Writing From the Heart

This summer, amongst the nature hikes, bike riding, dips in the pool, and visits to the museum, my son and I are working on his writing skills. Last summer we worked on reading. We read together over and over – fiction, non-fiction, adventure, science, humor – until it clicked. One day, he started to love reading. He felt proud of his ability to read by himself. Not without challenging words here and there, but it was FUN.writing

This summer, I’m hoping for a similar aha moment. We’ve done journalling about the week’s adventures, but no excitement so far there. Now we’re trying letter writing.

Aidan gets to choose who he writes his letter to. Last week he chose Grandma and Pa. He could write whatever he wanted. So he wrote:

Dear Grandma and Pa-

I love my family, and I love you.

Love, Aidan

It was short certainly, but very sweet. No mixed messages or confused syntax there. Just “here’s how I feel.”

It remains to be seen if this will get him excited about writing. We’ll see how he does on his next letter. It does, however, inspire me to write a little today. Not for any direct purpose, but just to write. How I feel today. What I’m thinking.

I won’t be mailing it off to Grandma and Pa, but maybe knowing it’s really not going anywhere will make me more uninhibited.

Take a few minutes on this hot summer day to write. A poem, a story, a few lines. You might be surprised what’s on your mind. And where it takes you.

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Fast or Slow?

BMW

Photo by Katie Cullinan

Often, while out running errands, a car races past me and others, weaving in and out of traffic. I shake my head, secretly hoping he or she gets pulled over (especially if they drive down the shoulder!). Sometimes, right after this car zooms past me, traffic ahead slows down to a stop. I pull up right behind Mr. Speed Racer. So what did all that racing around accomplish?

On the other hand, I sometimes I end up behind slow cars, who seem to take forever to get where they are going.

There are risks and potential payoffs for both approaches. If you drive fast, you may get to your destination quicker. However, you run the risk of causing an accident, and possibly hurting yourself and others. If you drive slow, it will take longer to get to where you’re going, and you might be late, but you increase the chances of getting there safely.

Let’s extend this metaphor to writing (novels in particular). What is the right speed to write a novel? If you write extremely fast, you may finish your first draft quicker, but the risk is higher that the novel crashes and burns from unfocused sloppy narrative or plot. Writing very fast also only works when there are no barriers (like the traffic stopping unexpectedly). When was the last time you experienced no barriers in your writing (or anything else, for that matter)?

Writing slowly means taking much longer to finish your novel. You will delay the satisfaction of completing the manuscript, and you could possibly lose momentum.

Neither approach is ideal. I think I’ll write as a slightly sporty sedan. Maybe with a convertible top for when I’m feeling daring. I will take a moderate pace, and keep moving. I’ll save speed for those sunny days when a revision cycle is ending- just grammar and logistical cleanups. Then I can take my novel for a spin. By then, I’ll have travelled the route many times. I know it well.