Monday, October 20, 2008

Couldn't be prouder, or, my son vs. the Pod People

Young author at work My novel ideas are starting to shape up: for the first time, I did a very sketchy outline of the story in order, to see what holes I have to fill in. Last night, I pulled out Gomez and engaged in a little hole-filling. Thanks to a active topic on the Portable Typewriters group Gomez now sports four new rubber spacers/bushings/whatever, which lift his innards ever-so-slightly from the case. With a 99-cent package of sink washers and about ten minutes with a screwdriver, Gomez's return lever no longer drags into his ribbon cover, and the carriage slides smoothly and near-silently, where before it was dragging a bit on the tab stops. I'm deeply indebted to the collective genius of that list.

Anyhow, Gomez and I were working our way through some index cards, when my son walked by and asked how the story was going. I explained the details of NaNo -- start November 1st, quantity over quality -- and out of the blue, he asked for his typewriter back. After the brief flurry of interest, it was getting buried underneath the detritus of a pre-teen's life, so I had put it back up on the shelf for safekeeping. Now he wanted it back, he had a story in mind, and he wanted to write it down.

I'm not sure if any of you are exposed to pre-teen boys on a regular basis, but let me clue you in on two key observations about their behavior:

1) They do not like to write. In fact, merely suggesting that they spend ten minutes doing their English homework will usually result in thirty minutes of complaining, sighing, and severe my-parents-are-such-dorks eye-rolling.

2) They do not like failure. Especially making typos that cannot be obliterated easily, before anyone sees it.

Without acting too much like a kid at Christmas, I brought down his machine, set him up on a TV tray with my new typing pad, fed in the paper, and said the Typewriter Brigade mantra: "Typos don't count, mistakes don't count, it's the first draft, and no one will read it but you."

That was apparently the magic spell. Gomez and I sat down on the floor while he was working, providing a little aural and moral support, my wife moving off to the kitchen with the laptop so as not to disturb the resident authors. Neither of us wanted to break the moment: our son, writing... willingly! Forty-five minutes later, we had to tear him away to get ready for bed. He let his mom and I read the beginning of his story: four lines agonizingly crafted, but actually quite good. This morning before school he spent time feeding the paper back in, queuing up the machine to the same point in the page so "I can start right after school."

I couldn't be prouder. And I'm going to check his room for pods from outer space... just in case.


Mike Speegle said...

That's fantastic. Gives me hope for the future, so it does.

Monda said...

Wow. I spent a long time teaching teenaged boys and let me tell you - you're having a real moment there.

And you're right, it's all about not breaking the spell. All you can do is hold your breath and pretend none of this matters to you. Good job, Dad!

mpclemens said...

There was more togetherness-typing last night, and I snapped a photo of him working hard on his story just before school today.

I feel like I've slipped into an alternate parenting universe.

Strikethru said...

I envy your type-synergy. I am still at the stage of swatting toddlers away from typewriter button-mashing.

I really think typewriters are a great way to get kids to write. How can kids think of computers as writing tools, with what-all happening on the interwebz just behind the writing screen?