The Gift of the Kiln

I was trying to remember the name of the instructor of that play writing course, and I’m pretty sure it was Mark Berman, at least that’s the first name that popped into my head. Somewhere, I’m sure, I have a copy of an assignment with his name on it, but I can’t find any right now.

Anyway, I think it was in the initial class that he told us this story, and I’ve never forgotten it. He was talking about writing plays, and actually writing in general, and how sometimes it’s best not to have too rigid an idea of exactly where you’re going or how you want to get there. Sometimes seemingly by accident a good idea will come from who knows where, and if that happens, embrace it, even if it takes you in a direction entirely different from where you thought you were going.

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So he was telling us about an old Scotsman who was teaching a course in the ancient art of pottery. Or perhaps it was an Irishman, but I seem to recall he used a Scottish brogue. But it’s of no matter.

The eager young student worked diligently on her first piece, and when it was finally ready, she watched as the old man placed it in the kiln. She was beside herself with anticipation, waiting for it to harden, as she had put her heart and soul into it and was certain it would emerge from the kiln as her first of many masterpieces to come.

Eventually the time was right, and the old master removed her finished pottery from the kiln.

But as she examined it, she saw that there was a flaw—the hardening process had exposed what looked like an imperfection on one side of her otherwise perfectly symmetrical piece. Tiny though it was, it seemed to gape at her the longer she looked at it.

When she pointed out the flaw and expressed her disappointment to the old master, he looked at the finished work for a moment, then turned to her and said, “Lassie, that’s not a flaw, that’s the gift of the kiln.”

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