When we were first married, my husband would constantly wonder how in a nanosecond I could change the topic of conversation to something completely unrelated to our discussion. In fact for awhile, I had to explain my train of thought and how it flew from point A to point B. Now he just accepts that there is a logical path in my head even if it doesn’t make sense to him. So if you’ll stay with me until the end of this post you’ll see how this story relates to the rest of the post.
Currently, I’m reading, That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind In The World It Invented And How We Can Come Back by columnist Thomas L. Friedman and foreign policy thinker Michael Mandelbaum. This book invades my thoughts at the most random times, like folding laundry or lying in bed and even sometimes while I’m in the shower. I’d like to pretend that these thoughts are deep and introspective and spur me to action, but instead they quickly lead me to compare it with writing. (Yep this is where the above story fits in.) So, today, I’d like to discuss how this book relates to us as writers.
There is a chapter titled “Ignoring our problems” where the authors write about four core problems. They argue that the future of our nation will be determined by the way we address these issues. While matching the kids socks, I thought about these four areas and (see above story) realized that in my book I’ve ignored several key problems and yes the future of my book does depend on how I choose to resolve them. In fact, they are the areas that I’m now focusing on.
In the first four pages of the book they discuss that people have sort of gotten used to it. They illustrate this with the story of a 2.5 million square foot convention center built in China in eight months, including giant escalators in each corner. Then they discussed the repairs of an escalator in the Washington D.C. Metrorail subway station that had been under repair for nearly six months. They investigated why it was taking so long and were told that “the mechanics need 10-12 weeks to fix each escalator. It was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each.” The authors wondered why nobody was screaming about this since it was causing major pedestrian traffic jams and someone said that they thought people were just use to it. When I thought about this, I’ll spare you the location, I wondered in what ways are my characters apathetic? Should they be reacting? Because of this, I’ve made more notes on places for improved action/reaction.
The last point that came to me while running was that Americans have lost our confidence, we expect China to be better than us, which again can be applied to writing. How many times do we compare ourselves to other authors and then become discouraged? The discouragement for me often leads to me doubting whether I’m just wasting my time writing. Well, maybe that other author is better than us, but that shouldn’t stop us from being the best possible writer we can become.