CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I'm drawn to people with lively eyes and a curious spirit. Those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and take risks.
They aren't so easy to find.
Last weekend, one of the workshops I attended at a writers conference was on creativity, how to force more of it into your everyday life. Most of us aren't lucky enough to have jobs that require creative thinking on a regular basis. We push papers or process patients or simply produce, with the most creative part of our day being how to mentally entertain ourselves till we're through.
Although some of that particular workshop's techniques for how to force more creativity would be hard to explain in this space, the nut of it is simple. Something most 4-year-olds know.
You keep asking why.
Ask it enough and you're forced to explore, to step beyond what you already know.
More of the same begets more of the same. It's when you shake things up a little that they get interesting.
The workshop, taught by singer-songwriters Doug and Telisha Williams, stressed the importance of challenging yourself.
"Put yourself in places where you can fail," Doug Williams said. "Failing isn't a bad thing -- it forces you to come up with new ideas, to strategize."
It's not possible to steal second base while keeping one foot on first. You have to make a crazy run for it once in a while or you'll be stuck forever on first.
Risk-taking seemed to be the theme of the conference, as it was the subject of the banquet's keynote speech, given by author Lee Maynard. Maynard has about the liveliest eyes I've ever encountered, perhaps the result of having taken so many risks in his life. Likely more than anyone I've ever known. I suspect he's loved the hell out of them all.
They've polished him so much he shines.
He talked about the importance of pushing ourselves and our writing. Of not taking the easy way out. Of putting ourselves in places that make us uncomfortable. The difference between fear and afraid.