The Essential English Student Guide to Creative Writing
Creative writing is a wonderful tool for expression and inspiration. It allows you to find your voice and put it to work in an imaginative, often unique, and poetic way. Best of all, creative writing allows you to approach writing uninhibited by word count, guidelines, and other technicalities that sometimes stunts originality.
But as any writer will tell you, getting started is often the most challenging part about writing. Coming up with ideas takes brainpower and lots of it. However, you don’t need to lock yourself away for two weeks to in order to write creatively. You just need some tips and tricks to get those words flowing. That one idea can spring forward to the next, and before you know it, your head will be teeming with ideas.
Below you’ll find short helpful tidbits that you can apply to your own writing and thinking. Just remember, writing creatively takes time and patience, but with practice and these useful tools, you might find the spark that brings out the writer in you.
- Keep a journal: The more you write, the better you get, and keeping a journal is a very effective way to practice writing. Journal writing is a unique, often therapeutic opportunity to sit, think, and write about anything that comes to mind. You can fill the pages with your ideas, reflections, favorite poems and song lyrics, doodles, and inspirational thoughts. Carry your journal with you wherever you go. Work, school, vacation – you never know when a memory needs to be documented. Those memories can serve as a source of writing ideas, character sketches, and plot development. You can also start a blog to share your ideas and experiences. Allow readers to comment on your posts as a way to gather feedback and gauge the impact of your writing. For more tips on keeping a journal, check out these creative ideas and advice on getting started.
- Draw from real-life experiences: You’re more interesting than you think. In fact, your life is one big story ready to be told so consider your own experiences as writing prompts. Think about your childhood, rebellious teen years, growing up on a farm, traveling to Europe, anything special that’s worth sharing or using as a building block for other ideas or thoughts. Use your senses to describe an observation or realization you had about yourself. Writing about what is familiar is often the most effective way to create a compelling story. If you kept a journal or a diary as a kid, read old entries and reminisce about the good ol’ days or the not-so-good days. I bet you’ll find a story you didn’t expect to be there.
- Read Read Read! Reading and writing go hand in hand. The more you read, the more you know. And the more you know, the more you can write. Our favorite authors can be excellent teachers. They provide a source of inspiration, techniques, and even support when writing our own material. Whether your favorite author is Shakespeare or J.K. Rowling, reading is the most important activity that leads to better writing. Engaging with words and language not only builds vocabulary and comprehension, but also stimulates writing and creativity itself. Sometimes reading a Shel Silverstein poem or Dr. Seuss book can spark an idea. What about an old sci-fi favorite, autobiography, or romance novel? Rereading your favorite books in addition to new ones builds stamina – an important part of being a good writer. Try reading each night before bed or whenever you have free time. Take notes in the margins and highlight key passages. When it comes time to write own story, script, or poem, use your notes as jumping-off points for writing exercises and prompts.
- Practice Practice Practice: There’s a reason why our teachers made us take daily quizzes and participate in bell ringers. Practice is needed in order to understand something better. And we can only get better and improve by trying, and trying again. The same goes with writing. If you dedicate a little time each day to practicing your writing, you’ll develop your skills and gain confidence. Set a daily goal to write a few lines, a paragraph, a poem, or anything else that uses your creative talents and abilities. Check out these fiction writing exercises as a trigger for experimentation.
- Fight Writer’s Block: Many writers suffer from this “condition,” but without roadblocks, no journey is complete. Don’t give up on your writing when the going gets tough. Writer’s block is hard to overcome, but if you approach it from a different angle, you might see it as a tool and not a hindrance. You can defeat the enemy with a few strikes of your sword (a.k.a. your pen or keyboard). First, keep writing, no matter what. Even if you have nothing extraordinary to write about, jot down thoughts on the weather, your mood, your boss, or anything else that comes to mind. Remember, practice practice practice. Second, embrace the block. Your bad ideas may turn into good ideas down the road. You just don’t know it yet. Third, change your scene. Maybe you need to hit the beach, the neighborhood bistro, or join a book club. New environs make space for fresh ideas and solutions to problems we face in the everyday grind. Bottom line: fight for your right to write!
Creative writing is an incredible tool. You can bend the rules and add your own ingredients to write exactly as you think, speak, and feel. If you’re just getting started, buy a journal or grab a pad of paper and write down anything that comes to mind and begin documenting your life and the relationships within it. Before you know it, you’ll have painted an entire scene that’s all your own.