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.
Sri Lanka is where I have spread the word about Creative Writing and enjoy being an observer of the culture here.
Three years ago I complained to our British foreign minister that this fountain was in a poor state of repair and so was the area around it. Sri Lanka had been through 20 years of civil war and a bomb blast at the temple.
The fountain was forged in Glasgow and it was put in situ in 1875 for the then Prince of Wales. He came here to look around against the advice of the UK government. Sri Lanka was not at all like it is now. Sadly, HRH came here to shoot animals. Having a broken fountain doesn’t change that.
Now it has been beautifully restored and local people and visitors alike can enjoy it.
This is what I love about Sri Lanka. Someone needed to dry their washing and found a suitable spot.
When you stand in this spot the smell of the flower stalls selling jasmine and lotus flowers is
I would like to extend my reply to a young would be writer I chatted with on face book. You will see from my bio that I taught Creative Writing in adult education for 18 years. After retirement I am still teaching the subject to a more diverse cross section of students, but for the pleasure of doing so. Creative Writing has become my way of life for which I rarely get paid but love to do.
In the last sentence is the truth of the life for most writers so why teach the subject to young people when they are going to need a paid job?
Scientists need imagination to ask, what if? Computer studies can take on real purpose when a writer understands how everything you learn to do with a computer will help support a writing career. In fact, you can’t be a writer these days without access to the net and the ability to compute. Making a web site, taking photos and editing them, making videos as well as excel for spread sheets etc., If you want to be a writer go to every computer class you can and learn at home.
A child said to me, “I don’t need maths to write.” That was wishful thinking. Marketing needs maths to record incoming and outgoings (your outgoings will be bigger than your incomings to begin with). You need to be able to make reliable financial projections and analyse your business responses to tweets, blogs, Facebook etc.
History can give a depth to your stories and you can learn history by making up your own stories around historical events choosing to be historical characters. The man who thought up Horrible Histories was on to a winner.
Improving your college C.V. can come from running or contributing to the school magazine. Working to dead lines and seeing your name in print are useful skills. Getting involved in the school play is a huge writers’ learning curve and fun.
Sociology and cultural studies teaches about other people, they could be your potential readers. If you are going to be a writer you need readers. Who are they? Communication and media studies are often criticised as soft options for ‘a’ level subjects and for a degree. I would disagree. They are only poor subjects if the students believe these courses will make them rich and famous. These subjects can be stepping stones into a wider job market. i.e. A film studies student and artist became a make-up artist for carnival and minor films. She makes her money from weddings. You can learn a list of subjects by studying film and whatever you choose to do in life is will not be based on one subject.
The broad picture! Science teaches the writer useful facts and teaches the scientist how to use fiction to imagine new outcomes.
Our brains are wired to learn from multi sources other than plain facts on a page. Add pictures and stories and the facts are easier to learn – that’s a known fact.
Learning languages, in my case teaching English as a foreign language, Creative Writing is a great confidence builder. We now know that students encouraged to use a language creatively and allowed to make mistakes and mix a native language with a new language have better learning outcomes at the end of 5 years than those who learn solely from a book. In Sri Lanka children can use three languages in one sentence. It was thought this would discourage them from learning English but the opposite has proven to be true. Interesting.
Art and music, for inspiration
and story writing. Poetry to music for the school play. Music for your videos and knowing which music to mention in a story.
I guess there is a book here but I’m busy writing fiction. In the meantime I thought I would share these random thoughts.
If you have ideas to contribute or examples, please add them to the comments box or send me a link to your blog.
2. Creative Writing for Adults
I want to share what I have learned for free. You might like to check out my other blogs.
Please forgive the link to my book on Amazon. My Romantic Comedy only 99p and it gets 5* reviews around the world. http://tinyurl.com/jd6bn9 Has a target audience of women 35+ I know men read it too.
I recently wrote a reply to an Indie author bemoaning on Facebook they weren’t making sales on line. I think my reply is worth sharing.
There are 1.5 million Indie books published in the US alone, every year. I wondered how many of these authors buy Indie books?
I buy 2 a month as that fills my reading time. Mostly I find them lively and interesting, the occasional one, not so. No different from a traditionally published highly advertised book, they are not always great even if the grammar is pretty much guaranteed. To be a successful Indie author you have to be better than the best, even then you might not make it. It’s like agents who have turned down amazing works of literature many times over but they have gone on to be best selling novels, the reading public are doing the same thing, turning away from amazing possibilities. Don’t miss out on discovering a book that might be brilliant; buy loads of Indie books. How many agents turned down Beatrix Potter and J. K .Rowling etc. As an Indie author your experience may be like theirs and you have to keep marketing – and waiting, and hoping readers will cotton on to your amazing book.
In the meantime why not buy a few Indie books and enjoy the whole reading writing scene?
As a Creative Writing tutor I have read across genre, often reading genres I would not have freely chosen. Sometimes they have surprised me at how much I have enjoyed reading them, sometimes I have found them awkward and uninteresting. I am never sorry to have read them. The bad ones teach me how not to write a book and I think about the author who has embarked on a learning curve and , on day, they might become a great writer. Everyone starts somewhere.
From a writer’s perspective reaching the top rung of success can be an unrealistic goal. If you play tennis are you going to be a Wimbledon champion? Would you give up singing if you weren’t the winner of X Factor? You can enjoy playing tennis and singing at any level – you can enjoy writing at any level.
Make friends and meet people on line and through organisations; enjoy working on language skills, going to literary festivals etc. There is so much more to do when you are interested in writing than become famous. Even listening to related programmes on radio or analysing something you are watching on T.V. I would recommend a writer’s life to anyone.
Why do people ask, ‘Do you write? What have you published?’ Would we ask, ‘Do you play tennis? What tournaments have you won? If a writer is successful they will tell you without being asked!
It’s all about money for some potential authors. If that’s you and you’re starting out, make sure you have a good day job.
I have made a living out of writing. I started out earlier than most and this was a big advantage. From selling articles and poems to major magazines my writing career developed. I went into education and taught other people to write, I wrote Creative Writing examinations and marked them. This gave people a qualification that was recognised in a subject they enjoyed and I loved teaching. Splitting the subject into communications and media studies at level 3 meant that adult students could use it for university entrance.
The aspect of my career I enjoyed the most was Creative Writing for rehab of mental health patients, for prisoners, and as a stepping stone for homeless people back into education.
Over the past few years I have been teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka (for free), a work/vacation. I’m lucky that writing has added so much to life, and I believe in can for others. Don’t be a lone writer, get out there and join in things.
What I really have written this blog for, is to say to indie authors – buy indie books. If we all did this we could start an indie revolution.
As I sit looking at my cup of coffee I realise that for half the price of that coffee I can download an Indie book. For the whole cup – thats 2 books (I’m sure you worked that out). So what if I don’t enjoy them all? I will certainly enjoy most. Of all my reading this year one indie book stood out and I will always remember it. I bought it because I met the author at one of these social writing events and bought the paperback. Indie books can be better than the best.
My husband has met people at these indie events when he has tagged along with me. Occasionally he smiles at the daft book, but it made him smile and other times he has raved on about how good a book is. Because it’s indie he has been able to read their blog, join their twitter etc. and he has spoken to the author and might meet them again.
I write reviews when I’ve read a book, but if it is not my usual genre I say so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a good review . If it really is bad then I don’t say anything. I’m sure a poor writer is capable of giving back what they get. When I do write a poor review it is for a highly publicised book and the story genuinely isn’t good. I hate reading a traditional published book with the might of the media behind it and it could – no should be better. You can forgive indie books but not professional writers. Readers have often agreed with my review and said so. If I love it I do always say so, or if it’s good but not my type of book it may be worth 5*.
Christmas is coming and I’ve order my presents – I want paperback Indie books and they will cost under £10 They will give me several hours of pleasure when Christmas is over. ‘Which indie book,’ I’m asked. My reply, ‘Surprise me. You know me.’
I belong to BGS. If you are looking for an indie book join this site or something similar.
See what other people are reading. Goodreads has indie books with reviews.
Be bold and make an Indie book a regular addition to a book club reading list. My Romantic Comedy is only 99p 5* reviews around the world. http://tinyurl.com/jd6bn9a
Writing is a journey to which there is no end. Writing for pleasure, for therapy or for profit, there is always a reason to write.
Here are some ideas for you:
Write a story for ‘pleasure’ it can be about anything, It needs a beginning, a middle and an end. For ‘therapy ‘put yourself into the story as a character, for ‘profit’, be prepared to learn about writing for a market, and keep on writing when success eludes you. For ‘profit’ you must also have access to a computer and knowledge of computing skills. Know if you want to write 500 words or 100,000+.
Write poetry for ‘pleasure’ – enjoy writing with rhythm, for expression of emotion to capture a moment. For ‘therapy’, write out your thoughts and put them into words. Try a stream of consciousness, – (any thoughts as they come into your mind) then write how you feel. For ‘profit ‘- learn poetic structure, read poetry, be prepared to read to an audience and don’t be put off by writing wonderful poetry that doesn’t sell – be satisfied with the achievement of writing to a high standard.
Write articles for newsletters and local magazines. For therapy – share with readers the good, the bad, and the interesting. If you want to write for profit -learn about article writing and marketing articles. It’s a fun thing to do.
Read widely and take on reading challenges, it will help your writing and if you find the right book it can help your situation.
Meet with other writers – at local clubs and meetings – ask at your library for details or look online. Join online groups, (don’t be fooled into spending money unnecessarily). Be an artist and capture in words beautiful places and things or emotions.
When you are writing for therapy don’t get stuck in a groove, push yourself into new experiences with words.
This is the last introductory Writing for therapy Blog.
I’m told that this introduction to Writing for Therapy sounds like I’m chatting more than instructing. I take that as a compliment.
I wrote for pleasure and profit, but of course, therapy is in there too. This book has drawn on some of my life experiences and expresses my sense of humor that has always helped me through. No one is going to escape the challenges of being alive, some challenges are far greater than others. At all times escape into your imagination and create as much positivity as you can.
Click writing for therapy tag to see 5 more blogs or scroll through my blogs.
Writing for pleasure – my book – a wonderful means of expression and a way of life.
Writing for Therapy and Creative Writing can merge into one another. As a tutor you have a responsibility towards your students on both fronts.
Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing cannot ignore the fact that when a freedom with the written word is taking place many truths come out. There is a responsibility as a tutor towards the rest of a group and towards the individual.
Reading out and sharing what you have written can be productive, but there are times when sharing with just one person is better. In a group situation, no pressure should be put on anyone to read out only an opportunity.
A child wrote about her sexual abuse in the home in a Creative Writing class. The subject matter could not be ignored, but judgement as to the truth of it or looking at the possible outcomes of exposure doesn’t lie with a Creative Writing teacher. In this case it was a question of discussing the possible outcomes with someone with more authority and getting another experienced teacher involved. It isn’t the writing teacher’s place to mention names unless advised to do so and the situation of the author protected. Did the child want it mentioned to anyone else and was anyone ready for possible outcomes? This particular case was in a foreign country where I believed the child, but was unaware of the help available. A medical specialist on the subject was found, she took over and addressed the children in the class on the subject, then made herself available should anyone want to go and see her or importantly – write her a note.
The words people write need careful handling, especially on sensitive subjects.
A student in my adult Writing for Therapy class wrote of very severe abuse as a child – she also wrote about a wonderful childhood. After three weeks I realised that she had a dual personality and was under the mental health care unit.Tutors aren’t told everything when a group starts. I did nothing as I knew she was getting all the help she needed and as to the truth of what she wrote I had no idea. This particular lady enjoyed coming to class and socializing. I moved her onto writing creatively for pleasure and her obvious language skills were a pleasure to listen to. In a creative writing class her abilities were appreciated and there weren’t many places she could feel accepted. A class promoting imagination suited her.
I was moved by a poem of a 15 year old who wrote about prostitution. Clearly this was not her situation, but she was looking sympathetically at the woman’s situation who could not feed her children. Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing can bring about understanding. It can scratch beneath a surface.
Writing for therapy is a stepping stone that leads somewhere else, and it can be a process of bettering a situation.
Eat cream cakes and chocolate to stay thin might sell a lot of books. Perfect your life with Writing for Therapy, might also sell books – neither would be true. Cheering yourself up with a doughnut or chocolate can do your mood good and put weight on, would be real life. Write for therapy or pleasure and experience of the power of words – now that would be accurate.
One last case history. I was asked to teach Creative Writing in a faith school where self expression and uncontrolled personal thoughts were not encouraged. Several students came to me confused between what they felt and the inhibitions on what they could write, set on them by this secluded sect. I ploughed on teaching the students Creative Writing for their exam in the only way I knew. In the end, I was not asked back and the cook was asked to teach them instead. I don’t know if they ever passed their English exams. Before leaving I read them Michael Rosen’s poem about chocolate, only to be asked by the students not to read poems about chocolate again as they weren’t allowed to eat it. Problems emerged when, in the poetry class they started to write what they felt and began asking me about their thoughts and feelings. I told them there were books available and they must ask about them. What the sect made of their poems I don’t know.
In my own family when the children went through hard times, as they all do, I encouraged them to turn to creativity, art, sewing etc., and of course writing stories. They have grown up to write all the time and find it a great outlet and can make money from it as well.
Keep on writing
You might like reading Romantic Comedy – A good read can cheer you up.
Writing for pleasure, this is my book, and a wonderful means to express myself and way of life for me. – Marriage, a Journey and a Dog http://tinyurl.com/jve22js paperback and ebook, internationally available on Amazon and other platforms.