So ch-cha-changes, they are a double blade knife to be sure. One of the weaknesses made painfully clear during my critique session at Viable Paradise (Thanks Patrick) is that change always costs something. In the case of the manuscript we were discussing there has been significant societal upheaval in the world. Major shifts in the balance of power, the concentration of wealth and a world which has been in a state of cold war with off and on brief periods of going hot for decades. All of this going on and yet, I never really revealed it in my story. I would like to claim that it was all there, but really, it wasn’t. I had simply not considered a whole palette of colors in the canvas of world building.
What happens to the weak, the marginalized, those either unable or unwilling to adjust to the changes of the new world? Where are those who are the losers in the new world? I had simply missed the concept.
Here is the challenge for me. I have a very good life, indeed a blessed life. I have also had a life filled with more than it’s share of horrors and loss. I am not asking you as the reader to feel sympathy for me. I would change nothing, it has made me who I am. What it does however make me realize is that who we are creates “blind spots” in our perception of the world. An example is being a white male I am often oblivious to subtle sexism or racism around me. It is not that I find it acceptable, it is simply not something I can see without moving out of my normal cognitive awareness.
This kind of thing actually horrifies me. What is it that is going on around me I am missing? What do my assumptions do to limit my ability to perceive reality? It is like a form of blindness.
What we do not see limits the range of our writing and the scope of our story telling. What is worse is that it colors the very language we use and the metaphors and analogies we consider. I am not one to avoid vulgarity or crude language and humor. I rather enjoy it. It however, is an excellent example of this kind of blindness. The kinds of vulgar words we choose imply a bias to our thinking. An example might be young men who use “Fag” as a derogatory term with other young men. If you cornered them on it and asked if they were homophobic they might disavow any such behavior, and in the conscious moment mean it. Their use of language implies there is potential subconscious bias for which they are unwilling to admit to themselves, or ashamed to admit.
I am sure we are all guilty of these things to some degree, we are all the products of up bringing, culture and lifestyle, but the fact that as a writer we must try to over come that bias and see the world, or the world we create in our own minds clearly, or accept they will be warped by our own bais… I find it maddening. What a massive challenge, to move beyond yourself and achieve a state where clarity allows your writing to tell the truth.
I am not sure about the rest of you, but I am still fighting for that clarity.
(Free dick jokes tomorrow…)