The Young Writer

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?

5 thoughts on “The Young Writer

  1. I think it’s human. And I think many people yearn to tell a story, but for many reasons don’t. I think the popularity of all the forms of storytelling attest to how innate that desire is. I also think storytelling is intensely personal. It takes a lot of bravery to create and share a tale. Good for your son and for you for having the kind of relationship where he can feel safe to share that information with you!

  2. Awwwww I am sooo happy about this!! How wonderful! If its genetic or not, he is a good story teller too in my eyes. I also think its the way you raised him and the way you live. He sees that its okay to write as you were not when you were young. It is something that is natural in your household. There is writing going on for one thing, and there is talking about it. You ask him and Art a lot about your stories all the time, if you dont bounce your ideas off on your other writer friends…so why wouldnt he try it himself. Actually I am not surprised… but so very happy just as you are!!! And I can so see you in the car trying to stay calm while there is a hurricane of excitement going on inside of you!! LOL
    I would love to read too what he wrote.
    AND I hope you do get on to the story of yours too!

  3. I love the matter-of-fact way your son mentioned his writing to you. That says comfort to me.

    I wonder if it’s genetic, too. Imagine how I felt in my early twenties when I found some song lyrics my father had written when he was a young man? He and I never talked about creative things, we barely talked at all. But I realized that if we did, I might have found that he’d had some writing dreams of his own.

    When my daughter started writing, especially when she began to show me things, I couldn’t mask my pride. She liked that when she was younger, but when her teens really hit, her favorite phrase was, “Calm down.” Then I tried to walk the fine line I couldn’t quite see, and offer quieter encouragement when she mentioned anything.

    I wish she had more time to write these days.

    • That must have been so amazing to find your dad’s lyrics. and so bittersweet, in a way. And I like your comment about the quiet encouragement. I’m finding that I’m looking for subtle ways to sneak writing into our conversations, but knowing me, and knowing my son, I’m not as subtle as I think I am!

  4. Ahhhh, how exciting. I get ridiculously happy when I find out about anyone close to me writing. It’s not the same kind of pride as parents and children, but it’s a sudden sense of kinship, like — “ah, you do this too!”

    And that is really, really wonderful that your son shared this with you. My parents were always proud of my creative talents but their attitude was always, “It’s good as a hobby. Not work.” I think they are only starting to see that it can be work too, though they’re still very skeptical about that concept. To imagine truly sharing the process with my parents — that’s amazing. Your son is very lucky. 🙂

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