Jon Schmidt | Episode 675
Jon Schmidt is back on the show to give us an update on his life and to talk about his new book, Practical Pottery. And the amazing thing is that while we were talking we looked up his book and found out that his book is a best seller on Amazon… and he had no clue that this had happened!
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When you were first asked to write a book and you were given the title Practical Pottery, how did you narrow it down and get it to a very specific topic?
I just really spent a lot of time introspectively thinking about what I personally have to offer that maybe hasn’t been done before. And then I was pretty methodical about making sure that I had a good outline. I can write a book about how to set up a studio. This is the third studio that I’ve had and I kind of know what I like and what I don’t like and what works for making practical pottery likes mugs and plates and bowls and stuff. Because the main draw is let’s talk about functional pottery, things that people are going to use in their kitchen, not as much sculptural artistic things, let’s talk about the practical, the functional stuff. I think coming up with a really good outline where I felt like I could go a little deeper into each of those topics. Like how to set up a studio, tools to use, and there’s even a part in there: What are the steps to even think about starting. Go watch some YouTube videos like Jon the Potter. Try to go to the local studio and get in a class. If you could find a local potter that might need help as an intern. So there’s kind of like ten steps that if you don’t even know where to start, start thinking about this in this order and then the last one is build your own studio. Because everyone knows that getting a studio is pretty expensive. My theory would be you need to have a place to sell your work before you start thinking about buying your own stuff.
So does that mean you literally sat down and made an outline for the book first.
Yep. And it changed but I feel like feeling really confident about the outline, feeling confident about my ability to write the outline that I started with I think was a super important part for me.
Did you set a specific writing schedule for the week?
I didn’t. My personality is super non-structured. Like basically, if I had no family I would work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So my family kind of sets a schedule for me. So I try to be done work around 4 or 5. The book was important and I get the important things done that are important to me and the book was important to me so I found time to do that. And it wasn’t like I needed to do it every day but there was times when I have to write for three hours today or it just has to get done. So, Yeah, I am just a super unstructured person. I don’t love a lot of structure in my life. I feel kind of contained if I feel like there are things I have to do all the time. When you look at my calendar I may have one thing on it every week. This interview with The Potters Cast is my one thing on the calendar but I am working all the time. So that’s the way that I work best, to have no structure. That’s why I need other people to do things like publish a book.
So you didn’t set a daily word count, or a specific writing place saying this is my writing spot?
No. I mean, in my studio I have my computer set up and I have my notebook and when I felt like writing and I needed to write, I did. But yeah, there was no structure for me.
Did you give yourself any deadlines saying, On this date I am going to have this chapter done?
I would, yeah. And that’s where the publisher really helped too. He would kind of see where we were at and I would throw everything at him and he would kind of reflect off me and say, Okay, I see that you want to get this outline done, let’s try and have these two things done by this date. So then I would get them done and he would say, Okay, Let’s work on this and this. So it was really helpful to have my editor, my publisher who was kind of keeping me on track and making sure what was having to get done was getting done.
Did you have a word count you were trying to hit? A minimum and a maximum?
You know what. No. We didn’t. We didn’t have a word count but I had a word count at the end that I cannot remember what it was, and he told me a range of how the How To books were typically and we ended right in that range. So it was good. But there was not a set goal.
So as you wrote, you got feedback?
Yes, every time I wrote a chapter my publisher and editor would read it and then within a day he would send me feedback back. He would give me recommendations for things that I could change if I wanted ad then a lot of times I would change those things and then at the end of it they ran it through their approval readers and editors to make sure everything was grammatically correct. Yeah, but during the whole process I was constantly getting feedback on everything.
How hard was it too rewrite?
I’m not that great at it. I never really saw myself as that much of a writer. I could get into this kind of flow state or whatever where I would turn out something and I would re-read it and think, That was actually pretty good. So there were definitely periods in this practical pottery book that I was just kind of writing and I felt like it was really good and sometimes that would happen with rewriting too. He would come back and say, Let’s dive a little deeper into this section, and I would add to it. He didn’t ask me to rewrite too much which was really cool.
My last question for you is: What was your favorite part of the book to write?
Honestly, I think that beginning part, like the first ten to fifteen pages of the introduction, why I love pottery, and kind of my story and how I got into it. That was definitely the part that I felt the most…it just kind of flowed out of me more than some of the other things. That was just the most fun to write. To tell how all the pieces fell into place for me to get into clay, it’s just a great story and I love telling it. So it’s fun to tell it in book writing and have it out there in a published, best-selling way now.