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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Raise a Writer

By Christina Katz

Do you think you have budding writers under your roof? Well, never fear. Writing has evolved quite a bit in the information age. This list of tips will help you and your kids keep your feet on the ground as you explore the multiple possibilities of a writing life.

1. Express support. Kids may be vocal about their desire to write, or they may feel shy about it. If you notice signs that your children enjoy creating with words, why not just go ahead and ask if they’d enjoy learning more about writing? Don’t press them, though.

2. Encourage individuality. Every person has unique ways of viewing the world, unless someone interferes with his or her perspective. It’s one thing to ask your children to consider your point of view; it’s another thing to pressure them to embrace a point of view that does not belong to them. Encourage your children to be free thinkers, and you’ll raise inspired writers.

3. Purchase tools. Take your writers to the office supply store and ask, “Is there anything you need for school or even just for fun?” and watch what happens. Writers adore supplies. So if your scribblers want gel pens, pocket pads, and locked journals, either get them or add them to an upcoming gift list.

4. Test-drive media. Writers love words and words come in many forms. Expose your writers to multiple forms of media, such as books (including e-books), magazines, newspapers, journals, comics, graphic novels, blogs, and websites. Variety inspires creative thinking.

5. Study established writers. The digital age gives us more access to real-life and virtual interactions with established writers than ever. Ask your scribblers to list favorite writers and then help them track down reference materials. Consider websites, documentaries, YouTube videos, podcasts, radio interviews, profiles, and articles. Check author websites for upcoming book-tour dates. Try to attend as many author events as you can. You’re young writers will never forget the experiences.

6. Respect storytelling. Once your kids did not know where babies came from, so don’t expect your starry-eyed writers to know where stories come from either. Help your aspiring writers understand that stories do not fall whole and complete from the sky. Great works are crafted through inspiration, skill, and sustained effort over time. Discussing the craft of the writing process helps kids understand the level of commitment it takes to complete a book-length work.

7. Check out biographies. Unfortunately, in the past many writers struggled. Some of their lives were, in fact, fairly tragic. For this reason, you may not wish to dwell on the stories of historical writers. You don’t want to inadvertently plant the seed in your youngsters’ heads that writers are destined for lives of suffering. Fortunately, we have many modern-day examples of writers striving and succeeding. Encourage your writers to look up some contemporary role models, and they will find plenty of real-life inspiration.

8. Protect privacy. Beyond what they write for school, young writers should be allowed to privately store their works-in-process. Whether they do not wish you to see what they write because they are tentative, shy, or embarrassed does not matter. You do not need to supervise every word they write. Make sure other family members also respect young writers’ need for privacy. Sometimes, if you ask patiently, your writers will come around and show you their work.

9. Support research. Writers often need to stick an imaginary funnel in their heads and fill it with relevant data. When your young writers take an interest in a topic, make yourself their research assistant. Schedule trips to the library, encouraging them to befriend the research librarian. Brainstorm ways to learn more about the topic. Allow access to computer databases you’ve checked out together. (Set parental controls on your computers, though.)

10. Praise patience. Unlike other hobbies, avocations, and careers that come with expiration dates, writers can scribble from the time they can hold a pencil until their last day on Earth. Make sure your young writers know that they’ve got all the time in the world to write. 

Christina Katz was born a writer, but she still had to take a lot of concrete steps to bring her dream to life. She knows young writers will deeply appreciate any support parents can provide.