I don’t have children, nor have I ever published a children’s story. I wrote a few short kid’s stories before, but nothing I considered sending out. I fancy myself a writer for adults, however after spending time with my niece Audrey and observing some of the shenanigans displayed by some of the local youths at my gym, I realized something:
Life is more beautiful through the eyes of a child.
I also realized that people, regardless of age, read stories to retain their youth, delving into a new world of adventure and escaping the monotony of everyday life. In essence, we are all writing for an audience full of excited, youthful-minded readers, regardless of the actual age of the person or tone of the story.
Children can teach us plenty about life, and even about writing. Here are a few child tendencies that can help us feed our audience’s hunger for new horizons while assisting with the business of writing as well:
- Sharing and Lunch Table Trading – We all partook in haggling during lunch hours, and kids still do it today. Similar to children swapping a bag of Cheetos for Oreos at lunch hour, writers must strive to interact with other writers by sharing advise, trading favors and nurturing relationships through communication. Building relationships may take a while, but they pay off in the long run with sometimes tangible resources or simply just a friend to turn to.
- Curiosity and Exploration – Ask questions constantly. When hanging out with my niece, she never accepts a simple answer to a question. The gears are always turning in her head, observing new things and asking “Why? Why? Why?”. We often march through life with our heads buried in our cell phones or a book and forget to soak in the smells of a gentle autumn wind, the sound of a bustling city intersection or even something as simple as the unstable feel of old wooden stairs. Although great for expanding your mind, emails, books or an Ipod won’t provide the inspiration needed for a compelling story, rather it lies around us.
- All writers are young at heart – It’s easier to build a network and become friends with other writers through lightheartedness. In my experience everyone who writes has a part of them who still thinks they are a kid. Being silly and spreading joy to other writers is the best way to network and build relationships.
- Playtime – Give yourself a break. Physical and mental excercise is necesarry for accelerating your creative juices. If you are stuck staring at your computer with no production, it might be time to partake in another activity.
- What you love always comes first
- It’s never too late to try something new – Part of a child’s life is playtime with friends. This provides the opportunity to try new things, test boundaries and explore the world. No matter what our age, we haven’t and learned everything. Try something new to invoke fresh ideas. Somewhere along the line we tend to lose the desire to learn about everything. Without learning, comes no new ideas for writing.
- Don’t stop talking – If you have kids or have spent five minutes around a kid, you know that many of them have loud mouths. As we grow older we shouldn’t lose this desire to constantly connect and communicate with other people. Obviously, the form of communication evolves, but communicating with writers and readers through email, blog posts, story updates, social media, conferences and writing shows people your devotion to writing and will always provide quality feedback for future endevours.
- Daydream – If an 100 year old man can run a marathon, than it is never too late for anyone to dream.
- It’s OK to cry – Emotions are the best therapy for failure. There will be ups and down during your writing adventure. Have a good cry and then barrel forward.
- Nothing is impossible – In today’s society, claiming you want to become a writer is not a practical notion. However, kids don’t ever see boundaries. Call it naivety, but if we come to terms with restrictions and follow the status quo, no innovation would ever occur in all of history. You wouldn’t know the name Einstein or Jobs or Hemingway, the Beatles would have broken up when their band mate dropped out because his parents told him a band couldn’t be a real job.
And some lessons to learn from teenagers:
- Break the rules – Teenagers try to cross the line as much as they can. Testing the waters to see what they can get away with is part of the adventure of growing up. I know I did some stupid things when I was a teenager, but would I go back and change what I did? Nope. Why not? Because risk is enjoyable, invigorating, educational and unique. Those who take risks are people not satisfied with reality. They want to do something that other people said was impossible or not a good idea. A great story should be enjoyable, invigorating, educational, and unique. How can you know what those things are like, until you have experienced them yourself?
- Be unique regardless of what people say – Teenagers refuse to not stand out from the crowd. They want to be seen, heard and noticed for what makes them an individual. That idea is often lost after someone tells you to dress, speak and act like everyone else. Creativity on the page starts with creativity in your own mind, on your own body and through your own actions.
- Keep up with the times – We live in an age fueled by technology, and regardless of the time, the world will always be introduced to new innovations. I know many people have difficulty accepting these changes but children and teenagers are raised into a world where all current technologies are second nature. What we have to realize is that most innovations are for the betterment of society and should be embraced for personal gain, instead of dismissed. Take a page out of a teenager’s book and learn something new that might initially make you uncomfortable. Writers need to adapt and learn about the changes occurring around them. Also, if you happen to have kids, why not ask them to teach you about a new technology that may help further your writing career or write more efficiently.
- Vicariousness – Teens want to learn things for themselves. They wish to make their own mistakes and not be lectured about everything they do wrong. This should help with your storytelling. Allow your readers the opportunity to figure out the story for themselves instead of babying them through.
Even if you are writing a finance article for 60 year old’s about to retire, your audience craves a fresh outlook, with unique themes and techniques on how to improve their current situation.
Youthfulness is too often forgotten in life. Bring it back through your writing.
And one last word…
“Good children’s stories do not preach. Instead, they educate for life, by exploring significant themes—as do good adult stories.” – Aaron Shepard.
See ya next time…