Back in the spring of 2021, I bought a John Deere 5045 tractor and a 12-foot flex wing bush hog. Had I ever driven a tractor before? No. Had I ever cut large fields of grass with a bush hog? No. Did I have any business buying machinery that I had no idea how to use? Ummm, probably not, but I did it anyway. I had 30-plus acres of field and pasture to mow and care for and I needed to step up to the task.
I’m not a timid person, but a diesel engine, hydraulic lines, and a PTO shaft were far out of my comfort zone. I had no previous experience on which to build my tractor knowledge. I was starting at ground zero. The tractor and bush hog were delivered by the Sales Manager of Tri Green Equipment in Franklin, TN. He drove a hefty pickup truck pulling a long flatbed trailer. His name was Josh. Josh unloaded the equipment and proceeded to tell me how to use it. It was a one-hour lesson on the basics of tractor driving and bush hogging. It was far from complete, but I understood (sort of) what he said. He suggested I drive the tractor to the barn and park it there. I did. He gave me the user’s manuals and left. Later that evening, I poured a glass of wine and read them both in their entirety. I realized I had much to learn.
How do you become proficient at something for which you have little or no previous knowledge? You read about it. You watch YouTube videos. Nervously, I took the tractor and bush hog out for a first mowing session in the north field behind the barn. It’s a rocky, lumpy, bumpy field but I was mowing high and driving very slowly. It took me over 2 hours but I finished the field. I felt like a champion.
I knew I had to conquer the hilly field with the crazy three-quarter turn and slopes. To prepare, I read about tractors flipping backward and flipping sideways and operators being crushed under the machines. It was sobering and I knew I wasn’t quite the champion I thought I was. So, I did something I don’t really like to do. I asked for help. My neighbor in College Grove rode with me on the tractor while I mowed that field, giving me pointers and suggestions about how to handle the slope and angle. I started to understand how to do it.
Over that summer and the following summer, I mowed the hilly field many times, each time gaining a little more insight, a little more confidence. I don’t fear it or have anxiety. I have respect for the equipment and what I’m asking it to do. I also have experience and some data points that allow me to feel secure. I do a very good job, but it wasn’t an instantaneous achievement. It took time. More importantly, it took humility and being ok with not being ok with my knowledge of driving a tractor and bush hog.
We’re often impressed with confidant people, those humans who show their mastery of something in an assured way. I remind myself, though, that confidence comes with the steep price of experience. We can be confident because we’ve conquered the learning curve and given ourselves the gift of time. It works that way with writing, too. A confident writer often has years of effort and fortitude. There were probably successes but I can almost guarantee there were plenty of failures along the way. (Ask me about my failures on the tractor!) That’s how life works.
Confidence in writing goes hand in hand with learning. Here at RWC, we offer learning opportunities in the form of all-inclusive weekend retreats on all sorts of writing-oriented topics. Coming up this fall, we have:
- Sep. 29 – Oct. 1, 2023 — Nurturing the Creative Self: A Weekend of Mind, Body, & Spirit for Writers (a couple of spots left)
- October 6-8, 2023 – Forest Bathing: A Walk in the Woods for Writers (full with a wait list)
- November 3-5, 2023 – Claiming Your Magic: A Retreat for Women Writers (a couple of spots left)
- November 17-19, 2023 — Peace Retreat: For Readers, Writers, & Dreamers (a couple of spots left)
We invite you to come learn with us!