Creative Fire: The Little Voice

df mugs

For many years I worked as a production potter which means throwing 60 mugs in 1 hour; one per minute. It means silent repetition that commands complete attention. Production pottery is a fierce teacher and if your mind wanders, the rhythm is lost, the clay wobbles off center, the forms start to look tortured.

I had an apprentice once whose mind was very restless and never shut up. I could see his petty niggling thoughts in his forms and work habits. I had spoken to him for months about how he needed to still his mind if he wanted to be a potter.

I told him what all studio artisans must confront at some point: there is a little voice in your head. It evaluates, judges, and criticizes ceaselessly.  It is full of negative self analysis when you are trying to create, and when you look up and outward at the world, it criticizes everything that you see out there, too.

Norman, my apprentice, first insisted that he didn’t hear a little voice. After weeks of prompting, he said that he heard it sometimes but that he was in control of it and could turn it off whenever he wanted. That particular day, he was having relationship problems, and had been complaining about his partner all morning. He noticed that his Little Voice couldn’t leave the subject alone.

Norman stepped outside “to clear his mind.” He came back in filled with excitement. “I heard my little voice!” he said, “I heard it say that the mountains are so beautiful. The trees especially green today. And then it said that the trees should be thinned a bit so that I could see better. I heard myself evaluating and criticizing the mountains, and you are right! It never shuts up!”

Norman began laughing, full out, silly, contagious laughing. I joined him. And in that moment came what we all truly crave.

Silence. Being in the flow. Happiness.

by Lee Wolfe/ OneClayBead


Alicia Dabney said...

This expresses so much and can be applied to my own creative work. Thank you.

Monica said...

What a great moment!

artisansgalleryteam said...

Love this story, and so true! That is why I let my big voiced children drown out all my little voices. :)

gretchenmist said...

great story!
my yoga teacher {who is also an artist} bought me an eye cover for the silent/relaxation part of yoga b/c he could see the little voice still going on with my moving eyes! he asked if it switches off when i'm working ~ that's the one time it does :)

Mano Bello said...

Artists & Designers...."We are our own worst critics" !
Cool when we can relate to someone else that hears "those voices" !

Anonymous said...

what a great story! And so true--the biggest battle is recognizing that it's a voice.

Waterrose said...

It's one of the biggest things that bring us down, negative self talk. We could all be so much more creative if we quieted that.

lauren carney said...

your blog is rather splendid
just putting it out there! :-)

x x

steinschmuckdesign said...

Silence. Being in the flow. Happiness.
Love this!