Outtakes 193


By Cait Collins


I believe in the power of an education. Statistics indicate the person who has a strong academic background, has a better chance of getting a good job and working his way to the top. Writers are continually educating themselves. There’s so much to learn about basics such as grammar, word usage, style, writing business letters, record keeping, tax reporting, and so on. But being a writer requires us to know a little about many subjects. Learning doesn’t all come from books.

Experiencing history, archeology, wildlife, sports and more, allows us to have a new perspective when putting a story together. Now, I’m not careless adventurer. I know my limits and will not take unnecessary risks. That said its fun to try new things.

My husband and I took a trip to Denver, Colorado. We were driving the back roads when we found a little place where you could pan for gold. There were a couple of prospectors who taught the art of panning. I never realized just how heavy a small pan of water and scoops of dirt could be; especially when you’re washing the layers of sediment from the pan. But I learned not only how to find gold dust; I also experienced a bit of what old time miners went through.

You ever heard someone say they’d have to take a gun or maybe a prized possession from his cold, dead hands? Well, I know what they mean. I’ve experienced my hands frozen from hours of dipping a pan in the frigid mountain waters. My fingers cramped around the edges of the pan and would not release. Although I’d only worked a couple or so hours, muscles and joints in my neck and arms screamed from the strain of handling the heavy pan. Mining is real work often with little reward. No matter the pain and exhaustion, you just know the next pan will be pay dirt. I wasn’t ready to leave when my husband suggested it was time to go. I wanted to keep panning; keep looking for a weighable nugget. Reality, a few flakes of gold and small bits of jade and garnets rest in my small bottle. I may not be the best miner, but I know the thrill of seeing the gold glimmer through the course, black sand. I’ve experienced the setbacks and downside of the job.

I am now in a better position to write a miner’s story

Mining is not the only opportunity to learn by doing. Living history days at forts, museums, or historical sites open our eyes to what used to be. Try fly fishing in a mountain stream, camping cowboy style, or being an assistant to a chuck wagon cook. The possibilities are limitless

I would never suggest putting the books away. They are needed to provide back ground information and basic knowledge of the subject. Then we translate what the brain knows to actually performing a task or living the life style, and then we write about the experience.


1 thought on “Education

  1. One of my characters catches a fish and roasts it on a rock next to the campfire. Based on my experience from a two day hike at 10,000 feet in Colorado, I’ll never forget how good that fish tasted. Thanks for reminding us that it’s the little details of experience that can bring vibrancy and imagery to our stories.

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