Our clothes dryer started making funny noises the other day.
Not just strange noises – alarming noises; like the sound a battleship might make sliding out of a dry dock on its first launch.
I was less than thrilled with this development, since we just replaced our defunct dishwasher a couple of weeks ago. I was not in the mood to replace another appliance.
The dishwasher episode really made me mad. We paid a premium for it several years ago, because it was the top rated dishwasher that we could afford. Turns out that part of that high rating was its ‘energy efficiency’, which apparently is some sort of code for:
“After three years, unit will cease to clean dishes, and the automatic clean dish sensor will stop working altogether. This will cause unit to run for a minimum of fours hours per cycle, cleaning your dishes about as well as if you had tossed them on the front lawn under a sprinkler. Welcome to the blissful world of energy efficiency.”
The dishwasher defied my efforts to fix it. I dismantled it to the point of realizing that I would need degrees in electrical engineering and thermodynamics to even diagnose the problem, and fixing it would probably even be beyond the ability of the ground control team responsible for bringing Apollo 13 back safely from the moon.
So we bought another one.
This time, we went with a slightly less energy efficient model that heats up to about the temperature of a runaway nuclear reactor. I’m not sure it even uses water – but the dishes come out so clean and piping hot, I’m surprised the thing doesn’t bake the glaze right off the porcelain. I’ll take brutally efficient over energy efficient any day.
Which brings me to the dryer.
Our dryer is old enough to vote. I bought the thing years ago when I got out of the Air Force – because I never wanted to wash my clothes in public again. This dryer was built when they still built appliances to last – and last it has.
I was not prepared to buy a new one so soon after disposing of the Cadillac of dishwashers, so I broke out my tools and tore the thing apart.
I found a bushing on a guide wheel under the drum that had gotten gummed up with age. The guide wheel wouldn’t turn, and the resulting noise wouldn’t have a problem waking the dead.
I polished and cleaned the bushing and wheel (after consulting my brother about the best industrial grade machine oil to use in such a situation), put everything back together, and the dryer works like new again.
Which got me to thinking.
Why is it that expensive appliances are now disposable, and a cup of coffee is now a designer affair that’ll knock your finances back more than a hearty meal would have ten years ago?
Why is it that we so willingly throw away good money on so little substance?
I think it’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to embrace complacency on so many levels of our lives. We’re content to pay others to fix our problems, because fixing them ourselves is too much work.
We’re happy to pay exorbitant prices for things that should cost a tenth of the amount, because spending that way has become a status symbol that reaches every level of our society.
So how does this all apply to writing, or editing, or anything?
Maybe it doesn’t. Not directly, anyway.
But look at it this way. If we are willing to so easily give up and blow our hard-earned money on overpriced, overvalued products and services, are we any less likely to do the same with the intellectual products and services we consume?
That’s why I like to read things with big words, and difficult dialogue, and twisted plots.
I like epic stories, that require an investment of time to read, concentration to understand, and effort to put down. In other words, I like stories that last – that resonate, that give the reader their money’s worth.
As authors, we should work to hone our craft, to make our work the best it can be. We should be proud to put out great work, and ashamed when we give less than our best.
People in our society get very little value for their money these days, because very little in our society is produced by true craftsmen any more.
Be a craftsman.
Be an artist.
Produce something beautiful and functional.
Strive to improve your craft every day – a world full of readers hungry for quality will eventually appreciate it.