Good morning everyone!
I’m back from Grand Rapids and the wonderful, enriching time I shared with the 33 women who attended. They came to the frigidly cold north from across the country: California, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and all parts Michigan. I’ve been mulling over how to describe and summarize the deeply satisfying weekend we shared together. I think the word I’d use is “personal.” It always amazes me that teaching about writing leads to personal revelation and reevaluation. As we looked at how mothers draw out the writers in our children, we confronted what ways we block the free-flow of their imaginations, ideas and words. We had to face the fact that sometimes we haven’t wanted to hear about the things that interest our kids, that we haven’t valued their thought lives because we feared they weren’t interested in the “right” things or “educational” things or that they were perhaps even treading next to what for some have been labeled “dangerous” things (video games, role playing cards, or fairies, for instance).
Yet by appreciating the rich complexity that is each child, by taking notes when they speak their meandering recitations of a movie or game they’ve played, of the way they built the snow fort in the front yard… we demonstrate that in fact what they think about deserves preservation on paper and that it ought to be shared with a larger audience than Mom. These kinds of insights led to memories about our own parents and the ways we’ve been validated and understood or dismissed and ignored. It was interesting to hear, for instance, one mom share that she and her siblings would never tell their parents about their changed religious and political beliefs because these would be unwelcome by their parents. It struck me that that unwillingness to share our real selves with our parents develops over a lifetime of feeling our thoughts and ideas don’t matter. What an opportunity we have to be different kinds of parents and writing partners!
Another mother shared with me that since her wonderful father died, she had lost her love of writing. It was as if that part of her had died – the part that shared who she was with her dad and the world. Through the weekend, she found the will and desire to express herself again and wants to provide that outlet to her children. Truly, our parents form and shape us for good or ill. We get to choose.
We talked about all the usual things: copywork, dictation, narration, revision, editing, freewriting. Yet through it all, a golden thread of tenderness and love for children wove these disparate language arts practices into a stronger cloth. Because the best writing advice is “write what you know,” we discovered that the best “teaching writing advice” is “know your writers.” And because we rarely bother to know something well without loving it, it occurred to me that a Brave Writer translation of these two principles might be:
Love your writers, so they will be free to write what they love.
In the end, this is not only how we learn to write well, but how we learn to know and love each other. Once again, writing becomes the conduit to self-knowledge, but also to loving relationships. There really is power in the word.
Thanks to all you lovely ladies who shared the weekend with me. I feel equally recommitted to, re-vested in my children and family.