Overcoming your writing fears: How you can learn from an eleven year old

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

My son started ‘Big School’ a few weeks ago.

For those of you unacquainted with the education system in the UK, what we do to our youngest members of society is this.

The wee ones start at primary school at about three or four years old, where they find softly spoken teachers, brightly coloured crayons and sandpits. They spend a few years making handprint paintings  and musical instruments out of yoghurt pots and dried peas – and probably glitter. There’s a lot of glitter at primary school.

They gradually work their way up the school, learning a bit more, keeping just one teacher a year who takes them for all subjects, staying in the same classroom, so everything is warm and safe and familiar. My son’s old school (along with many primary schools here) was an old Victorian building with Gothic overtones (it had a turret and crenellations, for goodness sake!). Cosy.

Physical education seems to involve country dancing and balancing bean bags on your head and sport’s day wasn’t particularly competitive, but about ‘sharing’ and ‘supporting’ each other to do well.

They had Nativity plays – tinsel haloes, kids stuck all over with Pritt stick and cotton wool pretending to be sheep, silver paper stars, the lot.

Most rooms had a quiet corner with cushions and a comfy seat where kids could read or just think. Idyllic.

Now he’s at secondary school.

He’s gone from being one of the oldest in a population of around 400 to the youngest in a population of over 1,200. The school resembles the flagship office for a multinational financier – all strip lighting and floor to ceiling windows. Pupils have to move to a new class and new teacher with each lesson (carrying their own body weight in books, pens, calculators each time) in a baffling maze of stairs and corridors that a well-trained Griever* would find confusing.

My son has already experienced some low level bullying and had something stolen from him.


Tough though it is and though he’s had a few rocky moments, he says he loves the place. He loves his teachers, he loves most of his subjects (except drama – he doesn’t like pretending to be a tree, apparently) and he loves being more independent.

What the chuff has this got to do with writing, I hear you cry? Well, I’ll tell you.

You may be reading this as a new writer, all dewy fresh behind the ears with that just-out-of-the-packet smell. You might have spent years dreaming of writing, but were just too busy with work and family and macramé and the private lives of the Kardashians to attempt it. But now you’re ready. You’re dipping your raw, pink toe into the sea of scribbling and wondering how cold the water is.

On the other hand, you may be a more experienced writer.

You may have been blogging for years, reaching out across the ephemeral fingers of the virtual world to build a fan base and meet your people. You’ve made a comfortable niche for yourself. You may have written a tranche of short stories and you may have had some success too, had some published, maybe won a comp or several. But there’s something niggling at you – a bigger dream you’re yearning for, a longer form of self-expression. But you’re nervous. How will you transfer your short story skills to a novel – how do you plot, create believable, rounded characters. How do you write so many damn words?

Fear not, dear souls. If the anxiety inside you is building as you contemplate your new writing goal, if your fear of failure and rejection is holding you back –

think of my son and step bravely forward.

Like him, you’ll find the going a challenge – don’t fool yourself it’ll all be easy, because it won’t. You’ll have some stresses, some worries, some moments where you don’t think you’ll make it. And you may even get something nicked along the way.

But arm yourself well. Read advice, read books – lots. Watch TV and films (within reason – a twenty four hour marathon of Storage Hunters does not count as research for anything). Go places, meet people.

Then sit your bum on a chair and write and keep writing. Don’t let doubt or fear of the unknown stop you from doing something you really want to do and if that’s writing a blog post, a short story or novel, just throw yourself in and do it. And do some more and some more.

And eventually, you won’t be the newest kid on the block, you’ll be an old hand and you’ll have created something amazing that’s yours.

And you’ll love it.

*A animal / machine hybrid killer from the The Maze Runner. Very good at negotiating mazes!

19 thoughts on “Overcoming your writing fears: How you can learn from an eleven year old

    1. Thanks, fingers crossed for him. We’ll just have to see what kind of teenager the place and his peers turn him into – a raging, rangy, lairy know it all? Acceptable human being with moments of absolutely red rage? Time will tell 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Children are generally much better at throwing themselves at something new, aren’t they? Not that it’s always a good thing, but when it comes to stepping outside of my comfort zone, I often think I should take the kiddo’s lead more often.

    Fingers crossed he’ll keep loving big school…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, at least he enjoys it now, so that’s a start – even if it’s all downhill from here! Yes, kids can be great at these things. He’s decided on a ‘new school, new start’ approach, which entails him asking more questions and putting himself forward in lessons – something he was terrible at before. Are comfort zones meant to be left, then? But it’s soooo cosy in here …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He likes his school after all – that’s brilliant! And it mut be a huge relief for you.
    What’s happened to education? I remember having to be a tree when I was only five years old. All the kids had to get into pairs, and oneof each pair had to be a tree, while the other was sprite. (or something like that) The sprite danced around the tree, then we changed places. I had to be a tree first, but it didn’t work very well, because I was so excited by the dancing sprites I kept thinking I was one, and trying to dance around my partner. She became very cross with me for stealing her thunder.
    On second thoughts, maybe that’s why they don’t teach kids to be trees until they hit secondary schools – they’re just not ready for it at the age of five!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! What a lovely image – you as the overexcited tree. So you ended up with the tree trying to dance around the sprite, then? What a delightful thing. That’s made me smile.
      Actually there’s less pretending to be a tree than improvised ‘hits’ – my son playing the hired killer! He says he doesn’t mind drama since that lesson. Bring back the trees and sprites, I say 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can empathise with your son. When The Man From U.N.C.L.E appeared on TV my brothers and I became secret agents, and spent our weekends chasing around the fields, shooting each other with fake Lugers. (Genuine U.N.C.L.E. fake Lugers!) I liked to be Ilya Kuriakin.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Quite right, you don’t want to drop your standards – you’ve got the blond locks and the saucy Ayrian/Russian mash up thing going on. You’ve definitely got the moves. Why settle for anything less than perfection?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Quite.
        Ilya did fall in love once, (not with me, unfortunately) and she was beautiful and seemed really nice. (I hated her) When it all went wrong at the end of the episode – I can’t remember whether she was a T.H.R.U.S.H. spy, or if she just got killed – I pretended to be upset, but really I was glad.
        There was still a chance for me, if he ever came to the field in the little hamlet near a little village near a little town in North Devon, and saw how good I was at climbing trees. I knew he would instantly fall in love with me as I hung upside down from the branches, his intelligent blue eyes reflected in mine.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. If only UNCLE had had a training scheme for promising young agents – promising child agents. He would definitely noticed your charms – though you’d have to make sure not to die at the end of the episode.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You know what? That would have sounded good a few years ago, but i like being alone – and anyway, I’m not the only one who aged. He did too, AND he turned into David McCallum. You can’t trust anyone these days.

        Liked by 1 person

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