Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why Wednesday: Seeing the World Like A Four-Year-Old

     When I look back on raising my children I can pick out ages that I especially liked and some that were not so enjoyable.  I would say some of the hardest were the ages of 12 and 13. Interesting enough when I think of my own childhood, those were some of my most difficult years. (More on that in another post)  One of my favorite ages was when my children were four. Everyday, almost every hour an innocent little face would turn to me and ask why. 

Let me tell you about my four year old grandson, Luke. Like most children his age he is interested in the why, what and how of everything around him. He can't learn and experience everything fast enough. One day when he was playing with some children the familiar question of size came up. "I'm bigger than you," said the big kid. Luke looked hurt but then quickly quipped, "Well, I'm smarter." *stifled laughter* It was then that we realized we had a live one and he was ready to hit the world head-on.

Four-year-olds don't miss a thing. Every nuance, every detail is absorbed and stored, only to come out later, hopefully not in an embarrassing way. (You know, the cuss word yelled at the top of their lungs or a detailed description of last nights argument to a complete stranger) If they don't get something they question it.

Somewhere along the way, we lose that intrinsic curiosity and confidence. We become complacent observers.  As writers we need to tap back into this mindset. We need to ask why our character wants what they want. What is it that makes this character so mean? How come he's afraid when he sees a spider? The real challenge is how do we train ourselves to see the world as if we are seeing it for the first time?

What tools do we have to get us to that paradigm?


  1. Great post! I love your grandson, Luke! What a pistol! YAY!

    I think one of the tools we have is the ability to explore new things. No matter how old we get, there are tons of things we know little to nothing about. So, we need to fire up the inquisitve grey cells and (like a 4-yr-old) say, "Why?" Then go looking for the answer!

  2. My son is three, so we get a flurry of "why" questions every so often.

    I have a scientific background, and I think little children are like scientists in their exploring. Unfortunately, for many, once they go to school, science becomes another dull subject, not something cool and exciting.

    For us grownups, I think what we need to do is to keep learning new things. Hanging out with little kids helps too--if you can keep up with them!

  3. Great post and Luke's adorable!

    The old cliche, there's nothing new under the sun comes to mind...youngsters see what we're seeing but which we don't really see because we're always in a hurry or some such...and, so, we miss a certain wonder that transfer to our writing.

  4. Ah, to be four! I don't know how to tap into that energy and creativity but I wish I could. Thank you for this reminder. Great blog as well.


  5. Julia, I feel like the older I get the less I know. Just like a four year old's world expands our can to.
    Sandra, Learning new things... I think you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
    Kittie, Hurry, hurry, hurry we all need S L O W down.
    Clarissa, Yeah if I could only have 1/8 of his energy.
    All, thanks for stopping by!!

  6. One of the best things you can do for writing, whether it's fiction or journalism, is to play the four-year-old kid "why" game. Whenever I get stuck in a rut with writing, I just keep asking questions. It always gets me going again! Great post.


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