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Friday, July 25, 2014

She's My Daughter, Not My BFF

I love books and so does my eleven year old daughter.  Over the past few years I’ve introduced her to many of my favorites and am always thrilled when she loves a story that’s dear to me.  When she was younger, I loved to read Winnie the Pooh out loud and see her smile.  As she grew older, she graduated to the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia.  She loves these books and I’m so glad she does.
But all is not well for us in Literature Land.  I love historical novels, she hates them.  Immensely.  Why?  “They’re boring.”  So much for getting her to read “The Island of the Blue Dolphins,” or “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” books that shaped my childhood.  Sniff.   Even worse, my daughter loves a series of books called “Warriors,” about clans of cats living in the forest who are constantly at war with each other.  Yes, this series truly exists, and it’s popular.  Do I like those books?  Well….not so much. 

This used to bother me, until I realized something.  There’s a fine line between sharing what you love with your child and trying to make your child into a little “Mini Me.”  No matter how hard we might try to make them exactly like us, our children have their own minds and unique personalities, and won’t like everything their parents do.  Odd, I know.
So, lately I’ve noticed that other parents seem to be trying to do exactly what I was trying to do with my daughter.  Examples? 

Sure, but keep in mind these are generalizations, gleaned from many online posts I’ve seen lately, not based on any specific person.  Really.  J

“My 2  year-old just loves to watch "The Lord of the Rings."  It’s his favorite movie, and he can’t even say the title yet.  It’s so cute.”

Cute, maybe.  But even if he really DOES love that movie, is it something he SHOULD be watching at his age? 
“Here’s little Ewan with his Dad, heading out for another Civil War reenactment.  Doesn’t he look precious in his costume?

Precious, yes.  Happy?  No.

Or:  “My 8 year old daughter and I loved all the Twilight books and now we can’t wait to see "Breaking Dawn" together.”

Um…ew.  Again, is that a movie your 8 year old really should be seeing?  Even if she WANTS to see it?

I’m old enough that the term “BFF” (best friends forever) was not an entry in the Dictionary of Modern Slang  when I was a child.  I was introduced to that term by my daughter who has her own BFF’s, all girls her age.  At times, my daughter and her BFF’s laugh at things that are completely incomprehensible to me.  And they often laugh at me.  This is exactly as it should be. 


Because I’m the Mom.  My daughter is not a perfect copy of me.  She’s her own person AND she needs time to grow up and mature at a pace that is right for her, not in a fast forward mode forced upon her by parents who want to be “buddies” with their kids.

So, sometimes my daughter and I do fun things together.  We cuddle and giggle while we watch another of Studio C’s hilarious takes on Harry Potter.  Then, there are times when she slams the door and pouts when I remind her that she hasn’t practiced piano yet or finished all of her homework. 

I love her, but she’s not my BFF.  And that’s okay with me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Write What You Know...Yeah, Right!

I hear “write what you know” all the time.  I hear it quite often from people who don’t write at all but who want to share their opinions with me and this is typically Advice Snippet Number One they share when imparting their wisdom.  I’ve heard this phrase on TV and I know I’ve likely read it many times on writing blogs, articles, and in the many books on writing that are out there.  Know what?  It’s always bugged me, but I couldn’t figure out why until recently, thanks to Pinterest.  Yes, Pinterest.  Yes, I’m on there.  A lot.  But anyway…

A writer friend recently pinned this quote:  “I want to be very clear about this:  if you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems.    Writers write from empathy.”  Nikki Giovanni

Yes!!  That’s it!!!  I felt pretty silly that I didn’t figure this one out before.  Maybe I never “got it” because I spend too much time on Pinterest looking up the Next Greatest Recipe for cheesy chicken enchiladas that will make my life complete, but I’d never been able to move past the guilt-ridden, slightly embarrassed feeling that I was a terrible fraud for not “Writing What I Know.”   I set novels in cities I’ve never been to and in time periods I’ve not personally experienced, and I write characters who are nothing like me.  (Thank goodness.)  Well, all I can say is after reading the above quote, the way I write and the things I write began to make much more sense to me. 

Writers write from empathy.  Of course they do!!  Does Nicholas Sparks know what it’s like to be a woman in love?  Does Stephen King know what it’s like to be a vicious killer?  Does Stephanie Meyer know what it’s like to be a sparkly vampire?  Does Alan Bradley know what it’s like to be a snarky, precocious eleven-year old girl genius?  Does Suzanne Collins know what it’s like to shoot another human being with a bow and arrow?  I truly hope not, on all counts.

What these and all writers understand is the human condition.  They know love in its many forms.  They know fear, jealousy, anger, hatred, the threat of violence.  They understand what it’s like to have dreams that are unfulfilled and still sought after, the desire for acceptance.  They understand hope.

I can now breathe a sigh of relief and go right on creating characters who don’t live where I live, look like me or have the same opinions.  Even better, I can make up a new world if I want to, or write about a place I’ve always wanted to go.   Why?  Because I’m a human being and I can create an entire universe using my imagination and my ability to empathize with others. 

So…it’s okay for me to Google 17th century Japanese samurai, the city of Nice, France, advances in nanotechnology, or late 19th century body-snatching practices for something I’m writing.  It’s okay for me, a soft-spoken woman, to create characters who are loud-mouthed and obnoxious.  It’s okay for me to create male, female, white or black (or whatever race I want them to be) characters.  It’s okay for me to write about people who lived millennia ago or eons in the future.  It’s okay because I’ve give myself permission to create them.  It’s okay because I’m a writer, and writers don’t have to “write what they know.”

I feel validated.  Yay for Pinterest!