The Wrongful Disregard of Wasted Time

I have often discussed “idyllic reality” and how a good portion of advice pretends that we live in it. For instance, we believe that art should be created as a form of communication, expression, and sheer love of its own beauty, not for personal gain. So we criticize anyone who indicates that they want to write something an audience would like. Except, of course, the reality is that we all need to make money, one of the many reasons we create is to gain respect, and though the idea of the starving artist is magical, is not exactly a fun, or even necessary, existence. So, when someone jumps all over you for playing the game, or “selling out,” it is a gross inconsideration as to what an artist needs to be happy and successful.

The concept of wasting time is a victim of this ideology. People, we believe, should be ambitious, driven, and hard workers, willing to go the extra mile to get what they want. Therefore, anyone who doesn’t want to do hard labor doesn’t deserve to be successful.

I once read an article by a past teacher who said that whenever his students said, “Do I have to?” the answer was, of course, yes.

Here’s the problem. The main reason why an author avoids using a certain technique has to do with time management, whether or not it should be his priority. We are, innately, lazy creatures, and an advisor has to take that into consideration otherwise he is disregarding a main element in his persuasive abilities.

It’s like on the television show What Not to Wear. Every episode the two hosts bring in a guest who has been betrayed by their friends and family in order to have their fashion “fixed.” Often times the hosts will bring in an “appropriate” outfit of things that the guest should look for considering her style, height, age, and weight.

Regularly the guest will not like what they are showing her. They will ask her why. She will try to explain. They will tell her why her reasons are wrong.

But, no matter how true it is that her objection to primary colors is irrational, the fact of the matter is she doesn’t like it. For whatever reason, she won’t wear it, and telling her why she’s wrong will not convince her to wear it.

So, if you are a writing teacher and you are telling your students to outline, then considering the that outlining feeling like a waste of time will help aid you in persuading them to try it. Saying, “Suck it up,” will just cement their beliefs that you are wrong. Explaining it in a way that addresses their concerns will be far more convincing of your point than trying to persuade them their points are invalid.

More to the point, however, it isn’t just about how we talk to each other, but the way we talk to ourselves. An author will often struggle with whether or not he should make a change, and sometimes the right answer isn’t so clear.

For him to ignore his not wanting to work hard would be disregarding a factor. If he doesn’t want it to be the case, he still needs to take it into consideration. Often times, the reason why he might be against the change is because of the hard work involved and nothing else. Rather, not even the hard work doing the change, but deciding how it should be changed. If that is the case, then recognizing that his hesitance has to do with his uncertainty on how to fix something will allow him to make the decision. Pretending it is not about the overwhelming frustration will only be more confusing.

For that matter, the opposite is also true. People can believe that the harder way is the right way, for the simple reason that we tend to avoid it. When I tell a group of students that something is harder to do, say write an internal conflict than an external conflict, their first inclination makes them all want to create internal conflict. But, in the art world, decisions need to be made on what will best achieve our goals, not on what is easier or harder. Therefore, refusing to take an easier route because it is an easier route is just as bad as avoiding a harder route. Pandering to our laziness can often cause the greatest moments of creativity. Instead of doing “what we should do,” and, say, cutting huge chunks of scenes and characters from a long play, we make a montage of action which allows for delivery of information that people didn’t expect.

Essentially, to make the best decision, it is important to remember all the factors that go into that decision including personal abrasion to labor and the desire to look good.

Lastly, it’s important to take into consideration people’s disregard of “a waste of time.” It’s a useful factor in understanding them, and more over, it helps the writer to ask the right questions in the right way. Instead of asking a teacher, “Do I have to?” which will always solicit a yes, the student can say, “Should I make this a priority?” which will give a more honest answer about just how necessary it really is.

There are no shoulds in writing, and writing is a place that we want to confront the shoulds of the world. But that makes it all the more important that we know what those shoulds are and address them. Pretending that people don’t judge a book by its cover, that people will give an author the benefit of a doubt, and that communism will work only leads to a more futile waste of time than trying to take basic human flaws into consideration.

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