Friday, May 21, 2010

Visions of farm accidents

For those who didn't know, in addition to being a writer, I'm also an EMT in my hometown. The last week of every month we have training where we learn new skills or review things we know (and quarterly we also have pass-offs of all our skills and the drugs we carry so we can stay current on them). Tonight we were told we were working with the fire department--which usually means we're doing car extrication practice. We work with the guys on the fire department a lot--anytime there's a car accident dispatch calls both departments out together. If there's a structure fire (house, barn, etc), the ambulance goes out to the scene to monitor the firemen between their runs into the house to rip out ceilings and douse flames. And sometimes we even end up treating people who live in the house--but usually we're just badgering the firemen to wait until their blood pressure comes back to a normal range, and forcing them to drink more electrolytes. =)

Tonight, however, we drove out to some farms and learned about extricating people from accidents with tractors and balers and other large equipment. I still couldn't tell you what all of the machines are called, but I got a crash course on what could go wrong on farm equipment. One of the EMTs and her husband--who runs a farm--got some volunteers to get bloodied (with fake blood) up as victims, and put together some fake bodies to take the place of victims who probably wouldn't survive the accidents (no actual people were harmed in the scenarios, though several were really cold from lying on the ground, and any number of clothes were damaged beyond repair).

We went through each scenario discussing what the EMTs injury concerns would be, what the firemen could do to help us, to extricate the patients and solve problems while we cared for the patient. After it was all over, I heard one of the EMTs saying to Lindsey, who put it all together, "Wow, you must have a really twisted brain to come up with all of those situations." I kept the fact that I had been wondering about how I could use one of the scenarios in a story to myself. She didn't need to know how seriously twisted I was, after all.

After Jeff told us that he and three other farmers stood around the baling machine that morning discussion how someone might have an accident with it and not end up dead, I realized farms are a magnet for danger. I could write a real horrific suspense story on one of those places!

Okay, now to the point of all of this (besides the fact that it was just plain fascinating). EMTs have to learn new skills and keep their current skills up to date. In the same way, I need to keep my writing skills honed, and learn new ones all the time. I read Lisa Mangum's new book The Golden Spiral this week and she said in her acknowledgments that in writing her second book, she learned every new book is different. They have to be treated like a different book because what works for one doesn't work for the next one.

Just because I've been to ten or eleven conferences now doesn't mean I've learned everything there is to learn about writing (I learned plenty at the LUW spring workshop last weekend). This is an ongoing process and I can't afford to become comfortable with the same kinds of skills that I've used in the past.

What worked for my first couple of books isn't going to be enough for the next one, and though I can use the skills I've already learned, I need to keep improving, keep searching for better ways to work my craft, better ways to express myself, new and unique ways to kill people off (If there are so many on a farm, just imagine where else you could find a few!).


Jillayne Clements said...

Great point! I completely agree that we need to keep up and improve our writing skills. You should totally do some kind of horror farm novel. How cool would that be?