Learning from little people
I have decided that I should live life as a child. Not childishly. No. Just live as a child would, with the same confidence, passion and aplomb.
I first came to this conclusion years ago when I was with my three year old nephew. He was playing with a completely engaging toy, it could have been a piece of cardboard actually, but it was totally consuming.
He hadn’t looked up for a while. He was just focussed on the toy and his imagination was unfettered above him in a hot-balloon bubble of creativity.
Then he tilted his head to look at us, and said quite simply:
Two words. That’s all.
My Mother and I had a rather feminine reaction. We looked at each other through misted eyes and gripped each-other’s forearms in silent acknowledgement of the beauty of that simple statement.
Two words, and yet they couldn’t have been more eloquent or emotive. Hell, it brought us to tears!
How could this little person express himself so clearly and simply and absolutely beautifully? I tell you why… because children just tell it like it is.
And this brings me to the five reasons why I think we should all revert to a simpler time and take a leaf out of a child’s book.
Things I’ve learned from little people.
One… state things clearly!
If you’re happy, well then say it. But don’t go on and on and on and confuse the matter with diversions and anecdotes and poetry. Just try stating it simply.
This also goes for any other type of emotion. Imagine if we just clearly stated our feelings and abandoned the passive aggressive emotional tug of war that adults fall into when expressing how they feel. That would feel good wouldn’t it?
Even just saying that it feels good feels good. Ah the joy of stating emotions clearly.
I get a little electric line of exquisite pain drive down my veins when I’m in the middle of happiness. It’s a tingle that I imagine is similar to a heart-attack symptom. But it’s not a heart attack… its happiness.
I get these electric tingles when I’m playing with my nephews. That’s how good it feels. You need to try this, you really do.
Wrestling that is.
I remember a point when I was pinned by my six year old nephew like a female version of Gulliver and the four year old lined up from all the way down the hall. He was preparing to run the full length of it in order to launch mid-air and land on top of the six year old. The six year old who had me pinned to the floor that is.
After this, the two year old lined up. I experienced considerable pain that day but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been happier. And kids do this all the time. All. The. Time.
Three… Say no
Do you know a little person? Do you notice how they say ‘No’ an awful lot? The younger they are, the higher the frequency.
Actually, there are certain points in the evolution of a little person where it’s pretty much ALL they say.
I want you to try it with me for one moment. Go on humour me. Just say ‘No’ out loud. Again.
Ok now imagine someone asking you to do something that you haven’t the time, energy or inclination to do and say ‘No’ again. Say it like you mean it now, you’ve got to be in it like a four your old. Hell, stamp your foot if you’d like to add emphasis.
Now repeat that a few times. Gain volume. Feels good doesn’t it? The little people are onto something here. You don’t have to be cruel or personal. It’s not about the other person. It’s about you. Actually it’s about saying no.
Four… Stop feeling self-conscious
Do you remember the first moment that you felt embarrassed? It felt awful didn’t it? And it served as a very clear marker for when childhood faded and the stickiness of adolescence began.
But little people, really little people, don’t feel embarrassed. They are almost ‘drunk’ with wild unselfconscious abandon. They sing, dance, scream and simply drop in a dead weight in the middle of very busy places if the urge overcomes them.
I think the singing out loud bit is a good place for us adults to start.
Do you know where adults already do this? They do it in Italy! Grown men in Armani suits walk down ancient cobbled paths and sing. And I’m not talking about old, pee-stained, slightly loopy men. I’m talking dashing, world-travelling, please put me in a dip on the dance floor type of men.
But then again, if we start on the ‘what we could learn from Italians’ train of thought we won’t come back. Actually, I went away and had a coffee between the last full stop and now and thought about Italians just for a while so that I could re-focus on the topic at hand.
Five… Love hard
Little people love hard. It seems to be natural to them. They wail with grief in the minute it took you to separate from them and put the kettle on. They cling in a monkey-grip of gratitude when you re-enter the room. They kiss and snuggle and say cute little affectionate things in exactly the moment that the thought takes them.
When they’re with someone who isn’t the person that they’re loving hard, they cry even harder. There’s so much honesty, ‘the scent of your skin is essential to me’ honesty in their loving that one can’t help but admire it. It’s foetal, it’s divine, it’s loving as loving should be.
So as a writer, how do you write in this voice? This hard-loving, wrestling, dancing, singing, unashamedly wild voice? Well, dear reader, you find that voice inside. It’s like a little kernel of purity deep in your gut that has been dampened by electricity bills and heartbreak and failing exams and embarrassing yourself.
When your character is a little person, delve deep into that kernel of truth inside. Find your ‘original’ version and have a chat. You may need some time and a nice hot cup of tea.
How do you ‘become’ that voice so that you can write in it? Well you start with little steps… little person steps.
Here’s an idea. The next time you are in a moment of pure joy, look up, stare straight into the eyes of the person making you happy and say… “I happy.”
Then ask them to wrestle.