My 9yo has gotten it into his head that he wants to be a writer. When he first told me that was what he wanted to be, frankly I was surprised. The truth of the matter is that the signs of a would-be writer just aren't there. No fascination with the English language, an outright abhorrence for the dictionary, no creative ways of putting his words together, nothing to indicate that this would become a dream of any sort.
But there it is, he says he wants to be a writer. Worse, he's asked me to help him with his writing over the summer. Worse still, I agreed to it. Afterall, I enjoy writing and I would like encourage my children on whatever path they wish to take. Ideal, right?
Most of the problems stem from my end. Until my son told me he wanted to be a writer, the youngest writer-to-be that I've dealt with has been 12yo (in all fairness, I thought he was 13 at the time though). The difference between a writer at 9 and a writer at 12 is that the 12yo has a pretty good idea what a paragraph is and what it should contain. At least what a paragraph is as taught by English teachers. Y'know topic sentence and a couple more sentences describing the topic sentence.
Basic stuff, right? To most of us, sure, but for a 9yo this has got to be one of the hardest things in the world. At least if I judge it by the tears that have poured out my kid's eyes since I said "Write a sentence about the mirror and then two more sentences as to why this specific mirror is that way." In other words, an exercise in "showing not telling" at its most basic level. Unfortunately, even this was too difficult for him. Sure, he could write three sentences about the mirror, but it was three of the exact same sentences, even after I explained to him the different parts of the mirror (frame, silvering, etc). To make matters worse, each sentence told but didn't show the phrase "the mirror was ugly."
I love the child, but he's the sensitive type, so I know if he truly wants to be a writer, specifically a professional writer, he's going to have to get some backbone and a thicker hide. The fact is though, I'm not his editor, publisher, agent, what have you, I'm his Mom. Sure, I'm tough on him when he breaks household rules. I set the bar high for him in most cases and 9 times out of 10, he'll meet or exceed where I've set that bar. However, when it comes to his writing, I can't be tough on him even though I know others will be.
Is this an unforseen soft spot? Hardly, because it's not my job to be harsh, just tough. I also have to realize when I've set the bar too high. And when it comes right down to it, the toughest thing about being a writer is not all the editing and the garnering of critiques, but the actual act of writing.
So, that's his new project, to write. Everyday. No ifs, ands, or buts, and certainly no excuses, because if he can do this, he will become if not a better writer (as I'm certain he will be), but far more importantly, he can claim what a lot of people try to: "I'm a writer."
And isn't that the whole point?