Even as a very young child, the activity I enjoyed most was making up stories and writing them down.
I’ve carried this immensely satisfying habit through to adulthood. In fact, I consider myself incredibly blessed to be able to earn a living from what I love best!
Like many writers, I have a “writing routine”. I always write at my desk. The office must be spotless and my phone on silent. My favourite mug filled with steaming coffee is placed on my right, my research notes and client brief to my left, with an adequate supply of something nice to snack on within easy reach. It’s almost superstition – leave out the Mocca Java and the ideas just don’t flow as easily. Let there be a donut drought or a sugar shortage, and I can almost guarantee that the inspiration slows down by seven notches! When I write, no matter what the project, I spend a lot of time on research, ensuring that I understand both the topic and the audience that the final message has to reach. Then I work on a writing outline; I plot the entire piece and jot down what I want to say and the order in which these things should be said. Only once all this has been accomplished, do I actually get to the serious job of working with words. I always thought I’d hate for this to change, until something simple happened that made me question the way I write.
I was a brain-dead lump lying on the couch watching some equally brain-dead show when I realised that my usually rowdy 8 year old daughter was sitting at the dining room table with a chewed-down lead pencil and a tattered old notebook. Problem was, she was very, very quiet…. and very, very busy.
“What are you up to?” I asked her.
“Oh, just writing a book.” came the innocent reply.
Now I have to admit that the writer’s part of me just swelled with pride. “She got that from me!” I thought with delight. Then I went over and took a good look. Sure, the spelling was rather charmingly challenged, but not only had she written a whole chapter in half an hour (in longhand), she could also tell me how many chapters were needed (seven), the title (The Pig who had 12 Babies…. and no, I do NOT know where that idea came from), and the characters (a farmer, a vet, a rude receptionist and the farmer’s friend). In. Half. An. Hour!!!! Who DOES that without PREP…or chocolate??!!
“Wow!” I said, only because a more intelligent response utterly failed me at the time. “So what happens in the story?”
“Well, I can tell you what happens in Chapter 1” she answered breezily, “but I guess I’ll just decide what should happen next after I’m finished each part. I know how it ends though.”
Well! Take that, Ms Mommy WRITER person!
But seriously, after the shock wore off, I got to thinking about the lesson to be learned from this. As writers, we have to pay attention to spelling and grammar etc., but do we sometimes get too bogged down by the technicalities of writing? In our pursuit of perfection and excellence, have we lost the essence and magic of just weaving a story? How tragic if we did! I’d trade a lifetime’s supply of jellybeans AND the best coffee in the world just for the privilege and sheer joy of writing with the free abandon of a child, and it’s a feeling I hope I never lose!
Author of “Beautiful: Simple, everyday advice for improving your self-esteem and living the life you deserve”