My cute baby granddaughter thought about Up. She watched her brothers running through the house, her little brow furrowed in concentration. How do they do that? One day, at the ripe old age of eight months, Babykins pulled herself to standing, using the sofa for support.
The first couple of weeks didn’t go well for her. She hadn’t learned how to un stand; when her little legs fatigued, she fell backwards. She quickly learned how to roll her spine so as not to whack her fuzzy head every time. Feet were another issue. Sometimes her little feet slid out from under her, and she ended up doing splits. They sometimes slid away from the sofa, leaving her at an untenable 45 degree angle, clutching the sofa, squawking for help. Her mother rescued her, picked her up for a hug, chuckling at the baby’s determination to get back and down and try again.
This all reminds me of the baby’s mother at that age. Once my daughter learned to stand and take two steps, she refused to crawl ever again. It was simply beneath her. That was fine once she could walk capably, but the first couple of weeks were rough. She’d stand up against a chair, take a few wobbly steps, invariably tip over, and scream as if she’d been attacked by lions. One of us would have to go stand her back on her little feet; she simply couldn’t bear to crawl the two feet to the chair. A pride issue, I think, along with early evidence of a stubborn streak wider than her head. She kept on practicing, and as other adults, she now walks without a thought.
No one criticized her when she was learning, and no one scolds Babykins for not doing it right, for falling over yet again. We praise her for trying again, clapping, smiling, telling her, “Good! Now try again,” knowing that, with practice, she’ll learn to walk like everyone else.
I’m an author of sixteen books. I suppose I know what I’m doing, to some degree, and I keep on learning daily, constantly improving my craft. Some of the phrases I string together are flat, hokey, even syrupy. Other times, I read over a paragraph in delight. Sometimes I kick paper wads in frustration, knowing what I want to convey, but unable to get my point across.
I suppose what babies and toddlers deal with effects writers, too—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it.
My advice to writers is WRITE. Write a lot, good stuff, worthless stuff, keep on writing. My baby granddaughter will be chasing after her brothers in no time, but it’s not only time that propels a child onward to more sophistication and skill. It takes effort and practice, and occasionally falling on one’s head. Write, write, write because the road to good writing is made of words strung together and not all of them are well-arranged words. With practice, it gets better.
We don’t scold a child for stumbling when learning to walk. We value their adorable attempts, and pick them up when they tip over. Do that for the writer inside you. Praise the good parts, encourage the weak parts, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.