Mom Knows Best

I’m a sucker for those Buzzfeed lists of tumblr posts and tweets. When the title is something like “20 tweets guaranteed to make you laugh,” I’ve gotta click on it and see just how funny this article is (or is not). Usually, I’m surprised if one or two make me laugh — and I have to share it myself if most of them do.

I really like the ones collecting tweets about adulthood or marriage or being a woman. But the inspiration for this post came from a comment on one list of adulthood posts. A woman said her kids always text her asking how to do stuff, and she wonders why they don’t just Google the answer. Don’t they realize she’s just Googling it herself?

My mom says the same thing to me. It would take the same amount of time (or less) to type the question into Google than into a text, and the answer would probably be faster and more accurate.

I can’t say why my first instinct when faced with something I don’t know is to ask my parents, but I think it’s kind of beautiful. In this technological age where Google settles fact-based discussions far too early and the need to logic out an answer for oneself is practically non-existent, kids still think of their parents as the be-all, end-all in terms of wisdom.

Sure, sometimes it’s because there was a specific way I remember my mom doing something when I was little, or a certain home remedy she had. Sometimes it’s something my dad tried to teach me a dozen times, so it’s practically a joke at this point to say “hey dad, I’m trying to do X, which tool should I use again?”

But a lot of the time, something will come up and immediately I’m grateful to have a wise adult in my life to run the question by. Even if it’s something like “the right way to boil a hotdog”, I know my mom will have the answer. Now that I’m older, I’m figuring out that parents don’t have all the answers — like most adults, they’re just winging it and hoping no one catches on. Still, I like that there’s still something magical about parenthood that makes kids reach for their phones and ask Mom or Dad before even considering Google.

Advertisements

The Painful Joys of Writing: Research

My current WIP (that’s work-in-progress, Mom) is a historical fiction novel set during WWII. I’ve always been fascinated by that time: the beauty and the tragedy, the resiliency of the people and the fact that those generations can laugh after the horrors they witnessed.

My other stories have been completely imaginary, so it’s been refreshing having a number of sources to go to with questions rather than having to make everything up. The Internet is an amazing thing, with just a few clicks, I get more knowledge than I ever needed.

This is also a drawback.

Sometimes, I get too hung up on stupid tiny details that are only important for making the story authentic. My characters are going dancing in D.C.? Let me just Google what clubs might have been around in the early ’40s (spoiler alert: this was not as simple as it sounds. It took me days of research to scratch out a number of dance clubs my characters might have attended).

Wikipedia is helpful but not completely trustworthy. Its hyperlinked words make it too easy for me to wander, too. For example, my characters need a summer activity to be doing (or on their way to doing) when they run into another character (at which point, said activity no longer matters). Still, I can’t just say they’re eating ice cream at the waterfront. Today’s DC waterfront is nothing like 1940s DC waterfront (was there even much of a “waterfront”?). Google tells me the area I’m thinking of (now near the AMC Loews theater) used to be the site of the Georgetown incinerator. So…people probably weren’t hanging around where they were burning trash. So maybe they went to a museum. Or just hung around one of the monuments or memorials. The Wikipedia page for the National Monument takes me through the Lincoln Memorial page to the the Reflective Pool (not built yet in their time), to the Tidal Basin, to the WWII Memorial, to the grafitti “Kilroy was here” and the next thing I know, I’m reading about rationing in Great Britain during and after the war.

Also, my interest to know whatever I can about the ’40s is a drawback during quick-research time. In this example, I figure the Tidal Basin is probably a good area my characters could end up, so I leave the page open to read in a second, but first I want to continue reading about Marian Anderson’s epic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after she was not allowed to perform at the DAR (because she was African American). And in reading more about Anderson, I find out she was good friends with Albert Einstein. He was really big in the Civil Rights Movement (and referred to himself as a devout anti-racist). One thing leads to another and two hours later I’ve somehow ended up reading about the U.S.O. in World War II.

Now my brain is full to bursting will all this barely-necessary knowledge and I’ve completely forgotten what I originally set out to look up. Forget about the actual story I wanted to write around that little detail–it’s gone. I leave the story for the following day, only to wake up and find the blank I’ve literally drawn to remind myself I need a relevant detail, and the process starts all over.