A publisher told a class I once attended that he could tell when a manuscript had been written by a teen rather than an adult. It isn’t the quality of writing that gives it away—copious amounts of formal education makes a storyteller not—it’s the human experience: falling in love, becoming a parent, losing a loved one; living long enough to have experienced the depths of life. It’s after experiencing the heart of what their story is about that a writer can take the science and art and weave it together with the kind of scars we received from boldly living.
“If you haven’t experienced your story in deep doses”, he said, “You better research the heck out of it to make it believable because readers want to connect with truth.”
So even though I haven’t lived in a dystopian society like I created in Wake where expressive art was outlawed, I have been undervalued by teachers because they hadn’t experienced art in its true form. There have been times when I painted a canvas with inspiration I know didn’t come from me—I’ve been in a class where a student refused to paint a particular subject because of the truth of what it might have revealed in him. I don’t know the power of art because of what a few authority figures have told me—I know it because I’ve lived it.
So when the elections rolled around, and our choices were limited to OMG! and YOU’RE KIDDING! I started mulling over the wisdom of the candidates—that’s how I vote, because an eloquent speaker or a horrible speaker are just speakers; I don’t care how well or how poorly they speak, I want to know what they KNOW. What have they lived through that makes me think they will lead with the fruits of their experiences?
When I had finally finished with my core subjects in college and was free to study art, my boss at the time commented on how I had no “real” classes left. Why then, I wondered, did she see the importance of hanging a particular painting where it was the first thing she looked at every day? Somehow, she had missed the connection. This is what I ponder when candidates discuss whether or not a fetus is a “real” baby, or if certain ethnic groups should suffer for the sins of a few because even the innocent are a “real” threat. If faith isn’t a factor for a candidate (it is for some, but we all know professing a faith is a campaign strategy), and science hasn’t gotten far enough to give answers to the hard questions…what kind of deep living do they draw their conclusions from?
What do you think? Let’s lend an ear during the debate tonight—maybe we’ll be able to discern the wisdom from the speech.