(The last three of ten reviews will come next week. For today, I want to get a bit more personal. Don’t worry, I never get too personal online!)
It’s hard for someone who understands something so easily to understand why others don’t understand the same thing at all.
Get that? The art of communication isn’t only in learning the language; it’s also in learning to recognize what others don’t and knowing how to relay it so they will understand. That can be very tricky. I’m often asked how I do it. Honestly? I don’t know.
I do often find myself wondering how on earth a “simple” concept is so hard to “get.” But then, I’m quite sure my sister teaching me algebra (when I couldn’t “get” it from the teacher who didn’t know how to get me to understand) felt the same. Somehow, she did get me to understand, at least well enough, and sometimes well enough is fine.
I use that experience of having something so simple to her escape my grasp of understanding whenever I catch myself wondering why someone just doesn’t get it. There’s always something we won’t get.
Why? That’s easier to answer:
1) We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are innate, some learned.
2) We all have different life experiences and frames of references.
This is why traveling widely broadens the mind and increases understanding: you develop a bigger frame of reference, especially if you truly look at the culture where you travel and pay attention. I’ve lived in very small towns to the point of not having a stoplight, and in very large cities to the point of taking 3 hours to drive 25 miles. I’ve lived in 6 states and visited most of the others. I’ve lived overseas and visited several countries. I was raised blue collar, married military, and have met people of very high importance career-wise from several different fields. I paid attention to all of it. I took mental notes of similarities and differences. And I listened. I still listen, well enough to truly absorb not only what they say but how they feel when they say it.
I guess it comes down to paying attention and wanting to understand. Also, putting your own thoughts aside enough to allow room for others’ thoughts and experiences is required. There are many experiences I will never have myself, but if I listen well enough, or (a-hem) read about it in the right sources, I can almost experience it. Yes, I read widely from many sources. And I talk to people from as “everywhere” as I can. I don’t shut them out when I disagree with them; I stop to consider why they feel the way they do. It doesn’t generally change my mind, but it does help me understand.
This, since I was asked again, is how I add such a wide experience base to my characters. They get to take on many of the things I’ve seen and heard and they represent those different backgrounds. They don’t only have my own thoughts and opinions; they have viewpoints I don’t agree with, as well. No one person or group can have all the answers. But maybe, if we blend all those thoughts and experiences together, we do.
"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
Henry David Thoreau