I remember a speaker at a writer’s conference, mucho years ago, telling us not to limit ourselves to one genre of speaker. If we write science fiction, go sit in on a workshop given by a romance writer. If we are an adult mystery writer, listen to an author of young adult literature. I found her advice very interesting. I also read outside my box (genre), sometimes randomly picking books from the library shelf or eShop. I have researched poisonous snakes of Brazil, and toilets of the middle ages, and land-locked U.S. Navy bases which GPS their trees. We have moved enough for me to have learned and several experienced different cultures and humor in many states, including internationals.
While I was working as a long-term substitute teaching the other year, I found myself at a school where white boards (don’t even mention black boards) were obsolete, and everything was taught via computer and workbook page projection through ceiling attachment. I had a lot to learn at that school, not about student behavior, nor about subject matter, nor about teaching in general from years of past experience, but about communication and presentation to the students. In fact, for the first several weeks teaching there, I wasn’t informed of meetings or even school-wide assemblies because my email wasn’t part of their daily staff system.
On the first second day, I asked my next-door teacher and grade team leader (in her third year of teaching) how to use the classroom equipment. She told me to ask the teacher across the hallway (in her second year of teaching) who was the equipment expert. I was substituting for a maternity leave teacher after six months of teaching. The equipment expert across the hall told me she just played around with it until it did what she wanted. I asked her more specific questions, which she couldn’t answer. I asked her to show me. When she came to my room, the expert informed me my equipment wasn’t the same as hers, and left. I went back to the team leader and asked for a manual. The team leader said she didn’t know of any, then informed me that it was good for old people to learn new things, that it kept them alert with new streams flowing in their brains. I really wish that slapping were still a viable means of communication, put that is so passe. Instead, I just stood facing her with my mouth opened, trying not to drool – like old folks do – then went back to my classroom and figured it out on my own.
Well, I’m off now to research different forms of nuclear energy and waste for a book I’m revising. I also feel the need to find out more about rose-breasted grosbeaks who have visited our yard this past week for the first time ever. (Merely curious.) Later, I’ll mow our lawn with our new manual push lawn mower – a very, very, very cool green machine – which I assembled the other day, before going for a run, showering, and singing and playing guitar at a health care facility.
Learn new things. Experience new places. Meet and talk with people unlike yourself. File away encounters for future references. And KEEP ON WRITING.