Artist's Lane: ‘Don’t force the river’


By Betty Slade

PREVIEW Columnist

After a virtual leadership meeting, one of the board members said, “Don’t force the river.”

I hadn’t heard that term before. Apparently, it’s an old country saying. 

Our weekly writers’ group has been very successful in building an online network. We now include writers from six different states.

How far do we want to extend our boundaries? Do we want to continue meeting outside of our customary four walls post-virus? 

A guest speaker from New Mexico gave a presentation recently. We have others scheduled, including agents and publishers. Virtual technology has given us the ability to reach outside of Pagosa in a way we didn’t know we could.

As we come out on the other side after being shut in, I asked, “What will things look like? Have we changed? Did any of us grow from the time spent in isolation?”

For me, I almost feel like I have been placed in a box that has reduced in size. Not because I have been sequestered away from the world, but because I am experiencing my passion in life on a much larger stage.

When all is said and done, do we go back to the same familiar classroom setting? What about those who opened us up to things we didn’t know we were missing. We have welcomed people in from home offices around the country.

I have enjoyed experiencing dialogue from a wider body of writers. The virtual world has allowed me to meet and learn from industry professionals and fellow laptop authors alike. 

We all know the phrase, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” So, does that mean that when we come out of our houses, that we go back to how it used to be? 

My writers’ group is asking this same question. Do we continue to use technology to expand our opportunities? There are some who want to continue building on where we are today. For others, the thought scares them. We have had our fun, but it is time to go back to where we were, where we are most comfortable. 

I asked the writer who made the comment, “What is our next step?”

“Why do we need to take the next step? Why can’t we grow organically? Let the needs of the group move us forward.”

In my younger days, we used a lot of Miracle Gro to get the job done. Whether it was to force grow the biggest tomatoes or encourage a late bloomer. As far as that goes, whether we were trying to increase church membership or find a way to bring community together, we followed the same process. Make some noise, then watch things grow. Isn’t that what it means to be organic?

I was compelled to look up the definition. It said as elements of an organized whole — gradual or natural development.

Life is unfolding before my eyes. What I didn’t know yesterday, I am clinging to, with an anticipation for what I may learn today. But had I become someone who would row a boat against any tide, just to feel like I was moving? Yes. 

Had I become restless with allowing a current to move me to where it wants me? To let that happen sounds like drifting aimlessly. But it’s not. There is no reason that we can’t adjust our focus as we move in a natural direction. There is also nothing wrong with pulling out the paddle to push ourselves beyond where we are. 

So, what happens next? Will we see people running from their houses to get back to where they were just a few short months ago? I imagine that there will be those who never look back, while others find a comfortable balance that they didn’t know they needed. 

Final brushstroke: My writers’ group has evolved, although we still don’t know where tomorrow will take us. But that is OK. There are conversations we are having, that we never knew we would. I think about families who are sitting down for dinner again or going for walks off the beaten path together. Tomorrow doesn’t have to create confusion, it just needs to remind us that potential develops, if we take time to let it grow. 

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