How is one supposed to write a Writing Tips & Resources post tied into natural disasters? Besides being an apt descriptor of 99.9999% of my writing drafts, the tragedy of a natural disaster has very little to do with writing, right?
Well, my work here is done. Stay safe everyone, take care, and I’ll see you for my next STEM Tuesday post in three months!
(STEM Tuesday Voice-Over Narrator: Hays went back to watching college basketball. Again, he’s taken the easy way out and shirked his duties as a STEM Tuesday “expert”. All in favor of banishing him from ever taking another step onto the STEM Tuesday stage, say—)
Wait! Don’t banish me yet. I’ve just had a revelation, albeit a revelation triggered by my favorite team’s upset loss in the tournament and a completely busted bracket. Nevertheless, it’s still officially classified as a revelation.
Natural disasters actually can tie into a Writing Tips & Resources post. How? Let’s pull back and have a look at the big picture.
Natural disasters affect everyone. They can come without warning or they can come as forecast. They come by land, sea, and air. They come in all shapes and sizes, just like writers. There is one thing, however, common to natural disasters. They wreak havoc. Take another look at the excellent book list for Natural Disaster Month. Havoc. Havoc. And more havoc.
Three things a writer of any age can learn from natural disasters.
Modeling & Predicting
There was a news blip from the time period after the worst of Hurricane Katrina had passed and before the 2008 financial crisis. It was the usual politics vs science funding BS that is so frustrating for a basic research scientist. A politician went on a rant about the “wasteful” funding in an appropriations bill about a grant awarded to a scientist at a major Texas university to study using GPS to determine and map exact heights on the earth’s surface. As you can probably imagine, the politician ranted on and on about the sheer stupidity of such an endeavor. If the scientist wanted to know how far something was off the ground, why don’t they just go outside and look at it instead of bloating their budgets with tax dollars?
When the reporter tracked down the research scientist, he explained his research was focused on developing this aspect of GPS technology to better map elevation data. The ultimate goal was to be able to model geographical regions most susceptible to dangerous flooding with specific rainfall patterns. (I wish I could find the source reference but I can’t. I will continue to search for it, though, and post it here if I find it.)
Establishing models by establishing the science. That’s the goal. Better models help explain the world around us. Better models help us to predict the natural world, including natural disasters. The ability to model and predict allows us to stay safer and survive when Mother Nature strikes.
A writer does something similar. They experiment to find out what processes work for them and what doesn’t work. Their individual writing process becomes the model and the model allows them to tell whatever story they want to tell. That’s kind of like a prediction for creating stories that accomplish what the writer wants to accomplish. Janet Slingerland did an exceptional STEM Tuesday In the Classroom post last week that highlights mapping, which is a form of modeling, as a tool.
Planning & Preparation
Being a lifelong resident of tornado alley, we are brought up to plan and prepare for the tornado season. Tornado drills, safe havens indoors and out, supply boxes, and many other preparations are part of everyday life from March to November. We learn to pay attention to the weather report. We learn to know what to do in case of a tornado watch and a tornado warning so when these situations arise, we can be ready.
Planning helps a writer by providing a course of action and a direction. Preparation through practice and learning gives the writer the tools needed to successfully reach that destination. Through planning and preparation, a writer knows what to do when situations arise and is ready to tackle those hurdles.
React & Recover
The cost to humanity from natural disasters is beyond measure. There is no price tag to the emotional, physical, and mental toll a disaster leaves in its wake. However, there is often a sliver of hope that arises from the destruction and chaos. People help each other. Families, households, neighborhoods, communities, nations come together to help each other recover. Out of the rubble springs a new future. Rebuilt and, hopefully, rebuilt better.
Writing is similar. The first draft, and in some of our cases, the second, third, and fourth drafts are often chaos. Havoc on the page. We recover through revision. We revise through community. Writing groups, critique partners, beta readers, etc. all help our writing spring anew from the rubble of an early draft. Just as one would rely on the kindness of a community to recover from a natural disaster, rely on the kindness of the writing community to lift your words.
There you have it. A few ways to learn from natural disasters ways to improve your writing. Never forget, however, no matter how much havoc and chaos exist internally and externally, there’s a great community of writers there for support and encouragement.
Start with one word and then follow with the next word. Repeat.
This is perhaps the best of the whole list of STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resources.
The world needs your story.
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.com. Two of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.
The O.O.L.F Files
Natural disasters are serious business to which a serious amount of STEM both contributes and is advanced. The drive to learn more about natural disasters continues with the ultimate goal of protecting life and limb. This month’s O.O.L.F. Files explores some of these entities and how they work to advance the knowledge base to keep us all as safe as possible.
- From the NOAA About web page:
- “NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.
- From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it.”
- That first line just about says it all! Enriching life through science!
- Due to the increase in the sheer number and severity of disasters and emergencies, FEMA has catapulted to one of the most important federal agencies in coordinating disaster response.
- Uh…where has this site been all my life? I need to jump down this rabbit hole and find out what’s down there.
Managing Fire by the U.S. Forest Service (USDA)
- This month brings the ten-year anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The tragedy is an example of the multi-layered effects of a natural disaster at its worst.
- Chaos by James Gleick
- I recently checked this book out and started reading it. Chaos Theory has been a mind worm since the time I first read Jurassic Park. So far, so good!
“When a butterfly flutters its wings in one part of the world, it can eventually cause a hurricane in another.” – Edward Norton Lorenz
- One of the key figures in the development of chaos theory and its application in meteorology.
- This is a pretty cool article about several historical methods scientists used to fight natural disasters.