Top Ten Writing Tips for Kids

TOP TIP NUMBER FOUR:  TURN OFF THE TECHNOLOGY AND GET A REAL LIFE!

Near my home in Hong Kong there’s a wonderful wilderness where I often walk my dog Bobby.  It’s off the road up an old path beside a graveyard. It has trees to climb and bushes to hide behind.  It’s covered in wildflowers. It’s quiet and it’s safe (Hong Kong is famously safe for children). Best of all it has old abandoned village houses which would make perfect cubby houses and dens. (For some fabulous pictures created by the girls of Class 4C of Methodist Ladies College in Melbourne of how they imagine this special place to be, just scroll down to the bottom of this post!)

But in all the time I’ve walked my dog there at weekends and during the holidays I’ve never ONCE seen a kid playing there. And I think I know why. Many of those kids are indoors either playing on their X-boxes, or surfing the internet, or watching TV or a DVD, or texting their friends.

In 2009, the Council for Research Excellence in the USA found that most Americans, no matter what their age, were spending at least eight and a half hours a day looking at a television, a computer monitor or the screen of their mobile phone. Frequently they were doing all three at the same time.

That is just HORRIFYING! Imagine – eight and a half hours a day sitting still with your brain only half engaged and your imagination just about nowhere!

Now think about it. If you are reading, or drawing, or making something, or collecting something, or playing at war or climbing trees or putting on plays with your friends, what is happening to your brain? It’s working hard, that’s what – especially your imagination. And we all know that imagination is the most essential tool of a writer:-

  • when you read a book your imagination is constantly visualizing what the author is writing about;  you are also building your vocabulary and your understanding of the world;
  • when you are playing at war or in cubby houses you are imagining a whole world of adventure;
  • when you are climbing trees you are learning about your body and the build of trees and all the things that live in and on them;
  • when you are collecting stamps  or shells  or comic books, you are learning about them and also the places or cultures they come from;
  • when you are making something, be it a model plane or cake or a hat, you are learning about shapes and materials and how things fit together;
  • when you are playing with your friends face to face, you are building your communication skills and forging friendships out of shared real life experiences.

And all of this thinking, communicating and imagining goes into your brain and stays there, really deep, because you are so focussed on what you are doing. You are experiencing life deeply, either first hand or in your imagination. And because that experience is unique to you, your thoughts are truly original. And original thoughts make original writers.

So what happens to your brain when you are watching TV or DVDs or playing on your X-Box or surfing the Net?

  • Your imagination is out of a job. Think about it. All the information is already supplied – what things look like and sound like and what happens next – because all that information is already built into the software. Okay, in a computer game you can sometimes choose what happens next, but that choice is limited by the options built into the program;
  • It’s impossible to concentrate for longer than a few seconds at a time. And that’s the way the big businesses making money out of kids want it. Did you know that the flashes of colour and rapid zooms and sudden loud noises on kids’ TV programs and computer games are there because advertisers have worked out that this is the best way to engage your brain’s attention without you even noticing? It makes you an easy target for people who want to sell you things you don’t need and stops you from making up your own mind about their products. It’s a brain-washer’s dream! But writing requires concentration – deep concentration;
  • You get addicted. There’s a growing body of evidence that kids who spend too much time on technological devices actually get addicted to the extent that they lose their social skills in the real world, not to mention their vocabulary. And if you can’t cope with the real world and have limited vocabulary, you’ll never be able to write about it;
  • You stop thinking deeply. Your brain is as good as what you put into it. When you are using technology, the constant distraction of widgets and gadgets and moving objects and buttons makes it impossible to access your long term memory, so that any new information you acquire cannot be absorbed properly. Your thinking becomes shallow. Remember: great writing can only come from deep thinking. 

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that you never watch TV or surf the Net or play on your X-boxes. It’s fine to relax in front of an entertaining TV program or DVD some of the time, and the Internet is a fantastic tool for finding information. X-boxes are great fun if used in moderation. But I am saying that you need to pay careful attention to how much time you spend using technological devices, especially in your leisure time.  The research suggests that for kids, more than one hour a day on technological devices, be that be that TV, DVDs, X-boxes or the internet can stop your brain developing properly. And if you want to be a writer – or anything creative for that matter – your brain is your most precious possession.

So after you’ve read my blog, go on…turn off the computer and do something really radical! Like reading or drawing or making something or climbing something or actually playing with your friends face to face! That’s the way to train a writer’s brain!

Copyright Sarah Brennan 29th September 2012

A big thank you to the girls of Class 4C Methodist Ladies College in Melbourne and their inspired teacher for the beautiful drawings they made of the special place I have described at the beginning of this post. The girls even described on their pictures the games they would play there! Now that’s what I call using your imagination! Here are just six of them! Thank you girls – I will keep all your pictures and treasure them!

MLC picturesFeb 2013 001By Charlotte Kennedy

MLC pictures Feb 2013 005By Matisse and Chloe T.

MLC pictures  Feb 2013 008By Chloe and Lucinda

MLC pictures Feb 2013 004By Bridgette Annmarie

MLC pictures  Feb 2013 002By Jess and Amelie

MLC pictures Feb 2013 006By Soph and Mirriam

 

For

TOP TIP NUMBER ONE: GREAT READERS GROW INTO GREAT WRITERS

TOP TIP NUMBER TWO: KEEP A DAILY DIARY

TOP TIP NUMBER THREE: START A WRITER’S NOTEBOOK

scroll down the side tabs to the right. 

64 Comments »

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  1. I love books!!!!!

    • So do I!!!!!

      • Me 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I am Hillary from SJS P3.2. I am so excited to hear who the competition winners are! I am making a series of books because I wish to be a author

    • That’s fabulous Hillary! I’ll be announcing the competition winners by the end of this week!

  3. Hello I’m going to enter this competition and I really hope I win this.

    Nike pronounced like Nikki

    • That’s great Nike – I look forward to reading your entry!

  4. Hi Sarah,
    can you please tell me when the next competition going to start?

  5. Hi Sarah,
    You came to my school and singed by bookmark. I love your blog. My school is Collingwood College

    From your fellow writer Malaz Mohamed-Bakhit

    • Thanks Mataz for your lovely comment! I look forward to seeing some of your writing in the future!

    • Hi Mataz – it’s lovely to hear from you and I’m so glad you like my blog! Why don’t you enter my Clever Competition for young writers? It’s on right now – just click on the tab above!

    • Sarrah also came to my school to!!!!
      you are soooooo funny sarrah
      LOL
      zoe ps.i am from glenealy

  6. dear sarah, i still remember the visit you came to my school-SJS my name is Angel and your books are one of my favourites but please tell me how to attatch a poem tomyour newsletter or how to send you my competition entries for the sybil snake competition because I REALLY WANT TO ENTER!! Thanks alot!!!!

    • Hello again Angel! Please see my other replies to you today – I look forward to reading your entry!

  7. how do I get to enter your compitions.by catherine lena zhu.

    • Hi Catherine – thanks for writing. You can enter my Clever Competitions by following the guidelines on my Clever Competitions tab above. Just click on the tab! I look forward to reading your entry!

  8. I come from BHS and I just love reading!!!! Reading is everything to me. Writing is also everything to me! My teacher suggests me and my BFF to join your newest competition as she says I am a talented writer. (I don’t think so!) I wonder if doing acrostic poems are ok?

    • Dear Jaime – of course acrostic poems are fine for my competition! They’re great fun to write – but remember I’m looking for really interesting and original poems, so make sure you use some fantastic words and interesting ideas in your acrostic poem!

  9. hi Sarah! can you please put a joke page on your blog cause READING jokes is a very good way to not get bored!! Pretty please with whipped cream, sprinkles, double fudge ice cream and a cherry on top!!.

  10. Hi Sarah, next time you come to my school can you PLEASE sign my bookmark (please try to remember) i love getting autographs!!. My school is SJS BTW

  11. Hi sarrah it zoe from glenealy school you signed the book to zoe and emily i just wanted to say you are very funny do come again when your new book comes out
    ZOExxx

    • Thank you Zoe – I had a ball! My new book will come out in November in time for Christmas – why not join up for my Newsletter and then you can come to the official launch party at Bookazine!

      • Hi Sarah, please come over to our school next time. I had a terrific time when you were over on April 18 at Think International School. You just inspire me. The amount of vocabulary and ideas you receive are just unbelievable. I really respect that even though you a cauccasion you are interested in the diverse Chinese Culture. The advice you gave us on reading tips is pretty useful.
        Sanil
        The inquisitive and curious boy who asked numerous questions on your visit. to our school. . .

      • Sanil I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my visit! Thank you for your very articulate and interesting commentary. I remember you well and was very impressed by your curiosity and understanding – I suspect that you are a great reader of books, and predict that you will go far!

  12. Thanks a million Sarah Brennan so much for the interesting commentary and I hope to see myself reading your brilliant fictitious books throughout my final year in primary.
    Sanil

    • PS: When I grow up I might consider to become an author

  13. Thankyou Sarah Brennan for coming to SCEGGS on the 26th of August. We all enjoyed watching your show and I can’t wait to read the year of the horse because that’s the year I’m born in! Thanks again and I hope we can see you next year again!

    • Thank you Em for writing! I really enjoyed my time at SCEGGS today and will keep in touch with your librarian to let her know when I’m next in Sydney. I think you’ll love my Horse story :)!

  14. Hi Sarah,
    You came to my school today and a had learned many things. Thanks!!!!
    Love,
    Hilary Siu

  15. Hi Sarah,
    Sorry for the mistake.It should be ”and I had”.Sorry!

    • Thanks Hilary – but don’t worry – we all hit the send button too early sometimes!

  16. Hi Sarah,
    Which book did you like in the cat in the hat ?

    • Hello Hilary – I loved “The Cat in the Hat” and also “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” best! But I also loved Dr Seuss’s A to Z where he invented that funny word “Zigazagazoo”!!

  17. Dear Sarah,
    I know you are a good writer. I cannot wait until I have read your interesting books!

    • That is very nice of you Hilary! I hope you enjoy the books as much as I enjoyed writing them!

  18. Hi,
    How can I enter the writing competition?

    • Hello Hilary. My last writing competition has just ended, but I will be posting another one soon, when everyone gets back to school in September! So keep following my blog or subscribe to my newsletter, and I’ll let you know when the competition starts!

      • Thanks!!!!!

  19. Thank you for all the tips you gave me! I hope I can improve my writing skills with your tips!

    • Hello Valerie, I’m sure if you follow those tips your writing will get better and better! Thanks for your post!

  20. Hi Sarah,
    I had read A Even Dirtier Story already. It was great! Thank for your interesting and funny books! I am going to order all of your books later when I had hand in the order form. By the way, did you created the bookmark yourself? It was beautiful Sarah!

    • Thanks Hilary for the lovely compliment! The bookmarks were a collaboration: my designers e5 designed them, Harry Harrison did the cover illustration, and I wrote the text! Collaboration is the best!

  21. I hope there are many other books that are great. Can you give some book’s name to read? I am in P.3, and can you tell me what friends has a hen have? Thanks a lot!!!!

    • Hi again Hilary – take a look at my Brilliant Books page on my blog – there are quite a few books there you can start with if you haven’t read them already!

  22. Hi,
    Hope you can come next year!

    • Thank you Hilary – I’d love to come too! Make sure you tell your English teachers and maybe they’ll invite me in again!

      • Okay!

  23. Dear Sarah,

    I like your books a lot! I was reading this article and I didn’t really get what you meant by KEEP A DAILY DIARY. Do you mean that you write what you did in the day or that you write all your ideas?

    Thanks,
    Aashi:)

    • Hi Aashi, Keeping a daily diary usually means that you write down a bit about your day – but it can also include all the hopes, dreams and thoughts you had that day as well! Happy writing!

  24. Hi Sarah!
    It’s Chloe Chan from sjs 4.5!
    It was so nice when you came to sjs today!
    you were so funny! last year I kind of talked a little
    but a dragon never came to my house?
    anyway, I really want you to come next year!
    How do you know the personalities of the
    people born in the different animals in the zodiac?
    I’m born in the dog and I think I’m lucky because
    dogs get lots of attention and are very cute
    and my friends say I’M cute and get lots of
    attention so maybe I’M A REAL DOG?

    • Thanks Chloe for your fun post! I’d love to come next year! The real test of whether you are a real dog is if you enjoy eating dog biscuits!

  25. Hi Sarah,
    I am from KJS (year 5) which you visited today. I enjoyed listening to your book ‘The tale of Rodney Ram’ because although I wasn’t born in the Year of the Ram, I also have many of Rodney’s traits and characteristics. I wonder why that happens? Anyway, thank you for coming to KJS today. I hope you can come again!

    From Marissa
    PS: I am entering your ram poetry competition and I hope I win!

    • Hi Marissa, I’m glad you enjoyed my visit! Thanks for your interesting comments!

  26. Do you have some new books?

    • Hello Hillary – it’s so lovely to hear from you! Yes, I have a fabulous new book out for the Year of the Monkey, which is now in the shops! It’s called The Tale of Ming Kee Monkey. Let me know what you think of it!

      • Hi Sarah Brennan ,
        It’s me again, Benedict frrom SJS. I loved the story Ming Kee Monkey . It taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes before I do anything because it may hurt other people.

  27. It was AWESOME!!!!!

  28. do you have any new competitions sarah?

    • Yes Emily, there’s a new competition on my Clever Competitions page right now! Take a look at the Clever Competitions header at the top of the home page of my blog! I can’t wait to read your entry!


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