Permission to be yourself

Published by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Today I was reading William Zinsser’s newest book of essays and was struck by what he said about his students, mostly women, who take his memoir-writing class:

Most of them are paralyzed by the thought of writing a memoir. How can they possibly sort out the smothering clutter of the past? But mainly it’s fear of writing about themselves.

… I want them to think of themselves as people — women who lead interesting lives and who also write, trusting their own humanity to tell plain stories about their thoughts and emotions. Why do they think they need permssion to be themselves? “Who would care about my story?” they say. I would. I give them permission to write about the parts of their lives that they have always dismissed as unimportant.

What Zinsser does for his students is what we do for our children when we support them to pursue their own meaningful work.

If they begin early enough, they may never hesitate and think that they need permission to be themselves. But if they start a little later, or if they hear messages from peers and the other people around them: Shh, don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t embarrass me. You’re not good enough. You’re not old enough. You’re not smart enough. Maybe later. Shh.

These messages don’t even have to be spoken out loud; they come through as gestures and grimaces and parents changing the subject. Enough of that and they may believe no one cares about what interests them. They may doubt that anyone will be interested in what they have to say. They may doubt whether they can be writers and artists and builders and makers. Does the world need or want what they can offer?

By being your child’s first audience, you send the message: Someone cares about what you think. Someone cares about what you make and do.

By supporting their work, whatever it is, you show them that they can produce what they consume. They can contribute something of their own. Their perspective and their opinion matters. Their ideas matter.

Many of us are paralyzed at the thought of doing whatever it is we want to do. We think no one cares or wants to hear what we have to say. We think our contribution is so negligible, it’s not worth anyone taking notice — and if they did take notice… well, our heart beats faster just at the thought.

When we do our own meaningful work and when we make it possible for our children to do theirs, we’re helping them avoid falling into this trap. They don’t need anyone’s permission to be themselves. They don’t need to be picked. They don’t need to be praised or rewarded. Their ideas matter. Their opinions matter. Their interests matter. The sooner they learn that — the sooner they know it’s true — the sooner they can own their feelings, their interests and talents, and their life.

Make sure they know they have your permission to be themselves.

Video games can actually give you ideas

Published by Lori Pickert on July 3, 2012 at 10:14 AM

This is a guest post written by my 12-year-old son Jack.


People who think video games are pointless and useless are misguided. 


Video games can be fun and useful and can actually give you ideas. My mom has written about this a little already — what you consume, you produce


Also, they give you a sense of accomplishment. If you’ve just gotten past an eagle warrior using the silver sword of destruction without using any health or something, it boosts your confidence and sense of self-worth. Anyone who watches a kid play a video game doesn’t see him coasting along. You can see him come to some sort of obstacle and spend enormous amounts of time trying to get past it, doing endless repetitive things that would clearly not be ‘fun’ to anyone else. Everyone does something that gives them a sense of accomplishment that would be incredibly tedious or arduous to anyone else. Cooking, cleaning, climbing Everest, running a marathon. 


Also, they can hone your mind. Mind puzzles are pretty much in any game you lay your hands on.


Also, games are just enjoyable to some. You shouldn’t keep your children from having fun. If you keep them from their source of enjoyment and try to force books on them, what are they going say about their childhood to their children? 


It’s not one or the other they can like video games, television, books, and playing outside. Many people think television is just a book except you don’t use your imagination. I don’t think so. I think they are completely different entertainment forms. 


Video games are different still. Games make me use my imagination. Let me relate a story to you. 


I had been playing a video game called Oblivion: Elder Scrolls IV. It’s a fantasy themed game. After I had been playing for a while, I decided I would write a fantasy themed book. So I started it. After a while, I realized I wanted to improve my writing, so I checked out a ton of writing books from the library and read them. 


You see, a video game sparked an idea for a project that ended up with me improving my skills. Without that video game, none of that would ever have happened. I might have become a drifter or a construction worker or something, but instead I learned how to write better. Oblivion led to my largest writing project ever, a 30,000 word novella. I just need to finish editing it and it’ll be done. Thank you, video games!



See also:

The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time


Comics project: Writing

Published by Lori Pickert on November 10, 2007 at 12:58 PM


The comics project has branched off into two different types of writing work.

snoopy-computer.pngSnoopy and his typewriter inspired the writing of stories. Jack first asked for a typewriter, to which I didn't say no (I love typewriters, too, and I typed on one all the time when I was his age!) but did gently suggest that while we shop for one, he might utilize the computer we already had.

His stories are wonderful. I will probably have to type an entire one in here to share. Maybe "The Hot Dog and the Hog". I believe that one was inspired by Just So Stories.

comicbk.jpgNow he is writing comic books. First he copied individual comic strip characters (Calvin & Hobbes), then he copied whole strips, then he drew his own C&H strips, then he made up his own characters (still related to C&H) and drew their strips (George & Falkin). Whew. Then he drew entirely original strips. Then he wanted them to be published, in the newspaper, for everyone to read. (Pause for explanation of why we might not be able to get that to happen by, say, Monday.)

He reads comic collections in book form, so he made two books of comics, as in actual books. He used hardcover blank sketchbooks, but he is also interested in having copies made so he can sell them. (Of course.)

And now he is writing comic books. He has been reading some books he dredged up from our home library about the Incredible Hulk and Spiderman — books that have chapters up front about the writers and artists and comic book publishers. His Spiderman book lists all the villains, so that's what he's concentrating on right now for his characters: Mom Lady and her sidekick, Son Boy.


A writing place

Published by Lori Pickert on August 30, 2007 at 03:08 AM


As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Or so the saying goes.

We want to encourage reading, writing, and drawing as daily activities, so we purposefully have several spaces that are very inviting for curling up with a book, drawing a picture, or writing a letter. (Or, this week, drawing a comic book.)

In preschool and Kindergarten classrooms (and sometimes, if you're lucky, older grades), there are usually "writing centers". Sometimes these areas are a bit school-ish (institutional) and perhaps big enough for several children.

A great writing space is big enough for two children to work side-by-side, so you can work with a sibling or a friend. You can use a thrift-store or garage-sale desk or table and stock it with all the things you would find in a regular desk: stationery, envelopes, stamps (blank labels cut into squares can be decorated by the sender), address book, etc. We like old-fashioned rubber stamps. And writing isn't only about mail -- we always offer small handmade books with decorative covers (the easiest of these are just folded and stapled copy paper), clipboards for taking surveys and doing pretend office work, and etc.

Even the smallest space can fit in a tiny corner for a desk that will beckon to children to sit down and write a letter, a poem, a book .. or a comic book. And small spaces are nice, even when you have a lot of space to work with. There’s nothing like a cozy nook to draw children in, whether it’s a single floor cushion half hidden behind a curtain for reading or a tiny desk with cubbies stuffed full of found papers and office supplies for writing.

soulemama's corner of my home: his desk

geninne's studio/homeschool

israel's desk

little birds' new drawing corner

maisie's desk

syko's drawing corner

duchamp blinks' desk