July 18, 2012
July 18, 2012
November 15, 2015
At the NAWE conference this weekend I presented a series of practical exercises that I use with students who are writing a novel. The workshop was a taster – I might do some of these activities over a couple of hours with students, as well as building in discussion and reflection on the writing.
Sometimes the inspirations that we resist most in our fiction writing are those from our own lives: they seem too specific or mundane to include. But what if we investigated our own lived experience in order to become more creative, treating it as a treasure trove? How would that change our approaches?
In terms of the writing, we started with with freewriting (or stream of consciousness writing). Why? Because many practitioners, such as Cameron and Goldberg, advise using this tool, in order to bypass the ‘judge’ that tells us we can’t write, and to draw out interesting phrases or ideas that can be developed later.
We also used mind mapping, which is an accessible way to get ideas down on paper. Writing lists is another seemingly simple form of idea generation that frees us from ‘the judge’. In brief, here’s what we did:
Mind mapping, lists, freewriting
Jobs, disjunctures, everyday places, travel, memories, knowledge from experience, buildings.
Close specific detail – all the senses
Close observation – looking at the world with writer’s eyes
Rites of passage
And here’s how to expand it:
Rites of passage x 3
Jobs – specific details on everyday lives.
Trajectories and stories
Draw it (making connections).
- Create mini mind maps all about you. (This exercise is adapted from Tony Buzan’s The Mind Map Book.)
- Freewriting on a building that’s important to you. Or a building you’ve noticed recently.
- Freewriting on a rite of passage that you’ve experienced or observed.
- Create Creative Plunder mind maps. Include jobs, disjunctures – moments when your thinking or experience shifted, everyday places (incl. buildings), travel, memories, tacit knowledge from everyday experience.
- Take one of these and think about the detail, using all the senses deliberately. Picture it. (If you’re doing this with students, work on getting them to picture the place in their minds.)
- Write for 5 mins. Focus particularly on the ordinary, the mundane, but be as specific as you can. Read it to a partner or discuss how that felt.
Exercises that extend this work:
October 3, 2015
All the places I have been
Hove, Portslade, Shoreham, Worthing, Goring-by-Sea, Angmering. Get off. Angmering, Ford, Barnham. Get off. Barnham, Chichester, Emsworth, Havant. Get off. Havant, Cosham, Fareham, Swanwick, Southampton Central. Get off. Coffee. Southampton Central, Brockenhurst, Bournemouth. Get off. Fish and chips. Bournemouth, Brockenhurst, Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway, Winchester, Basingstoke. Get off. Basingstoke, Woking, coffee, Clapham Junction. Get off. Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Town, Putney, Barnes. Get off. Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth Town, Clapham Junction. Get off. Clapham Junction, East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Preston Park, Hove, Portslade, Shoreham.
January 5, 2015
I have created several Mind Maps down the years that illustrate some aspect of Creative Writing teaching. I used some of them in the recent workshop I lead at the Festival of Dyslexic Culture, for instance. I have attempted to turn a few of them into videos. You can see the initial results on YouTube.
I want to use this space to share some of my Mind Maps with you. Here they are as PDFs. You will have to use the zoom feature to navigate most of them, especially the first one.
This Mind Map became an article called ‘Versions of Creative Writing Teaching’. Writing in Education, No. 62, Spring 2014.
At the Festival of Dyslexic Culture I asked workshop participants to choose between the following three writing workshops. By a narrow majority, they voted for freewriting! Here are the Mind Maps I used: Continue Reading →
January 4, 2015
About ten years ago, I began to look at my own creative practice and to work out what it is that I do when I’m writing “creatively”. This wasn’t just a fun diversion. I believe that thinking creatively and being creative are fundamental to our society and that now, more than ever, we need creative people to solve problems and to provide inspiration. If there is a way to learn how to do it better, it seemed to me that I could apply a skill I had learnt and developed as a teacher – something I came to recognise as breaking things down into small parts or steps – and use that skill to understand the creative process. Far from being innate, incomprehensible or something only a few people possess, I think everyone can become more creative. It comes with practice, with habit. What’s more, if people who have already developed a creative habit were to look at what they do and summarise it more often, that would provide the opportunity for a diverse and divergent understanding of what creativity means in practice.
November 16, 2014
Some of the writing I did in response to workshop exercises at the NAWE Conference this weekend.
From a workshop on lines with Liz Cashdan inspired by the work of Tim Ingold:
Wordstorm different kinds of lines: Violin strings, swimming lanes, roads, lay lines, beams, threads, spiders’ webs, urban and rural walks, taking a line for a walk, flaneur, wandering, trails, barriers. Then write for 15 mins about lines:
I am interested in urban lines, traffic signs, yellow lines, white hashes in the road at intersections, parking regulations. How we’ve marked our own environment, how we’ve painted the places we travel, the lines in our buildings and public places, how we’ve left ourselves markers, bus lanes, where red buses squeal like animals calling to each other. My internal city is laid out in bus routes, timetables, tube maps, pavements, zebra crossings. Travelling to the hospital I’m signposted by arrows, side roads, sirens, then inside where the air smells like alcohol hand wash, there lines on the floor to take me to the ward, hyperacute bay, Continue Reading →
November 15, 2014
Creativity is sometimes viewed as elusive, God-given or innate and superfluous. In my research and my teaching, I’ve been thinking about the alternative: that creativity is definable, learnable and important. I’d go further than that: creativity is not only an important skill for an individual; it is a tool for shaping the future and bringing about social change. More than ever we have the need for creative thinkers and doers.
So here’s the question I’ve been pondering for a while: when we teach creative writing, what do we mean by the word ‘creative’ as it Continue Reading →
June 6, 2014
A long time ago in North London, in what seems like another life, I was thin, I had a pair of stripy yellow and red jeans and I was naive about a whole heap of things. Didn’t know how to use a computer, hadn’t really clicked that my parents met in Hackney, had only been out for a couple of years. I talked about naivety in passing in my last post: I said it’s a good thing, as long as you’re aware of it. Not sure I was aware of it in the days I’m talking about, but I did go on a steep learning curve. I was in my early 20s, and I had graduated the previous year; for a few months I ran the Creative Writing Youth Group at Centerprise in Dalston. Continue Reading →
June 5, 2014
Recently a Buzzfeed article called 51 Things You Simply Must Do in Brighton was circulating on Facebook and Twitter. The trouble is, it doesn’t mention Hove: well, twice, in passing it mentions Brighton and Hove as if it’s the same place. Believe me, before I moved down here I knew as much about Hove as almost anyone else who’s lived in London for twenty years. That is, I knew nothing about it. For me, the whole tenor of the ’51 Things’ article is that Brighton is a fun place to visit, as if no-one ever lives here, but – also because I live down this way now – the even weirder thing about the ’51 Things’ article is that it doesn’t mention the countryside. I knew I’d be close, but I had no idea I would be 10 minutes away from the South Downs. I guess popular culture is so keen to pigeonhole Brighton (and Hove in with it) as Continue Reading →
November 13, 2013
Never Mind the Text. Workshop at the Seda Conference, Bristol, 14 – 15 Nov 13. Here are the resources from my part of the workshop.
1. Maps. Here is a Mind Map animation on YouTube summing up the panel presentation we’re giving at the SEDA Conference on 15th November 13 and here is a Mind Map of my part of the presentation as a PDF for download: Creative Writing Toolkit MindMap and as a video on YouTube.
3. Writing exercise. Below I’ve pasted a writing exercise I wrote called FROG-GREEN from ‘Small Steps to Creative Thinking’. Creative Teaching & Learning Magazine, 3.2, Summer 2012:
First, go for a walk. Notice the different versions of the colour green you see along the way.
November 12, 2013
I talk a fair bit about Close Observation, with students, and when I do presentations on creativity and writing. Last night at the Dyspla Festival I mentioned how I watched a patch of nettles for 45 minutes in Devon in 1993 and how it changed my life. Here’s the article I wrote about the experience and published in the Arvon Foundation newsletter in 2005. Here’s a close observation exercise to try.