This morning, as I drove Maya to Nana’s house, she asked me (as she does 4,987,003 times per day) to tell her a Hero and Baymax story (formerly an Anna and Elsa story), and I said, “Not right now, honey, I’m listening to a story on the radio right now. I will later.”
And her reply? “Mama, it’s just words.”
I am not exactly sure whether she was referring to what I was listening to (like the radio story was just words, not something to prioritize over the fictional adventures of the Big Hero 6 characters), or whether she saw through my excuse to try and avoid the exhausting task of coming up with a plot and moral off the top of my head countless times per day. I know that she would be just as happy if I kept things simple and occassionally told the same story over and over, but I feel the need to make each story meaningful, if not always complex.
(Now that I write this, I realize that I really should get a few plot lines down and repeat them with slight variation – it would benefit me because I would not feel constant creative strain, and her because she would hear those roles and lessons over and over, just as she likes to reread her actual books over and over.)
Her words caught me. I was already scolding myself internally for turning down my darling daughter’s request for a story – I mean her desire to hear a thing which I value and love so much is the highest of joys to me, but I wanted to be passive, to just listen. (To be fair, I had not yet had any coffee, so words and I had not come to a fluent agreement yet this day.)
But it felt like she was calling me out from a much more abstract and deep place. ‘Don’t be afraid of telling stories, mama, it’s just words. One word in front of another. One foot in front of the other.’ A piece of encouragement, a gentle nudge, a reminder from the universe, delivered through my toddler’s voice.
There is much to writing that is daunting: the sharing, the promotion, the business of publishing, but when it comes down to it, the raw bones of it, it’s just words, and that is where I am happy and in love.
Just go back to the words, mama. One foot in front of another.