Saturday, February 23, 2019

Did you write stories or books when you were a child as well?

Megan Pagan asked, “Did you write stories or books when you were a child as well?"
“I know you ask because you have little ones at home,” I commented.
“That’s what made me think of it. It’s so interesting to hear how some things stick with people since childhood or how people stumble into something they’re passionate about later in life. Also, Levi writes books all the time. It’s so cute.”
I’m going to answer this from two angles: Firstly, did I write as a child and secondly, how to be an encouragement to the little writers in your charge.
My beginnings as a story teller started with just that… story telling (some call this fibs). Plus, I was an avid reader from childhood and was encouraged to relate what I’d read to my family. We all loved ghost stories and would sit around the campfire (we camped a lot) telling goose bumpy tales. Even when I was little I was expected to tell a ghost story. My dad was a bit of a prankster, and loved to tell us tall tales just to see how much we’d believe. We would sit around for hours and tell jokes. To add to that environment, my mom had the nickname, “Little Miss Adjective.” She could describe things to death! It was never a simple cloud in the sky… it was a puff of dragon’s breath chasing a dream! Or some other equally extravagant description. A favorite game on road trips was Mad Lib. Have you ever played that? It’s a fun way to engage the whole family in silly creativity.
English classes were always my easy classes. I started a couple of really, really cheesy romance novels in high school. I’ve kept them for a good laugh. My college coursework required an English class so I took creative writing. My professor challenged me to clean up the cute little stories I wrote, and to get serious. He felt I had the potential to be a writer. I was going to college to become a physical therapist, not a writer. It turns out there’s a lot of writing going on in that career. I found I had a skill for documentation and Medicare rebuttals.
In the meantime I had an intense dream bordering on nightmare that woke me up from a dead sleep. I wrote down the dream and that was the first chapter of my first serious work of literature—Counterpart. It took a decade to write while going to college and then working, but I finally did it.
My recommendation to parents of any child who writes is to let them write. Don’t correct anything they write. Even if you’re an English teacher. Writing can be taught, but creatively expressing yourself cannot. It’s a natural instinct (I think in everyone) that should be allowed to develop young. If a child thinks their ideas are stupid, they will usually stop. Let their teachers teach them the rules later in life. If a child shows you something they wrote, my recommendation is to make a private moment and have them read it to you.
Listen with sincerity. Question things that don’t make sense graciously. They can become good when they’re twenty. I also think this teaches them to start writing projects without getting too hung up on how it should turn out. That’s paralyzing. There’s nothing wrong with being overly confident when they’re ten! Trust me when they go to publish their first book they will become humble.
Okay, I’m stepping down off my soapbox now :)

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