The Great Pottery Throw Down

I’ve fallen in love with the Great Pottery Throw Down.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a pottery version of the Great British Baking Show. It’s got all the elements you’d expect: ribald puns, diverse UK accents, creations both whimsical and twee.

But that’s not why I love it.

I love it because it celebrates amateurs.

I know that word has negative connotations to American audiences. We say something is amateurish as a way of calling it rough or unpolished. We use amateur as an insult, implying a lack of experience or motivation.

But that’s not the way I’m using it. And it’s not what the contestants on the pottery throw down are. I mean, there are folks that first picked up clay eighteen months before going on the show, sure. But there’s also people on there who have been throwing all their lives, with decades of experience. And they’re really good! They just never made a living at it.

That’s the real line that separates amateur from professional. It’s not the quality of the work. It’s not the dedication to the craft. It’s simply whether you earn money doing it.

There’s a lot of reasons a contestant might not have “gone pro” with their pottery. For some of them, it’s confidence, a lack of faith in their work that would allow them to put it (and themselves) out there (seeing some of the contestants cry when the judges praise their work, like it’s the first time anyone’s said something good about it, makes me choke up, too). For some, it’s a lack of time: they’re too busy taking care of ailing family members (or children) to be able to launch a career in pottery. For many, it’s a matter of money, because it takes a good deal of it to be able to quit your job and shift into something else.

It reminds me of writers, and how many of us (myself included) often don’t feel like “real” writers if we’re not doing it full time. Or if we’re not writing novels. Or if we’re not selling every story we write.

And I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We can be just as dedicated to our work, and just as exacting, just as precise with our editing polishes, if we’re producing it early in the morning before the day job starts, as any full-time author. It might take us longer, sure, but it’s the same craft, using the same tools. We can be, we should be, just as proud of the results.

So if you’re not writing for a living, embrace it! Embrace the freedom that comes with being an amateur, with being able to write what you want and then stick it in a drawer or try to sell it or just send it out to friends and family for their enjoyment.

Take the craft seriously, not the career. Maybe the career will come, maybe it won’t. But it’s the same act of writing that runs through it all, and it’s that act we can always work to improve, no matter our status.