Thursday, July 28, 2011

My child, my teacher

"A child's attitude toward everything is an artist's attitude." ~Willa Cather, American author

Children see things in such original ways. Each day I listen to my four-year-old as he explains the world he knows using the terms he understands (or devises) and the explanations he imagines. His is such an interesting and refreshing perspective! We can learn so much from children and the way they view the things around them. Listening to my son reminds me that I need to be original and free in my approach to my writing, using my words to describe the world as I see it and not as how I think others want or expect me to see it.

Too often, I think we as writers worry so much about what's correct and acceptable in writing that we start to lose our own voices. We sometimes force ourselves to follow certain rules or formulas when all we should be doing is getting the story on the page in whatever form it's supposed to take--without worrying about that critic (real or internal) who stands behind our left shoulder and tells us that what we're doing is wrong and unacceptable and will never sell. My kids don't worry that the things they say are stupid or too simplistic or wrong; if they feel it or see it, they say it--without inhibition, without fear, without worry.

And that's exactly how we writers need to write.


  1. You're absolutely right! Too often, we try to get the sentence so grammatically correct (or to sound a certain way) that we lose our voice in the process. Maybe our way, instead of the "correct" way, is sometimes best :)

  2. I love it and agree absolutely! As Li'l D was trying to get Pooh (on a poster) to play his very real-world guitar, I smiled and loved the possibility of it. I want to have that sense of possibility, even if at times it seems silly. So much better silly than stifled!

  3. Kids are so brilliant, aren't they? I had the absolute pleasure in growing up in a household where art and creativity prevailed. My mother is an acrylic painter and when we weren't tearing through the yard, we were drawing, writing or reading. (Okay, there happened to be a lot of science experiments too… much to her dismay. HA!)

    But living in that environment really shaped the way I look at my world now. I see so many people (not just writers) who put themselves into a box with no way out. Really, it's all just in their heads.

    In some ways, I think children are the anecdote to typical adulthood. They remind us that possibilities exist all around us.

    Great post!

  4. yikes! kids are brutally honest all right. we were behind an extremely large (@ least 400 lb) woman a few years ago and my 4 yo middle guy had no fear pointing it out, "she is sooo fat!" "shh, honey!" "but she is! she is really fat!" had to take him to the side and explain. that is mortification. felt so bad for her!

    nice post! and good advice

  5. Tracey: I agree. I think it's okay to bend the rules sometimes in the interest of keeping ourselves in our writing.

    Deb: My kids do stuff like that all the time--things that make me smile because even though what they're trying is impossible, they still believe that it can be done. I love that about them. They're so free--and that's what I want for my writing as well.

  6. Carissa: Beautifully put! I think we do trap ourselves into thinking we have to be a certain way, and children show us that doesn't have to be the case.

    Tara: Thanks so much! I've had a similar experience with my son. It's so hard to know what to do...