled in the Spiritual Formation program at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. Ally lives with her husband, Chris, their two sons and attempts (rather messily) to live life with grace, compassion and humor. She blogs HERE, where you can read more about her creative and spiritual journey.

The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary offers a robust array of courses to help you tap into your creativity and develop your church leadership skills, follow your spiritual journey, or hone your teaching chops. Check out our upcoming events and make plans to join us!

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