On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak about the writing process to local third- and fourth-grade girls during the Zonta Club of Ottawa’s good citizenship tea.
When I received the offer to be the guest speaker, I was asked to discuss the writing process and my path to becoming a writer.
My path began at the very age of my audience: elementary school. Reflecting on the beginnings of my writing career, it occurred to me that early stages of writing have a different focus than advanced years.
Third to fourth grade is the perfect time to begin grooming creative writing skills. During the Zonta Club of Ottawa girls tea, I named three components as vital starting points for beginners.
The three components to writing for elementary school students are:
Imagination is the very foundation of storytelling. It also is the first building block of fiction writing for beginners. Imagination is the engine that drives writing.
Playing make-believe and daydreaming are excellent practice for young writers. Just as running or stretching exercises the body, make-believe and daydreaming exercise the imagination.
Daydreaming allows us to create settings, meet characters, and put ourselves and characters in new situations. A story first finds life through the writer’s imagination.
Finding inspiration for a story is the second building block for beginners. Just as make-believe and daydreaming exercise imagination, inspiration feeds the imagination.
So where do we find inspiration for the imagination to chew on?
The answer: Everywhere.
A common tool for writers is a pocket notebook or journal to carry everywhere. In it, we jot observations about our surroundings. Observations can include describing what a person wears or looks like, transcribing an overheard conversation, recording the sounds and smells of a location like a train station or coffee shop, etc. Tidbits from everyday life carry into writing and give it authenticity.
The ideas and observations we write down one day inspire the imagination another day.
This is the third and most obvious of the building blocks.
To be a writer, the act of writing is essential. Writing daily — be it in a writer’s notebook, a journal, a diary, a research paper, a poem, a story, etc. — is important for habit-building and practice.
Word count doesn’t matter in the early stages. Two sentences, two paragraphs, two pages, two full stories … any amount is fine, as long as the commitment to write is present.