5 things we say to toddlers that would actually help us write.

Okay -- everything we tell toddlers is good advice: Don't put your finger in there, for example, could have saved me years of trouble.

But there are some things I find myself repeating over and over to my three year old that I really should just say to myself.

Here they are:

1. Calm down and do it again slowly.

This one is the most repeated. Our children are walking personifications of the mirror Atreyu faces in the Neverending Story. They reflect back to us our true natures:

Engywook: Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu has to face his true self. 
Falcor: So what? That won't be too hard for him. 
Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming! .

My son loves to be by himself, playing happily for hours on end until one little thing goes wrong. The lego might not click together, the lego might not come apart. He can't find his Rainbow Dash, he cant get the paint lid open. You get the picture. The result is instant rage and despair -- an immediate existential crisis where no-one can help beyond playing witness to the suffering.

This is pretty much me when writing a first draft.

2. Clean up all that before you start something else.

This one needs no explaining. When it comes to my writing however, this bit of toddler advice is best applied to the process of drafting. I used to preach the necessity to forge ahead no matter what, but often there is a problem in chapter 3 that really needs to be tidied up before delving into chapter 11.

4. You can't watch TV in the morning.

Okay, so I don't wake up wanting to watch Peper Pig, (well, not always) but this rule applies to email, reddit, google reader, facebook et cetera. As I explain to my son, 'watching a screen first thing just makes you miserable.' This rule, incidentally, is the hardest for me to follow. I don't think I am the only one.

5. Yes, you really do have to sleep.

So you have been a good buy, and done all your work for the day and held off checking your blogger stats until after the spelcheck was done on your WIP. Now all you really want to do is stay up to 2am catching up on all the fun you missed out on. No. Go to bed. Your morning self will thank you.

***edit Sunday 8th July. Reason: stupidity***

No one noticed, but I only gave 4 rules.  I blame rule 5.

So here is missing rule #3:

3. Share your things.

I used to think that writing was a solitary pursuit; that all I need do is lock myself away in a castle for a few years and out pops a finished novel.

How naive. 

Just like I have to explain to my son that the only way to enjoy himself is to learn how to share, I have to remember that sharing is not only the point of this writing adventure, but the means to make it happen. 

I am 43k words into book 2, and I am relying on people now more than ever before. I share my chapters with my wife, who gives instant feedback on structure. I share the draft with my friends for their feedback on plot and the big ideas of the book. I share a crucial spreadsheet on all the magick spells in my book with the magician, who helps translate them into the language of magick. And lastly, I share everything with you, both my book, and its process on my blog. The feedback I get in the comments here and the reviews on goodreads keep me going when the thought of how many words I still have to write makes me want to curl up in a ball and have another existential meltdown.  


About me.


  1. Very true. I think we all tend to be a bit spoilt and a bit self-indulgent with too-easy access to the cookies.


    1. Thanks Mood. I have been looking at your blog BTW.. love the post on what to do with the 'boring bits' of a novel.

  2. this is beyond hilarious and describes my own toddler perfectly. Well I guess she is a preschooler now but that totally resonated. This is so me! Great post!!!

  3. Your list is ridiculously on point. One thing I'd like to add is that I often say to my seven year old, "I really shouldn't have to repeat myself." And as writers, that is also the case. While we're writing, we may want to take note of how often we delve into the "deep dark recesses of so-and-so's mind" on one page. Or how often we describe something that the reader got the first two times but we just keep bringing it up again and again and again...and some more for good measure. lol!!


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