Sunday, July 17, 2011

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Writer

These days, we hear about parents pushing kids into sports, classes, jobs... and while they mean well, it's not always the best method to help their children succeed.  I am thankful that my parents always encouraged me to do what I dreamed of doing while still keeping a realistic view of things. (Yes, I could be an English major, but it would help to have a Marketing degree too... a combination that I enjoyed and has served me well).  Even when I was insecure about my writing, unsure about going back to school to develop my skills, and scared to jump into the world of freelance writing, they supported me.

On facebook this week, I came across a thoughtful post by Molly Backes entitled "How to Be a Writer."  Molly is the Assistant Director at StoryStudio Chicago where I have taken classes in the past (remember when I wrote about the studio's writing classes?).  I love her advice for parents on how to help their children who want to write become writers.

When your child wants to be a writer, what do you do?  How do you nurture her dreams and encourage her to grow?

via M. Molly Backes... over 15 years of journals
What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?

First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.

Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken. Occasionally be too busy to listen, be distracted by other things, have your nose in a great book, be gone with your own friends.

Let her have secrets. Let her have her own folder on the family computer. Avoid the temptation to read through her notebooks. Writing should be her safe haven, her place to experiment, her place to work through her confusion and feelings and thoughts. If she does share her writing with you, be supportive of her hard work and the journey she’s on. Ask her questions about her craft and her process. Ask her what was hardest about this piece and what she’s most proud of. Don’t mention publication unless she mentions it first. Remember that writing itself is the reward.

Let her get a job. Let her work long hours for crappy pay with a mean employer and rude customers. If she wants to be a writer, she’ll have to be comfortable with hard work and low pay. Let her spend her own money on books and lattes – they’ll be even sweeter when she’s worked hard for them.

Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write painfully bad fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans...

Read the rest on Molly's blog...  And The Atlantic picked it up too.

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