writing vs. Writing

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Do your boys like to write? Most boys don’t. Boys’ fine motor skills tend to develop later than girls’, and so for most boys, the physical act of holding a pencil or pen and creating words is frustrating and painful.

But what if I told you that’s not writing?

Oh sure, it’s writing in one sense. Call it writing with a small w: writing, tracing letters onto the page. The kind of writing I’m talking about is writing with a capital W: Writing, using written language to communicate.

There’s a big difference between the two, and I’m convinced that focusing on writing inhibits Writing — especially for boys.

That’s not to say penmanship is not important. (Although I could argue that it’s not. How much of your writing is done by hand these days?) As a writer, though, I believe that if you want you boys to write, you need to shift your focus from the mechanics to the content.

Give your boys room, freedom and permission to play around with language. Let them talk — a lot. Read them stories. Transcribe their stories. Let them experience the natural flow of language before inundating them with things like grammar, structure and punctuation.

Ask any writer how to become a better writer, and you’ll inevitably hear one word: “Read.” Writing practice is important, but so is immersing yourself in a world of fine language. By reading — or listening to — the writing of others, one intuitively absorbs information about flow, pacing and structure. One learns what details make a story come alive and how to maintain interest. One learns that words have power.

So if you want your boys to Write, put away the pens and pencils for awhile. If your boys are like mine, their verbal storytelling abilities are far above their writing ability, and that’s OK. Encourage them to tell their stories. Listen as they summarize their favorite TV shows and explain how to play Yu Gi Oh. Jot down their stories and let your boys see the written transcript. Without writing a word, they will be Writing.

It may be years before your sons’ physical abilities catches up to their ability to Write. That’s OK. So many parents and teachers insist that writing and Writing go hand-in-hand, but too many boys become frustrated and quit. Too many boys think that Writing is a girl thing. Too many boys stop after learning that teachers value friendship-oriented stories over action-packed adventures. Too many boys conclude that they can’t Write, and their voices are lost to the world.

Don’t worry about writing. Help your son Write instead.

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