To celebrate Get Kids Writing during National Stationery Week, children's author Alex Campbell tells us how, to her, writing is as much about exciting beginnings and ideas as 'finished' masterpieces.
Oh how I do I love beginnings…..the beginnings of holidays, daydreams, of films and books, of a romance, of a tasty-looking meal, the first hints of Spring.
As a writer, there’s nothing I cherish more than the beginnings of an idea. The first nuggets of a novel, the initial suggestion of a character, of plot…..
I used to see this as a bad thing….I would hear the ghostly chastisements of teachers past….why can’t you finish what you start; the attention of a gnat; focus you flibbity-gibbit (well, okay, I’m sure no teacher said the last two)…..But as children we are often taught to finish things, to write whole stories, to plot and structure a beginning, a middle and an end, to see things through to the final chapter.
Why? In my book – and there have been many that have started never to be finished - there’s nothing wrong with beginnings that will have no end…..To me, it is a process for writing and harnessing creativity that is necessary if you are to find the story that one day you will eventually finish.
If children are allowed the freedom to generate beginnings only, to jump randomly from one idea to another without worrying whether they will reach an imaginary finish line, then their creativity can flourish without boundaries. Give each child a notebook and tell them just to jot away - to write down words they like, observations they make, ideas and more ideas for stories they may never write…..over time it will become a way of life to them.
|Museum of Childhood
Now take them armed with their notebooks to places that can
inspire them with beginnings, like the Holburne Museum of Art (www.holburne.org)
or The Museum of Childhood (www.museumofchildhood.org.uk).
Show them how there are stories
everywhere, in pictures, in artefacts, in the snatches of conversations you hear at the table next to you in the museum café. Encourage them to seek the story in everyday things as much as the special, scribbling down anything that inspires them - a defining feature on a stranger’s face; a gory fact from history; an idea for a story behind a precious jewel or a portrait of a child.
I have been busy filling notebooks since the days when there were cassette tapes and you had to use your legs to change channels on the television – and now, my notebooks are integral to my professional writing work. They are my weaponry for making sense of what I want to write; they are my library which can show me how an idea has developed – or not. They are my outside aid to work out and weave my internal thoughts and ideas. It is always in my notebooks that my novels are born. LAND
, to be published this September (www.hotkeybooks.com
), started as a mere twinkle in the eye of many a notebook.
Writing or conceiving a whole novel can be a scary thought – whether you’re an adult or a child. The trick is to start out accepting that writing without commitment is okay for now. Like true love, a family home, a dream job, future writers will know when the time is right – and the story is the one - to commit…..and until then, they should simply play the field, go on, fill many a notebook….and live a life of exciting beginnings with no end.