Friday Speak Out!: Writing and the Things We Tell Our Children

Friday, August 05, 2016
by Allison Walters Luther

My 6-year-old daughter peeked around the screen of my old laptop and grinned at me. “I’m going to be a writer just like you, Mom!” I didn’t know whether to feel proud or worried, so I think I did a bit of both.

I wasn’t much older than her when I wrote my first story, complete with atrocious spelling and horrible illustrations. I continued to write until I was around 12 when someone close to me told me that I should have ended a story differently, that they should have been in it. In hindsight, I’m sure they didn’t mean it how it came across, but it destroyed me. I thought it meant I wasn’t a good writer, so I stopped writing. It wasn’t until I was almost 40 and found National Novel Writing Month that I rediscovered my confidence and passion. In all, I lost more than 25 years of storytelling. Those years are gone, the stories lost, because I wasn’t able to see past a petty comment from someone who should have known better.

Now my daughter says she wants to be a writer, too. She has a definite flair for the dramatic, so it doesn’t surprise me. She takes after me in a lot of ways and that’s the part that worries me.

Recently, she was writing about gorillas. After a few minutes, she broke down in tears because she “wanted it to be perfect” and it wasn’t. We talked about how writing is never perfect on the first try, mistakes are going to happen and can always be fixed later, and that the important thing was that she was trying. I don’t know if what I said made any impact; she ended up throwing her paper away and finding something else to do.

It got me thinking. How do you walk that oh-so-fine line in helping a sensitive child learn and trust their abilities without damaging them? Is that even possible?

I want my daughter to know what it took me decades to learn. That even when the words flow fast and free, they are rarely perfect. That the first draft of anything is usually terrible. That you can’t write to please others, because everyone is different and not every story will be loved universally. That criticism and rejection are a big part of being a writer and you need to learn to use it to better your craft. I know these things will come to her in time, as they did for me. I only hope she’s not 40 before she figures it out.

For now, all I can do is read her stories and answer her questions. And never, ever tell her that she should have ended a story differently. After all, they are her stories to tell, not mine.

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When she's not chasing after her three children, Allison Walters Luther is busy writing, mainly within the historic, horror, and thriller genres. She has been twice honored by Wow! Women On Writing in their flash fiction contest for her pieces 'Swinging' (Summer 2015 contest as a runner-up) and 'Widow's Walk' (Winter 2016 contest as an honorable mention). She lives near Seattle and is currently working on her first novel, 'Bad River', set in 1860s Dakota Territory. You can read about her family's journey with autism at or you can find her on Twitter @AllisonLuther.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Angela Mackintosh said...

Beautiful post, Allison! I read this quote the other day: "The first 40 years of childhood are always the hardest." ;) It's never too late to start writing. Out of all the professions out there, I think writing is the weirdest in that we have to learn to take criticism and rejection and turn it into a positive experience somehow. It's wonderful that you can share the joys of writing with your daughter and guide her through all the tough parts about being a writer. Thanks for sharing!

Margo Dill said...

I agree with what Angela said above. And you have obviously already had success from what I read in your bio. I think that is what keeps us going. :) And encouraging one another.

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