Make more pots (Mara Thomas, ASBX blog post 002)

It’s a rainy, shit day in Durham and I want to talk about perfectionism.

I was one of those insufferable kids for whom school came easily. Worksheets, spelling tests, you name it – my goal was get everything right and be the first kid who finished. While that allowed me to skate through 3rd grade, it didn’t do me many favors later in life when I actually had to study or learn new skills. I thought any evidence of a struggle meant that I was an idiot. Young Me was harsh AF. Perfection was the goal, and if I didn’t nail it on the first try, I instantly jumped to the conclusion that I was a complete failure. Have you ever felt that way about yourself?

If you read my first post for ASBX, you learned how “Nobody Cares” became a touchstone for me to move past fear and perfectionism during the writing process. I received another excellent piece of advice that day related to this story.

The story describes a pottery class where one half of the class was instructed to make perfect pots. The other half was instructed to make as many pots as they could. At the end of the semester the students entered their best pot into a contest. Overall, the students who made the most pots also tended to make the best pots. In essence: Want to get good at something? Do the thing. Again and again. As much as you can. Aim for the practice. The product. The making. That is the goal. Perfection MAY BE a byproduct. Maybe.

Wait: Do you mean this might take work? I can’t simply sit down and watch the magic pour forth onto the page?  There might be missteps and frustration and straight-up garbage ideas along the way? That’s the message? Why would anyone do this?

Then, the same message arrived in my tea cup. (In case you were wondering, yes I do, on occasion, take guidance from the sayings on tea bags.) I couldn’t ignore this one: “You don’t manifest epic projects without bowing deeply to your daily grind.” What the shit? Now my tea was telling me to practice? FINE. Message received.

For most of my life, nothing sounded like a bigger drag than practicing. But now I know that the more you practice, the more fun you have when you are doing the thing. The kinder you are to yourself when things don’t go as planned. The more easily you can hear feedback because you don’t have so much invested in your precious, perfect creation.

When I think about perfectionism now, all I can see is the fear behind it. Furthermore, I cannot think of a more absurd concept to apply to creativity. Someone please bring me a perfect piece of art. I’ll wait. [insert nail-polish emoji]

Perfectionism does not want me to embrace the inherent messiness involved with creating. It tries to convince me I’d be satisfied with a life where I never created anything but at least I never made a fool of myself. What’s it gonna be, Mara? Repression or self-expression?

To some degree, I will probably always battle perfectionism, but it is rapidly losing ground to the rhythm of practice. Much like that pottery class, practice is showing me that at best I might make something worthwhile, maybe even great, and at worst I am learning and getting better and getting braver. There is no downside.

We’re all in this together, Soapboxers. I’m interested to hear from you. Leave a comment or email us at artistsoapbox@gmail.com .

‘Til next time!

-MT

Hear Mara on Episode 001 of Artist Soapbox. Read her testimonial here.

Mara Thomas is a Durham-based playwright, actor, musician and teaching artist. Her newest original theatre piece, YES TO NOTHING, was commissioned by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concernand played to raving crowds at music venues in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham in fall 2017.

2 thoughts on “Make more pots (Mara Thomas, ASBX blog post 002)”

  1. Pingback: Comparisons Part I (Mara Thomas, ASBX blog post 003) – Artist Soapbox

  2. Pingback: Writing the perfect MONKEY (Mara Thomas, ASBX blog post 012) – Artist Soapbox

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Artist Soapbox

Artist Soapbox is a platform for original scripted audio fiction and an opportunity for artists to discuss their creative work in their own voices. We do this through our interview podcast, our blog, and original audio dramas.

Artist Soapbox is an anti-racist organization. We believe Black Lives Matter. In addition, as a podcast production company, ASBX has signed the Equality in Audio Pact on Broccoli Content.

Artist Soapbox is more than just a podcast.

We lead writers groups, accountability support, workshops, and events. We produce and create audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Declaration of Love, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

Audio Dramas

IG-Size-The-New-Colossus-Gull-Photo

The New Colossus

The New Colossus Audio Drama is a totally unhinged dark comedy reboot of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, THE SEAGULL.

MASTER BUILDER300

Master Builder

This audio drama was adapted from Tamara’s 2018 stage play produced by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and inspired by Henrick Ibsen’s classic, The Master Builder published in 1892.

DOL-logo

Declaration of Love

Co-producers Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane of Artist Soapbox commissioned eleven NC playwrights to craft short audio scenes based on the prompt “Declaration of Love.”

ASBX-shorts-1

ASBX Shorts

ASBX Shorts are six short audio fiction pieces created and produced by North Carolina artists. Artist Soapbox Shorts were specifically contributed by the artists to aid in fundraising and to get everyone excited about Jesus Pancake, our new audio fiction series in development.

Scroll to Top