Permanence

I recently watched my first episodes of Mad Men. The commentary about gender roles is amazing, yes, but something else stood out to me. In the second episode, Betty Draper wrecked the car. Instead of being worried about the safety of her children, she worried about the image of her children. If her son had been injured, it would be okay because scars make boys look strong. If her daughter had been injured, she would have no future because girls could not have scars.

She didn’t know what would be coming in the next decade – female empowerment and an emphasis on “natural” women. In Betty Draper’s mind, all women must be perfect forever.

I thought it was silly until yesterday morning when my hometown flooded. As we watched the rain come down at work, my coworkers and I debated the best routes to get home and whether the company would pay for a hotel. In spite of having the heaviest rainfall in at least 110 years, by early afternoon, the roads were dry and we headed home like nothing had happened.

We had gotten stuck in the mindset of permanence. We didn’t really give much consideration to what the roads would be like if the rain stopped. We believed the rain would continue indefinitely, and the driving conditions would remain hazardous.

It was so easy to slip into that behavior. It’s so natural for us as humans to look no further than what is immediate.

Somehow, I find myself forgetting this in my writing. As the author, I see the whole picture. I know what Devin and Patrick will go through over a number of years. I know that their situations are temporary, and so they act like they’re just waiting for the future. Devin and Patrick don’t know their futures. They don’t have a crystal ball or a clairvoyant to inform them of changes along their paths. No one is around to let them know when the flooding is going to stop.

This is a flaw I am working to fix in my revision. What is it that my characters can’t see past? What if all Patrick can see is a life alone, without his wife? What if all Devin can see is a stack of History books that could sub in as a nightstand?

Personally, I’m having a very hard time looking past this revision. My state of permanence is an endless cycle of opening the complete novel and the rewrite of Chapter 5 and freezing.

What can’t you see past right now? Silly, serious, anything. Let me know in the comments.

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