Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fairness and you Monkey Brain

by Deren Hansen

On of the ideas I picked up from a biography of the Buddha is the
Zen notion of the monkey brain. The first image of a monkey brain that springs to mind is likely that of a frenzied simian bouncing around the cage of desires in which Buddhists would say we are trapped. There's clearly good writing advice to be mined from this image about creating a writing space, whether virtual or actual, where one can be free from distractions.

But I found another, intriguing association with the phrase, "monkey brain."

I came across a study that showed brown capuchin monkeys have a strong sense of fairness. The monkeys were trained to trade pebbles with researchers for food, usually pieces of cucumber but sometimes grapes. If pairs of monkeys made the trade and one of them got a better deal (i.e., grapes), the other would throw a fit.

Does this sound familiar?

What if I replace, "monkey," with, "writer," and, "researcher," with, "publisher?"

More familiar now?

This isn't a rehash of my advice to, "keep your eyes on your own test," though the points are related. No, this is about your basic expectations.

The fact of the matter is that the business of publishing is grossly unfair.

Your options are to throw a fit and go sulk in the far corner of your cage, or to transcend your monkey brain--particularly the part that keeps oh-so-careful track of how fair the situation is--and keep writing.

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.


Julie Daines said...

I totally see what you're saying. The querying process really does make me feel like I have monkey brains!

Paul West said...

I love your analogy. But, I'm not convinced the process is so much unfair, as much as our work doesn't measure up, or it's not what they (agents and editors) are looking for. It seems unfair, because we've put a lot of work into our writing, and have high expectations, but being subject to someone else's opinions of our work is the chance we take when we begin writing.