Has anyone else noticed that we’re living in a culture of “now?” My daughter will often say something at home to the effect of: “Mommy, I’d like to learn to knit.” Typically, my response would be, “that sounds like a fun idea.” She will then reply with, “I want to learn now.” And when she says now, she means that instant. She actually expected that I would go find my knitting needles wherever they lurked in our storage closet (I once knitted in college with a roommate) and start showing her ‘the ropes.’
This isn’t a one-time expectation either. I often find myself trying to untangle a web my daughter has woven around me. She asks to do something, and it’s not a statement for later. She expects me to get up that instant and “make it so.” I’ll be the first to admit that some days I can be a little slow to start. However, typically she’s trying to get me to do something “now” when I’m already in the middle of something… like book editing or writing or reading (three of my favorite things!).
My daughter is 11 years old. She does not have a Facebook page account, but she does play on the internet. She also just got a phone! And let’s be honest, searching for answers on the web gives them instant answers. No more index cards. No more book glossaries to find the page number where the topic I want is located and then slowly flipping over to page 65, oops flipped to page 67, couple more licks of the finger and flip and there! My answer! That is not the case anymore. It’s now an easy search-engine answer. Find: Knitting. *Click* Multiple links appear like magic.
So I can understand why my daughter is constantly asking to do something “now.” She’s being trained that if she wants something, she can click a website and find out the answer. This too easily translates into home life. If she wants to learn something from me, she expects it to be done now. Why wouldn’t she think like this?
My response, usually eliciting groans of frustration, is: “I’m sorry, darling, but a skill like knitting is going to take time.” *Insert pre-teen groan of eternal suffering* But the reality is that it’s not a quick “here’s what you do, here are the needles, have fun!” It takes work, dedication, and perseverance. Does reality have a homepage on the internet? Pretty sure it doesn’t.
When I was working on my first novel, there were times I felt frustrated when stuck in writer’s block or when there was a plot point I had difficulties resolving. Sometimes I just wanted to call it quits for a few months. However, there was a VeggieTales skit that kept running through my head about perseverance. The skit was a silent film about a piano delivery man trying to hike a piano up a ginormous flight of stairs. And when I began to get frustrated, I replayed that skit in my head. It helped me keep moving. Even if I could not solve something right away, I made a point to at least work on something - whether it be another scene, research, or reviewing publishing options. I kept my eyes on the prize. And it worked!
Working through the problem is hard. It’s a skill we all need to teach our children, nieces, nephews, siblings, etc. Both my kids suffer from a lack of motivation when it comes to school work. I have talked with my son about the satisfaction one feels when they finish a long book. He can totally relate to the feeling regarding books. Now if we could translate that feeling into school work.
It’s an uphill battle that they will not want to undertake. Just like our parents talked about the uphill journey to and from school - both ways uphill, by the way - parents of today face this challenge with getting our kids to work at finding an answer. Not everything can be answered simply and quickly. Many answers come by thoughtful musings and personal discoveries.
Can we solve this culture of now? Nope. But we can share with the next generation a world outside of the screen. Our love of books, how to interact face-to-face with others (for example, at a book signing or meet-and-greet event), and how to react to negative feedback you read on the web. If one of my books gets a bad review, I do not respond to that reviewer with all the ways I believe they’re wrong. It’s their opinion, and that’s fine. Showing them how we respond to events either on the internet or off teaches them to respect other opinions.
Let’s face it, online chatter has no accountability. You can rip a book or movie to shreds without fear of consequence. Would the reviewer say those mean things to an author’s or director’s face? No. But online, all bets are off and all opinions are shared. What do you share? What can our youth learn to share?
As my kids continue to grow, I want to model behavior for them that will illustrate respect. Sure, I’ll tell them of my frustration when writing and how hard it can be, especially if you receive a scathing review. In the end, I hope to open a pathway for them to work past the “now,” past the Google-quick answers, and past the simplicity of life. Maybe I sound a bit preachy, but perseverance takes practice. It’s a skill that’s endangered in this screen-centric culture.
Since publishing my own books, my daughter has expressed interest in writing one herself. She’s definitely improved in her skills with each story she brings to life on the computer, particularly when it comes to writing dialogue. When she’s writing, her focus is tight. I can see the gears of imagination turning in her eyes. She also exudes a positive energy after she’s completed a chapter, self-confidence building with each page of her book.
Perhaps we should all start teaching our kids to write a book? If they’re really, truly interested in the subject, I bet they’d very much enjoy the journey - even if it takes opening a book instead of a laptop to find your answer! Though a word of caution: the one drawback is that I have to fight her for computer time. *exasperated mom sigh* “Is it my turn yet?”
Perhaps being a writer can save the world! Okay, maybe not, but books are pretty amazing.
What perseverance tricks do you have? How do you deal with writer’s block? Please share in the comments below. Or follow up with me using hastag: #cultureofnow