How to get a message across. – tell it like it is or use creative ideas. Creative ideas tend to engage other people and stick in peoples minds for longer – sometimes forever.
Charles Dickens stories, I’m thinking of Scrooge in particular is still putting a message across. If he had said don’t be mean to your workers no one would have heard his message in such a powerful way and the message would have been forgotten. The Help, to bring things more up to date. You can list ‘your favorite’ in comments. Stories that have stood the test of time and are still relevant.
Famous adverts we all remember and are iconic of a period.
Poems, ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith is a good one. There are so many images drawn in words through poetry. It is worth reading regularly. It’s an undervalued pleasure.
Writing a picture in words, with insight thrown in is a powerful tool.
The insight you can write about, you can choose for yourself, whatever it may be. What do you know about? What are your experiences in life?
Hand-me-down stories are the way religions and cultural stories are passed on. Who doesn’t love a good story and embellish it with the retelling?
This is such a brief intro to communicating creatively, but you get the idea.
Communication and media studies are interesting subjects and worth learning in conjunction with writing. It’s at least a two year study programme but a little knowledge goes a long way and you have to start somewhere.
Non-verbal communication is important to note. It varies according to culture, but when you are writing you have only words to convey something non-verbal. A smile, a pause, emotions etc. Put non-verbal communication in your search engine and spend an hour or two exploring. If you get round to it, look up semiotics, there is an introductory blog I posted earlier.
Writing creatively you can express your pain or your happiness and everything in between. There is a misconception that everything you write must be saleable, – of course it doesn’t. You can use it as a way of talking to yourself, sharing with friends, putting your words on the internet, or writing a blog or article. It’s up to you. Similes and metaphors, saying what something is like or saying it is something else – methods of drawing pictures.
Photos capture memories, try writing your experiences to add to the time and the moment. Write in all the senses, smelling, touching, tasting, hearing, seeing. They aren’t there in a photo apart from seeing. Add feelings.
Description using colours and shades of colours say something about people and places.
A picture is worth a thousand words – is it? Pictures can and do lie, especially now we have photoshop to show us how to make things look what they’re not. Historically, there are photos of fairies at the bottom of the garden. People believed it because the fairies were transposed into a photograph. We need to understand creativity in communication to understand if what we are reading is ‘truth’ or ‘lies’. Lots of discussion here if you belong to a group.
Making words appealing is the art of advertising and communicating. Right words – in the right place – with the right images + the right target audience = success in communication. Expand that idea to poems, short stories, blogs, and any writing.
Communication is where grammar comes in. Get it wrong and the wrong message is conveyed. Put the punctuation in the wrong place and the meaning can be changed. If you read your writing out loud it helps you notice where punctuation is needed, but it doesn’t help with apostrophes, quotation marks and speech. If grammar and punctuation aren’t your strong point start learning step by step. The more you write and correct your work the more you will learn.
Think in new ways, use a unique idea. Creative Writing for communication can be like learning another language, it’s a way of saying things. Don’t be put off by people who know more than you do. I’ve always found writers, friendly people and willing to help. Everyone has to start somewhere.
At the end of all this I hope people feel inspired.
Write a paragraph several times until it sounds better. Read and write poetry. Read great writers and ask yourself what is good about their writing.
Are you good at tweeting? Could you be better? Icould do with improvements on that one, I’m sure.
Remember, we all make mistakes and if you are afraid of making mistakes you won’t get anywhere.
Let’s start with a question. Why do you want to learn about Creative Writing? Here are some reasons that might be you.
A tool to learn English or another language.
To communicate a message in a creative and interesting way.
To make shed loads of money.
The pleasure of making up stories.
Enjoying writing poetry and playing with language skills.
Writing to feel better.
All of the above are possible, but what suits you? Today I am going to cover ‘To learn English or another language’, and follow through on the other topics in the coming weeks.
Why is Creative Writing different from a normal language lesson?
For Creative Writing your ideas and creativity are paramount – for a straight forward English lesson, you must learn facts about grammar and punctuation.
A Creative Writing project can give confidence with another language and you learn grammatical facts by the questions you ask as you go along. There isn’t a set pattern to the learning. A language lesson comes from books and teachers. Students learn better if they want to know the answers. For me, textbooks and teaching by instruction alone are secondary to a project that is student based.
If you are wanting to do Creative Writing start and keep going, don’t look for failures, but for achievements. You can do it alone, made so much easier with a computer to correct you on your way.
Groups work well with a creative project. A mixture of skills is of value. A student who is useless at grammar may have the best ideas. A team can feel the need to do their best to produce a worthwhile end product ready for presentation.
The spoken word is as important as the written word. If you are not good at writing try remembering and making things up on the spot.
Read plays, poetry, novels, short stories, news items, advertisements, read anything you can lay your hands on, not just a set book. Read aloud. Rewrite what you read in a style of your own.
Bring items to prompt stories. Students are preparing for the class before they get there. If you train yourself to look for prompts to write about, you will find them everywhere.
Warning – Writing is addictive.
Groups work well with both children and adults. Find a writers’ group near you or join one online. You shouldn’t be asked to pay to join. Be aware of false promises.
My classrooms are noisy places unlike the straight English lessons. Students are encouraged to butt in and contribute. There is a listening and sharing time at the end when mistakes are corrected as a sharing experience, criticism is not encouraged. I might ask a question like ‘how do you think this would work?’ I make notes of general mistakes and we go over them. Vocabulary is ongoing.
You can work alone on your writing, it is good to have a time goal, i.e. use a prompt and write ‘something’ in 5 minutes. Write a short story in a week.
Students go home with a sense of achievement not only a list of corrections. Exploring an idea from your imagination is a goal in itself.
If you are starting to write creatively, a reminder that in some cultures it is a lonely place to be. I would never encourage anyone to disrespect their culture and matching this with an unleashing of ideas can be tricky. Novelists, poets, journalists etc. have paid a big price for expressing their thoughts. If you live in a free society or a family that is open to discussing ideas from imagination, count yourself very lucky.
Here’s a thought for you today, What is a story?
Share your answers and don’t worry about mistakes unless it causes misunderstanding.
Writing and using our imaginations keeps our brains alive. If you don’t write for a long time you can lose your imagination and your language skills. It is important for young and old to write creatively.
I hope you enjoy this blog about a U.K. citizen teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka.
If you read my bio you will see that I have worked as a Creative Writing tutor for adults in the UK. My husband and I retired and came to Sri Lanka for 6 months 7 years ago, now for 3/4 months every year. His voluntary work is in medical research and he has studied snake bite reactions as part of a team improving the care of patients.He is based at Peradeniya University in Kandy – the hill country.
I didn’t want to sit around and I when asked to work at a private school of 3000 girls as a volunteer I was delighted. Feeling ill equipped with a young age group I started with the under 5’s but quickly developed a rapport with the upper school. The little children were so lovable and well behaved. I have always kept in touch. The teachers are hard working, dedicated and underpaid.
Faced with a large class of 9-10 year olds to teach English, Creative Writing came to my rescue. Group work was the answer. English is a vital part of education here. The main languages spoken are Sinhala, Tamil and English. The English language is used everywhere, on road signs and by the poorest of workers. It’s a common language. An English qualification is a way into a job and helps you find a marriage partner.
I progressed to teaching GCSE classes and A level English literature. There is a gap of three months between the exams and the next course, I was given a free hand to teach this group of students. I taught what I knew and we worked on writing projects. At the end of my time the school reported a marked improvement in the English of the students. The result was repeat invitations to work in this school over many years. I am happy to have a good relationship with them every time I visit.
My next task was to teach teachers, this was fun and an experiment. Rote is the preferred method of teaching and it works well. The thing about teaching Creative Writing is that it engages the students to a greater degree. They love doing projects and sharing. If they can’t do everything in English I allow them to use their own language but to keep going and keep trying. At the end of a session we look collectively at vocabulary and grammar relevant to their project. This requires new skills from the teachers, they may be caught out on things they don’t know.
Creative Writing is a method of improving the English of some of the teachers as well as students. Writing creatively is a skill that cannot be totally used without guidance.
I always respect the culture and never try to change anything. For a country still recovering from civil war, facilities and resources have been in short supply but are improving. Sri Lanka was also a country badly hit by the tsunami. Both events increased the need for orphanages. Children still write about both. They write about the roll of women and poems about their lives and emotions – this area is where we discuss boundaries and if there should be any. The teachers know their culture and children best and I don’t try and influence in any way, but I make them aware that with new freedoms comes responsibilities for the teacher.
The teacher training I was a part of was videoed and shown over to teachers. I was invited to run a work shop at a conference weekend for all Sri Lankan teachers in Colombo.
This is about the teaching, there is more to my voluntary work than this. The teachers are wonderful people, I have made such good friends.
I visited a poor state school and threw myself into renovating a library to give the school a heart. The government is now able to put more money into schools and state schools are improving.
Our life here has been dependent on renting a house every time we come. The first one was on the top of a hill with the jungle above. We were closer than I liked to snakes and insects. I have what I call my Sri Lankan hat on when I come here and forget my UK standards of living. That said I love the experience of living alongside the Sri Lankans. The rains came the first year and deluged down our hill for months. There was no doubt we were living in danger of a land slip. When the house was hit by a large boulder. The challenge was on. The hole made way for the jungle life to enter the house. My husband was determined to stay and finish his work, the compromise was that we went to a hotel while the house was fixed. On our return I reacted to every sound. When I heard a thud on the roof I went to investigate and found myself face to face with two 7 foot snakes. I learned afterwards they were not dangerous. I have seen vipers and cobras here but not many. The mosquitos are a bigger threat. Dengue is not uncommon but Malaria has mostly been eradicated. Rabies exists and it is best not to engage with wild animals including the street dogs and cats. Bats and monkeys can also be carriers. I console myself with the thought that there are a lot of Sri Lankan people still alive, on balance we should be. This is not a way of life I would choose if I had the responsiblity of a young family, although families do come here to work.
The food is good, we eat mostly fruit, veg and rice. The numbers of modern restaurants and the variety of food is increasing. We prefer Sri Lankan food, it’s what we are used to here.
Going home to the U.K to friends and family is a real pleasure, I look forward to it for weeks. I see my own culture through different eyes. The consumerism, and the way families and extended families don’t function in the same way are here are obvious. In Sri Lanka the elderly and sick are always cared for in the family homes. This is great when it works but there are old people mistreated as well as those well cared for. Women have to work and cannot always be at home. Family money is shared. Our house maid washes cleans and cooks for us. Her wages keeps five members of her family. When families can’t manage they borrow from the loan people who come around to your door. They pay back at 2% interest. Sickness and disability can wreck a family’s limited finances.
Our tuk tuk driver introduced me to a village where people live in shacks. Here I met a young family with three children. I decided to teach them English and stay in touch at all times. Parents and children are speaking English and the children growing up well. Twice their shack has been washed away in storms, it is now built of breeze blocks but not in a safe position.
Free health care is available to the poor. They can queue up at hospital and see a doctor. Drugs have to be bought, unless you go to the hospital for them. People buy one or two tablets at a time and give up before a course is finished. If you have an accident you may or may not get repairs to your broken body depending on the cost. When it doesn’t happen then people languish in beds.
I am getting past teaching now and would like to be involved in sponsorship of patients that need false limbs they can’t afford. There are many young and otherwise fit men, who lost limbs in the war. There is some support for them.
Although I plan to get away from teaching and spend my time here writing, this is a country of surprises. I have been asked to teach the young monks at a temple but have preferred to teach someone how to teach them. The internet is great for devising programmes for learning and passing them on. Internet and phone connections are excellent.
I have been talking to an agriculturist about rural education, an area that interests me. The challenge is teaching farmers, especially rice growers, English, to enable them to use the internet and communicate with the wider world.
We visit swimming pools, I belong to a book club and film club and go on tour – just in case you think our time is all about volunteering.
At the end of my teaching time at a school I gave them a Creative Writing Cup to be presented to the student with the best ideas – not the best grammar. This encouraged a different set of students. Every year book prizes are awarded in my name. What an honour.
If you have enjoyed this brief blog about the past seven visits of our life in Sri Lanka, you can read my husband’s blogs on Chandlers Ford today. http://tinyurl.com/ze92jfq This is about the library I renovated in a state school but search around his blogs and you will find more about Sri Lanka.
This is a limited view of what we do, I could write a book, but not yet. If you have any questions, please ask.
In quiet moments I write for myself. My first novel Marriage, a Journey and a Dog is a romantic comedy best described as women’s fiction . Writing is what I enjoy doing in my quiet moments. It’s great to know people in Sri Lanka have read and enjoyed my book, mainly expats. http://tinyurl.com/zexovoo
I have been able to advise expats about self publishing a book and about how the traditional publishing industry works. This puts me in contact with amazing and interesting people.
Please feel free to share your poem in the comment box. I will check it out and put it up. You don’t have to be a great poet, but have something you want to say in verse. Lots of interesting poems are written, but never get shared or read. There is much talk about copyright, but what is the point of copyright on something that never gets read? This is an opportunity to share what you have written, for only the satisfaction of knowing that someone else has read it.If you want to put a link to your poetry publication you can.