Monday, April 27, 2009

The Science of Creative Writing

While my two daughters are madly trying to follow in my footsteps and writing their own books like crazy (my oldest on the computer, about 17 pages in, and my youngest on folded pieces of paper she staples in the middle and draws pictures to go with... about one book a day), my son has showed very little interest in creative writing. I figured that was okay, seeing as how I'm not sure I'd wish the passion to write on anyone I hope will grow up and support himself one day.

But this weekend, I realized how similar the two of us are.

This weekend was the regional science fair. The one my son grew 40 plants for and force-fed them detergent water and then took over 1600 measurements to determine if environmentally friendly laundry soap was, in fact, environmentally friendly. We woke a little before seven am on Saturday (aaargh!) and set out for the middle school he was competing in, to sit there for five hours for competition.

If you've never been to a science fair, it works like this. The kids go into the cafeteria - without parents - to sit at their project for five hours while a few judges come around and ask questions. Parents have to sit in the gym for five hours, waiting for the kids to be done. It's possible at any moment you child will be released, so you can't just go and come back later. You must wait. In a gym.

So the lessons I learned?

1. Never bring a book you've not been able to finish because it just wasn't compelling enough to keep you up at night. That makes for the longest wait ever!!

2. Don't assume there won't be outlets to plug in your laptop and so leave it at home. Did you know middle schools have outlets every five feet? Seriously. I was almost in tears.

3. Bring food. And drink. And make sure your kid takes it with him into the judging. He was supposed to be out by 11:00 but had to stay until 1:00. It's a long time from the 7 am donut to 1 pm.

4. Maybe I should think about getting my son a cell phone. I've never seen so many ten and eleven year olds with cell phones in my life. And I had to loan out mine a few times to the poor, under appreciated children (like my son) who didn't have one, and couldn't find their parents.

5. Science and creative writing are not that different.

Nearly every project there started exactly the same way my stories begin. Some kid looked at something and said "Why?" and "What would happen if..."

Just like me!!

My son? He won first place.

Me? Well, I'm still working on it. And I think it's good he sees that sometimes, it takes a lot of work to get what you want.


  1. Many congratulations to your son! And, boy, are those good lessons. :) Thanks for sharing--and I agree; writing is a lot like science (maybe just a little too much).


  2. Thanks for stopping by Weronika!

    I did finally finish that book, but I wondered why I didn't just put it down long before and get a better one. Too many books - too little time to spend on ones I don't like!

  3. First place! Congratulations are in order!

    God, he should have gotten a prize for sitting there that long, especially with nothing to eat but one lone doughnut.

    No laptop. No cellphone. And--a book you couldn't finish? Ouch!

    He is adorable!

  4. WOW first place!?!? Tell the kiddo congratulations!

    You *did* take a notebook with you so you weren't forced to read that book that wasn't so good, right???

  5. First place??? Congratulations! My father-in-law told me yesterday that Max will be a physicist like his father. I told him Max is like me and loves to read and write. It's interesting to see who they become and how much influence we really have. Nature vs. nurture, right?

  6. Marsh - I agree!! I'm surprised none of the kids went psycho in there!

    Jen- ha! I did actually take a notebook, and I spent most of the time writing. :) I missed my laptop sorely though.

    Kerri - Ian loves reading too. He devours books as fast as I do. He loves science, though, but my prediction is he'll be a musician. Or a scientist who plays on the side. I think the fiction reading allows him to think bigger, though, in terms of what is possible. It's a good balance for science, which is often only what you can see or prove.

    Obviously we're very proud of him!