How Kids Can Get Started With Creative Writing

How Kids Can Get Started With Creative Writing

By Sharon Creech, author of One Time

Students often ask what inspires me and where I get my ideas, and my answers to these questions are both simple and complex. I am inspired by everything: by everything I see and hear and read and feel.  I get my ideas from everywhere: from places I’ve been and places I’ve imagined; from people I’ve seen and those I’ve imagined; from random objects; from animals. . . and on and on.

Choosing which pieces to use—which people, what place—can overwhelm a writer, but I have learned to create a blank space around me when I begin to write, to allow a character or a situation or a place to float into my mind. I don’t worry over the choices. I’d rather dive in and see what happens.

It is while I am writing that more ideas come, that new scenes come to mind, that characters develop. It may be hard for young writers to believe that you don’t have to know the whole story before you begin, but for me, that not-knowing is essential. It gives me freedom to explore where the story and characters will go. I can always revise later, remove chunks, re-name characters, eliminate the boring bits.

In ONE TIME, the teacher, Miss Lightstone, offers her students gifts: the time to experiment and the freedom of exploration. She offers images and words and opening sentences to jump-start writing. She eliminates fear through ‘free writes,’ ungraded exercises, and she encourages experimentation. Writing is magical! It is awesome! It is contagious!

People young and old need time to think, to imagine, to create. They need time to experiment, to play, to wonder. What they don’t need are more tests and grades and scheduled activities. They need empty time: time to wonder who they are and what they might become; time to explore; time to read and dream and imagine.

Following are some exercises that Miss Lightstone might use with her students. She would add: They can be very short. They are exercises, not meant to be perfect.

—Choose a photograph or painting that appeals to you (preferably one that you don’t know anything about) and describe the scene as if you are in or near the scene. Try to describe it in such a way that a reader can see what you see.

—Open a random book (preferably one you haven’t read) and copy the first sentence. Change a few words and then write very fast to see what happens.

—Write a simple scene (a character goes to the post office). What is he/she thinking? What does he/she see? Feel?

—Open the dictionary to a random page and select a random word.  Flip to another page and select another word.  Write a short scene that includes both words.

—From a book that you are reading or one in your home, choose a page that has a lot of dialogue on it. Eliminate ‘he said,’ ‘she said,’ and other words that are not people speaking.  Act out the dialogue with someone else.  Then try the exercise again, changing the dialogue. Make someone angry. Or happy. Or frightened.  Or excited.

—Write a paragraph about who you are at age 21. Where are you living? What are you doing? Then write another paragraph, imagining a different future.  Then try another . . .