Over the past several months, my five-year-old son has become enamored with the myriad squiggles and lines that comprise the English alphabet. For the past couple weeks in particular, he’s been following me around the house with a crumpled piece of paper, on which he’s written random words, or had his siblings write them so he can see or be reminded of what certain letters look like.
“How do you spell pirate ship?” he’ll ask me, then set about recording the letters as I call them out, one by one. “Is that the one that looks like this?” he’ll ask, waving his fingers intently through the air, trying to form an air letter for me to “read.” “No, it’s the one that has two sticks on either side, and then another stick lying down in the middle, like this,” I’ll answer, forming the letter H with my arms. “Oh yeah, that one! I remember now,” he’ll say with satisfaction, returning his attention to the paper before him.
He’s the youngest of five, and I can’t say I remember any of the others this intent on creating words through stringing certain combinations of them together. Perhaps I’m witnessing the beginnings of a future writer who has just begun to fall in love with what eventually will become his livelihood. Or maybe he’s just a typical almost-kindergartner who has discovered the power of words and is eager to learn how to best harness that to his advantage.
Regardless, his enthusiasm for the written word has been an important reminder to me of where all writers begin, and helped me be newly appreciative of just what it takes to fashion a writer. My youngest has helped me remember not to take words and their amazing power to transform thought, for better or worse, for granted.
I think that’s why I’m drawn to writing for children. Though I write for both adults and children and enjoy both, the chance to inspire the younger generations through my own writing and nurture the writer within them is a privilege beyond compare. To be even a small part of helping ignite dreams connected to the written word is, perhaps, one of the ways I can best do my part to make the world a better place.
Watching my son’s emerging love for words has brought additional benefits as well. As I observe his intense looks of concentration, reminding myself that this is a child who is rarely content to just “sit and do,” I’ve also become mindful again of the arduous work involved in the writing process. Writing is not a pursuit for the faint of heart. It takes a great amount of intention and focus. The writing process can take over one’s mind for intense spurts, bringing us into a heightened place of awareness. It can leave us exasperated and thrilled all within a very short amount of time.
My son’s excitement over words has brought a few important things into perspective. Even on days when I feel I’ve accomplished very little, or that my writing career has not progressed as fast and far as I’d hoped, all I have to do is think back on where I began to see just how far I’ve come.
Do you remember when the love of writing first caught fire in your life?