I used to think that reading the classics or the best of contemporary fiction kept me humble. Then I had to acknowledge that so many bloggers, whom I now follow with awe and joy, write with such zest and originality, and are so generous in sharing their poems, short stories and even chapters, that I felt a little lacklustre in comparison. But now I have found a whole new source of modesty-inducing inspiration: the younger generation. And I mean the much younger generation, like my 9 year old son.
He is a voracious reader. His huge regret is that he will soon finish his last Harry Potter book, but his consolation is that he still has five Alex Rider books to go. He used to be less than eager to do his English homework (he always preferred Maths and science, and he complained that writing with his pen gave him blisters). However, over the past few weeks, he has starting writing stories and even books of his own. For the time being, he is reluctant to share his masterpiece with us, although he will happily tell us the overarching themes and storyline. His writing style and choice of subjects may be completely alien to me, but I do wish I could emulate some of his energy and drive.
So here are the lessons I am learning from him:
1) Boundless ambition: There are no self-imposed limits here; he truly believes he can achieve anything. He already plans to write 4 books in his Insect Wars series, but he also wants to write and illustrate his own comic book series (BD are big business and extremely popular here in France). A factual book or two may also be on the cards, as are shorter stories appearing as separate books for those just learning to read.
2) Versatility: He is not allowing himself to be bogged down by genres. He writes what he pleases and what he himself likes to read. There are adventure stories about animals, but also some science fiction, humorous stories, and comic books about anthropomorphic root vegetables and many different countries. There is no limit to his imagination and he does not try to second-guess his audience’s preferences too much.
3) Discipline: He worries about whether he will have the time to accomplish all of this over the summer holidays (and these final weeks of school), so he uses every spare minute to disappear upstairs and start scribbling away. First thing in the morning, or after brushing his teeth, or last thing at night before bedtime. He writes every day – and no, he does not complain it’s a chore! Although his younger brother sometimes complains that they no longer get to play together…
4) Reading but no other distractions: He continues reading books in all genres, more or less appropriate to his age, but he does not copy them slavishly. Needless to say, he does not waste time online checking emails, Tweeting or Facebooking. He probably would play the occasional computer game, but fortunately he forgets, having too many other interesting things going on in his life.
5) Marketing strategy: He already knows what is going to happen once he finishes all these books. He has a target audience (his family and his English-speaking friends), a distribution channel (photocopies and a lending library scheme too), a price point (5o centimes each, if the Euro survives the summer).
What is most interesting, however, is that he has no ambitions to become a full-time writer when he grows up. Oh, no! Becoming a zoologist and wildlife documentary maker is much more exciting! But he does want to keep on writing books as a hobby, because he enjoys telling stories.
What did I tell you – truly humbling!
So, in an effort to catch up with the younger generation, I have joined this two-week writing challenge with Jeff Goins (see below).