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When You’re Sad You Make a Rainbow—and Other Writing Secrets

My five-year-old told me yesterday, “When You’re Sad, You Make a Rainbow.” I didn’t quite get it untilwriting insights he pointed to his frown.

My son knows one of the secrets of good writinglet your mind wander. When I asked him how he came up with the idea, I’d already assumed he’d heard it somewhere. Not so.

“I made a frown and then I just thought, ‘It looks like a rainbow.'”

In his free state of feeling his emotion, his mind wasn’t trying to talk him out of it or do anything with it. And so he happened upon a metaphor.

The metaphor he discovered for frowning was not only freshit added meaning and texture to a simple observation. I found myself reading more into the symbol:

Perhaps it means that within our sadness is a seed of happiness. Or that one can always find beauty or meaning in our less-than-happy moments. It also seemed to me that in tapping into his creativity, he quickly shifted from sadness to wonder and discovery. It lifted his mood immediately. The creative act is healing.

In the same way his statement took me deeper into meaning making, good writing can take us on a journeyparticularly writing laced with metaphors and symbols. (I almost wrote “laden” but you don’t want to overdo it). We can access symbols on many levelsconscious and subconsciousand get more out of a piece that way.

Think of something you wrote about todayor something you plan to write about. Get into the space of it and let your mind wander. Do you land upon a symbol or metaphor?  What’s your rainbow?

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Joy says

    I *love* when our children teach us!

    And, today I chose to write about a pair of “glass slippers” I tried on.. I write about “magic” and the shoes seemed to symbolize that:) More importantly, sharing it was fun!

  2. Dawn St Amand Paoletta says

    Oh, Lisa- it’s a bit profound! I love the thought of it and will ponder it further. I love the way our kids and life itself can trip us up with beautiful lessons which grow us and challenge our preconceived ideas of good, bad, beauty and meaning!

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