Friday, October 16, 2009

The Raw Material

My daily Bible reading, historical research for my novel and writing studies collided today in one simple image. Clay.  
During the week I finished reading Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Looking like a coloring book, there are many passages highlighted there I plan to revisit. In the section, Keep them Reading, I read about the raw material used to stretch the tension in fiction, sometimes missing in the middle of a story. "Before you can stretch anything, of course, you need the raw material. You don't fashion a clay pot without clay. The clay for a novelist it trouble."
As a visual learner this image grabbed me. From my distant school day attempts to play with clay, I know the possibilities it offers. If you're not happy with what you're making, you can change. Start again completely if you like. But if there's no clay at all, there is nothing to work with. For good writing I need trouble to create and then pull on the tension my characters are experiencing. There is a real purpose to the clay or trouble.

All this clay talk got me thinking about the different materials used in the 1800's for simple household items, such as ceramic bottles and jars. I wondered how much pottery was locally made. I knew a little about the famous Bendigo Pottery company, founded by G D Guthrie, a Scotsman who came to Australia in the 1850's hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields. What he discovered in the ground was of greater value to him than gold, when he realized the clay deposits were perfect for pot making. It didn't take him long to begin production on household items like tall ewer jugs to hold drinks, medicine and tonics, and emulsion jars for chemicals and turpentine. A more recognizable piece, the ceramic water filter, was popular in many homes during the 1880's due to the muddiness of the water supply. G D Guthire may have abandoned his potter's wheel in Scotland but he returned to it with renewed purpose when he saw the potential for a new business venture.

This morning my Bible reading text was from Jeremiah 18:1-5.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD :  "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand." 

I was blessed to remember God also uses clay to tell a story. In this one He is the master craftsman who shapes and works on His children to fashion them according to His purpose, so we can be equipped to serve. He knows what He's doing. He's in control. And just like the writer with her words or the Scotsman with his wheel, God desires the best result.