This Month in Literary Reflections…

A funny essay by Lockie Hunter titled “Your Toddler: Socrates in Training Pants.” Here’s an excerpt:

When Francis Bacon first postulated that truth is learned through experience, he must have had the toddler in mind. Their thought processes are vastly different from adults, as theirs is a world of constant experimentation. Prior to the birth of my daughter, my world, particularly that of my writing, was somewhat formulaic. Write in scenes. Use interesting language. Be aware of the arc of a piece. I seldom took chances with form. My characters were unsympathetic, dull even. My thought processes were simple, unwavering. The creative had plunged out of my creative writing. The thought patterns of a toddler, however, follow those of a philosopher. As my daughter learned to stretch her creative muscles, I began to take note and stretch mine as well.

Just as Bacon believed that knowledge is gained through experimentation, so, too, does the toddler seek to find meaning in her world through investigation. The toddler is familiar with the material Play-Doh. She molds the Play-Doh into various shapes. What would happen if it were placed, say, in the cat’s fur? I created a handy matrix to use in various instances.

Do not put the ______ in the ______.

Column A Column B
Play-Doh cat’s fur
booger shoes of the dinner guests
toothpaste DVD player

All a parent need do is pick an item from Column A and an item from Column B and speak the consequent sentence to her child. Unfortunately, I realized that my formulaic writing followed a handy matrix as well.

1. Premise

Did the protagonist ______ in the ______?

Column A Column B
die boudoir
betray a friend rose garden
take solace surf at the beach
reveal his hidden past trenches at Normandy
have a coming of age experience arms of another man

2. Character affectations. Circle all that apply.

Does the protagonist have a __________?

southern accent
facial tic
rosebud mouth
three-day beard growth

My fiction was composed like the game of Clue: Colonel Mustard killed Professor Plum in the library with the rope. Recycle characters, change the setting from library to say, trenches at Normandy, and begin again. While the matrix was making my writing somewhat banal, I thought it was still working and clung to it like a life raft. However, the handy parenting matrix began to dissolve when my daughter’s actions and questions stepped outside the realm of predictability.

Head on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

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