On Raising a Writer

Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash

If you love to write, it’s natural that you want (and maybe expect) your kids to love writing. Totally misguided, but natural. I think I’ve raised all three of my boys the same way when it comes to reading and writing, but there have been drastically different results. Because they are their own persons with their own interests and gifts. The nerve, right? Anyway, I still stand by some of the techniques below because they’ve helped each of the boys, albeit in different ways. So, if you’re looking for some help with your reluctant writer or you want to encourage your budding Stephen King, check these out…

  1. Read.

Yes, the same advice that was given to you when you first expressed an interest in becoming a writer. Read. Everything. For kids, that translates into reading aloud often and exploring different genres with them. One of my kiddos didn’t read independently until age seven. As we encouraged him to learn his stinking sight words, we continued reading aloud every night. We took books on CD in the car and made sure he had a little CD player so he could listen to them on his own, too. By fostering the love of story, you can expose them to the parts of a story, dialogue, and characters. All things that are good foundation for when they are writing themselves.

We recently started picking up PlayAways at our library and they love them! Check to see if your library carries them!

2. Take Dictation

I let all three kids dictate stories to me when they were too young to write. You can fold some paper in half and – to everyone’s delight – get out the stapler. The most exotic of all office supplies. Or you can buy some of these. Whatever works. As they told me their story, I would stop them now and then to ask a question with great interest. What happened next?  Was anyone with the mechanical robot bunny? How did that make the monster feel? It becomes a bit of a conversation. You’re getting more details and helping to build their story. In our case, it helped if I didn’t censor much. They felt free to be as imaginative as they wanted.  So, there were lots of farting, mechanical robot bunny defeating the three-headed monster stories.

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Hitting The Wall

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Let’s talk about The Wall. 

No, not that wall. The Wall. The one you eventually hit when you’re a creator. Or a parent. Or just adulting.  

Sometimes you hit it in one part of your life and then it spreads to the others. Then it’s The WALL.

From Gripped Magazine, 11 Aug 2014

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon, or the season, or one of those seven-year cycles, but recently it feels like I know too many people up against The Wall. Family members who have lost jobs. Friends who have been betrayed by those they love.  Creators who haven’t met with the success on which they pegged so many dreams. And at the start of the new school year, so many lovely people who are starting new phases of their lives and are just overwhelmed by the changes, even when many of those changes are good. 

I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people. 

Last week, I hit my writing Wall.[i] Rejection played a big part: I did okay with the first 20 rejections for my Middle Grade manuscript, but numbers 21 & 22 did me in. I stared at my query letter, unable to tell any longer if it needs more tweaking or just to be set aflame. I thought about whether I needed to rewrite the first chapter, or scrap it entirely. I considered whether I should turn my attention to something else for a while, and realized I didn’t even have the wherewithal to figure out a way forward on the half-dozen or so works-in-progress that linger as perpetually open tabs on my desktop and that physically clutter my office. I tried to go back to my writing goals for the year, to find a way to progress out of my funk only to realize with a distant horror I didn’t want to do any of the things necessary to move forward with any of my goals. 

I felt totally, utterly defeated in a way I haven’t since I last took a microeconomics exam. 

Anyone else been there? Lately? Then you know how easily it can become cyclical. You feel drained. You want to do nothing. So nothing is what you do. But, as it turns out, nothing doesn’t help. 

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Turn! Spin! Pivot again!

Sometimes parenthood seems the longest exercise in learning how to do 180-degree turns, doesn’t it? 

It started with the shift from summer travel mode to summer camp mode last week. The preparation was mostly mental: getting our son excited to go to camp after a summer free of morning drop offs. For me, it was about switching my brain from full-time mom/activity director to writer. I spent at least a week pirouetting through mental checklists of all the writerly activities I wanted to get done in that blessed summer camp week. My brain churned with neglected projects that represented well more than a week’s worth of work. So on Monday morning, we accomplished the logistical maneuvers to get us out of the house with all the summer camp necessities…only to hit a heart-wrenching plot twist. 

Someone (and by ‘someone’, I mean me) hadn’t actually submitted the camp registration. The roster was full and my son’s name was not on the list. After an awkward conversation with two separate (and incredibly nice) members of the camp staff, we were back in the car headed home.

SPIN!

After a week of up-selling camp, I had to execute a hard right turn to keep my kid from feeling the sting of rejection. The reminder of what he was missing as fresh and uncomfortable as the shoes, wet with dew from the summer camp fields, we were both wearingMy brain went into overdrive trying to figure out how to keep the week from being a total disaster. The problem was, all the items on my writing to-do list were screaming like passengers going down in a plane crash, and it was hard to think (or breathe normally) for all their small tragedies. 

PIVOT!

I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I held it together for approximately 30 seconds after my husband took our son to walk the dogs, giving me a few moments to “look at the calendar.” The words “summer camp,” scrawled across the week some months before, reduced me to a sniffling mess. It was partially embarrassment that I’d somehow managed to fail at a fairly basic parent task. It was partially concern that my failure would cause our son to feel sad and/or disappointed all week. And it was at least 50 percent despair at the sudden loss of precious writing time, sandwiched as it was between six weeks of travel and the start of a new part-time job. 

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