friday's food for thought

I've been thinking a lot about compromise. It's the nature of our life, or what I believe to be a good life, to engage in a great deal of compromise. Some call it an art, some call it a lose-lose situation. Whatever your take, it says a lot about you. In personal relationships, like marriage, I've long thought success is mostly about what you don't do and don't say. I don't mean not reporting the bastard to the police if he's beating you, but I mean more along the lines of: It's Sunday and the yard needs mowing, and I could use some help with the vacuuming, but he's taking a nap and it's really pissing me off.

Definitely a conversation best left for another time, if ever, when one's priority is maintaining eternal matrimonial bliss. In the scheme of life, compromising on my anger is often appropriate.

There are times when compromise is not appropriate. When it comes to children, I believe compromise is best left for when they're older. I really believe in a less diplomatic, more autocracital approach. The parents have the first and final say. I believe children are different creatures, still unformed and learning, and compromise is best left for when they're older. Compromise requires wisdom and experience, something children do not have. That's not to say I think we should order them around forever. Gradually, as they age, we must compromise--again saying nothing. But this time it's about letting them find their own way, knowing full well that they will fall, and that we will bear their pain with them. Compromise among children is a sure sign of their growth, which is why we parent at all--to produce fully-fledged human beings who can go out on their own.

Schools should not compromise, though for a different reason. We writers know that everyone thinks they can write, and it demeans our professionalism. I submit that it is is worse in schools. Virtually every parent believes, in their heart, that they could teach their child better than the professionals. Most don't understand to any real degree that parenting and teaching are two very different things.

Religion could use a good dose of compromise. To claim that there is but one path to God is to apply human means on spiritual ends. It's a sign of weakness in one's ability to compromise if they cannot accept others' paths.

And writing, well, good writing, requires compromise. As an editor, I ask my authors to compromise all the time. But really, it starts with the writing itself--throwing ourselves to the wolves on the page and then constricting and manipulating our vision so that a reader can understand, and it ends with accepting mostly menial payment for work that is anything but. I meet authors who won't compromise all the time. I can spot them in a crowd. They're the ones with the superior, knowing smiles. Any writer who has compromised their words to advice and editorial decision, much less compromised their ego to rejection, has all superiority beaten out of them. Oh, it may reappear briefly, but it will likely die with the next submission. I believe compromise is at the heart of writing--the realization and the experience of compromise, like with children, pushes us to the next level of growth in our writing.

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