Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Does having children make you a better writer? I say yes.

by Karen Harrington, author Janeology

I've been pondering this month's blog topic: what jobs, other than writing, did you dream about? 

For me, I really and truly alway wanted to have a family. And as a writer, I now see what an enormous asset my children are to my relationship with words. 

I have two children, ages 5 and 7. 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 kindergartner was playing with a game called "Silly Sentences" where a word is paired with its picture. She brought me this puzzle piece/word-picture, we sat down and had a conversation.

This piece is wrong she said. "I can't believe someone put a sandwich on this puzzle piece."

Actually, hero is also the name of a sandwich, I told her.

How, she inquired, can a sandwich be a hero?

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)

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.

Here's wishing you a joyful, happy and peaceful New Year! 


Peggy Webb said...

Karen, you are so right about the many ways children make us dig a little deeper. They are notorious truth-tellers. And doesn't the best fiction lead to the deeper truths?

Anna Michaels said...

Thank for you this thoughtful post. Being in love with the truth and power and music of words is the driving force behind my work.

Susan Cushman said...

Smart kids, those, but not surprising, given how sharp their mom is. It's awesome how your love for words has been passed on to them, too! I'm working on my post for tomorrow, so please tune back in, everyone! Happy New Year!

Ann Hite said...

I know it does. What inspiration they bring even when, like today, the house is in chaos. I've learned to write in all kinds of conditions. Susan straight talks about this too. What a wonderful post. And my kids are mostly grown. I have one at home who is eleven. She is a delight on most days. I also have a two year old granddaughter living with me. My novel, to be released by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster),was written with this child on my shoulder. She was born at thirty weeks and weighed three pounds. She helped me remember what writing is all about. Thank you for your post.

K. Harrington said...

Thanks Peggy, Anna, Susan and Ann for your nice comments. It's nice to read how children have inspired you as well.

All best wishes!

Anonymous said...

I vote NO. And I'm a successful novelist. I'd never have been able to be a good mother AND good novelist. Just my two cents worth.

Ad Hudler said...

a very good debate. Thanks for bringing it to the table...and I have to say, my writing would be far less insightful without my experiences as a father. Parenthood completely changes the lens through which you see the world.