Growing up, I was taught that math and science were the most important skills you could develop in school. This comes from 1st generational Chinese parents who believe that doing well in school translates to success. Getting straight A’s was important, but math and science were keys to that success. And for a long time, I believed that too.
Once I entered the work force, I realized that some of the most successful people were not great at math or science (although it certainly helped). They were great at writing and communicating. There was always the brilliant individual contributor who excelled at the technical arts, but their sphere of influence was clearly based on how well they wrote/communicated. Granted, I am speaking only from the lens of software development, however I suspect this is common for many other fields of work.
So how do we get better at writing? The brutal answer is to just write. While teaching math and science is sexy, I tried to find a fun and interactive way to push our family’s writing skills. So here’s another experiment-focused on developing our writing skills and to some degree the art of story telling. The experience goes a bit like this:
- Everyone should be present.
- We make up the rules as we go along.
- A person announces a topic.
- We have 15 minutes to write the topic.
- We all read what we wrote.
- We vote on which story we liked the best. For now we have been using chocolate chips to cast our votes for people.
- We have a little discussion and then eat our chocolate chips!
- Someone else announces the next topic.
- If you are having trouble writing-the intent is to get as many words on the paper. It doesn’t need to make sense.
- There are no losers-just opportunities.
Since the kids and myself have played this a few times, we might as well post this online for posterity sake. Our first stories are published below. I also had the kids type this out on the computer to help improve their typing skills. I told the kids to type exactly what the wrote down and not to correct any grammar or spelling mistakes. Myself included ;-).
—Typos and bad grammar included—
Cars, they help us a lot with transportation. Some cars are old some are new, some are red or blue, but they all have the same purpose. One problem is that the gas they use to move and get us places pollutes the environment. What can we do to solve this issue? Well for places that are close by like the pool or even the library you could bike, walk, or run place to place.
I approached it steadily. The sleek chrome paint taunting me. One step. Another. Suddenly the engines roared to life and I backed away in fear. Flanking it I went around to the back where the headlights couldn’t see me. Again I approached cautiously. All the while a childhood memory resurfaced. No, the possibility was to horrible. Yet… No this must be a freak of nature. But I remembered dumping the remains into a dumpster. Apparently some how it got remade.As a car.Here it is, my bicycle reincarnated. I whispered. “Hello old foe.”Right as I was going to jump it Dad called. “Calvin, why are you behind our new car?” I froze The car spun around and faced me. I fled for my life.The car chased me into the backyard. I clambered up the rope into the treehouse. Looking down, the car drove around in the lawn… Spelling words? Seeing the words I climbed down.
I have the best car in the world. It gets me where I want to go faster than I can walk, run and definitely swim. I enjoy the clean air and sun around me when I go super fast or super slow. I pick groceries, milk and all sort of chrores around town. I especially love to go to the library.
Of course, when it rains, I do tend to get wet. I guess that the one problem with my car. Oh, and I do tend to get flat tires when I roll over glass or other sharp objects. My car my not be as fast or fancy as other cars in the neighborhood. In fact its pretty old. Worn even. A bit rusty.
But you know what? I don’t care. My care gets great-no super gas mileage. It averages 50 miles per burrito! The two wheels on my car take me wherever I want to go.
Oh wait? Two wheels? Oh man, I guess I’ve been talking about my bicycle, or bicycles to be exact.
My bicycles let me experience flying down a trail or road. I get to jump curbs and chipmunks.
But man oh man, I love my bicycle. . . I get to stop and pick up my groceries, meet people, and have conversations.
But I do get scared by cars occasionally when riding my bike. I do get polluted in the face by smoke and exhaust.
Oh yeah, I guess cars suck. . .