“Particles of raw inspiration sleet through the universe all the time. Every once in a while one of them hits a receptive mind…”Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters
At the age of six, I was obsessed with Julia Child and Agatha Christie. Six is also when I discovered reading, which pretty much takes care of the rest of this section.
At nineteen, my job involved filing back issues of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a cheerful publication from the CDC that contains statistics on ways to die. (The fact that there are, in fact, statistics indicates that it is not just one individual who has died this way, but quite a lot of people.) This – combined with concurrent classes on economy, policy, and design – focused my attention on ways to improve society through systemic change.
The obvious outcome of all this is – I now write. Because the thing is, people don’t typically like systemic change. People do like novel ideas, as long as they’re safely locked in a page (or Kindle, or PDF). And that’s fine. Most broad measures of systemic change are terrible. They’re the product of people like me who don’t actually live (or die) any of the stuff we like to talk about and analyze and take apart (Heaven forbid putting it back together again, we’ve already lost most of the screws and our betta fish ate the instruction manual).
The takeaway of the above paragraph is this: systemic change isn’t very good for effecting systemic change. Ideas are much, much better. They’re subtle. They’re like the cultural equivalent of remoras, those fish that attach to sharks and won’t come off. Certain ideas never really seem to die; they fade in and out of view, hovering at the edge of the zeitgeist for a few millennia or so, and when you’re least expecting it they come bursting out of the woodwork. Voila, my friends, there you have the Copernican theory of the solar system, or some other such inevitable-in-retrospect idea. Likewise, a good idea attaches to a person’s mind. Over the course of that person’s life, the idea will meet many other people and ideas and may produce some unlikely hybrids – but if conditions are just right, and enough idea-remoras of the same type are present, the ideas will have the sort of frenzy you usually see on something narrated by David Attenborough and, in a matter of months or a few years, produce what an army of squabbling politicians, PR gurus, and scientists couldn’t do for decades.
My job, as a writer, is simply to nurture particularly helpful remoras by placing them in a context where they can meet the right people. Sort of like dating coach for brains. And fish.
Ah, metaphors. At any rate, now you know the raison d’être. Feel free to share any remoras on books, systemic change, or nature documentaries in the comments!