The Scourge of Self-Censorship; Guest Post By Virginia Clay
Today is my stop on the Warrior Boy blog tour and I’m here today with a guest post by the author: Virginia Clay
About the Book
Together, the boys must survive the African savannah: hunt for food, defend elephants from poachers – and even face the king of the beasts. Ben embarks on a journey of self-discovery – does he have what it takes to be a twenty-first-century warrior?
WARRIOR BOY is a stunning atmospheric adventure for 9+ year olds by a new and exciting voice for middle grade. Inspired by Virginia Clay’s time living and working in the novel’s setting of Kenya, teaching English to Maasai children, the story explores themes of masculinity, identity and overcoming fear, as well as touching on environmental conservation and the protection of threatened cultures.
The Scourge of Self-Censorship
Something strange happens to us between the age of eight and ten. It begins earlier for some and later for others, but it gets us all in the end – that moment when we begin to care what other people think.
I am fortunate enough to have worked with young people from the ages of five to eighteen and have found that children younger than eight, are usually willing to throw themselves into a challenge with little concern for the outcome. But by the age of thirteen, most are crippled by the fear of failure.
Carol Dwek, the author of Mindset, says it’s the parents’ fault. We overpraise with phrases like ‘good girl’ when all they did was eat their food – a basic human instinct. The child psyche then asks the question ‘what happens if I don’t do it next time? Will I still be a good girl?’ And little by little, children become less desirous to try in case they fail.
My friend Aileen Taylor, a physiotherapist who has supported countless elite sportspeople, tells me it‘s possible to spot ‘podium potential’ from attitude alone. Those who bag the medals, are athletes who understand their power to ‘control the controllables’ and when they’ve done that, don’t take failure personally.
As parents it’s so difficult to know how to encourage this desirable attitude, but I have found Julie Lythcott-Haims’ book How to Raise an Adult, to be an excellent source of help. Her advice on the art of questioning, puts the focus on strategy and takes it off personal character.
But what about us? Is it too late to change our mindset? I don’t think so.
As a writer, until recently, I struggled with the scourge of self-censorship. I would find myself sitting for hours with my fingers hovering over the keyboard. I might write a sentence, delete it, then go back to hovering for another twenty minutes. I noticed that the ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing them down, so they would become confused and then disappear altogether. Eventually, I became so frustrated that I let out a guttural yell and started typing – not stopping to edit, with no care for punctuation – I simply wrote. And the most surprising thing of all – it wasn’t half bad!
Anne Lamott in her wonderful book on writing, Bird by Bird, talks about ‘shitty first drafts’. We all do them, nobody needs to see them, but we have to get them out. And I think the first step towards a shitty first draft is simply noticing. I noticed that I was losing ideas and that made me cross. Fear likes to stay hidden, so the best thing you can do is notice it, drag it out into the open and shine the light in its eyes.
Perhaps you are hovering over a beautiful story, song or piece of art, that has the potential to change lives, but fear is preventing it from being born. Well then do us all a favour and start noticing!