Wonderfully, many of my students haven’t even stopped to consider that sort of meekness. They’ve read good stories and write their own with gusto, proudly proclaiming themselves writers, authors, geniuses! Their confidence is inspiring.
But there are others. Often they are the quiet ones who are cautious in many aspects of life: they are slow to join groups, they doubt their abilities, maybe they fear disappointing someone.
Working with a confident writer is like trying to control a run-away horse. Working with a cautious writer is like archeology or treasure hunting: you must learn to ask the right questions, shine light in dark places, and uncover the truth.
One of my students, a shy 10-year-old girl, had an incredible fairy-taleish story to write. Her antagonist had a secret identity, and she struggled with how to let the reader know what was going on even while her protagonists didn’t. The full impact of the climax and resolution depended on the proper balance of explanation and surprise.
As I read through it, I had questions of clarity which I emailed to the author’s mom so they could talk and email answers back to me. We volleyed back and forth for a while, at which point the mom called me on the phone so we could resolve things more quickly.
Now remember, this young author is shy. Too shy to talk on the phone, at least at first. As the conversation went through the three of us, finally she herself took the phone so she could explain what she was trying to write. I kept asking questions, helping her get more clear about her own details, suggesting ways to impart vital information.
Between the two of us, we edited her story until it accomplished exactly what she wanted. I think it’s because of that struggle that she has come to accept herself as a writer. She worked hard to get her words right. My part was to share some writing techniques and devices, but mostly it was this: To convince her that her story was important enough to get right.
Maybe that’s the piece each of us needs to accept before we see ourselves as writers. Our stories are important, no matter what happens to them after they’ve been written.
Photo courtesy of hotblack/morgueFile.com