By Tex Thompson
Striving scriveners. Intrepid introverts. Fellow fearless fictioneers. I am so honored to write for Writers in the Storm today. I’ve recently enjoyed a ridiculous near-death experience that I think may help you make a serious, profound change (in your life or in your work) … and funnily enough, it involves actual writers in an actual storm.
The event we call Writers in the Field came from a simple idea: a thirteen-acre, mostly-outdoor annual weekend experience where writers can actually make, use, handle, and DO the things they’re writing about. We shoot bows and arrows, work mock crime scenes, handle horses, study ballistics and poisons, try on period garments and armor – the whole nine yards.
It was fantastically successful during its first year in 2017, and we were so excited to bring out even more experts and hands-on sessions in 2018. We worked hard on it all year long, promoted and planned it for months on end, and… well, you know how announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh?
Yeah – He busted a gut all over us. We got over a foot of rain in 24 hours. Rivers of mud. Flooded roads. Just an absolutely Biblical deluge.
Y’all, I was sure we were sunk (especially after the food truck fell in a ditch and blocked the entrance). I was SURE we would have to cancel, refund, and go bankrupt.
And then the most amazing thing happened.
A writer wandered up to the ticket booth and said “is this where we check in?”
And then another two. And then a group of three. A dozen more. A hundred more. They were streaming in, y’all – parking out on the main road and hiking a quarter-mile in the mud and the pouring rain. And they were READY.
We couldn’t believe it. It was the most incredible thing. And even as we frantically cancelled, swapped, postponed, and slapdash-surgeried our Saturday schedule around every new contingency, the writers joyfully took in everything we offered – and started engineering novel experiences of their own.
‘Foot selfies’ became a hot thing. So did full-body mud-shots. And as our grounds crew tamped down straw-and-branch walkways and ditch-witched cars out of the muck, the last thing they expected was an eager note-taking audience.
And then the tornado hit… but that’s another story.
And that’s when the light bulb came on, y’all. That’s when the big idea hit. I realized that my job was never to control or dictate what kind of experience writers would have at our event. My job was to offer them a place where they COULD have a new experience.
I’ve come to all sorts of conclusions since then. About what a joy it is to discover your own resilience, and how deeply our under-brains are stimulated by the raw and natural world, and (paradoxically) how much less fragile we feel whenever we escape the rut of our daily lives. More than anything, though, I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves or someone we love is a place where new experiences are possible.
After all, that is literally the core of the Hero’s Journey, isn’t it? Powerful, transformational change only happens once we leave our ordinary world behind… even if only for a few hours. And you don’t need a capital-E event in order to treat yourself to a singular, electrifying, inertia-smashing change of scenery. They’re literally all around us.
Three thoughts, then:
That’s the thought I’d like to leave you with. You have already weathered every storm that’s come your way – but even more wonderful things can happen when you willingly venture out to meet them.
So What do you think? Have you ever survived an experience to take something very different away from it than you planned?
Arianne "Tex" Thompson was once described as "an explosion of 52 enthusiastic kittens latching onto everything at once." In addition to writing the 'Children of the Drought' epic fantasy Western series, Tex is the founder and 'chief instigator' for WORD - Writers Organizations 'Round Dallas. When she's not leading the charge at home in Dallas, Tex brings her particular brand of 'red-penthusiasm' to conferences, conventions, and workshops all over the country - as an egregiously enthusiastic, endlessly energetic one-woman stampede. Find her online at The Tex Files!
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Oh my gosh, Tex, what an experience! Just reading about being in charge when disaster strikes THAT bad gave me hives! But I'd have loved to have been there (not in charge) what an amazing event for authors! Give us a link to the website so we can check it out more, will you?
Thank you so much for inviting me to write, Laura - it is an honor and a treat!
And sure thing - it's http://www.writersinthefield.com, and we are doing it again in October this year - rain or shine or "other"!
Love everything about this. What the retreat was supposed to be and what it turned out to be. Great stuff. Worthy of a novel I think. Thanks for sharing.
What an epic experience you folks had! I realize what I weenie I am. Hate wet feet. Guarantee good weather and I'll be there! 🙂
What an experience. Love your statement - "I realized that my job was never to control or dictate what kind of experience writers would have at our event. My job was to offer them a place where they COULD have a new experience." and "I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves or someone we love is a place where new experiences are possible." I'm working on a conference now and dealing with the fear of failure. Reading your post has really helped. Glad everyone was safe and sound.
I <3 this post so much! Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!
Amazing! If you think about CSIs and other LEOs have to deal with this all of the time. How do you preserve a crime scene when Mother Nature isn't on your side? What a perfect way to learn in a real world situation.
"Radical changes in behavior happen with radical changes in environment." So true, Tex. Especially when that new environment brings mega-physical discomfort or fear. Thanks for the wake-up call reminder, Tex!
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This post has given me so much to think about. Thank you!!
Wow, what a time y'all had! But going through difficulty together can often forge bonds more strongly. And I'm sure the group learned firsthand how you can use setting to challenge their characters on the page! Thanks for sharing about this, Tex. (And Writers in the Field sounds awesome!)
I have never had to survive an act of God for a turnaround, but I've had other life circumstances which impacted me.
We're having issues with nesting comments, all. Tex has tried to respond to everyone - just didn't want you to think she was ignoring you! Sorry to you, and Tex. We'll get these bugs chased down!
What Laura said! Thank you SO MUCH for all your lovely words and enthusiasm, y'all. I was a little nervous about writing this, and I am so happy that you found it valuable. Please let me know if we can ever sweet-talk you down to Texas for the sequel - last year was 'mud', so this year we're thinking 'jello' 🙂
Tex, your post reminded me of a time I was a Girl Guide leader (in Canada) at a training session. In typical Vancouver Island fashion, it poured buckets the entire time, and one of our tasks was to start a fire outdoors, and make some tea on it. Only two matches allowed. Unlike your group, we were prepared with foul-weather clothing, but starting a fire in the rain takes talent! Yet, we managed using crumbs of dried resin from the abundant fir trees. That resin is like a miniature firecracker. If anyone had told me I'd participate in such an event, and have a great time, I would have told them they were nuts and I was staying indoors with a blankie, a book, and some hot chocolate. I've since used the knowledge I gained there in some of my writing. Thanks for sharing your excellent story!