Boredom and Practice

After doing a bisque firing a few days ago, today I started putting wax on the bottom of all the pots to prevent glaze from sticking to the kiln shelf. This is tedious, yet exacting work and my mind started wandering to thoughts of “Isn’t there an easier way?” “Why do we have to do the same thing over and over again?” “Let’s go hike in the woods” and other versions of boredom thoughts. The best moments were those where I quieted my thoughts and just stroked the wax nice and evenly.

Then I looked over at the stack of mugs yet to be waxed and saw the value of practice. There on the shelf was a consistent batch of mugs. Not perfect by any means, yet certainly more uniform than any batch before it. As I waxed the bottoms of these mugs, my learning over the years was evident. After many experiments, the base was just right. The applied stamp was consistent and looked smooth and even. No longer did it look like a 5-year old applied it. The shapes were balanced and pleasing. The handles mostly looked the same and fit comfortably in the hand.

MugsFeb2015

Practice is such an interesting concept. In order to master anything, one must be willing to do the same thing over and over again. It may feel like useless repetition. It may be boring. Improvements are measured in millimeters or milliseconds. Yet this is the work of mastery. It’s not always new and fun. It’s discipline. It’s a different sort of learning than the true beginner, where you have the permission to be really bad at something.

This is refinement. And this is where people get stuck. The mind says “You’ve got this” or “That’s good enough” or “Try something new”. There is nothing wrong with those thoughts in and of themselves. However, if you move on, it’s a choice to stay at the same level. If you want to be better, get ready for boredom and practice.

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