I try not to preach very often, especially not on my blog. But today’s topic has been tickling me for quite awhile, so I’d like to get rid of it. It started out as a “teach the next generation” idea… until I realized that it could apply to adults as well as children. So now it’s morphed into a “spread the love of writing to everyone” idea.
If you follow this blog, chances are good that you enjoy writing and/or reading (unless you know me personally and just like to check up on me. *waves to Dad*). As readers, perhaps many of you recommend good books to your friends or family. If you have young children, you probably read stories to them on a daily basis. Books make nice gifts, so it’s easy to share your love of reading with others.
But what about writing? As writers, do we often share our love of writing? Lately I’ve been thinking about this a lot. A few things that keep reminding me of it:
1. Writing stories for charity. Sometimes I hear of authors writing short stories or novellas and giving the proceeds to charity. Marcy and I wrote fanfiction for the Support Stacie auction. It was a way of helping someone with our writing.
2. Writing stories as gifts. To pick on Marcy again, she requested fanfics on her Christmas wish-list! Stephenie Meyer gave her sister a novel, LOL. Writing a story for a specific person feels even nicer than giving another author’s book.
3. Authors who help aspiring authors. I love authors who blog and offer writing advice. I love the Fangs, Fur, & Fey community (and other writing communities) for providing a hangout for writers. I try to make my website helpful to other writers… although I’m learning as I go along, just like everyone else.
4. Editing and critiquing for other writers. This is a way to help and encourage your fellow writers. If you don’t already have a critique partner, get one. CPs help you as much as you help them. We need other writers to thrive.
5. Sharing the tools of the trade. I love hearing about what writers use to work: software, websites, conferences, notebooks, office supplies, computer gadgets, and so on. And if I find something that I love, I try to spread the love. I’ve been telling people about Macs, flash drives, websites on my Resource page, etc. My current goal is to nag my family and friends until they try audiobooks! 🙂
6. Teaching the next generation to write.
Okay, I want to elaborate on number six. My son is three years old, and he’s my guinea pig that I experiment on. I read to him everyday, of course, and we go to the library once a week. We usually check out five new books just for him (you guessed it—that could add up to 260 books a year). That doesn’t count the books we own, the ones we read over and over again at home. I like buying books to support authors… but there’s no way I could afford to buy 260 children’s books a year (libraries, I love you)! I try to make libraries super-exciting so he’ll want to keep going there as he grows up. We also check out movies, play with the library toys, and go to crafty events. I pretend like the library is the coolest place ever, and it’s not too hard to fake. He’s even checked out children’s audiobooks from the library. I thought he’d be too young to sit and listen to the tapes, but he went through a phase where he only wanted audiobooks! For awhile, I swear we listened to “The Case of the Missing Rubber Ducky” three times a day. If I had to go cook supper, he’d turn on the tape player!
But I digress. All of that can foster a love of reading… but I wondered how I could foster a love of writing in my son. I tried to explain to him how I write stories, but he wasn’t too interested. I thought, “What if HE could create a story? He can’t write yet, so he’ll have to dictate to me.” So I dug out this little green notebook and said we were doing a journal entry. He was supposed to talk, and I would write down everything he said. At first he didn’t understand; he’d say random words like “Elevator! Chair! Potty!” Finally—probably by accident—he said a complete sentence. I read it back to him… and he was hooked. He understood. He immediately started making up other sentences, the sillier the better! He was soon laughing at his own creations.
Here is an excerpt from his very first journal entry: The color popped out of the clip. It was an accident. What was that noise?—me! *laughs* I sit on this and pop it! *laughs* I clip the doily. I throw the doily! I spanked my head with the doily and threw that clip on the window!
That still makes me laugh, even if it does sound demented. And because I love these journal entries, here’s another one, a week later: That’s a sentence! One more sentence. Close is a sentence. What’s in here? Another sentence. Nothing. What’s this, Mommy? I want another journal entry. Potty! Monkey potty!
Okay, last one, I promise: I don’t have any sentences today. I have journal entries though. Cheese! This is Wednesday! Somebody called me. I’m going downstairs to get my phone. It’s five o’clock. Does Lightning McQueen have batteries? I’ll go check. Peek! I’ll go get Daddy’s belt—it’s not a toy, but sometimes I call it a toy. I’m pulling Lightning McQueen with the belt. Bumpy cheese!
For a couple weeks, he wanted to do journal entries all the time. The fads don’t last though, so I have to think of new activities. Currently we do “Word of the Day,” where he flips open the dictionary and points to a random word. I tell him the word and what it means, and then we talk about it throughout the day. His favorite word so far has been “pituitary,” probably because of the strong p and t sounds, which sound funny to him. If you ask him what it means, he’ll say, “A gland at the bottom of your head.” Which isn’t exactly right, but it’s better than nothing. Other recently featured words: malaria, oasis, lapel, grotesque, loiter. The funnier the word, the more likely he is to remember it. I think it gives him an appreciation of our language.
I also found a board game at Borders called Very Silly Sentences. It’s designed for ages 4 to 7, and the object is to draw cards until you form a complete sentence. So now he knows nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, and prepositions. And it’s a fun game with silly words, so he loves it. I think for our next activity, I’ll help him make his own book. He can illustrate and I’ll write the words. Staple together the sheets of construction paper and “Ta-da!”—he’s a professional illustrator. 🙂
Even if you don’t have children of your own, maybe you have nieces or nephews or neighbors you could influence. And it’s not limited to little kids; you could even inspire teenagers. Encourage them to enter short story contests (you can find contests specifically for teenagers online) or submit to magazines for young writers. Challenge them with a writing prompt. Push the boundaries of their imaginations.
When I was in junior high and high school, I started several stories that I never finished. To me, that seemed like an omen of ultimate failure as a writer. I wish I’d had some adult author there to say, “It’s okay if you don’t finish the story. At least you’re writing. Just keep practicing.” But I never felt comfortable sharing my stories with anyone, so no one ever told me to try to be an author when I grew up.
Now I’m all grown up (*snort*) and I have two thirteen-year-old nieces, both aspiring authors. When I look at them, I can’t help but see myself at that age… but with a few differences. They already know they want to be writers, and they’re already more talented than I was at their age. Plus, they have me to push them. Not in a “you must become a writer or else” way; nor a “I made this mistake so you better not” way. But if they want help, I will help them. I can support, critique, advise—anything they want. They send me their essays and stories, and I offer my opinions. I’ve also assigned them writing exercises I did in college. They have an idea for a novel, and I’ve encouraged them during the brainstorming process. Even if they never write the novel, I won’t mind. They can grow up to be whatever they want, and I’ll be happy for them. But no matter what, I think we’ll always be able to discuss a love of writing, books… and dance movies. *grin*
The bottom line is: reading and writing help children, regardless of their future careers. Think of all the jobs that require some form of word usage! And if the child does grow up to be a creative writer, that would be really cool too.
Okay, I’ll stop preaching now. But here’s what I want to know from you—more ideas about how to spread the writing love! Ideas for children, teenagers, or adults! I use this stuff on a daily basis, so I’d love to hear new ideas!
I’m sorry my writing topics have been rather off-kilter lately. It’s hard for me to focus on writing during the holidays. But now I’m ready to buckle down in the new year. Next week’s topic will be the first in a series of topics about starting a novel. I hope to start a new first draft in February—who’s with me?! 🙂 Have a great week, everyone!