Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Children Make You A Better Writer

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that your nose is scrunched up now and you are slightly put off by my title post declaration. But for argument's sake, let's say I am right - having children is a good thing for a writer.

Why, you ask, relaxing your frown a little.

And I answer your question by saying that I, your humble blogger, have two children, ages 5 and 6. Said children always demand the precise word. When I give them the definition of any word, they demand the definition of the definition. They, like caffeinated jack-hammers, drill me until they achieve complete understanding. Then, they attach themselves to the literal meaning of words. When they discover there are not ONE, but TWO meanings of a single word, their faces open up with delight. Possibilities stream through their eyes. You can see their brains turning over and over by this new discovery. And they can't wait to try out their new words. For example, our breakfast conversation recently began with "What is available for breakfast?" And now, of course, they want to know when anything is available.

A couple of days ago, my highly perceptive first grader was playing with a game called "Silly Sentences" where a word is paired with its picture. She brought me this puzzle piece/word-picture.

"How can a sandwich be a hero," she asked.

Good question.

After I gave her my feeble response, I went to every modern parent's secret toolbox: Google. Google informs me that the orgin of the word "hero" as a description of a particular sandwich is this:
The term hero originated in New York City in the late 19th century when Italian laborers wanted a convenient lunch that reminded them of home. The name is credited to New York Herald Tribune food writer Clementine Paddleford, who wrote in the 1930s that you needed to be a hero to finish the gigantic Italian sandwich. (Source: Wikipedia)

So, dear friend, there you have it. One question leads to another when you live with children. Your knowledge expands. You begin thinking about the many meanings of words and the way to describe something simply. The way to see something through a child's eyes. And perhaps, the way to give a character (and your readers) the knowledge of how a sandwich can be called a hero. Perhaps children will not make you a better writer, but you might just be a more precise writer.

Karen Harrington
author, Janeology


James C. Wallace II said...

As a father of five and grandfather of 12 (one more and I've got a bakers dozen!), my family is the inspiration for my writing. They serve as judge and jury for my early drafts, guiding me in the right direction, though once the outlines and rough stuff is done, they step back and wait for the final product. All my final drafts go to children outside my world. It's amazing how sometimes differences in perspectives show up in the oddest places.

Scobberlotcher said...


You are so right about finding inspiration in surprising places. Surrounded by children as you are, I imagine you are quite inspired!

Thanks for commenting!

Karen H.