When someone asks what my job is and I tell them I teach Creative Writing, I am met with one of three responses:
- ‘That’s nice – I’ve always wanted to do fancy writing with a fancy pen.’
(‘Erm… that’s called Calligraphy!)
- ‘Must be hard, making stuff up. I couldn’t do that, I’ve got no imagination.’
- ‘I can’t write, I never liked English in school, and I’m no good at spelling.’
Don’t be scared to have a go at creative writing
Over the years Creative Writing courses have increased in popularity but the subject is still somewhat misunderstood. Most people think of writing as being academic rather than artistic. Even though they’d like to have a go they are reluctant to try for fear of getting it wrong. Schools with their rules and regulations, plus and minus grades, have frightened people away from the written word. So let me redress the situation: in Creative Writing there are no ‘rules’. There are tips, tricks and techniques but nothing is set in stone. What works for one story might not work for another. What sounds great in a poem might sound askew in a piece of prose, but that isn’t a problem. There are innumerable ways you can arrange words, sentences and paragraphs to get the effect you want.
Writing a draft
In Creative Writing we work with drafts, and drafts are works-in-progress and aren’t meant to be perfect. Even though grammar, punctuation and spelling are important you can forget about them in the first instance and just write because, unlike in school, spelling and grammar checkers are allowed – you’re even allowed to show friends and ask for help and feedback.
Make it fun
Second to their worry about bad spelling and misplaced commas, people often worry that they have nothing to write about. To those folk who are convinced they have no imagination I say, ‘Yes you do – you just have to rediscover it.’ Everyone has a story to tell whether it’s their own or someone else’s. Real life can be used as a basis for fiction and everything is fair game from overheard conversations to dreams and newspaper articles.
Entering the classroom (physical or virtual) can be a daunting experience – especially if you left school decades before – but students learn very quickly that Creative Writing is not as scary as they’d imagined. In fact, it’s all pretty informal (which is the only way creativity can thrive). Once your dormant imagination has been awoken you will begin to see ideas in your surroundings, the people you meet and the experiences you have. So tip number one is: always carry a notebook and pen! And always remember that whether you want to write for pleasure or publication, relaxation or catharsis, putting words on a page should be, first and foremost, fun.
Lynda is the Creative Writing Expert for The Tutor Team. She has a degree in English Language and Literature and her full profile can be found here
You can follow us on our The Tutor Team Facebook page for more study tips and educational videos.