I was reading a blog by Kristine Kathryn Rusch a moment ago, about the widespread view amongst artists that curing their alcoholism, depression, and the like would lead to them losing their .. inspiration, whatever you like to call it. Killing their muse. It's a good blog, as all of hers are. I simply had to drop it though and come here to write this. Not literally, it's online, so it's still there waiting for me to get back to it. But you know, with my old lady memory I couldn't risk forgetting what I had thought.
It brought to the front of my mind the observation that I've often made, that many great writers have had lousy childhoods. A larger proportion than one would expect. And though I wouldn't care to put myself forward as a great writer, I would include myself in the miserable childhood section of the community.
Don't worry, I'm not going to write a misery memoir, now or at any point. My infuriatingly cheery, optimistic nature leads me to conclude that whereas some bits of it were totally dark, I also met a lot of lovely people who helped me along my way. The sun did shine in those days. And I would never advocate that you make your children's lives a misery in the hope that they will somehow turn into great writers.
But this time I took my thoughts a little bit further.and considered what my miserable childhood made me do. It made me spend a lot of my life immersed in books as an escape from real life. I would read more or less any book that came my way, from public libraries, gifts from a generous uncle at Christmas, or just lying around the place.
Result: a rich vocabulary, a grasp of grammar, and an imagination stimulated by tales of Narnia, space stations, and Regency gentlemen. From there it wasn't a big step to take that imagination and start crafting stories of my own, in which I was big and brave, and had a family that loved me and who would do anything I wanted because they loved me so. And later on those Regency gentlemen, thank you Georgette Heyer. Oh, those Regency gentlemen.
So there it is. Rather than torturing your offspring (unless you have other reasons to do so of course) give them books, encourage them to read. Don't complain that they always have their noses stuck in books. Don't say they should be out playing war or cowboys and indians instead of moping around the house reading. Encourage them to read as much as they want, whether it's dead tree books or electronic ones.
And you never know, they may be able to support you in your old age on their earnings as great authors, if you're really lucky. Or at least take you out for a meal from time to time.
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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