I participated in a virtual retreat with Story Sessions last week – an opportunity to intensively fuel creativity for a few days. In our final writing session, we were asked to journal through this question: what is one thing holding you back from the story you must tell?
My mind was ready to fire off the usual excuse – time. Of course that had to be the answer, the one thing. Because marriage, kids, job, etc. All the stuff. But my heart gave a twinge and raised her voice before I could shush her. And I knew in an instant the real thing that holds me back from the story I’m working on right now:
I fear not being taken seriously as a writer because I have chosen to write a children’s story. I fear other writers will view it as “less than”.
But just as quickly as my heart admitted her fear, I knew in my bones what a lie this was. More importantly, I knew that even if it turns out to be true, even if other writers do look down on this endeavor, I will do it anyway.
Because it is for my children, especially my daughter, but for both of them. Which is reason enough all by itself. I am writing the princess story I want them to read – brave, beautiful, fierce, strong and soft all at once. And I believe in this story. I believe in the message I am carefully weaving through the characters and actions. I believe there are big hearts inside little bodies who need the words I am laboring over. (And even crazier – a few big hearts in grown up bodies who might need them too.)
I push back against the fear over what others may think. I remember what good company I am in – Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kate DiCamillo, E.B. White – just a few great writers who invested their words on a younger audience, and yes, please, don’t mind if I do aspire to join them. (With a healthy dose of reality, of course, because Narnia and Middle Earth are rare pinnacles of perfection.)
And just in case I needed any additional convincing to fortify my sometimes quivery heart, I found this nugget of wisdom from Madeline L’Engle – her response when she was asked why she wrote for children:
I don’t. If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grown up, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words. Sometimes I answer that if I have something to say that is too difficult to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. This is usually good for a startled laugh, but it’s perfectly true. Children still haven’t closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth.
So there you have it. I write this story, not only for my children, but for me. Because I love a good princess story and a good adventure. And I will pour my best into it so as not to dishonor children or books or words. No doubt, the process will be painful because that is how it goes when birthing something, but in the end, I expect it all to be quite fun and – dare I say it? – significant. After all, stories are powerful. Who knows what could happen?