So apparently this antibiotic I took was so strong as to ALMOST be an anti-Sarah, which means as I stopped taking it, I came down with an epic head cold. I finally got tired of it yesterday and spent most of the day curled up with books or sleeping, and then went to bed at nine, which means I slept almost 12 hours, on top of all I’d slept during the day.
I keep forgetting that this works to cure colds. My aunt (mom’s younger sister) used to think Port Wine cured colds, because you drank as much as you could stand, then woke a day later without a cold. But I find for me it works just fine without the Port Wine in the equation. I’m still a little snuffly, but there isn’t that feeling I’m trying to think through cork.
And this morning I thought I never remember this works, because logically, in my head, it shouldn’t work. Yes, yes, power down and give your body a chance to fight the nasties, but it’s an infection, and sleep – by itself – shouldn’t cure it.
There are things like this that you think shouldn’t work, but do. And because you don’t really believe they will work, you tend to forget it. Or you never believe it.
Take for instance when I first took the Oregon Writers’ workshop and Kris and Dean told me to “trust the process” – that is to believe that just doing a thing over and over again makes you better at it. It’s not sense. And we probably all know people who have been “trying” for years to be writers, or musicians or basketball players and still suck at it.
But then if you look at it closely, all of these people “trying” aren’t trying very hard. Even for me, it took 13 years to publication, because I’d get discouraged and wander off to do something else (mostly bake carrot cake. Don’t judge me.) I kept coming back to it, and pushing, but then I’d go off for months and lose all the progress I’d made. And most people who try for years and never succeed usually have that pattern, or have some issue that makes it impossible for them to succeed in that field. For instance, it would be insane if younger son decided to become a musician and he couldn’t succeed without specialized classes, because he has sensory issues. So just trying and trying, when you can’t “hear” what you’re aiming for wouldn’t work. It would be crazy if I tried to be a basketball player. No amount of game could overcome the fact I’d be much shorter than everyone else who plays basketball.
For writers a peculiar temptation I’ve mentioned before is to become so immersed in your world and your characters you spend your whole time dreaming it, instead of writing it. And writing it is a painful process, since you have to introduce to your readers these people you know so well, and to mention details you think are obvious because you’ve lived with them so long. So the dream is super-seductive and will actually prevent you from writing.
So, yeah, you can spend years ideating your world and never write, but that’s not the process you should trust. You should trust the simple, dumb process of putting words down, and trying to write the best you can. Yeah, you’ll make a lot of the same dumb mistakes (and it will hurt you because you can see them) but eventually something breaks and you hit another level. This is of course, assuming you continue to read and study the masters of your craft. (Or listen to, or look at, or whatever your craft involves.)
My older son was talking to me, while painting walls, about the distinctive quality of Heinlein’s juveniles. His main characters, son said (and is right) are not particularly gifted. They’re not the chosen ones. Instead, they find themselves in a situation, or want to learn something, and very often have to work harder than anyone else. Think of Rico and his mathematical boneheadedness. Or Torby learning to scan for raiders before they come out of whatever they called warp drive (it’s been a year or two and my memory drops details.)
But they work hard and then they succeed.
This is very different from just about every other YA. Even Harry Potter. While he’s not the fastest or the smartest, he’s the “chosen one” and he’s a naturally good quiddich player. (Think how likely that would be.)
Even in Diana Wynne Jones, the kids are usually fated to be something or other, endowed with abilities to be something or other, and the book is a process of discovery.
Of course, those YA are drawing on a much older tradition, the tradition of folk tales and fairytales, in which you were born special or you weren’t.
But that tradition tied in to a society in which you were born special, or you weren’t.
Heinlein was writing for a (at least envisioned) society in which you were born equal, and those willing to strive harder (whether or not they had the gifts naturally) to do what they wanted to do came out on top.
Which btw, sounds like Heinlein felt about it sort of like I do. “Talent” is a myth. Some of us have a component of what we want to do for free. In my case, heaven help me, it’s words, which in the quiver of writing arrows is the least important. The rest I had to learn, by writing and writing, and writing, and trusting the process. But no one is born with the full panoply of talents to become an extraordinary writer. Even good beginners grow if they continue in the art. And this makes sense, of course, because why would someone be born with all that’s needed for a profession that didn’t exist when our ancestors were adapting to new conditions?
But there is a pernicious idea – weirdly amid those who don’t believe in anything more than the physical – that humans are “born” to do this or that. It was after all part of the package used to sell us a freshman senator from Illinois. He was “born” to this. He just naturally had “more game” than everyone.
We’re learning slowly and painfully he was born with the ability to impress people for a limited time, and in things requiring a not very deep analysis. Which is an ability people can be born with – like facility in the use of language – but the rest of the job takes time and effort, and might be too much for on-the-job training.
Getting away from politics, this is why we both have a poisonous fascination with degrees from the “right” institutions and those institutions continuously water down their curriculum. Because really, they don’t believe they have to TEACH anything, just credential what’s already there.
Which brings us again, like water circling the drain to the d*mn idea of the noble savage. It’s a long, long idea in our society, though it used to be believed because G-d endowed “innocents” with special insight.
So, for instance, when the babe at the mother’s breast, spoke for the first time to proclaim the true king (I must use that in a story!) it was G-d speaking through him. But we dethroned G-d and kept the innocent.
This is why any victim-of-the-week has “unique rights” to criticize western civilization and “speak truth to power.” (Mostly speak truth to people who want to prevent those with the real power – i.e. the government – from giving the “victim” whatever the “victim” wants.)
This includes people who arrived in the US yesterday from some h*ll hole, but who supposedly can see everything wrong with the US, because they’re endowed with the special sight of the noble savage. (As someone who went through acculturation, it will take them years even to see what’s really there, and not what they learned to see in their homeland.)
If we want sanity, if we want a meritocratic society, if we want to save representative government, it is time to get away from this very romantic idea that people are born to do this or that. Sure, they can have a set of characteristics that makes the learning easier, but in the end, they have to trust the process and work through it.
So if you really want to do something, don’t fool yourself that it will take no work, and don’t excuse yourself that you’ll never succeed because you weren’t born with it.
I’ve seen people fail for both those reasons. And succeed despite all sorts of handicaps if they keep working at it.
So, work hard, trust the process and never, ever, ever trust the man on the white horse, i.e. the man who was just “born” to take power and do a difficult job without learning process.
That way lies kingship and slavery.