“How to Be a Writer” by M. Molly Backes

This is kind of an old post, but it’s new to me (via Rose).

Let her have secrets. Let her have her own folder on the family computer. Avoid the temptation to read through her notebooks. Writing should be her safe haven, her place to experiment, her place to work through her confusion and feelings and thoughts. If she does share her writing with you, be supportive of her hard work and the journey she’s on. Ask her questions about her craft and her process. Ask her what was hardest about this piece and what she’s most proud of. Don’t mention publication unless she mentions it first. Remember that writing itself is the reward.

Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write dreadful fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans.

Let her go without writing if she wants to. Never nag her about writing, even if she’s cheerful when writing and completely unbearable when she’s not. Let her quit writing altogether if she wants to.

Let her publish embarrassingly personal stories in the school literary magazine. Let her spill the family’s secrets. Let her tell the truth, even if you’d rather not hear it.

Let her sit outside at night under the stars. Give her a flashlight to write by.

Let her find her own voice, even if she has to try on the voices of a hundred others first to do so. Let her find her own truth, even if she has to spin outrageous lies in search of it.

Let her write thinly-veiled memoirs disguised as fiction.

Keep her safe but not too safe, comfortable but not too comfortable, happy but not too happy.

Link again here at the end, because it really is worth reading in full.

Some of this is just good parenting. Some of it was 100% spot-on to my own childhood. I don’t think my parents were intentionally raising a writer, but they did a good job of it anyway.

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2 Comments

  1. I love this! It really hit home as I recently found my old journals and stories — a.k.a. the thinly-disguised memoirs I tried to pass off as fiction.

    As painful as most of the writing was, some of it was very good and most of it very insightful as to who I was then and who I am now. Made me want to be that girl again. I think I’ll start sitting outside at night with a flashlight and a journal. Time to cultivate myself again as that girl who’s always loved to write.

    • If you click through to the original post, she has a picture of all her stacks of journals, and it it just made me smile because I totally have that too. (In boxes, but same diff.) I love that she and I and you have this sort of thread of shared experience! And I am totally, 110% in favor of you grabbing a flashlight and a journal and being that girl again. ;)

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