Writing side by side, with your kids is not always easy. As parents, we don’t always have a purpose that seems meaningful enough to share and writing isn’t always a comfortable process. I would like to encourage you to give it a try! Use pictures as a springboard and just write what you did! Think of it as scrapbooking, but you don’t have to worry about being artistic. Just find some pictures of an adventure and start writing about them with your kids.
One of the reasons I started blogging was to learn more about the writing process. I spent my days teaching children to live like writers, but when it came to my own writing, it wasn’t much of a writerly life. Sure I would make grocery lists, write parent letters, and send emails but I didn’t really need to do the hard work of thinking like a writer.
It’s hard work to stare down a blank page, think of something incredibly meaningful, and then use your words to communicate your thoughts and feelings. Both kids and adults find the process difficult, but I didn’t have a lot of experience to share with my students when it came to writing for pleasure and ways to overcome the fear of a blank page.
When I started my blog, I did what I teach young writers to do. I bought myself a Writer’s Notebook.
(By the way, I don’t consider myself a “writer” yet. “Writers” are people who are paid to write for a living. When someone asks me to write something and sends me a check, I’ll call myself a writer. Until then, I’m a blogger who writes.)
My writer’s notebook goes just about everywhere with me. It’s small enough to fit in my purse, but large enough to fit lots of ideas. Often times, I’ll just make lists in my notebook. I’ll write down things I need to remember to do for a certain blog post, lists of possible topics I may want to consider, or a list of fabulous things my students or my own children have said that I may want to remember later on. Eventually, quite a bit of the chicken scratch I put into my writer’s notebook makes its way into my writing.
Well, yesterday my youngest and I were home sick together. She had had a fever the night before and, being a teacher, I followed the rule of “fever free for 24 hours” before letting her go back to school. (Oh, how I wish all parents would follow this rule. Side story: I actually had a child who came to school and said that he had thrown up before leaving for school, but that he was all better now. Needless to say, he threw up again at school.)
Back to our sick day… My daughter was feeling better. She had relaxed, showered, colored, and read a few books. I told her that I wanted to spend some time writing, and asked if she’d like to write a new book. She always loves to do activities side by side, so I grabbed my laptop and she grabbed her unicorn notebook, and we went to find a comfy writing spot.
I asked her what she wanted to write about and she just shrugged her shoulders. Sometimes she writes fiction stories. Most of the time she writes songs. Today she wanted to try something new. I told her that when I was stumped sometimes I let pictures be my guide. We spent the next ten minutes scrolling through photos from the last 3 years on the computer.
When we came to the pictures of the strawberry fields, the stories started pouring out of her.
“Oh, I loved making jam for the jam tasting contest.”
“Remember the time they had a carnival with rides and animals?”
“Those berries are so yummy. I wish we could pick them all year long.”
“I want to put pictures of the food we make in my book too.”
Once we were done talking, and I felt she had a plan in her head, I went back to my writing. She looked at me and said, “I forgot what I wanted to say.” I asked her if she wanted to see how I organize my thinking when I write, and in a sure-if-you-have-to-play-teacher-right-now tone of voice, she said she’d be willing to listen. I showed her my writer’s notebook and told her that it was the place I kept ideas for topics, sentences, titles I may want to use, reminders of things to try in my writing, and LISTS of things to include in my work. I knew writing a list wasn’t going to be something she was excited about, so I introduced her to a sketch list. She looked at me with that, hmmm-mom’s-not-so-dumb-after-all-look, and then went about sketching out her list and writing her story.
After a while of writing, she got tired. I told her that writing is hard work and it will be here waiting for her when she was ready to keep working on it.