Tag Archives: creative writing

7 Exercises to Improve Your Ability to Write Creatively

cliche

Writers, in general, are a pretty creative bunch. But, since there’s no such thing as being too creative, anyone could benefit from some imagination-boosting exercises.

Whether you’re in a creative slump, and it happens to everyone now and then, or you just want to expand your resources as a writer, there are lots of ways for you to open up your creative channels.

Here are some methods to help inspire you:

1) Make a list of 20 topics

Sometimes your greatest creative block will be coming up with new ideas. So, sit down and make a list of 20 different writing ideas. Of this list of 20, at least one should be workable. Start developing it. A great habit for you to develop would be to keep a list somewhere of story ideas. If you do this, you’ll end up with an incredible cache of topics to use when your inspiration runs dry.

2) Re-write

Take an old story or idea you’ve written and rework it. Make sure it’s not something you’re currently working on. If you’re too close to it, you’ll have trouble seeing it from a new perspective. As you rework it, take a completely different view. If you told a story about a family from the perspective of one of the children, try telling it from the perspective of the mother or from an omniscient perspective. This is an exercise in creating flexibility in your writing. You may go back to the piece from the original perspective, but with new insights about the other characters. Sometimes telling the story you don’t want to tell can help you tell the story you do want to tell.

3) Read

Follow William Faulkner’s advice: “Read, read, read. Read everything- trash, classics, good and bad and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write…” The more you read, the more you’ll be exposed to different writer’s voices and styles. You’ll get a sense for their mastery and their weaknesses. Don’t just read for pleasure. Read to examine different techniques such as transitions, character-building, suspense and dialogue. Then challenge yourself to use those techniques in your own work.

4) Try hand-writing

Martin Amis “I always do my draft in long hand because even the ink is part of the flow.” If you’re used to typing, take yourself out of your comfort zone. Buy a notebook and a pen or pencil and start writing in it. Hand-writing means you have to slow down your thoughts a little, as you can’t write as fast as you type. There’s also no erasing, so if you’re constantly self-editing by erasing your work, hand-writing may be a great way for you to tie up your inner editor and unleash your creative voice.

5) Use your pain

J.P. Donleavy “Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.” Everyone has had to face struggle in life. And struggle often makes for the best literature. Recount a moment or experience that was difficult for you. You could turn it into a poem, a story or an essay.

6) Free-write

Free-writing is all about release. If you need to unleash your creativity, try sitting down for 10-15 minutes and write without pausing, correcting or planning. Just write whatever comes to mind without any interruptions of the conscious mind. After you’re finished, go back and read what you wrote. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick out an interesting concept or theme from your free-write and work it into a piece.

7) Switch genres

Creativity is the result of a flexible mind. If you write only essays or only short stories or only poetry, why not try something different? Choose another genre and see what comes up. It may feel strange and awkward, but by pushing yourself to do something different, you may discover a new source of creative thought. Try it.

Try one or all of these exercises to stimulate your mind’s creativity. It just may help you write better, more imaginative work. Good luck and happy writing!

How To Teach Creative Writing: Tips For A Great Lesson

how to teach creative writing

Have you hit the wall trying to come up with new ideas to inspire your creative writing students? Maybe your own enthusiasm is waning a bit, and it’s rubbing off on your students. After all, it’s not always easy to stay motivated when repeating the same lessons over and over again. So perhaps a fresh outlook will help to rekindle your passion for teaching creative writing, and spark greater interest in your students.

There are those who argue that creative writing can’t be taught at all. And while that may or may not be true, certainly the techniques for developing creative expression are learnable skills. Ones that can be honed and refined through a variety of practices and exercises.

Creative writing is much more than merely a descriptive process, it involves a number of elements that need to be explored in order to refine our thoughts, so we can communicate them to others. Elements such as idea development, motifs or themes, arguments and questions, plot development, characterization, dialogue and narration.

These elements are some of the fundamentals of creative writing. And to get students involved in the exploration of these fundamentals, to really spark their interest with tangible results they can consistently repeat, try out the following tips for a great creative writing lessons.

The Elements of Storytelling

Effective fiction writing shares common elements across all genres – whether the story is told in the form of comic books, movies, novels, mythology or the performing arts, they all contain the basics of setting, plot, characterization, theme and conflict with dramatic action.

Introduce your students to these basics by encouraging them to develop and connect these writing fundamentals with storytelling. Great storytelling has the ability to “capture, direct and sustain the attention of others”. It’s what gives a memorable story presence – that ineffable quality that stays with a reader long after the novel or performance is finished.

Storytelling also develops the subtler elements of tone and atmosphere as these are the components that flesh out the bones, or underlying structure of a story.

The Hook

The hook is a problem introduced at the beginning of a story that triggers curiosity. Compelling the reader to keep turning pages all the way to its successful resolution somewhere near the conclusion of the story.

Encourage your students to write engaging hooks by tapping into an emotion we all share – fear. Fear, in its many disguises, forms the crux of all the introductory problems contained within the great novels of literature throughout the ages. And each generation updates the story form to fit the appropriate fears of the day.

Use the tool of comparison to demonstrate to your students how these fears, the problems that form a good hook, are easily applied to contemporary storytelling. For example, the fear of monsters (within and without) that make Frankenstein and Dracula such timeless classics is the same fear that makes today’s zombie and vampire franchises so popular. And the fear of loss found in the themes of unrequited love and rejection so prevalent in 21st century song lyrics and music videos, are simply condensed versions of the same problems that made 19th century Italian opera wildly popular in that days.

As an exercise, present your class with some of the common hooks found in the great novels, plays or librettos of the past and have them write a short story around it – updated to contemporary issues, themes or current events.

Questioning Minds

The power of questions is a great way to teach students how to develop narration, characters and atmosphere.

At the start of class, present your students with a series of questions that, when answered, will progress into a paragraph that establishes setting, motivation, action and tone. The key aspect of these questions is to design them “so that they always lead on from the previous, regardless of how that question has been answered.”

This exercise is easily adapted to suit the specifics of the individual classroom, as long as the primary aspects are maintained:

  • Instruct the students to write a paragraph that tells a story.
  • The paragraph will be their responses to the posed questions.
  • All sentences they write are acceptable, as long as they follow the sequence of questions.
  • Pertinent inquiries regarding the exercise are permitted.

For a more detailed explanation and examples, please visit Adam Simpson’s blog post “The greatest creative writing activity ever”.

The Tickle Trunk

While writing prompts such as sentence snippets, magazine clippings and old photo albums are well established techniques to engage the imagination, they limit creative exploration to two dimensional images and the sense of vision.

Open up a broader sphere of tactile stimulation that encompasses smell, touch, sound and taste by having students dip into a “tickle trunk” of costume pieces and props to write a paragraph or short story around. A trip to the local thrift store or garage sales will quickly and inexpensively provide plenty of pieces to fill your tickle trunk, and unleash your students’ imagination.

This exercise is appropriate for “children” of all ages and is particularly well suited to character and setting development. With thanks to Mr. Dressup.

Park Perfectionism at the Door

Yours, and your students. There’s nothing that will squash imaginative endeavors such as creative writing quite like the belief that it should come easily and perfectly the first time it’s attempted.

Introduce your students to the concept of the “shitty first draft” so eloquently explained by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird to get them beyond the terrifying expectations of the inner critic’s perfectionism. Rather, teach them the skills of evaluation, objective criticism and revision to shape their writing into polished material suitable for publication.

Give these ideas for intriguing lessons a try and see if they inspire your students (and you) to greater heights of imaginative discovery in creative writing.

Male vs. Female Writers [Infographic]

top male vs female infographic

Just like J.K. Rowling, many other female writers still choose to be published under fake male names, and here comes the question: “Does this really help to make it to the top?” Or, “Is there a gender bias in the publishing world?”

According to the gender identifying tool, it’s very easy to spot a female writer. Sadly, this difference has nothing to do with what the reader really wants. Blind readings and bestselling male pseudonyms can’t be wrong! Inequality is all about prejudice.

Here’s our handy infographic that can dispel some myths.

Pin it, share it…enjoy it!


Male vs female writers


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