Are you familiar with the concept of “kintsugi”? It’s an ancient Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery. Through an elaborate process involving lacquer and powdered gold, the pot is repaired and the cracks are accentuated with the powdered gold. This concept has become a metaphor for people when they feel broken or are enduring difficult times. It’s a great reminder that life is beautiful during the tough times and the good times and to love the journey. Also, the challenges we face make us unique and also beautiful. It’s a great concept and one that I take comfort in.
I first learned about kintsugi on Pinterest a few years ago when I found the below image (apologies to the originator. When I found it, there were no attributing text or features. If this is yours, please let me know and I will credit you!), though I didn’t know what it was called then. I was already deep into world building my next project and this concept simply stuck with me and I knew I wanted to incorporate somehow into my story. Even better, my main character was a sculptor and artisan, so the concept fit very nicely into the world I was creating. You can read about Rina and how kintsugi (though I don’t reference it by this name name in my novel. Instead it simply operates as a function of pottery making and a metaphor for the characters) made a difference for her when she was feeling broken and how relying on this concept gives her strength in my latest novel, published in 2019, NightWind. You can see on the cover how the artist even incorporated the gold into the title text. Love it!
I haven’t thought about kintsugi in a while. But, then a good friend of mine tagged me on Instagram this week, alerting me to the fact that someone had written a self-help book orchestrated around kintsugi called Kintsugi: Finding Strength in Imperfection by Celine Santini. It was exciting to see someone else bringing this concept into a book in a creative and thoughtful way. And, of course, it being the beginning of a new year and decade, self help is in the marketplace and on people’s minds. I haven’t read or purchased this book, so please don’t take this as a reading recommendation or an endorsement. I have to admit, though, I am tempted to purchase it simply for the sake of the theme.
Now that kintsugi is on my mind again, it has me thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m going next, both in the realm of writing and in my wider life. Unfortunately with writing, you can’t fill the cracks in your work with gold powder. Writing is such a unique art, both visual (in the mind’s eye) and not at the same time. As I think of it more, kinstugi is a great metaphor for the editing process. Like an artisan, we read and reread, write and rewrite, filling in cracks and wholes with beautiful words until we deem the story complete. And even then, the package may be flawed, but it is beautiful and unique and real with those flaws.
We writers are plagued by self-doubt and impostor syndrome and I think kintsugi can help with this, too. Reminding myself that what I create is for my own enjoyment of writing and storytelling, and if people happen to come along for the ride, then all the better. This idea is particularly poignant as I sit on the precipice of new projects trying to decide where to go next. Back to fantasy? Or back to Ancient Greece? I’m character building for both right now until something truly draws me in a solid direction.
As humans, we allow life and invisible expectations to put a lot of pressure on us. Why is that? Life is just life. And my life is not like yours or anybody else’s. That’s easy to say, but hard to put the belief into practice, you know? But, each day, I am learning and growing, filling the cracks with gold and creating my best self and striving for my best work. Wherever I head next, I know that writing will play a part because writing is who I am, and if any cracks come up along the way, I’ll just learn how to fill them in with gold and make them part of my story.