Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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January 2, 2012

6 Key Lessons I’ve Learned From Horses: The Three T’s - Tools, Techniques & Time

 By D. A. Watt

In my two previous blogs, I covered three other key lessons I've learned from horses; Attitude, Knowledge, and Imagination.

Notice, talent is not included in my title. It’s not about talent; it’s about the three T’s of craft. If you’ve been writing for years, then you’ve got talent. My bet is you’ve received praises for your work, so believe: YOU’VE GOT TALENT!

Now for the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts of the three T’s.


 How are you going to leverage your writing to increase the odds of publication and grow readership?

                 "A Tool is anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose." 

  • In the clumsy hands of a beginner, tools like severe bits, martingales and tie downs (sounds sadistic) can be instruments of torture for the horse.
  • Soft and pliable mecate reins and a rope jaquima (hackamore), instead, combined with hands that learn how to be quick to release, signal that you want to partner with your horse and not force him. Depending on breed and type, my techniques change on the way I use these tools

Are you a pantster, plotter, or hybrid? Combine that with personality type (upcoming blog for our future WITS throwdown) and poof, it’s the real YOU. You’re like no other author, so choose your tools wisely. 

If I don’t want my readers to become barn sour, scrambling for another author’s book, I had better use tools best suited for my writing style.

There are as many tools and methods as there are teachers. Time is limited, so I’m trying not to follow the buzz on the newest, coolest tool. You wouldn’t use a chainsaw to hammer a nail would you?

Whether you like:

  • Hard copy or electronic
  • Stand up desks or sitting on Pi-yo balls in the nude
  • Sunlight with or without windows, or dark rooms
  • caffeine, chocolate, booze, cigars, sugary snacks, go for it, but try for good health and safety.

I like sunlight and writing outdoors, recall patterns and drawing pictures, Excel spreadsheets and drinking hot tea.  

I’ve tried Storyboarding, Carolyn Green’s Prescription for Plotting, Cherry Adair’s Plotting with Post it© notes to name a few. Here’s an example of storyboarding and using Post it© notes from M.E. Anders. Hyperlinking is my best friend for keeping track of research and internet links which I also may embed in my work.  

Technique is the manner and ability with which an artist employs procedures or methods to affect a desired result.  

Riding is not a matter of kicking to go and pulling back the reins while yelling “Whoa.” It’s about technique which has all to do with feel, timing and balance.  The horse is the best technique teacher of all (like your readers).

If your horse is blinking he’s thinking, and if he’s licking his lips he’s digesting a thought and if his ears are turned different ways, then he’s wondering what’s next.

Don’t you want your readers chewing and blinking and anticipating with “all ears,” and asking, “What’s next?"

To help become a more balanced rider, Pat Parelli, known for Natural Horsemanship, insists that riding a unicycle is the single best tool to develop balance in the saddle. I’d rather practice standing one-legged yoga poses like Eagle Pose, Tree Pose, and Warrior III to improve my balance. Sitting on the mat, I lean back into the V pose, a classic abdominal pose to help find my balancing point in the saddle, and great for grueling sit-ups.

Have you found your balance point?

Do you know the difference between your work and others within your genre? Technique is like second hand gold, even if it’s been done a zillion times before, it’s still as good as new.

Gertrude Stein says the purpose of a story is,

“In the end, they liked each other.”  

The techniques used shape your voice, and make you UNIQUE even if the outcome of your story is “they liked each other.”

Technique; the way you employ standard operating procedures to get the job done truthfully, respectful of who you really are (and not a reproduction of a best selling novelist) brands you.

 It’s your signature. Just think of your favorite author, musician, artist, actor, and their voice, their brand.  

Last but not least, TIME is of the essence and rapidly dwindling for everyone. Putting in the time it take to take the time to publish requires persistence and tenacity. Because of my personality type, I struggle with time management. I’ve finally accepted being enthusiastic about most things, loving many things and wanting to do all those things well.

We all make choices, mine are not always best for the writing life. Today, I went mountain biking, and tomorrow I will horseback ride again in the creek or perhaps the back hills. My family of six takes priority over everything, and I work at the local college. I work hard and play hard, and find sitting in one place difficult, so I use tools that work for me, like standing at a podium when I type or break for hard core push ups, V-crunches and some yoga moves, and I continue to write. 

I’m an atypical writer, but who isn’t?

And I’m finally at a place where I’ve gleaned lots of wisdom from others and new methods appear redundant. I’m still open to learn, but realize it’s time to write my stories. 

Stephen King’s essay on "Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully - in Ten Minutes” is worth reading, so click here, read this, and then WRITE. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . . they rode off into the sunset, and “in the end, they liked each other.”

0 comments on “6 Key Lessons I’ve Learned From Horses: The Three T’s - Tools, Techniques & Time”

  1. Your posts correlating horses to writing are spot on! As a writer and a rider, I can sure use your key lessons for both. Thanks for the core/balance exercises, too. My two loves in one blog - horses and writing!! Cool!!

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