Motivating young writers with author success stories
I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Gray as a guest blogger today!
Writing is a difficult task. Teaching children how to write presents an even greater measure of difficulty. While it’s not necessarily hard for children to learn to write, I do think it can be extraordinarily challenging for them to enjoy it or develop it into a craft.
Children—especially adolescents—can be quite stubborn about writing creatively: either they’re too shy to put their imaginations on paper, or they’re too overwhelmed by the task to know where to start.
Even when they do write, they can become discouraged by critiques in the classroom or from a parent. They don’t see the point in trying harder if their writing isn’t well received. They fail to understand the huge difference between critiquing and ridicule.
Sharing stories about writers’ humble beginnings is an effective way to bring kids out of their writing funk. Learning about another writer’s struggle can really help students realize they’re not alone, and that writing is a hard process for most people, even published authors. These stories give perspective to a sometimes-mysterious art form.
All writers start small
When I was a young writer, I assumed that most famous authors made it big with their first story, or that successful writers were just “born” that way. I didn’t realize all writers start from scratch, and that some of my favorite authors went through seasons of rejection and self-doubt before they ever caught a break.
The sooner kids understand that writing is a process, the less pressure they’ll feel to write flawlessly now.
Gain writing inspiration from real authors
The story of an author’s humble beginnings might inspire your kids more than you’d imagine.
No matter how you feel about J.K. Rowling and her legendary Harry Potter series, your children can learn a lesson from the infamous tale of how her story nearly eluded publication.
The author submitted the first installment of Harry Potter to dozens of publishing houses, all of which turned her down and dismissed her story as unreadable or uninteresting. She was nearly broke with a son to support, yet she persevered because she believed in the strength of her writing. Her book was finally accepted by a small press, and she soon became the sensation that we know today.
Did you know that Kathryn Stockett’s famous book, The Help, was rejected 60 times before it was finally picked up for publication? Millions who now cherish her story would never have read it had Stockett given up on finding a publisher.
Now, The Help is widely regarded as one of the best books from 2009, and we have Stockett’s perseverance to thank for it.
How could stories like these not inspire your kids to write?
Take the fear out of writing
If anything, the stories of writers like J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, and others (nearly every famous writer has a remarkable story about how they started) do a brilliant job of humanizing the art of writing.
It’s unfortunate how many children approach writing with the false belief that they could never write something worth reading, or that they’re not smart enough or good enough.
What they don’t realize is that every writer feels this way before they put their pens to paper. A few anecdotes about their favorite writers may be just the trick to dispel any hesitation. Don’t you think it’s worth a try?
How do you encourage students to write? Let me know!
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Samantha Gray, who has attended both traditional and online schools for her college education, is a freelance writer who enjoys guiding readers through the sometimes labyrinthine process of pursuing a college education and a rewarding career. Please feel free to contact Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo: Amanda Downing, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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