I learn a lot of life lessons from my hobby, pottery. Sometimes I go to the studio and just want to express myself in a creative outlet. By thrusting my hands into the clay, I touch a substance that can express me, but isn’t me. Who knows what I’ll end up with?S1033395

Actually, it’s better to have a small notion of what I’m aiming for before I begin. Adventure and the unknown are good for certain things, but flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t usually improve your results.

When I sit down at the wheel with a round ball of clay that I’ve carefully patted into shape, I first get out the air bubbles and center the mound. Then I start making something. However, I have to at least know if I’m making something bowl-shaped or cylindrical, since that will determine how I begin. What I end up with will be far different from what I intend, if I don’t decide beforehand.

Life parallels aren’t exact, but something can be mined from this illustration. Sitting down with intention is essential, whether you are a potter or a fiction-writer (or anything else, for that matter). Knowing whether I want to make a bowl with handles or a tall pitcher. Knowing whether I want a calm, reflective scene in my novel or an action scene. Doing the rough draft in my mind of whatever I’m working on (decorating a room, composing a difficult letter, planning a cherished goal) will only improve the results.

In life we don’t always feel like we have a lot of control over the outcome. Random things can happen that throw us off course. But visualizing the final or intermediate objectives, while not giving us precisely what we intended, will likely be more satisfying than if we’d aimed at nothing. That’s just called random. And like pottery, you may end up with a gooey product you don’t want or need. (What do they say, if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time?)

I feel like I have learned this the hard way. Sometimes I am frustrated with myself and feel ungifted in certain things. Then I stop and realize that I haven’t planned it out enough, and if I do this, I’ll have about the same chance as anyone else at succeeding (barring giftedness, of course!)

What will it take for me (and you) to plan the work….then work the plan?

Think about what stands in your way (like fear of failure, poor time management, low self-esteem, uncertainty about the validity of a goal, yielding to other peoples’ pressure….etc) . That is often the first task. Then, one small step at a time.