if you want to help your kids with writing, you need to write yourself

if you want to help your kids with writing, you need to write yourself post image

I give my kids lots of writing advice.

Like this: * To get started on something new, sit down and write without stopping for ten minutes, and see what comes to you. Re-read what you’ve written and underline anything promising. Then freewrite on that. * Write your beginnings and endings last, because they’re the hardest parts to write–and they’re also the most important. * If you’re really stuck, get up and move. Take a shower, walk around the block. Or talk about what you’re trying to write, to another person, or even aloud to yourself. * Don’t even think about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or what someone else will think on a first draft; just get something down. You’re making your clay. You can’t shape what you’ve written if you don’t have anything to shape.

Yep, I give my kids lots of writing advice. And get this: they seem to appreciate the tips. At least they listen to them, in a way that they don’t listen to my tips on how to keep a neat bedroom.

They listen, I’m sure, because they know that I write too. I’m not passing off advice as a teacher; I’m sharing what works for me as a fellow writer.

If you want to help your kids with writing, you need to write yourself.

I don’t mean that you need to be a professional writer. I don’t mean you need to spend a lot of time writing. But you need to write regularly, in some format. You need to know what it is to wrestle with words and push them around and replace them until they fall into an order that communicates what you mean to say. Until they become something pleasing to you. That’s what writers do, and that’s what kids who write well do. And you can’t help your kids do it if you don’t do it yourself.

If you don’t write yourself, you will still find yourself giving writing advice to your kids, and this is where the trouble comes in. If you don’t write yourself, your advice is likely to be based on what you learned about writing in school. You only have to read some of the comments on the last post to understand that most of us did not receive very good writing instruction in school. Sure, some may have been lucky enough to have a good writing teacher along the way, but for most of us, school writing was all about following rules and formulas–and advice based on rules and formulas is not likely to be very helpful.

If you write yourself, your advice will be based on your own real-life struggles and successes. Your advice will be good and practical and useful.

Which is why I think you should make a little space in your life for writing. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it shouldn’t be a chore. It can, in fact, be a very satisfying joy.

A few ideas, for parents who want to write more:

Craft your Facebook updates and Twitter tweets. I hear your protests–but that’s not real writing! Sure it is! It’s words on a screen, and that’s writing. By crafting your updates and tweets I mean selecting each word with care, and trying to add some style and personality to your lines. Are you funny in person? Are you introspective and reflective? Cheeky and direct? Dreamy and poetic? Smart and cynical? See if you can get more of your personality across with the words you choose, and the length and rhythm of your lines. Jeff Goins wrote a fun post on finding your online writing voice. Pay attention to friends on Facebook and tweeters on Twitter who have a style that you admire. How do they do it? Consider “favoriting” their posts, or keeping a compilation of them so you can study them. When writing your own updates and tweets, try pulling out a thesaurus so you can hunt for just the right word as you write, and expand your vocabulary. I know, I know, the idea of using a thesaurus for social networking may sound a bit ridiculous, but if Facebook or Twitter are your preferred forums for writing, you may as well work on your craft there–and a thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend. (Don’t use it to find orotund and rococo words like orotund and rococo, though, when pretentious or flamboyant are available and, well, less pretentious. Rather, use the thesaurus to find that word that’s on the tip of your tongue, or one that adds a little rhythm and musicality to your line.)

Explore the world of blogging. Blogging can be such a fantastic way to develop your voice as a writer. It automatically gives you a forum for your words and, with luck and time, an audience that responds to your writing! If the thought of starting a blog sounds overwhelming, begin by searching for inspiring blogs to simply read. Google up a topic that interests you–homeschooling, beekeeping, photography, even something somewhat obscure, like kombucha-brewing–and then look at the search possibilities in the left column of the Google results page and click on “blogs.” Viola! A bunch of blogs on your topic of interest. Click around and find some you like. You can subscribe to them via an RSS feed reader like Google Reader or Live Bookmarks on Firefox. As you read those blogs and their comments, you’ll find a web of other blogs that you also might enjoy. Leaving comments (well-crafted!) on blogs you admire is a great way to get started in the world of blog-writing.

Look for blogs that have not only content that you enjoy, but also excellent writing. One of my favorites has always been Orangette. Sure, I’m a foodie, and I appreciate what Molly writes about cooking and eating, but I especially enjoy her writing: her funny voice, her chatty, intimate style (“Actually, I should warn you: it may seem as though you have too much chopped pistachio to cram onto the top of the cake, but you must persevere”, her way with (linkable!) metaphor (“I am going to spare you, however, a post on what I’ve been eating at my desk lately, because my lunches are about as riveting as C-SPAN.”) Sometimes I even copy one of Molly’s posts into a Word document and highlight the lines I admire, studying what she’s doing. Dissecting the work of writers you admire is one of the best ways to learn the craft of writing, and no formaldehyde is involved.

If you decide to start blogging yourself, you can dip your toes in slowly. You can keep your posts private at first, and limit your audience. Or you can just dive into the deep end, publish them publicly and see what happens. There are free blogging platforms at WordPress.com (my fave) and Blogger.  If you have any inklings in this direction, do it!  Read this recent comment from Wonderfarm reader Rachel: “My high school was a small private college prep school and we did a lot of writing. You know what I learned? That I hated writing. Or so I thought. Then, several years ago, I started blogging…what I found while blogging is that I LOVED writing.” I hear this again and again from fellow bloggers. The takeaway: Blogging Makes Writers. It can also help you discover what matters to you. I had no idea that I’d find a calling in helping parents with their kids’ writing until I wrote a few blog posts about it, and people responded, and asked for more.

Write poetry. Some of us feel particularly drawn to poetry–or songwriting. Poetry is a unique writing format: it’s concise, powerful, lyrical, emotional, condensed, rhythmic, allegorical. If poetry intrigues you, one of my favorite inspirational resources is poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge. It’s beautifully written and fun to read. It’s also full of simple, playful poetry ideas to try out yourself. (Many of which your kids may enjoy too, as Wooldridge has a long history as a poet in the schools.) The word ticket activity shared throughout the book is one of my all-time favorite writing exercises.

Read writing instruction manuals for inspiration. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is always at the top of my–and practically everybody’s–list. Her chapter  “Shitty First Drafts” is probably the best writing encouragement you will ever receive. Plus, along with her pep talks, you’ll get to enjoy some of the most hilarious and bittersweet writing around. I wrote more about her like-no-other style here. Read her book and then take her advice and write about school lunches. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find in your paragraphs.

Natalie Goldberg’s books are also good. Writing Down the Bones is a classic, but I like Wild Mind in particular because it contains “Try This” exercises, or prompts (which I’ll delve into below.)

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Fire Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is great if you’re a woman, and you’re well, busy. It shows you how you can work at your writing, even if you only have fifteen minutes a day. (Barbara’s podcast Writers on Writing is another favorite resource. Hundreds of fantastic interviews with writers on the art and business of writing.)

Also, if you’re a mother, my current favorite recommendation is a fairly new book called Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothersby Kate Hopper. I love this one because it combines writing encouragement with excerpts from the work of some fantastic mother-writers. The excerpts are all on the topic of parenthood, and they’re wonderful. The book has you studying these master writers to learn about craft, and then it offers writing prompts based on your reading. That right there is the formula for becoming a better writer: study the masters and write yourself. Highly recommended.

Keep a journal, or a writers’ notebook. If you haven’t kept a journal since you were fifteen, maybe it’s time to try again. A journal can be anything you want it to be. You can write recollections of your day. You can ramble on about piddly thoughts that you’d never want to admit to anyone. You can keep lists, you can experiment with style, you can play with writing prompts, described below.

You can keep a parent’s journal, in which you record the memorable things your kids say and do—because no matter how memorable they are, if you don’t write them down, they’re bound to be forgotten. You can record your kids’ interests and wacky accomplishments, and your insights about it all. I’ve kept a few since my oldest was born. I don’t write in mine very often anymore, but even once every few months captures a nice snapshot in time. You may plan, as I do, to share yours with your kids one day.

You can also try keeping a writer’s notebook, full of ideas to use in other writing. You might collect conversations you overhear, or scenes you happen upon. You could gather quotes from other writers, or seeds for a new story or poem. I like using sticky page tabs to section off my notebook. Ralph Fletcher has a neat little paperback written for older kids called A Writer’s Notebook, which has good ideas for organizing such a notebook, whether or not you’re a kid. Or you could simply collect the same wonderful bits on index cards, as Anne Lamott writes about in Bird by Bird. Lamott likes index cards because they fit in her pocket, and don’t make her “look bulky”. She writes, “So whenever I am leaving the house without my purse…I fold an index card lengthwise in half, stick it in my back pocket with a pen, and head out, knowing that if I have an idea, or see something lovely or strange or for any reason worth remembering, I will be able to jot down a couple of words to remind me of it.”

Respond to writing prompts. A prompt is simply a suggestion aimed at generating juicy writing. It might be: Write a letter to yourself at sixteen or If you could place yourself in any film, which would you choose, and why? Even as a kid, I disliked required prompts in school, but prompts as possibilities are different. Browse a few, and choose one that tickles you. Prompts can help you expand your repertoire, and explore ideas you might never happen upon on your own.

All of the books mentioned above have prompts. This tumblr site by Luke Neff–who seems like a pretty wonderful writing teacher–has hundreds of thought-provoking ones. Many are aimed at students, but there are plenty to inspire an adult. Online parenting magazine Literary Mama posts prompts based on its contents several times a month on its blog. Rip the Page by Karen Benke is a book of fun writing prompts for kids—which you might enjoy as well. You could even try out some of them alongside your kids.

Read and study the art of writing. If you’re an avid reader, you might enjoy studying the craft in what you’re reading. Studying the masters is an essential part of becoming a writer. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose shows you how to slow down with close reading to examine how master writers do what they do. It’s a fascinating book. Along similar lines is The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, which is a guide to reading classic literature. While I prefer the content of Reading Like a Writer, The Well-Educated Mind offers specific instructions for making a written record of your book study, which might make it worth consulting if that appeals to you. (And you know what I’m going to tell you: written reflection is good writing practice!) The ideas there could certainly be applied to other books, beyond the classics.

Okay folks, let’s keep the fun going. Leave a comment–it’s writing practice!

I’ll even provide prompts to get you going: What type of writing do you do? What might you like to try? Which books and resources have inspired you? Have your adult writing experiences been different from your school writing experiences? What sort of writing advice do you give your kids? Is it based on your school experiences, or your personal experience as a writing adult? Anything else in this post get you thinking?

30 comments… add one
  • Cath Fraise Jun 23, 2012 @ 7:28

    I stumbled upon your blog in the wee morning hours and have enjoyed it so thoroughly. I *now* don’t feel like the only person out there with writing challenges. Thank you for so much great information in one spot and wonderful encouragement.

    • patricia Jun 23, 2012 @ 13:15

      So glad you found something helpful here, Cath! Thank you for taking the time to say so. I always appreciate the feedback.

  • Loriann H Jun 23, 2012 @ 21:47

    I always wanted to be an “author” as a child. Somewhere along the way, that dream was eclipsed by the desire to be an actress. Now I am neither. I am a wife and mother to 4 boys. I wonder if God wants me to write a book one day. I do journal, but not as consistently as I’d like. I do post on Facebook. My boys hate writing, probably because they have some vision and eye-hand coordination challenges. I didn’t want to push it and make them detest writing even more. I’m supposed to get them to journal a few times a week during the summer, but I’m not looking forward to pulling those teeth.

    Thanks for your tips and encouragement. I’m going to make myself work harder to be a writer and a good role model to follow.

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 14:31

      Hi Loriann,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello!

      I wonder if you’ve read my posts on taking dictation from kids? It’s a whole series that discusses the benefits of writing for kids who aren’t ready or willing to write themselves. It might be a consideration for your boys if vision and eye-hand coordination issues keep them from enjoying writing. I have a friend who helps her son write a journal by taking dictation from him. http://patriciazaballos.com/the-dictation-project/

      Keep writing!

  • Wendy Jun 23, 2012 @ 22:12

    I first discovered your website through your Writing 2.0 post last month (?). I’m looking forward to homeschooling my two sons (currently ages 3 years and 3 months), but strangely enough, as a former elementary school and/or English teacher, the subject of writing is one of the biggest “hurdles” that makes me hesitate to follow through with my dream.

    The main reason I left teaching was to stay home with my boys. The final two or three years that I taught, I hated the struggle to initiate learning and interest in students who thrive on being entertained–it exhausted me. In large part, this was probably because I was using conventionally accepted “educational” methods of “instruction” rather than allowing the students to lead me with their own interests. Simultaneously I began thinking about how the classroom environment could potentially affect my (then only one) son, and became discouraged at that thought, almost to the point of despair. Fortunately, around the same time, I began discovering the wonderfully varied world of homeschooling and unschooling through blogs.

    I know that when I ultimately “officially” dip my toes into the water of homeschooling I will have to fight the traditional “teacher” mentality that I adopted during my 11+ years in the classroom. It will be frightening and freeing all at once, but I can’t wait, because simply listening and being inspired by my three year old’s enthusiasm for learning has given me the courage to believe that a different way is possible.

    When it comes to “teaching” my kids how to write I will be in such unfamiliar territory that I know I will want to fall back on those discouraging and harmful methods I relied on as a teacher. These thoughts and others roll around in my head, but then I think of your 2.0 post and the comments of other readers and I am filled with hope!

    Right now, my main platform for writing is my blog. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, as children’s literature is my first love. One of my big takeaways and challenges for myself from your post here, is to really work on crafting my writing. The English teacher in me always demands that I go back and proofread my words before hitting “publish”, but rarely do I really take the time to truly “write”. I’d like to move towards more thoughtful, meaningful writing, rather than writing posts just because I feel compelled to.

    I, too, enjoy examining the styles of my favorite writers and attempting to imitate or figure out what they’ve done that makes their words resonate with me. I used to encourage my students to do this as well. I discovered Ralph Fletcher’s writing books just a few years ago and haven’t read one yet that I didn’t find something useful in. Thanks for sharing all of the other great resources you mentioned.

    Signing off with a link to a recent post from the blog Cold Antler Farm that touches on the subject of writing as well: http://coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com/2012/06/accidental-juggler.html

    Thanks again!

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 14:41

      Hi Wendy,

      I know the challenge of homeschooling when you’ve come from a teaching background. People often assume that homeschooling came easier to me because I taught elementary school, but in many ways I think it was a harder adjustment for me than it might have been for other parents. I had to completely rethink what learning outside of a classroom can mean.

      Don’t worry too much about your kids and writing. My best advice is to do whatever you can to make it enjoyable for them–even if it means you write for them for several years. I have lots of posts here about kids and writing, and I plan to keep writing them! Ralph Fletcher is such a great mentor–keep reading his stuff, and you won’t go wrong.

      Loved the Cold Antler Farm post. Thank you. And thanks for your comment!

  • CathyT Jun 24, 2012 @ 5:35

    I always look forward to a new post by you. Just last night I was talking with my husband about the task of writing my teens’ high school transcripts – course descriptions for all the classes they “took” over the past three/four years – out so they could attend college as a part time student this fall. He was asking me if I was putting too much time and effort into it, as he wondered how much the college would actually read of it (I wonder the same thing for the high school and elementary schools when I pass in my end of year progress notes!). I was telling him that the process of writing this document was important in my mind because it forced me to be a good writer and my teens were, for once, reading and critiquing for content and word choice something that *I* wrote.

    I love to write personal letters, way more than emails to friends and family to catch up with them. I am fine with them writing to me by email or calling if that is what they prefer, and they do like my chatty letters. I guess that is how I model writing to my younger boys — sitting near them as they play writing a note to a friend. My mom did the same with me and my siblings — and always let us read notes from our aunts who wrote back to her.

    You asked about our high school writing experiences. I tend to forget anything painful over time, so honestly I can’t recall — which means it must have been a chore.

    Oh, and have you seen this interview? I loved every bit of it and shared it with a few other friends. I can’t recall whose blog linked me to it. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury


    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 15:03

      Hi Cathy,

      Love your story about writing your boys’ transcripts. Such a great example of how the writing process can be an education experience in itself–and how great that your boys are reading and editing what you’ve written as well!

      Real, hand-written letters are such a treasure these days. I still have a shoebox full from back when my husband and I were long-distance dating, before email and cheap phone calls.

      I’ve only read excerpts from the Bradbury interview; thanks for linking it. I’ve bookmarked it and look forward to sitting down with it over a cup of tea…

  • Kristin Jun 26, 2012 @ 10:48

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I look forward to reading some of them. Like anything, there is always room for improvement. That is why I like the idea you mentioned to me in a comment in your previous post: to find an author you like, study him/her, and try modeling their style. I’ve done that with sentences, but not with a whole structure for a piece.

    Regarding my writing: many random details. My kids have been seeing me write consistently for some time now and it makes me feel proud to know that I’ve been modeling it. Sometimes I read my blog posts aloud to our daughter so she knows what I’m writing about and what I sound like.

    I used to find writing to be hard work, but it has become easier from consistent practice. Over the course of 3.5 years, I’ve become faster at composing and editing my work. Lately, I’ve disciplined myself to write a post once a week beginning on a Monday. Depending upon the topic, it can take me 1-3 days to write/edit it. I love the creative aspect of developing an idea. Given my background in film-making, it’s natural for me to storyboard my content with my images (photographs) to structure the outline for what I write about which leads me to the following interest.

    I’d really like to write another script. I’ve written one that I co-produced into a video for a wildlife hospital. Currently, I find that my blogging takes up most of my creative writing time, and for now I’m satisfied with doing that, but I’m toying with writing a script again.

    What discourages me from beginning is that back in the late 80’s, I was a script reader at Zoetrope Corp., Coppola’s film company. I was one of three people reading them (at that time) and forwarding them to a producer if I thought they had any merit; so many of them were tossed into the garbage. Being on the writing side of it, I feel hesitant to begin, knowing that a peon would be reading my script and determining its value after all my hard work and effort to complete it.

    I think what will help me get past that negative thought pattern is to feel passionate about a topic and just begin. Then I know I’ll become absorbed and have to finish and I can deal with the distribution of it after that. Or, I may just contact a non-profit business and offer my services (for a small stipend) to write a video script for them.

    I’m wondering how do you deal with the publishing aspect of your writing in a way that doesn’t deter you?

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 15:39

      Hi Kristin,

      It’s great that you’ve kept up with your blog writing as long as you have–both for what it does for you, and, as you say, for the fact that you’re modeling a love of writing for your kids.

      It’s a struggle though, isn’t it, to keep up with blogging and to explore other writing pursuits? I’ve had to cut back on blogging to find more writing time, and it’s still a challenge.

      I hope your desire to write a script keeps percolating! I think any writer would tell you that worrying about your final product is toxic when you’re beginning a project. Have you ever read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott? I think you’d like it. Reading it might inspire you to start a new script project.

      For me, I try not to think about publication when I’m starting something. I knew for years that my work wasn’t ready to be published, so I just kept working at it. Finally it got to a point that I thought it was worth sending out. I’ve had a few pieces published, but there are even more personal essays that have been routinely rejected and have never found a forum–they’re pieces that mean a lot to me, and I hate to have them languishing on a hard drive. I’ve played with the idea of publishing them here. One of these days–when I’m not busy working on something new!–I think I will. Even if they haven’t been published elsewhere, I learned so much about writing and my own thinking in the process of writing them.

      Have you seen this video of an interview with Ira Glass? It’s about wanting to create, but knowing your work isn’t up to the level of those you admire–and how you have to keep going. I love it. http://vimeo.com/24715531#

      I think you’ve given yourself the best advice out there: “just begin.”

  • too sleepy to finish reading the post, but I bookmarked so I can finish it tomorrow. However what I did read was very interresting and made me stop and comment here before going to bed. It’s 2 am.

    I am writing more posts. It’s been hard work and I know that my writing is not as fluid as yours.

    I have also checked out some books on writers telling how they write. The other day I read how Roadl Dahl writes his books/ stories. Looking for tips, I guess.

    anyway…bedtime for me. 🙂

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 15:49

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Tereza, even at 2:00 am!

      Keep writing those posts!

  • Carrie Pomeroy Jun 27, 2012 @ 19:15

    Nice post, as usual! I’m glad you gave a shout-out to Kate Hopper. She’s a local treasure here in the Twin Cities and a great resource.

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 15:51

      Yes, I remember you writing to me about Kate, long ago. Her book grabbed my attention because of that; now Kate and I have connected on Twitter. The book is fantastic. Have you gotten your hands on it yet?

      • Carrie Pomeroy Jul 6, 2012 @ 6:41

        I haven’t bought it yet, but I’m going to see her read/lead a discussion about the book later this month and I’ll get a copy then. I was sorry to miss her book launch a month or so ago–she had students from her Mother Words writing classes read from their work, rather than putting all the focus on herself. I heard it was a very successful event.

        I’m so glad you two have connected; you have a lot of common passions!

    • patricia Jul 7, 2012 @ 10:42

      Lucky for you that you get to go to her discussion! She’s coming to the Bay Area, but unfortunately it’s the same weekend that I’ll be speaking at a homeschool conference in Sacramento. I’m so disappointed!

      For other local readers, check out her schedule: http://www.katehopper.com/appearances/

  • Alanna Jun 28, 2012 @ 15:11

    I recently discovered your blog, and although we have yet to decide the “formal” schooling path we will take with our two young children (4 and 2), I very much appreciate the insights you share here. I just wanted to chime in and thank you for this post in particular. I have always felt that writing was in my blood (perhaps it is, as two of my aunts are authors). However, for the past 10 years or so–during the course of grad school, and now, my job–I have been doing a lot of expository writing and digging myself into quite a rut, where writing has become (mostly) joyless drudgery.

    Reading your post last weekend was just the inspiration I needed, and I’ve started writing my first novel. (Well, I say “first” but that doesn’t count the 10 or so “books” I wrote for fun when I was a young girl.) Upon making the commitment to start, details of plot and characters have begun to fall into place, as if they have been just waiting for me to find them all along. I have always wanted to write a novel, but part of what kept me from starting was the self-defeating notion that all the “good” stories have already been written–there are so many amazing works out there; how could I possibly compete or even come up with something original? But once I started thinking about my own passions, and forming a narrative around those, the more excited I became, and now, it just feels like something I not only need to do, I want to do it too! Who knows where it will lead, but at this point, I am very happy to just be engaging in the creative process, and to be doing something that just feels “right” to me. Thank you also for the resources you provided; I look forward to checking them out!

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 15:58

      Reading my post was the inspiration you needed to start a novel? Wow, I’m utterly honored! Reading about your process and how your novel is coming together is inspiring!

      I hope you will check out some of those resources–they might be good inspiration for you. Then again, it sounds like your project has an energy of its own. Very exciting!

      Thanks for sharing this with me, Alanna. It made my day. Please keep us updated with your progress!

  • renee @ FIMBY Jun 29, 2012 @ 5:45

    Patricia, have you thought of putting together your writing thoughts (already published on your blog) into an e-book or something? I’d buy it. I’d recommend it to other homeschoolers.

  • renee @ FIMBY Jun 29, 2012 @ 5:52

    Wanted to add: I didn’t discover I was a writer till I had been blogging for a few years. I’ve always kept a journal, wrote good essays in school (got good grades at least), love to read, love words etc. but I thought being a writer was something reserved for published authors. Not so! I’m now happy and confident to call myself a writer (reading Jeff Goins book right now) even though my punctuation might be off sometimes, I haven’t “parsed” a sentence since… maybe ever. You get the idea. It’s not about all the rules, though they help to make things readable and get your message across, it’s about communicating ideas.

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 16:05

      I’m right with you, Renee: I didn’t discover that I was a writer until adulthood. It is definitely not an art reserved for published authors! I just discovered Jeff Goins’ website recently; his book sounds intriguing.

      Regarding the e-book idea: I’m trying to get my first one together right now, the one about how to facilitate writer’s workshops for kids. Once I’ve gotten my first one out, I’m sure I’ll play with what might come next. This whole e-book format is very exciting. You can become a published writer without a publishing house! Fantastic. It goes back to that same notion that writing shouldn’t be reserved for professional writers–everyone can be a writer.

      I’m so inspired by your forays into e-books. Keep going!

  • Zane Jun 29, 2012 @ 19:00

    So many great resources: thank you!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how I model writing as I watch my older daughter learn to write. She is just in the beginning stages: signs on her door, little letters to her dolls, names on everything. And yet those first bits of writing are so interesting to me; I love noticing what motivates her to put letters down on paper.

    I have journals—stacks of them from the past 16 years of my life. I hope my daughter will be a journal writer too. I also love the blog format, but recently have taken to posting more photos and less text on my blog. Because I had been spending more time blogging and less time journaling, I was missing the intimacy of paper. I think I’m a more honest writer when I’m writing in a place that isn’t meant for anyone else to read. So now my private journals are filling up again, and—as a side benefit—my daughter notices me writing by hand. Eventually I hope to find a better balance between writing privately and publicly.

    • patricia Jul 1, 2012 @ 16:12

      Hi Zane,

      I’ve also always been fascinated with what propels young kids to put letters on a page. They do it so naturally–more often than not, we adults mess that up. It’s neat that you value what your daughter is doing. It’s important!

      I’ve also kept journals for many years. Like you, my journal writing has slipped away as my blog writing increased. That makes me sad because, as you’ve noted, the two types of writing are very different. Your story inspires me to get back to writing in my journal more. I’m thinking of a Sunday night habit, at least.

      Recently, my 16-year-old daughter told me that it was the fourth anniversary of her writing in her journal every single day. I was amazed! I knew she kept a journal, but had no idea she did it so faithfully. I never pushed her to do that–but I did tell her when she was much younger that her journals were sacred, and that I would never consider reading them. Guess she believed me!

      Thanks for sharing your story, Zane!

  • amy Jul 5, 2012 @ 16:50

    What a great post! I was just thinking about this very subject. I am in two writing classes now, so writing and writing and talking about writing…. and guess what? There has been an EXPLOSION of writing around here! My 10 yo daughter wrote a huge story on her own and my 8 yo son started a blog about his favorite subjects, bugs! They are so excited by what they are creating – it is finally all clicking for all of us! You are the first one I thought of when all the energy and passion was threatening to bubble over.

    Here is his first post. The interesting thing (that I have read from you many times) is that for him to write this, it had to be important, have an audience and be useful. This is all those things!


    Off to get all these resources!

    • patricia Jul 7, 2012 @ 10:54

      How exciting, Amy! TWO writing classes! What are the classes, specifically? I’m intrigued.

      Sounds like your writing may be inspiring your kids’ writing! Thank you for proving my point. 😉 It’s especially neat that your kids have found their own writing formats. I’m going to show your son’s blog to Mr. T. I’ve been gently nudging him to start a blog for a while; seeing other kid blogs might be good inspiration. Blogging can be such a great format for kids as well as adults–instant audience!

      Thanks for sharing your family’s bubbling-over enthusiasm!

  • wanderingsue Oct 20, 2013 @ 2:11

    Can I start with a cheeky little chuckle at this-

    “…they don’t listen to my tips on how to keep a neat bedroom.

    They listen, I’m sure, because they know that I write too.”

    How messy is your bedroom? 🙂

    I’ve always liked writing, as long as it wasn’t for school. (In fact, writing letters when I was supposed to be doing homework was one of the things that kept me able to smile through high school!)

    Then a very dear friend started one of my favourite blogs- innerpickle.com.au And I found some other blogs to love, and it felt like friendships, but one-directional, despite the commenting I so love. (You know, of course, that comments on most other blogs are dead-end, because you never remember to go and check if you’ve had a reply back.) So, with nothing in particular to say, I started a blog of my own. And it was kind of fun.

    But something’s changed recently at wordpress, and I hate that. I’m sure it would be an improvement if I could be bothered to figure it out, but for now I have to choose between posting text or posting photos! Pants to them.

    (Just aside, I know you’re supposed to put pictures into blog posts and powerpoint presentations and stuff because otherwise you lose your audience, but does that not make you worry about us? Look at really old newspapers- those babies were dense and black and white, and pictureless, and our ancestors read them. Is it a problem? I’m waiting for the day novels for adults start needing illustrations!)

    And now I’ve started a home ed journal. It’s pretty, and multi-function, and not private, and important to me. It’s where I take Henners’ dictated stories, which he loves, and where I occasionally let Lauren have a scribble, and where I jot reminders to myself, and blow off steam, and nut out thoughts I may or may not blog about. I kept journals as a young teenager, and have only recently forgiven the 20-year-old I was who threw them away!

    And Lauren’s desperate for my attention. Bye!

    • patricia Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:17

      Oops, I missed the unintended implication of my bedroom/writing comment! (My bedroom happens to be very neat because my husband is a neatnik, and there are not usually kids in there!)

      Did you figure out the wordpress issue? That seems weird. I’ve never had that problem, but I self-host at wordpress.org.

      The needing-photos-for-blogs thing drives me nuts at times. Often I don’t really have a pertinent photo, but just putting words never seems like quite enough. Silly, really.

      Your home ed journal sounds wonderful! I’ll bet you’ll be so happy to have that to look back at one day. I love that you collect all those different things in one place. xo!

  • wanderingsue Oct 20, 2013 @ 2:12

    Aargh! Is it possible to move the submit button to below the drop down menu for follow-up comments?

    • patricia Oct 28, 2013 @ 18:20

      I wish I knew how to move the submit button below the drop-down! My friend who designs websites professionally couldn’t figure it out, though, so I think I’m out of luck. I will just have to train you all! 🙂

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