My teenage son and I have interesting conversations during the 45-minute (one way!) drive to school. I love hearing his views on everything from physics to politics to peace.
So this morning as we’re driving ‘down below’ out of the mountains and into the city, I was talking about a story idea I’m intimidated by. And my son mentioned, so very casually, that he has this idea he’s been working on but he can’t seem to get past chapter one.
I’m so proud of myself. I calmly continued, as if we always talk writing, about the reasons a story can die early. We talked about giving away too much, too soon, about characters that we don’t really know, the lack of conflict, all those things that people who have been writing for any length of time have struggled with.
But inside, there was this joyful shouting going on. My son writes!!! And not only is he writing, but he’s talking to me about it, and not only is he talking to me about it but he’s perfectly relaxed and comfortable doing so.
When I was his age, I also wrote, but as many of you know, I did so very privately. My closest friends (Sue and Mariane) knew that I wrote and thinking back on it, probably more people knew than I realized. But when I mentioned it to my mother, she suggested, strongly, that I learn a different trade. She never flat-out told me I couldn’t write or would never make a living at it, but that is the message I took away. So instead I pushed the writing back and took the classes she wanted me to. And I never shared any of my writing with her, and never admitted to her that I kept going. Hence the sense of shame, of doing something wrong.
But now, I am feeling very strongly that I’ve done something right. My husband and I have managed to give a kid confidence enough to talk to us without being afraid of ridicule.
And he’s writing! I want to shower him with pens and paper and books on writing and my boxes and boxes of notes and resources, and beg to see what he’s done and…you get the idea. I want him to soar, without shame, without an inner critic whispering to him that he’s going to fail. Whether that’s with writing or with any of his other dreams.
And I wonder if storytelling is genetic?