green leaves of a palm tree outside the window

Writing Windows and Mirrors

At a recent elementary school open house, my daughter’s third grade teacher said something profound. Well, she said a lot of wise things, because the knowledge of teachers is immense. But one particularly thing about writing and reading that caught my ear.

Here it is – that she looks for books for these young readers to be either “windows” or “mirrors.” Windows are the books that enable them to see into someone else’s world and mirrors are the ones that reflect back something recognizable in the reader.

Her point was one of diversity. That books need to reflect different races, genders, religions, and so on so that all kids have a chance of finding a mirror. It reminded me of the advocacy that my dear blogging friend, Ab of the My Life with T blog has done to include books of neurodiverse kids in the school library.

But I also took it to heart as a great point for writing personal narrative and blogging. If all that populated the blogosphere was essays from perfectly-appointed, happy people, it wouldn’t be much of a mirror.

I think of the blogs that I’ve had a hard time writing – about vulnerability, learning to meditate after being stuck after my divorce, the tiredness that comes as a single parent, and the fear of my journey through in-vitro fertilization. I felt especially tremorous when hitting the publish button on those essays. I’ve said many times I’m a congenital optimist and that’s mostly where I write from, but I also need to talk about the times I step in dog poop.

But if we don’t publish those, we only put forth a little piece of mirror for others to find themselves in. It’s why I find my friend, Vicki Atkinson’s book, Surviving Sue, about growing up with a mom who suffered from anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and Munchausen’s by proxy so powerful. Because it’s her journey to flip from fear to love as she traverses the choppy waters of her mom’s condition.

It makes me wonder about some of the people that I notice start blogging and then drop off. There are many reasons that blogging might not fit with busy and full lives. But in some cases might it be that they didn’t find a mirror?

Windows and mirrors both improve with the quality and opacity of the materials used. Here’s my take-away from third-grade teacher wisdom. That the usefulness and feeling of our writing will do the same if we shoot for that same transparency and fullness.

I’ve written more about courage and vulnerability in a personal blog post: Vulnerability

I also post on Mondays at the Heart of the Matter blog, a great shared blog of personal storytelling with a podcast that features inspirational creatives. My book about my journey to find what fueled my dad’s indelible spark and twinkle can be found on Amazon: Finding My Father’s Faith.

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

17 thoughts on “Writing Windows and Mirrors

  1. I love how you make use of “found wisdom”, Wynne. The mirror and window imagery and the application of the principles seems inherently kind, inherently YOU. Thanks for sharing with us and thank you for the shout out about my book, “Surviving Sue”. Your mention of “transparency and fullness”? Gosh, those could’ve been mantra-like words as I wrote. Goals, for sure. 🥰

  2. I like the idea of windows and mirrors in children’s books. One book I remember from when my kids were very young was “Diary of a Worm.” You get to see what a young worm’s life is like. It’s very clever. Also, I had lunch with old friends who were my graphic designers 25 years ago. I shared with them that my daughter’s best friend growing up was Orthodox Jewish. My daughter went to Temple with her on Saturdays and we took her friend to church with us on Sundays. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s something I’m thankful for today.

  3. I would say simply that “keeping it real” means more to me as a reader than anything else. That means the good, bad, happy or sad and yes…even dog poop!

    BTW when I read this post in the WP reader feature there is no way to like or comment. Your post here today as well as a few others I follow are all missing the like/comment option. Just wanted you to have that info 🙂

    1. Keeping it real – exactly, Deb! Thank goodness I have enough dog poop to do just that. 🙂

      How funny about the post in the Reader. Thanks for that info – puzzling!

  4. I love that window and mirror point. Too fools in my area are trying to ban all sorts of books (school board drama)- maybe the window/mirror thing would help them wise up.

  5. I loved this Wynne. Windows and mirrors, what a perfect way of looking at things. I think its good for children to have those perspectives/insights. But I’m thinking they’re needed for adults too. Some really need the mirrors, but we have to be willing to really look.

  6. Windows and mirrors – oh yes 🙌🏽
    Not always easy to see through and not always a clear reflection but always there if we are able to access.
    It’s just hard sometimes ..

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