I googled natural resources, and this is what I found . . . materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain, or for your own personal advantage.
I’ve never thought of people having natural resources, but I do, and you do too. As a teacher I used to talk to kids about the things they were good at, their gifts. Their talents. You could also call them natural resources. Here are some of mine.
1. My Background as a Reader and a Teacher: I’ve been reading books since I was a toddler. It was one of the things that helped me start writing. But now I read differently as a writer. I look at books for their characters, their plots, for the way they use words. I’ve always learned new ideas from books, and now they’re my writing mentors.
I’m also a retired teacher. I taught reading, second grade, and inclusion. Those 33 years helped me begin writing. They’ve helped me find ideas that I think kids will like. They also taught me how to teach, and how to learn.
I’ve applied those skills as a writer. I learn from the children’s books I read, from my critique partners, and from listening to my own words. Listening slows my brain down. It lets me hear my mistakes, then correct them. I always listen again – sometimes changes work. Sometimes they don’t. I keep working until I’m happy with the words. Then I move on.
Now I’m working on something that I’m not allowed to revise. It’s a middle grade novel, with lots of chapters. I can’t go back because it’s a black hole that I can’t escape. I know – because I was in one with my ant book, for ten years. The only way forward is to write, run it by my critique partners, make notes on the manuscript, then move on to the next chapter. It’s working! I’m on chapter 5. Woohoo! And, I’m getting better at plotting those chapters!
2. Time: When I was teaching time was my most valuable resource. I never had enough, ever . . . for my classroom, or my family. I always felt torn between them. Then I started writing . . .
I went to Germany to chaperone my high school son and his friends. I found a story I had to write, so I wrote on weekends and snow days, when I had time. Now I’m retired, and I can write all day, seven days a week. Would you believe I discovered there’s still not enough time? That there will never be enough? I try to use it effectively, but I learned again, my best is enough.
Now I have five stories that are agent ready. I also have two I’m working on this year. Another two are sitting in my computer, waiting for me to return. When? When I feel ready to write them. I need to learn more about their plots and characters, and that’s sometime . . . in the future.
3. Organization: This is my key to everything, and teaching helped me embrace it. A friend wanted to plan out the units we’d teach from the first week until the last. I wasn’t sure, but I trusted her, and it worked! The best part – you can see connections across subjects, across disciplines, and, it keeps you moving, especially when you get stuck on a unit.
When you’re a teacher, you also do lesson plans. That means this week, you’re thinking about next week . . . what you want to teach . . . what resources you need to gather. Organization made my classroom go round.
This week you’re also following those plans you made last week, but if you know anything about plans, they never come out the way you imagine. Your class moves faster/slower than your plans. An experiment fails to work, even though you followed directions. One of the skills I learned as a teacher . . . roll with it. Somehow, everything works out in the long run.
I’m glad I found ways to get organized when I was teaching. I use different systems now as a writer. Some take care of my blog/website. Others make sure I move forward with my WIP’s (Work in Progress). I have another to take care of submissions. I may never get that agent . . . that’s out of my control . . . but I’m going to give it a 100% Rinda Beach try, and that’s good enough for me. Your best is all you have to give. (It took me years to learn that.)
4. Revisions skills: Usually when I think of revision, I think of words and sentences, pages and paragraphs. I got a different kind of revision lesson today, and I almost forgot to write tonight’s blog.
Remember that book I’m working on? That I’m not allowed to go back and revise? I just discovered a big boo-boo! I’d forgotten a character. Somehow in my timeline I didn’t see him. Guess what I did?! I went back to chapter 3 and made it chapter 4. The chapter I was working on became chapter 5, and now I have a new chapter 3, about Phillip Livingston. I’m so glad I found him!
And the best part – I get to add Henry Laurens. If you check out The Books I’m reading for Research on my blog, you’ll see Henry. He’s pretty famous . . . he’s the only American who was ever imprisoned in the Tower of London. Have you guessed this story is set during the American Revolution? And the other good thing . . . I have chapter 5 already outlined. When I finish the new chapter 3, I’ll be ready to write 5. The prep work’s already done. Wahoo!
5. Imagination: I didn’t think I was creative when I started teaching, but I learned that I see the world differently. No one else sees it like me, and that effects how I put ideas together, as a teacher, and as a writer.
The idea for Neil Armstrong’s Wind Tunnel Dream came out of that clear tub. It has a few pieces from the wind tunnel Neil built when he was 16. Thousands of people have seen them at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, but I’m the only one who ever put them together, in a story.
I was fascinated with those old parts. Neil made them into a wind tunnel that looked like the Wright Brothers’. But that didn’t make me want to write about them. It was his mother – she never checked the wind tunnel, not until it was finished. Me, I would have watched as Neil put each part together. We’re polar opposites, Neil’s mother and I . That captured my attention. It made me want to write his story.
That’s what happens whenever I find a new idea to write about. Something catches my attention, and I have to check it out. I begin to weave characters and plot ideas together. Eventually a story takes shape, from my imagination, and from story magic.
6. Faith: I believe anything is possible – if I work hard, if I’m persistent, and if it’s meant to be. Back when I was looking for my first job as a teacher, I got a lot of no’s. I didn’t quit. I believed each door that closed, would lead me to the right one. It did!
I believed it was possible to become a writer. I got a lot of no’s, but I found the right door, with Neil. It wasn’t easy, but every time I hit a roadblock, I found a way around it. Best of all I published it in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
It’s been five years, and I have three books out in the world, but I’m not done yet. I have more ideas, more stories to tell. This time I’m looking at traditional publishing. That means finding an agent. Here’s to knocking on a few more doors, and waiting to find the right one.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!