William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read. Read everything trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”
Introducing children to the world of literature is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, regardless of whether or not writing is in their future. Before they can read, read to them, help them fall in love with words.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Sir Richard Steele
Books captivate and spark imagination. Once they begin to read, they begin to learn, let the masters be their teachers. When I was six years old I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, I was enraptured by the tale and soon sat down to write a story of my own. Some children seem to be born with a story within them, just waiting to be told.
“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain
Teach them to speak properly. If they are to write, they must know how to speak, and speak well. The proper use of words and a good vocabulary will only serve to enhance every aspect of their writing as well as their future relationships and employment opportunities. This is something you can do from the time they are babies, baby talk can be fun when it’s time to have fun, but I’m a firm believer that children need to be spoken to in the way we want them to one day speak.
Encouragement will foster confidence; too much encouragement can lead to disappointment, reserved honesty is sometimes best. I would never tell my children something was wonderfully written if it were not, instead, I would find the good in it, then offer suggestions for the parts that could use some attention. Read what your child writes and tell them you want to read more, your enthusiasm will fuel their own.
“There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it.” Morley Callaghan
Teach them to see the world around them, help them become constant observers. Inspiration comes in many forms; sometimes the most insignificant of things will lead us to the most significant thought. It teaches them to be aware of themselves and all that surrounds them. It teaches there is so much more to be seen than most people realize, they’ll learn to see what others may not, they’ll experience so much more of life when they learn to look beyond the ordinary.
Two of my four children are writers, amazing writers, they are all avid readers and eloquent speakers as well. When they were young, one of their favorite pastimes was Mad Libs. Without realizing it, they were learning with each silly story. Before my daughter was five she knew what adjectives and pronouns were, she knew the difference between a verb and an adverb. They learned new words and how to spell them through family games of Scrabble.
I often sat with them, pen and paper in hand, and we wrote stories together, taking turns, paragraph by paragraph. Here they learned the proper usage of grammar and punctuation, they learned to be creative. They learned to show, not tell. They found their own voices within the words they penned to the page. Looking back on their earliest writing brings both smiles and tears, their innocence spilled upon page after page, they are some of my most treasured possessions.
“Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad including your own bad.” Doris Lessing
I encouraged them to keep journals, it’s important to have a place to write anything and everything. To me, it is in the pages of a journal where you learn the most about who you really are. There can be no self-expression without a sense of self.
I taught them to never throw away what they’ve written, even if they thought it wasn’t the greatest, I urged them to tuck it away and maybe someday revisit and rework, or at the very least, look back on to see how far they’ve come. One of my greatest regrets as a writer is the loss of work I deemed unworthy at the time.
As teenagers, I encouraged them to write often, offering critiques and advice along the way. Constructive criticism can be a difficult thing to take in the beginning; they learned to grow from it. They found online writing groups and sought out those teachers willing to take time and become a part of their journey as they wrote their way into each new chapter of their lives.
Now, as adults, they continue to write as they pursue other dreams and opportunities. Their ability to express themselves in both the written and spoken word is remarkable and rarely goes unnoticed. It wasn’t my intent to raise writers, my goal was to teach them the importance of words, language, and expression. The words we say follow us through life, they can open doors or they can close them.
I place great value on words, they are how we let the world know who we are, what we stand for, what we desire, need, and cherish in life. Their worth is immeasurable. Teaching a child the wonder of words, not just how to say them, but how to feel them and bring them to life, is as I said, a gift.
Crystal R. Cook
WA is a recognized and widespread epidemic of addiction affecting people from around the globe. This affliction has silently consumed lives for centuries, some may argue it is a harmless addiction, though many have been known to suffer from co-morbid conditions such as alcohol and caffeine abuse.
Negative side effects include insomnia, malnourishment, and social deficits. Family members of those living with WA have reported episodes of withdrawal, lack of spontaneity, decreased desire to engage in family activities, lack of personal care, and sustained periods of restlessness in those diagnosed.
Currently, the typical diagnostic criteria used to determine addiction is not apparent in all cases, many go unrecognized by the medical and psychiatric communities leading to a majority of cases being diagnosed by family members. Many of those with WA are self diagnosed.
In many instances you may hear it referred to as a syndrome in lieu of an addiction. A majority of those with WA do not see it as an addiction, they believe they were born with WA. Popular theory and current research suggests there may be a genetic component involved.
Since the diagnostic criterium for addiction is not always met, WA, also known as Writing Addiction, or Writing Syndrome, is often a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning you know your addicted if you’ve excluded everything else in life aside from the written word.
In fact, if you are reading this you may have one of two very real addictions, perhaps even both. If you are reading simply because you must read you more than likely have RA, Reading Addiction. If you are reading this and already thinking of what to write about it, it’s safe to say you are a Writing addict. If you are reading this out of sheer compulsion AND thinking of what to write, you are not alone, a majority of those diagnosed carry a dual diagnosis referred to as RAWA, Reading and Writing Addiction. There is no shame.
Writing addiction is not something you plan. It is an all-encompassing desire, the more you write the more you need to write. Like most addictions, it begins to consume you. At first it’s just jotting things down now and then, a bit of poetry here, a little prose there and soon you’re writing stories and sonnets and epic works of words late into the night.
It’s a secret addiction in the beginning, harmless to most. Writing addicts typically start in their spare time. It doesn’t take long until spare time is no longer enough; it begins to creep into their day. When you’re supposed to be doing bills an idea will hit and next thing you know you’ve written half a chapter on the back of your electric bill.
It doesn’t end there. Dinners get burned, kids are late for school, laundry piles up and you forget to feed the dogs, you write about it though. Hungry Dogs, a Tale of Sad Tails. When it first begins it’s easy to hide, but soon you get careless and scraps of paper litter the countertops and the dressers, notebooks and journals are in every room of the house.
Your desktop is filled with papers and coffee cups. Oh yes, coffee cups. Once the addiction has you in its clutches you forego nourishment for a good old Cup-o-Joe to keep you going. Snack foods sustain life. By the time family and friends see the signs it’s too late. No one says anything until you arrive at school in the afternoon to pick up your children wearing yesterday’s pajamas.
By the time anyone suspects there is a problem it’s already too late. Sure, they can hold interventions; they can beg and plead, but the need to write simply cannot be overcome. Once you have it, you have it for life. Eventually those who love you will accept the reality of your life. You are a writer.
There isn’t much you can do for someone with writing addiction except accept them and love them just as you did before they picked up a pen. In some cases it is genetic; many children of writing addicts are themselves addicts by the time they reach puberty. The same can be said for the offspring of reading addicts. There has yet to be a cure, its doubtful there ever will be.
I myself am a reading and writing addict. It began when I took my first breath, my family has tried to put an end to it, but they’ve never succeeded. They’ve never even come close. They know I will write about them if they push it too far. Do they think I don’t know casserole will burn if I don’t stop writing long enough to take it out of the oven? I mean seriously, why else would I keep a fire extinguisher at my desk. I’m one step ahead them.
In conclusion, writing can in fact, be an addiction. There is no way to know who will become a slave to the written word. There is no way to stop it once it has begun. I suppose those of us with writing addiction are enabling the reading addicts among us, they can’t get enough of what we do . . . but then, are they not in a sense encouraging our own addiction to writing? And what of those of us with the dual addiction, we are our own worst enemy and best friend; it is a vicious circle, one with no end.
If a cure is ever found I’m heading for the hills. I wonder if I can get high-speed Internet service up there . . . no matter, paper, pens and solitude is all I need to feed the hunger. No twelve step programs for me, I’ll write one for anyone who wishes to work through their beautiful addiction though, not that anyone would.
As long as there are words, there will be someone at the ready with their quill of choice to pen them. Words have always been, and words will always be . . . so we write.
I write because it sustains me, it brings me peace. I write so I will live on in my words when my time on earth has passed. My voice immortalized forever upon a page in hopes the children of my grandchildren may one day hear me and know who I once was. I hope they know when they hold my words in their hearts, they are holding me.
Writing is the sweetest of freedoms. It breaks the chains which try to bind us to this world. It is freedom to release and let go of angst or anger, sadness or fear. Freedom to soar above this plane of existence and reach heights never before reached. When we write we are free to be all of who we are when the world seeks to quell our voices.
I must share the words that well within me. I must write of my joys and my sorrows, my memories and my dreams. I must share the knowledge I have gained and I must write to learn, for there is much to be learned. In my words I am real. No pretences, no expectations and no judgments.
To some, writing is as essential as the air around them, each word a life-sustaining breath, a beat of their heart. Words hold healing for the one who writes them as well as the one who reads them; there is power in each stroke of the pen. The written word is a gift of greatest worth.
Writers teach, they entertain, they inspire and they motivate, they capture and they captivate. If writers ceased to give life to words, knowledge would no longer be gained, memories would fade, and the most important of things would be forever forgotten.
Some writers learn to write, honing their craft to create, others were born with the blessing of words ready to flow from their fingertips, all share their gift with the world, leaving the mark of their soul on humanity. Many writers have helped mold the lives of those who read their words. People are shaped, in no small part, by what they read in life; they carry the words within them. Enlightenment is often found in the pages of a book, a simple thought, printed and bound, can be a life changing epiphany for someone else. What greater gift could a writer give or receive? I can think of none better.
Writers must write. I truly don’t think there are words enough to explain just why we dance this dance with words. We simply must write . . .
Crystal R. Cook
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