Driving presents many challenges, and one of the newest problems is cell phones. But what happens when the problem isn’t really the phone itself, but that we don’t engage ourselves while driving?
My first vehicle was older than I was, with manual steering, brakes, and transmission. I had a portable radio stashed on the front seat, and it was always stuck on a local station because I couldn’t get anything else. I didn’t mind, and with all the things I had to do to drive that thing (on gravel most of the way) kept me busy.
If boredom is one of the problems, I can’t give good arguments against it. I’ve had my current car a year. It’s automatic everything, the first automatic transmission I’ve ever had. I don’t know what to do with my left foot or my right hand, and there are buttons everywhere to push and adjust things. There’s nothing to do when everything goes smoothly.
The problem with driving is not everything goes smoothly. At least, not all the time. And we’re not prepared for those moments when they arrive.
Enough for the driving, right? What about the books? Are we engaging our readers? Especially in online formats, writers are encouraged to write clearly, directly, and use short words and sentences. Many fiction novels are written on an eighth grade level, if that.
If we’re not engaging the readers, is that why we’re so worried about losing them? Because they can now be pulled away by movies or video games or any other shiny idea to promise escape.
What if we gave the readers something more to concentrate on? Some books have sentences of one hundred words or more. Some books have layers of meaning that you don’t always puzzle through the first time. I’m sure not every book needs to be absorbing all the attention of the reader, but I wonder how many popular genre novels are brave enough to tackle these things. When was the last time you looked up a word you didn’t know from a story? Re-read a deeply layered story to enjoy the nuances? Have we allowed ourselves to lose the ability to engage completely in one task at a time?