What I’ve Learned About Writing from Watching My Kids
Have you ever noticed how young children seem to be bursting with imaginative ideas? Through the games they play, with no pressures to perform, one thing leads to another until they’ve constructed an intricate imaginary world. Much like the world in a story or novel. Here are a few of my ideas for using children’s games to help your writing:
1. I Spy With My Writer’s Eye
Young children love to play the game I Spy. As a writer, this game can work for you too. Look around the room and focus on one particular object. Write as many different ways as you can think of to describe the object you’ve spied.
2. Hide and Seek
If you could imagine a fantastic place to hide, where would it be? Close your eyes and imagine what your secret place looks like, the lighting, the colours, the objects that you’d find there. Imagine the smells, the sounds, and the feel of the floor under your fingers. Write a paragraph or two describing your place — and then, if you like, what happens when someone else finds you there!
3. Let’s Pretend
Remember when you used to make believe you were a queen, or a superhero? Choose a favorite “pretend” character from your childhood. As that character, make a list of things to do, a list of the things you carry in your bag, or a list of what’s in your closet. Then drop the pretend character and write a paragraph or two about the things on your list as if they belonged to an ordinay person.
4. And Then What?
Did you ever play a game where you and some friends each take turns making up a new sentence in a story? Start with a simple statement, such as, “Kate was lounging by the pool.” Ask the question, “And then?” and fill in the blank. For example, “And then a giant beach ball covered with words landed on her lap.” Keep asking yourself, “And then?” until you run out of ideas. You might end up with a great story.
5. Secret Messages
A couple of weeks ago, my kids tried using lemon juice to make invisible ink. Making the words on the page disappear sometimes helps with writing too. Words can get in the way of the story (especially if you are a stickler about spelling, grammar and punctuation.) You can get rid of these distractions by writing or typing with your eyes closed. Does it sound crazy? Give it try. You might be surprised at what happens when your focus is on ideas rather than words.
An Update on “Recapturing the Spark”
A while ago I told you about my difficulties in getting back to an idea for a novel that I’d left alone for a long time. Well, I’m inspired again! I recently brainstormed a great beginning twist that got the words flowing. Even though the characters were starting to “talk” in my head, instead of rushing into writing, I took the time to think through the story and plot. [Thanks Christy, for your earlier blog post on outlines.] That extra time seems to be paying off, because lately the writing is coming more easily than ever. It also helps that I’m making a conscious effort to curb my perfectionist tendencies and NOT go back to rewrite earlier chapters as I go.