Before you can teach someone how to dance, you’ve got to get them to the dance.
Dances are intimidating to people who don’t know how. People like me who have about as much rhythm as wet cardboard and avoid dances like the plague. Still, people like me can be lured to a dance if the lure is appealing enough. My aunt Charlotte found that out when she talked me into taking a line dancing class once. How hard can line dancing be?
Hard enough, I suppose, because I was terrible at it! Like I said, I have about as much rhythm as wet cardboard. Pooh. At least I tried, and it was fun even though it didn’t go so well.
The point is, she lured me in. The appeal that made me want to try was a combination of my always really wanting to learn and hearing her tales about all the dancing she and Jack did on weekends for years. And, frankly, it was also the charm of my aunt Charlotte inviting me to a new adventure. I couldn’t resist!
And that’s how we should approach our work when we’re writing and drawing our books.
We have a very unique audience ... the books we make are often their first glimpse of the outside world and life. A world and a life that is amazing. When they read our books, we’re showing them the wonder and beauty and possibilities of it all, and we’re inviting them in for a closer look.
We can show them the natural world ... animals and plants, mountains and oceans. Show them the majesty of panoramic views, then take them in close to see all the details, designs and colors.
Teach them science and history ... how things work, what came before, the marvel that is their own body.
Teach them to look up at the stars and wonder and dream.
Write wonderful characters to show them how people talk and interact with each other. Make them laugh and teach them to find and express their own joy.
Joy and wonder are contagious! They’ll catch it when when our own joy and wonder come through our writing and drawing. It’s the same theme I cover over and over again and again in these blogs and articles ... it can never be said enough ... when we let our own joy and wonder pour into our work, it will pour out on the other end. When that reader opens our books, we’re tossing out a lure.
I knew when I took that line dancing class that I was no dancer. But the invitation was so inviting ... my aunt Charlotte didn’t pound me over the head and tell me I had to go. She didn’t preach me a sermon about how to get over my self-consciousness. I just watched and listened to her dance and talk about dancing. Her joy for dancing came through, and I caught it and wanted to try. So I did, and found out it wasn’t for me. I could have just as easily found out that I loved it. That‘s what happens when children learn and discover new things in books ... they’re learning about themselves and what they love.
God designed us all so different. Different talents, abilities, personalities. Kids – especially school age kids – are really tough on the ones who are different. But different is important and good. While I’m sitting here tapping out a blog on a cold morning in my warm studio, I’m really thankful for the folks who were interested in electricity and furnaces. I’m not interested in that, but I enjoy the benefits. I’ll bet that when they were learning their trade, they were studying books that were written by a writer like me! We need for others to be different than us.
One day, a reader will open a book and read about something new. If the writer has done their job well, the lure is cast and maybe that reader will get hooked. Maybe that reader will investigate that new thing further and find out it’s not for them. That’s okay ... they learned something about themselves and they’ve gotten a little hint at the direction they may want to avoid. Maybe they’ll investigate further and find out that’s exactly what they want to pursue. That’s okay, too ... they learned something and it’s started them down a path ... their dance has begun ...