Monday, October 19, 2009

The Big Picture

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had any writing tips for third graders to help them with the editing process. Instinctively I answered: focus on the big picture and improvise to get there. Ask the question: what am I trying to convey here? 

I don't work with third graders. Nurturing Narratives is for very young children (3-6), but that was my advice. No sooner had I said it than I realized it is the exact OPPOSITE of what I tell my young children. For children who are just coming to writing the big picture is the least of my concerns. It's practically irrelevant. A story they make could be about a bat and a baseball and a tree and a telescope and one thing has very little to do with the other. For them, it's all about process and detail and free-flowing creativity. It doesn't matter if the narrative doesn't have an arc or the characters change from page to page. What I want is for them to have a sense of possibility, to understand that the world of writing can take them anywhere. That as authors, they are limitless. 

So when does that change? 

Certainly as writers we need a creative direction, a kind of order, a purpose, if you will, but why not stress the joy of the moment, the importance of process? I didn't want to revoke my advice on a whim so I thought long and hard about this. What I came up with was this: in mentioning the big picture I was trying to say intention is what counts. 


I can't count the number of times I brought this word up in my creative writing classes. I find it to be the most important thing there is when it comes to writing. Knowing what you're trying to say and using all of your resources to say it. For me, intention is the big mama bear of good writing. It is what separates a mediocre tale from an excellent one. It is, in my humble opinion, what every great writer, regardless of style or time, has in common. 

How do we cultivate intention? Really believing in what it is we are trying to say is where to start. That is why I think it's so important for children a bit farther down the road in the writing process to have a clear idea of what they are trying to say. Big Picture. 

As we grow and develop intention comes into play more and more. We pick out our clothes and intend them to go on our body in a certain order. We make lunch and intend for it to taste a certain way. We brush our teeth, we decorate a room, we pick a job, we chose hobbies and partners and friends. We build a life on intention. 

While the creative process is still crucial and freedom of expression should always be valued, I stand by my original "big picture" advice. 

Speaking of Big Pictures, I'm now off to see Where the Wild Things Are. Expect a review sometime in the next few days. 


1 comment:

  1. Intention to follow through on your dreams. intention is not just about writing, as you know well, its about living the life you want to live, and i must say becca, i am so proud of your intentions.