Education Feature; Creative Writing ‘Say it with words’
From the books and magazines we read to the music we listen to, our world is full of Creative Writing.
Let’s look at some of its benefits then give it a go ourselves…
Children are naturally creative. Left to their own devises, and encouraged by their parents or carers, they will happily create games and alternative realities to play in for hours. Often this is when they are at their most content.
The first games children engage with are usually the ‘chase me’ or ‘hide-and-go-seek’ variety; simple and easy to grasp but most importantly fun and sometimes scary! As their creativity matures, along with their ability to read and write, children may start to experiment with using words creatively. Suddenly the possibility of creating their own stories is opened up and with that, a new flow of creativity follows.
Creative writing can be extremely beneficial to children, as well as adults. Not only does writing at a young age help build a child’s imagination, it helps them learn by improving reading, spelling and comprehension skills. Many schools incorporate creative writing into other lessons, such as drama or music. Here, children might work collaboratively on a project writing a play, or lyrics to a song, improving both their writing and social skills.
Exam level students may find creative writing especially helpful as they prepare their texts. To write successfully you must engage with certain elements, all of which they will be expected to demonstrate in their exams. Perspective, dialogue, narration, point of view, characterisation, structure, grammar and syntax, to name but a few. By using these tools in their own writing they will become more recognisable in the texts which they are studying.
It is all well and good to talk about creative writing and its positive outcomes, but what are the realities of actually getting a child, or young adult, to engage with it? Many children profess to hate writing and even claim not to be able to do it, but presented in the right way, writing can be fun and approachable.
Many professional writers start their writing sessions with something called ‘free writing’.
Here’s how they do it:
Firstly, find yourself a quite space in which to write.
Secondly, with pen on paper, write continuously for five or ten minutes.
Thirdly, never let your pen stop!
The idea is to limber up your brain, and your hand, much like an athlete limbers up before a run. And if you can’t think of anything to write, have a look around you and write what you see. Write how it feels to have nothing to write about, write what you had for dinner last night or what your weekend holds. Eventually, it will become second nature to do this free writing, and then you can get down to the nitty-gritty of the hard stuff.
Sometimes, the hard stuff can be really hard. Faced with a blank page, ‘I don’t know what to write,’ is generally the first thing that springs to mind. Trust me, you are not alone! Thankfully, there are hundreds of writing exercises and prompts to get you started, from specific ones if you are writing in a certain genre, to the more general. Often, I find a good walk gets ideas flowing, but for more inspiration I have gathered some prompts here.
1. Open at random a book you particularly enjoy reading and pick out the first sentence you see. Make this the beginning of your story.
2. Write a diary in the style of your hero.
3. Choose a person or people from a newspaper article and create characters for them.
4. Write random words on separate pieces of paper, fold them and put them into a cup. Pick out three words and make them into your first sentence.
Another fun way to get writing is to imitate the work of someone else, called ‘pastiche’ writing. For example, choose your favourite poem, imitate the style and structure, but use your own words. There are also lots of competitions to enter for all sorts of creative writing, from flash fiction to scripts, and short stories to poetry. Setting yourself the challenge of getting your entry in on time, and winning, can be a real motivator.
Creative writing holds so many different possibilities, from writing a birthday limerick for a friend, to recording your life in a memoir. It can be as big or small as you wish, but can always be useful and hopefully enjoyable too.
By Sara Harman-Clarke