On Saturday 29th September, I attended a creative writing workshop with Dora Bona from Creative Juicy (website here). It had been a special from Living Social – who now send me endless daily emails on new offers – and I thought it might kick start an area of interest for me that I felt had been crushed by ‘left brain’ priorities such as writing uni assignments, school reports and other non-creative texts for the past 10 years. Dora explained that it’s the unfortunately reality that most of us lose our creativity through schooling, university and general life that doesn’t often promote creativity but rather conformity and analytical thinking.

The aim of the workshop was to throw us in the deep end of creativity and free thinking, ignoring the impulses to edit ourselves or formulate ‘correct’ written pieces and instead let the words, phrases, ideas, metaphors and imagery flow onto the page without worrying. Another aim was to identify aspects of our personality and character that come through in our writing and to embrace that.

I thought I’d share some of what I wrote with you all in the hope that it might give me the confidence to keep writing and stay motivated. Blogging helps, I suppose, to keep some of the writing skills up but it is very analytical and ‘left brain’ as I am constantly editing myself and making sure that it says something to the audience on a first draft, rather than unloading a piece of my soul to the world and seeing what happens.

For the next couple of posts, I will endeavour to do just that – in snippets – offering some samples of what I generated at the course. I will also try to include words and lines that are crossed out. They might be useful ideas for yourself or your classroom: I am definitely going to borrow some of these ideas to help my kids enhance their creative writing.

Exercise One: Writing about an object

Although we were supposed to write ‘freely’ and ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ the audience about the object, I gave it a good go.

A very feminine object, used for dusting a face – removing or applying a new face colour or mood. It seems delicate and elegant. The kind of thing to be found on a grandmother’s dresser in some leafy cottage. There would be no other use for it outside a the preparation for a night out or perhaps a matinee performance at the theatre. It certainly doesn’t belong on a battlefield or in a rugby team’s change room. Its handle would be held gently by a manicured hand, the weight of it in contrast to the soft, light hairs that touch the skin.

Short and stubby, it isn’t quite a paintbrush but does basically the same thing to the face of whomever it is applied. It feels like a chess piece when held in the hand of a man or someone unaccustomed to using one. It looks lonely when not sitting in its rightful place on the dresser. Despite being the same material and possibly versatile a range of different uses, it the brush is away from its natural place and therefore not, here, an item that evokes beauty or a sense of attraction. Here it is standing tall, reaching up as if to point out indicate it is ready to be used. Eager and willing to do what it was made for.

Feedback: I was telling too much. I needed to try and paint a picture rather than explain and describe too literally.

Exercise Two: Write about yourself in the THIRD person

Bugger. I hate doing this. But Dora insisted that it is a crucial step in developing our sense of perspective, character and releasing our creative mind. As the mantra goes: “write about what you know”…

Warm and welcoming, he walks with purpose but takes the time to stop and say ‘hi’ or have a quick chat. He remembers the an event or time we shared or some common interest – he makes an effort to know something about others. He looks down at a lot of people. Not in the bad way but just because he’s a bit closer to the sun than most of those he works with. He shows his love to his family and friends, take visiting and spending time not worrying about the time of day as much as the time he gets with those he loves.

He works hard – always involving himself in probably too many things but always with a smile. He seems to know a fair bit about some things and loves to talk and even argue about issues from the tiniest problems to those that touch many people. He’s been through some tough times but, with the help of others, pulls through and grows a bit in the process. Those around him can rely on his support and confidence, and be sure that he will, as often as possible, look on the bright side rather than let a sad situation get the better of him. His beard is a part of his image and he’s  he and is a recognisable part of He tries to do his best.

Feedback: Again, way too much telling. Need to loosen up a bit and try to be creative in the way I paint the picture. Let the right brain do the work!

Exercise Three: Write about yourself in FIRST person

Same as above, only from my own perspective. I’m thinking the word telling may come up in the feedback for this one.

I am a positive person. Everyone has some aspect of their work or life that doesn’t match the ‘plan’ or isn’t bathed in a Hollywood glow. But I choose, more often than not, to either fight for something, solve a problem or move on as quickly as possible so that the good always wins out over the bad. I keep thinking, no matter what the situation, that someone in the world – and probably many people – are worse off than me. I am a young(ish), male professional in a rich country with a solid job and a supportive family. I have little to complain about when there are people struggling to put food on the table. I am healthy, but should work out more. I am financially stable, but could always be more careful with money. However, I believe that a life is a thing to be enjoyed – so long as it isn’t at the cost of others’ happiness – and we have to appreciate the gifts and opportunities shown to use and ignore them at our peril. I like my beard. It is now part of my image. I started having a beard so that it made me look older than I was so my students wouldn’t think I’m in my early 20s – now it’s an icon.

Feedback: Still too much telling. 

Feeling quite egocentric and uncomfortable – especially having now shared these ideas with the world – it is, I’ll admit, somewhat liberating to have to describe ones self in these terms. Still some work to do on making it sound creative though!

Exercise Four: Write about you from the perspective of someone who DOESN’T like you

Ooh. Interesting. Time to point out some of my many flaws! As an Aussie, self-deprication and tall poppy syndrome come well into play. Brilliant. 

What an arrogant man. Always putting his hand up to get things organised – often doing it in the way he wants not how its supposed to go. He spends way too much time daydreaming, but I’ll admit he does get things done. You know sometimes I swear his philosophy on life is to do what makes people happy rather than give them what they need. He definitely needs to go for a run. Often. He’s getting his name out there in the teaching world like he’s constantly applying for jobs. Can’t he just be happy where he is and doing his job? He got sick this year you know – shows he should slow down and just get things right rather than hopping from one thing to the next. He spends way too much time doing stuff for work, and what’s worse he looks like he’s enjoying it! What a fool. He could have done business or law or any number of things but he chose to be a teacher – they go on holidays more than I go to work! Why does he spend so much money when he could be saving for a new car or a better house? He’s a bit of a dreamer and he watches way to many history DVDs.

[had to stop there]

Feedback: Not vitriolic enough. I didn’t realise we were supposed to do it from the view of someone who HATES you – but the others in the group thought the same thing. 

END CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP PART 1

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