Gathering knowledge is like gathering cattle.
The cowgirl pays attention, not only to the herd, but the other riders, their equipment, and their horses. We have a need to allow newly learned information to soak into our minds as does our colts. Many hands, I learned, makes for a light load. Riding drag produces grit. And when the cattle goes to market, the payoff is big.
That is what a conference does for me. I pay attention to what the speakers and other writers share because what they have to say is going to grow me as a writer. While training horses, a mentor once told me, “Don’t ever think you’ve learned it all. You never will. Always remain teachable.”
Teamwork and a tribe are essential to a person’s success. I don’t know anyone who has truly had success without others to help them along the way. To write alone is like a blank page. Yet when we share what we’ve learned and learn what is shared our creativity kick starts and we drive the cattle forward, we don’t just circle the herd and expect them to move by themselves. It takes many cowboys to drive them to them to market.
At the end of every conference I’ve attended, I notice writers go home, books are started or completed, poems come alive and speak with more passion, and essays give way to powerful messages. And it’s at these conferences that inspiration spreads like a wildfire, giving breath to our stories.
Tips I lassoed along the way:
- Write morning pages. Journaling the junk in our minds clears a pathway to creativity.
- Creativity is most active when we are most original. Leave our critic in the closet and just write. Editing will come later. And know when the critic in your head shows it’s ugly face, it’s a compliment…something good is brewing.
- Humor opens the creativity in our minds. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Always question the source. What was their aim? Biases? Incentives?
- Set aside quiet time for journaling and use the present tense. Breathe. Quiet yourself and allow the creativity to flow (I’m sitting here with a cinnamon scented candle flickering in my vision, listening to a C.D. of flute music from Sky Redhawk I picked up from Santa Fe…from the conference. He played while we ate dinner at an awards banquet.)
- The Write Research: get up, get out, go see, hear, smell, touch, taste, then go down the rabbit trails, you never know where they’ll take you.
- Be prepared for an interview: know your goal. Tell them what you need before showing up. Write down questions ahead of time. Bring supplies: pen, paper, recorder.
- Build rapport with whom you are interviewing. Look them up. Notice their environment. Make them feel comfortable. Care about them.
- People don’t care about what you know until they know you care. ~John Maxwell.
- Listen more than you talk. You can learn a lot by listening. ~Jeannie Guerra.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Don’t fill in the quiet…they will fill it in for you when they expand.
- Ask to see “it”. Or a demonstration. A ride along. Experience “it”.
- Use all the senses in your descriptions.
- Photograph your research.
Every day I drink in the west. ~Margaret Cole.