My oldest grandchild, Alexis, who just turned nine, found a way to shock me this past week–in a most wonderful way. She told me she’s been keeping a journal for the past year. It’s chock full of her thoughts, jokes she’s heard, stories she’s dreamed up all on her own, and observations about the world and her place in it.
Unfettered by concerns about grammar, punctuation, and spelling, she launched herself into the written world–in her own way and on her own terms. Her stories may echo elements of books she’s read, and her comments may not match the depth of the world’s greatest minds, but she felt confident enough in herself to record them. Even more than that, she felt confident enough to share them. (So, hats off to Mom and Dad, too!) Writing, it turns out, can be a lot of fun.
I typically work with folks on the other end of the age spectrum–boomers, mostly, who all too often believe they have no story to tell, or worse, no skills with which to tell it. I wish they would tackle their own writing projects with the same enthusiasm and disdain for the niceties that my darling granddaughter managed. I can only imagine how much they could accomplish.
In that regard, there are some outstanding role models. Look no farther than James A. Henry or George Dawson. These men didn’t even learn to read until they were in their 90’s, and then they wrote books of their own. (Both are available at Amazon.com.)
In their innocence, children often display a degree of courage that seniors lack. They haven’t experienced enough of life’s roadblocks and sucker punches to know what they can’t do. Instead, they just do it.
The primary goal for any beginner, should be to finish a first draft. Editing and error repair can come later. The hard part is getting the story down, and maybe not even all of it, but enough that one can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, “It’s done. At least for now.”
Sadly, the greatest hurdle for beginners is the exact same thing: finishing a first draft. The reasons for failure are legion: too little time, too many distractions, too little training, too much to do, too little this, too much of that, and on and on and on. Spare me!
The only way to get it done is to sit down and write. It’s not magic. It’s work, but it’s not always unpleasant work. Quite the contrary. And it certainly doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. Or ten, Or a thousand, for that matter. But it does require dedication and a belief that what is being written is worthy of being read. That applies to writing in the broadest sense–fiction, of course, but all that other stuff, too.
So, if my 9-year-old granddaughter can do it, and if at least two gentlemen in their 90’s can start doing it, there ought to be hope for the rest of us. We can tell our stories, write our memoirs, record our jokes and recipes and poems. We can make a statement.
We are writers.