Creative writing

Releasing the Writer Within

How many of us, when we read a novel, story, or poem, watch a film, or see a play, sometimes wonder if we could do the job better? Morley tutor Kate Potts gives us her insight on how to get the creative juices flowing.

The trouble is that, too often, being inventive with words is something we leave behind with our childhoods. Faced with a blank page and a desire to write the book we always knew we had in us, we panic.
If you’re returning to creative writing after a long break it can be a good idea to exercise your imagination gently at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember that success is, as they say, 99% hard work plus that little bit of inspiration.

Here are some tips to help you get started

First of all, read as much as you possibly can. Reading good quality writing is one of the main ways we learn to write well. You can find books cheaply in second-hand shops, or free at your local library. Try to read contemporary work as well as the classics – but most importantly, read work that you enjoy and find genuinely engaging and exciting.

Secondly, carry a notebook. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and use your notebook to record anything you find interesting or striking (this might mean writing descriptions, plot ideas, or responses to books, films, poems, plays, music or art etc.). Bus and train journeys can be useful spaces for writing new material.

Thirdly, develop a writing routine; try to write every day, or at least every few days. Your writing will improve the more often you do it – much like physical exercise, or learning to play a musical instrument. Try writing a diary, or doing some ‘automatic writing’ (very quickly written stream of consciousness writing). You might also like to buy a creative writing guide book or join a class and try out some writing activities and exercises (see the end of this article for some book recommendations).

Last but not least – allow yourself time to stare into space and explore ideas in your imagination. In our fast-paced culture, we often tend to view time spent doing very little as ‘wasted’, yet ideas need time and space to grow. You may find that two hours of staring at the blank page is followed by two very productive hours of writing. Of course, if you never progress to the writing stage, then you may need to try some more targeted, specific writing activities! Writing involves a strange and often surprising dance between the conscious, practical crafting of language and the more shadowy realms of the imagination. Give your imagination space to develop and grow.

Whether you’re writing a family history, a poem for a special occasion, or a gothic thriller, writing requires intense focus and discipline, so it’s important to take the activity (and your own ambitions) seriously. Everyone has something to say that’s well worth hearing.

Recommended reading
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
The Road to Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion edited by Dr Robert Graham, Dr Helen Newall, Dr Heather Leach, Julie Armstrong and John Singleton

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