How to Be a Better Parent AND a Better Writer

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Every night as a child I said, “Daddy, will you tell me a Joey story?”

Joey stories were bedtime tales my father would make up on the spot and tell me before bed. I particularly remember one involving a woman with a metal spoon that she used to take out the bad guys.

Bedtime Stories

Look at her eyes. Photo By Gracie and Viv.

They gave me nightmares—my mother claimed—and he would tell me, “Your mother doesn't want me to tell you Joey stories anymore.” I would cry, and he would relent.

One of my core principles as a writer is to always make some time to write for the people who are listening. You may want to write novels or poems or screenplays, but your friends just want to read your blog. Your mom just wants to hear a story about your day.

And your kid just wants to hear a Joey story.

How does this help you learn how to write better?

1. It gives you practice.

Children are a great audience to practice your storytelling on. You will know right away when your story gets boring.

2.You connect with the stories from your own childhood.

I saw a quote recently that said you will always remember the first CD you bought, but you probably don't remember the last one you bought.

The stories you heard as a child are the ones that will stick with you the longest. By spending time with your son or daughter, you can see the power of those first stories at work, and try to capture something of their power into your own writing.

3. You get to be a good parent.

Isn't that what you want most of all anyway?

PRACTICE

Write the kind of story your son or daughter would love.

(If you don't have children, write a story your niece or nephew would love. If you don't have a niece or nephew, write a story any child you know would love.)

Write for fifteen minutes. Post your story in the comments when you're finished.

(And don't forget to tell the story as soon as you can.)

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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25 Comments

  1. Ryan J Riehl

    I went a little over 15 minutes, but this was quite fun. Good prompt!

    Sit close everyone. Have you heard the story of Joe the Plumber? Well, Joe was the greatest plumber who ever lived. He was friends with the President and even saved the whole world once.
    One hundred years ago, Joe was a mostly ordinary guy. He lived in a Big City, had a wife, a baby, and a dog. But, he was the best plumber in the whole Big City. If anyone had a bad problem with pipes, then they called Joe.
    One day, Joe got a call about an emergency. He rushed to the Biggest Skyscraper in the Big City. He took the elevator all the way up to the Top Floor, where you could look out and see everything, well, almost everything. When he got to the top, a man in suit met him.
    “Oh, thank goodness you’re here Joe the Plumber,” said the man in the suit.
    “What’s the emergency?” Joe asked.
    “Our toilet broke, and if you can’t fix it, it will flood down every floor. Don’t you know, this is the Top Floor of the Tallest Skyscraper in our Big City? Disaster! You have to save us.”
    “Take me to the problem,” Joe replied.
    The man in the suit took Joe to the malfunctioning toilet. The toilet was splashing water everywhere! The floor, the walls, even the ceiling was wet. And I know what you’re thinking- the water was clean. No yucky stuff. Joe looked at the toilet and thought, “This is bad. The toilet will flood the whole building if I don’t fix it. All these people will have to evacuate and stop their important jobs.”
    The man in the suit saw Joe thinking. “You can fix it, right?”
    “Yes,” Joe said. “But I’ll need help. Will you be my assistant?”
    “What, me?!” the man replied. “But I’m not a plumber. I wear a suit and write emails and go to meetings all day.”
    “You can do it,” Joe said. “Besides, if you don’t help me, the whole building will be lost.”

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Wow. This is epic. Seriously, I’m pretty hooked. I love the incredible task, but my favorite part is when he recruits the guy as his assistant! It’s like King Arthur asking Lancelot to be his knight. It’s straight out of Joseph Campbell.

      Reply
      • Ryan J Riehl

        Thanks! It all kinda came together as I wrote it. I meant to have him uncover some sort of plot and save America, but I realized the malfunctioning toilet would be much more appealing.

        I’m glad you liked the assistant part. I loved it as well, but I really came up with it as an afterthought when I wanted to end the story after the 15 min were up. Funny how that happens.

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          Sometimes the best ideas are afterthoughts. Steven Pressfield takes a walk after he finishes his daily pages with a tape recorder to capture any fresh ideas from his subconscious. They’re inevitable.

          Reply
  2. Ryan J Riehl

    I went a little over 15 minutes, but this was quite fun. Good prompt!

    Sit close everyone. Have you heard the story of Joe the Plumber? Well, Joe was the greatest plumber who ever lived. He was friends with the President and even saved the whole world once.
    One hundred years ago, Joe was a mostly ordinary guy. He lived in a Big City, had a wife, a baby, and a dog. But, he was the best plumber in the whole Big City. If anyone had a bad problem with pipes, then they called Joe.
    One day, Joe got a call about an emergency. He rushed to the Biggest Skyscraper in the Big City. He took the elevator all the way up to the Top Floor, where you could look out and see everything, well, almost everything. When he got to the top, a man in suit met him.
    “Oh, thank goodness you’re here Joe the Plumber,” said the man in the suit.
    “What’s the emergency?” Joe asked.
    “Our toilet broke, and if you can’t fix it, it will flood down every floor. Don’t you know, this is the Top Floor of the Tallest Skyscraper in our Big City? Disaster! You have to save us.”
    “Take me to the problem,” Joe replied.
    The man in the suit took Joe to the malfunctioning toilet. The toilet was splashing water everywhere! The floor, the walls, even the ceiling was wet. And I know what you’re thinking- the water was clean. No yucky stuff. Joe looked at the toilet and thought, “This is bad. The toilet will flood the whole building if I don’t fix it. All these people will have to evacuate and stop their important jobs.”
    The man in the suit saw Joe thinking. “You can fix it, right?”
    “Yes,” Joe said. “But I’ll need help. Will you be my assistant?”
    “What, me?!” the man replied. “But I’m not a plumber. I wear a suit and write emails and go to meetings all day.”
    “You can do it,” Joe said. “Besides, if you don’t help me, the whole building will be lost.”

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Wow. This is epic. Seriously, I’m pretty hooked. I love the incredible task, but my favorite part is when he recruits the guy as his assistant! It’s like King Arthur asking Lancelot to be his knight. It’s straight out of Joseph Campbell.

      Reply
      • Ryan J Riehl

        Thanks! It all kinda came together as I wrote it. I meant to have him uncover some sort of plot and save America, but I realized the malfunctioning toilet would be much more appealing.

        I’m glad you liked the assistant part. I loved it as well, but I really came up with it as an afterthought when I wanted to end the story after the 15 min were up. Funny how that happens.

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          Sometimes the best ideas are afterthoughts. Steven Pressfield takes a walk after he finishes his daily pages with a tape recorder to capture any fresh ideas from his subconscious. They’re inevitable.

          Reply
  3. Kristentorres-toro

    Now I’m trying to remember what was the first cd I bought! :0) This is so true… I love the stories I heard as a child! They will stick with me forever!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I remember. It was Greeday’s Dookie. I dont’ know why my mom let me buy a CD about doing drugs, loneliness, and sex, but… The first tape I bought was Alvin and the Chipmunks. I bought it off one of those TV infomercials on Nickelodeon.

      Reply
  4. Kristentorres-toro

    Now I’m trying to remember what was the first cd I bought! :0) This is so true… I love the stories I heard as a child! They will stick with me forever!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I remember. It was Greeday’s Dookie. I dont’ know why my mom let me buy a CD about doing drugs, loneliness, and sex, but… The first tape I bought was Alvin and the Chipmunks. I bought it off one of those TV infomercials on Nickelodeon.

      Reply
  5. Jim Woods

    Since this is practice, I’ll share this rough draft. It DEFINITELY needs a lot more editing. Its a pretty decent start. I think both boys and girls would enjoy a story like this, maybe even parents too.

    Jay becomes a cowboy.

    Jay had always wanted to be a cowboy. (dots dreaming of being a cowboy)

    Jay asked his Dad if he could borrow his cowboy hat.

    Sure, Dad said. (cowboy hat too big.)

    Jay found a hankerchief that was his Dads.

    Jay asked his dad if he could use this hankerchief as a bandana.

    Sure, his dad said.

    Jay already had a guitar, and asked Dad to help him write a cowboy song.

    Dad said he be glad to help. Some ideas are to talk about horses, cowboys, and the stars in the sky.

    Ok! That helps! said Jay.

    Jay worked on his cowboy song.

    And worked some more.

    Jay finished it and was ready to play it for his Mom, and Dad.

    Jay walked in wearing his cowboy hat, hankerchief, and guitar strapped on him.

    Howdy Partners, Jay said. I reckon I’ll play a song for ya’ll.

    Jay sang and played his red shiny guitar.

    (song starts-has some music to go along with this-a Home on the Range kind of melody)

    I ride my horse all day long.

    I am a cowboy that likes to sing this song.

    I ride my horse near

    I ride my horse far.

    I like to sleep under the stars,

    I’m a cowboy that plays guitar.

    I like to sing songs

    so please sing along

    yippie kay ai ay

    I’m a cowboy at play.

    “Good job!” Mom and Dad said.

    “Since you are a hard working cowboy, I have a surprise for you, ” said Mom as she held out a plate full of chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker sandwiches.

    Dad pointed to the back yard where there was a campfire going.

    “Let’s go eat them by the campfire,” said Dad

    It sure is fun being a cowboy! said Jay

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      This is great, Jim! I could totally see a kid getting really into this. I wonder what is so powerful about the cowboy image that we’re drawn to as children? Maybe the stoic “code of honor” portrayed in so many westerns?

      Reply
  6. Jim Woods

    Since this is practice, I’ll share this rough draft. It DEFINITELY needs a lot more editing. Its a pretty decent start. I think both boys and girls would enjoy a story like this, maybe even parents too.

    Jay becomes a cowboy.

    Jay had always wanted to be a cowboy. (dots dreaming of being a cowboy)

    Jay asked his Dad if he could borrow his cowboy hat.

    Sure, Dad said. (cowboy hat too big.)

    Jay found a hankerchief that was his Dads.

    Jay asked his dad if he could use this hankerchief as a bandana.

    Sure, his dad said.

    Jay already had a guitar, and asked Dad to help him write a cowboy song.

    Dad said he be glad to help. Some ideas are to talk about horses, cowboys, and the stars in the sky.

    Ok! That helps! said Jay.

    Jay worked on his cowboy song.

    And worked some more.

    Jay finished it and was ready to play it for his Mom, and Dad.

    Jay walked in wearing his cowboy hat, hankerchief, and guitar strapped on him.

    Howdy Partners, Jay said. I reckon I’ll play a song for ya’ll.

    Jay sang and played his red shiny guitar.

    (song starts-has some music to go along with this-a Home on the Range kind of melody)

    I ride my horse all day long.

    I am a cowboy that likes to sing this song.

    I ride my horse near

    I ride my horse far.

    I like to sleep under the stars,

    I’m a cowboy that plays guitar.

    I like to sing songs

    so please sing along

    yippie kay ai ay

    I’m a cowboy at play.

    “Good job!” Mom and Dad said.

    “Since you are a hard working cowboy, I have a surprise for you, ” said Mom as she held out a plate full of chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker sandwiches.

    Dad pointed to the back yard where there was a campfire going.

    “Let’s go eat them by the campfire,” said Dad

    It sure is fun being a cowboy! said Jay

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      This is great, Jim! I could totally see a kid getting really into this. I wonder what is so powerful about the cowboy image that we’re drawn to as children? Maybe the stoic “code of honor” portrayed in so many westerns?

      Reply
  7. Katie Axelson

    I didn’t write a children’s story today… but I did remember the stories I was told as a child about Captain Alien and his journey to the White House where he accidently got a corn cob stuck to President Clinton’s head… Forty-five minutes to school each day where great times to practice spelling words (Dad was failing) and tell Captain Alien stories.

    Katie

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Captain Alien? I love it. How did it get stuck?

      Reply
  8. Katie Axelson

    I didn’t write a children’s story today… but I did remember the stories I was told as a child about Captain Alien and his journey to the White House where he accidently got a corn cob stuck to President Clinton’s head… Forty-five minutes to school each day where great times to practice spelling words (Dad was failing) and tell Captain Alien stories.

    Katie

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Captain Alien? I love it. How did it get stuck?

      Reply
  9. Carlos Loperena

    I started telling stories to my chidren, inspired by Chronicles of Narnia of C.S.Lewis, I used to change the character’s names putting their names instead and adapting situations
    One of my daughters writes now at 31 and likes very much reading.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      That’s exactly what I’m talking about Carlos. Such a great testimony to storytelling. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  10. Carlos Loperena

    I started telling stories to my chidren, inspired by Chronicles of Narnia of C.S.Lewis, I used to change the character’s names putting their names instead and adapting situations
    One of my daughters writes now at 31 and likes very much reading.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      That’s exactly what I’m talking about Carlos. Such a great testimony to storytelling. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  11. Lele Lele

    The dog wagged it’s tail at the little girl.

    The little girl was dirty. Her steps on the floor spread
    mud.

    The dog barked and yapped.

    “Sshsh,” said the little girl. “Dora, quiet, you’d get me in
    trouble.”

    The little girl looked around. The adults weren’t around.
    Her little brother was asleep on the sofa, snoring, and drool slipping from his
    lips.

    Carefully, she moved her feet. The mud has driedbut the dirt
    still spread on the floor.

    “Owie,” she said. She scratched her cheeks. “So dirty. Mommy
    wouldn’t like it.”

    “Mommy wouldn’t definitely not like it.” Her brother said
    still asleep. She stared hard at him narrowing her eyes.

    “You still sleeping Joey?” she said.

    “Yes,” he said without moving his lips.

    “Okay.” She kept walking forwards. Dirt trailed behind her
    as she looked at them with guilty eyes. “I’ll clean it later.”

    The dog followed her barking after her.

    Reply

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