In all of the crazy work work work work work sleep work work work work of the last couple of weeks, when taking pretty pictures, and writing blog posts and visiting even my most favourite of favourite blogs has gone out of the window, I have been writing. In September I got half way through a short story and all through the to the end of the year I was itching to get back to it, and one day I probably will, at least that’s what I’m telling myself. This time, when an idea started to nestle into my brain and refuse to be ignored I just started writing. Longhand, on paper, very pretty paper but paper all the dame, with little bits and pieces mapped out ahead so I at least have a vague idea where I’m going, but not much more than that.
Technically it’s a book, or at least it will be when I finish, but putting that there in black and white has distinct shades of over-egging the pudding. Stephen King writes about the first draft being telling the story to yourself, and only when you get through the second draft can you even contemplate letting anyone else see it, and that’s oddly comforting. Right now, as much as I am enjoying every word (and keep finding that I’ve sat down to write for 20 mins and it’s an hour later and I really ought to have gone to bed), I am equally certain that I have invoked every dubious cliche, every idea has already been had and it may just be the worst thing ever written, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m writing it just for me. I’m not even going to tell you the set up, not now and possibly not ever. But it is a lot of fun, and even though longhand is the most deeply impractical way of writing anything, it’s been nice to step away from the computer, and have a little screen free time. When I never ever have anything published, you heard it here first!
But in a week when writing was my only creative recharge, it seems that my eldest apple has not fallen too far from the tree. Kitty has been making little picture books for years, usually with the odd caption or two, but nothing quite resembling a full story. But this week she upped her game and made me a story and activity book.
She started it in school as a surprise and had finished it before I got home so I got the first look at the finished article.
Her current school won’t teach formal academics until next year; she’s not learning to read or write at the moment, so everything she does is from memories of last year and input from us whenever she asks, and to see her pull that back out of the memory vault and use it, when this time last year she hated reading, hated writing, thought it all boring and pointless and couldn’t understand why she was being asked to do it, is just wonderful. It’s in Kitty words rather than the traditional English but I would so rather that she wants to tell stories, but needs to work on the vocab, than that her spelling be perfect but she’s entirely disengaged.
To you and I it reads:
“The Lost Bear
Once in a land far away the forest was very empty. But a bear came to the forest and he found his mummy at the edge of the forest. The end”
And just in case the story isn’t enough to melt me into a puddle, she’s added “ativtes” – two sums, a butterfly maze, and a spot the difference.
I love it, I cherish it, and I’m definitely tucking it away in her memory box to pull out on her 18th birthday (after all isn’t that what parents are for).
And perhaps it comes across as being all super special snowflake; in the grand scheme of the world, and probably in comparison to some of her peers in mainstream school, this is peanuts. And apart from the obvious caveat that my daughter is a genius (a line of facts to which we swore fealty in NCT classes regardless of anything so rigorous as a truth), I’m not claiming that either she nor I are ever going to be anything special.
This is special to me for two reasons. The first I’ve touched on; we took a gamble at the end of the year that the change we made would be the right answer for a very unhappy Kitty, and that she has come back to writing of her own accord, without pushing or enticement, gives me comfort that the risk was worth it, and that when she learns again next year, she’s going to soar.
And the other is perhaps more selfish. Is it greedy to want to see some aspect of the genetics of your own that you like showing up in your children? All three of mine look like John, clearly have his sporting abilities (especially Pip), love music as much as both of us, and art and generally creativity, but wanting to make little books, that’s just a little bit of me bubbling to the surface and narcissistic or not, I’m not ashamed to say that I take pleasure in seeing that I’ve passed on to my lovely eldest daughter something that gives me so much fun.