Up until last week, my daughter disliked writing. Perhaps dislike is not a strong enough word. Writing was right up there with skinned knees and red sauce on her spaghetti. It pained me because writing is what I love the most, next to Jesus, my family, coffee and my hidden stash of chocolate (the one in the freezer behind the frozen vegetables).
My girl devours books so I couldn’t understand her aversion to writing. She read The Hobbit when she was seven years old and narrated it back to me beautifully. Surely she, of all people, could understand the beauty and thrill of stringing together one’s own words on paper.
And yet more often than not, when it was time to pick up a pencil, whether for copywork or for her English course, there were tears. Creative writing was a distant dream.
Where was I going wrong?
Last week, after a particularly challenging morning, I brought my daughter upstairs and sat her on my bed. “Look,” I told her. “These are my school journals from when I was even younger than you. Let me read you some of the stories I wrote.”
(Yes, I still have my second grade school journals. And it’s a darn good thing I do, Marie Kondo. This was divine inspiration, plain and simple.)
We read two journals from cover to cover. We laughed at the awkward silliness of the things I wrote, and I marvelled at the encouraging comments my teacher penned in the margins. When we were finished, my daughter looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
“I wish I could write like that.”
“You can,” I replied.
At lunch, I set three small toys on the table: a girl, a basket and a cow. I gave each of my daughters a brand new notebook and told them that I was going to set the timer for 5 minutes. They would only have to write until the timer beeped, and they could write about anything that came to mind, as long as they included the objects on the table.
All of us got to work, even the littlest one, who happily drew pictures.
The timer went off. They asked for more time. It went off again. And again. Before we knew it, over 25 minutes had passed of (mostly) quiet writing time.
The next day, my daughter begged for another free writing session. And again the day after that.
The girls take turns selecting the objects to include in that day’s free write. In future, I’m hoping to also include art, writing prompts, dictionary words and other exercises that my own writing teachers used to ignite our creativity.
After we write, we read our little stories to each other. Their creations are absolutely delightful, and I’m having so much fun crafting my own tales, too. In the evenings, when my husband is home from a long day at work, we gather together and read our stories to him.
I find it fascinating that three people can begin with the exact same prompt and come up with completely different storylines. I treasure these glimpses into my daughters’ minds. Those girls have incredible imaginations.
My husband writes and so do I, but now our children are also writing and loving it. My girls not only write during the school day, I’ve also caught them scribbling away in their free time. It’s becoming an integral part of our family culture.
The other day, I asked my daughter what her favourite subject is.
“Writing, of course!” she responded with a grin.