My 8-year-old is writing a book for a competition at his school. Yesterday, he brought his notebook to town with him so he could work on his project while we waited for my cracked windshield to be repaired. He likes to use waiting room time constructively and always brings something to read or work on.
At one point, my son stopped to ask me to list all the foods I cook for dinner that “he really really likes a lot” (I could only think of tacos.) You see, he is doing a life writing piece and couldn’t remember what we’d had for dinner on a particular day he was describing, but he could remember it was something he liked a lot.
Since I wasn’t much help, he finally said, “I’ll just use tacos,” and got on with it. He didn’t let himself get hung up on that insignificant detail but instead chose something that acted as a fair representation of the truth. This is an essential concept to keep in mind when writing nonfiction, which many readers consider to be completely “true.” Sometimes obsessing over getting a tiny detail just right is counterproductive. There comes a time when you need to just come up with a fair representation and get on with it.
My son completed his first draft at the glass repair shop yesterday and asked me to listen while he read the first draft out loud. He held a pencil at the ready and corrected errors as he heard them during the reading. Afterwards, he asked if I could go through it with him and help him do a second round of edits.
I do believe my third grader understands the writing process better than most college students I’ve attempted to teach composition to. Maybe we’ll publish his book when it’s done!