|"Instant gratification is not soon enough" |
- Meryl Streep
I was reading an article about how some boat makers are researching ways to replace the baby-boomers who are aging out of the pastime of sailing, and in the course of their research once such company came across the following information: If a child between the ages of ten and fifteen cannot learn a game in less than fifteen minutes, they lose interest in it.
|have the racing rules changed?|
I have known for a long while that we've become a society accustomed to instant gratification and I have worried for a long while that we're all, as a result, becoming far too impatient. I worry about this most within the scope of the work I do as an editor and publishing consultant, wherein I'm advising authors and illustrators to take their time and slow down to truly learn and hone their craft before they start submitting, querying, and publishing. (My friend, agent Tracey Adams recently wrote a great piece on this very subject, which is worth slowing down to read: http://pubsmartcon.com/dont-rush-your-writing-with-literary-agent-tracey-adams/)
So now here's this piece of information about children who have no patience for taking time to learn a new game--and we can easily make the leap to assume that if they won't spend more than fifteen minutes learning a new game, they'll certainly not be willing to spend more than fifteen minutes learning something that seems more challenging, complicated, or complex than a game. So what's going to happen to these kids as they get older? Will they become so accustomed to the quick fix, the instant answer, and the make-it-easy-for-me-or-don't-make-it-at-all that they won't have the basic skill set of thinking, evaluating, exploration, and experimentation to bring into adulthood? And what will become of nurturing relationships, the subtleties of negotiation, the complexities of decision-making? The people will certainly be able to move quickly through our fast-paced world, but at what cost? I worry.
Here's what I know: We need to recognize that these same kids we're talking about are our readers. So is it any wonder we keep hearing "If the first line of the book doesn't grab the reader, they won't read it," or "If the story doesn't start right in the action, kids won't be interested" or "Use fewer words; parents and kids don't want to read so much text"? Here's what I also know: Just as there are lots of different kinds of adults out there, many of whom are taking their time to learn, finesse, and refine their craft, there are lots of different kinds of kids out there, many of whom are willing to take more time to experience a story, develop a relationship, weigh options and make good choices, and so on. So it's these kids for whom we need to write stories, but it's also the kids who want the instant gratification for whom we need to write stories as well. Which means there's still a need for as wide a variety of stories as we can possibly produce. And what I believe this means, too, is that we still need to take time to produce the best quality stories we can, even if they're going to be gobbled up and digested in under the proverbial (or literal!) fifteen minutes!
It's critical as writers and illustrators working today to understand what kids are doing and how they're doing it--because our stories need to reach kids where they are. We can't wish away the fact kids are growing up fast, doing everything fast, wanting everything fast, and getting everything fast. The leaps and bounds we've made in technology are supporting, enhancing, and encouraging this behavior among kids and among us adults as well, so it is what it is. Let's face it, kids have always grown up fast--certainly a lot faster than the previous generation wished they would--so we're not necessarily dealing with something brand new here, and maybe my worries about "kids today" are similar to the worries my grandparents or parents had. I can't say. I do find it helpful to be reminded now and again, though, how kids are behaving in today's world so I can be a more mindful children's book editor and guide to authors and illustrators creating books for young readers. Even if that means every now and again I get caught by surprise and just have to say "Wow."
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC