Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. www.peterleavell.com.
‘No complaints from the peanut gallery,’ my wife told my daughter.
My daughter, Kade, 12 years old, stared at my wife. Finally, she gave a long, drawn out, ‘okayyyy.’
‘She doesn’t know what you mean,’ I said, looking up from my computer as I was writing a blog for Novel Rocket. ‘Kade, tell mommy what you think a peanut gallery is.’
‘A long, white hall.’ She held her hands wide. ‘Sterile, like a hospital. But white floors, white walls, white ceilings. Every so often is a glass case on a pedestal. Light shines like a spotlight on the exhibits.’
She paused, then said in a whisper, ‘A peanut.’ She closed her hand, making a fist. ‘A peanut gallery where people view…peanuts. In the shell.’
The generational gap happens every generation. Tocqueville commented that ‘Among democratic nations, each generation is a new people.’ If democracy creates an entirely new people, then surely one generation that grew up listening to vinyl recordings of four English-accented teens named after a bug, and another generation watching SpongeBob anywhere on the planet with a smartphone means there may be a slight language gap.
Four generations are currently reading and writing. Four different sets of values. Four sets of technological breakthroughs.
What can be done to bridge the gap between generations? Especially when writing?
The key is to learn about the other generations. And what we learn naturally shows up in our work.
—One generation seeks to escape reality, while another seeks to cope with reality. Still another believes they create their reality. All generations need books with these themes. Embrace them instead of ridiculing them.
—Understand why they do what they do. Is texting important—or do they feel it’s nonsense? One group feels in close contact with friends by punching words with thumbs, while the other still thinks talking on the phone is a brilliant invention. Both styles of keeping in contact with friends are pretty amazing.
—People really are eager to show off their technology. Watch and learn!
—Don’t define a person by their age. Start off by defining them by their interests. Get to know them.
—Mentor. For example, I have a few ‘disciples’ of other generations I work with. They are eager for instant feedback, and as they ask questions, their questions help me shape what’s important to them. For example ‘Did you wear bellbottoms?’ means they’re interested in fashion.
—Our generation’s taboos are another generation’s entertainment. Generations fight different battles.
—One generation ago, a family might get by on a single income, so stay-at-home moms were more common. Now, it’s almost impossible to feed a family on a single income. Both generations’ values will be different. Is either wrong? No.
—Christian values never go out of style. The golden rule always works, no matter the generation! Embrace them!
Why limit your audience? Rock the generation gap! Stop commenting from the peanut gallery about the other generations and take them out to eat! You never know, you may learn something.