The Quiet Words: week one
What does it mean to be creative?
What does creativity mean to you?
For me, creativity is a way of being imaginative and thoughtful in everything I do. It’s a mindset. Being creative is way of approaching our every day with just that little bit more care; a perspective that stops and asks if there’s a better way to do something, a way that might add beauty, wonder and meaning into your life and the life of others around you.
So, for instance, we can be creative in the way that we speak to our children so that our words come across kinder. We can be creative in the way that we choose and wrap a gift so that it feels extra special for the person receiving it. And we can be creative in the way that we write so that we really think about what we’re writing, so that we express our feelings in beautiful, thoughtful and imaginative ways that speak to readers, people we’ve never even met before, ways that help us feel connected.
When I write in a creative way, using this intensity of thought and care, I feel like I’m writing what’s written inside of my heart. I am writing the truth of who I am. And when you write your truth, sparks fly, and suddenly a stranger sitting on the other side of the world understands exactly what you’re writing about, because maybe they’ve lived that moment too. Or maybe they haven’t - but the way you write it makes it feel as if they have. Writing creatively makes connections. It brings us together.
I believe that creativity gives everyone the chance to fly a little higher, dream a little bigger, think a little deeper. I know that when I engage with my creativity, I feel brighter. I feel bolder. I feel flawless, or at least like my flaws are virtues that I can put to good use. When I feel creative, I am less inclined to listen to that little snarling voice that likes to limit me and put me in my place, that voice that tells me what I can and can’t do. On the contrary - when I’m at my most creative, when the words just flow, I feel limitless, like I can do anything.
I want you to feel all of this too.
Why Write At All: My Writing Manifesto
Somedays, the world spins madly on its axis. You can’t stop, you can’t think, you can’t even just take a second to take it all in. There’s too many people that depend on you and somehow, they always come first. You forgot you along the way. Sometimes you feel like you might even forget to breathe.
Somedays, that feeling lasts forever, so long that those days turn into months and before we know it, years. And all the while, the world spins, our thoughts tumbling into a tangled nest, a frail heap as fragile as spun sugar.
When life gets like this, your head is a mess. Nothing is certain. Everything is madness.
And that’s when you need to write.
This is my writing manifesto:
Writing gives you clarity
When you write, the world makes more sense. When you write, you get a chance to pay attention to what you’re thinking, to confront what’s inside of you, figure this stuff called life out. It’s a precious gift, the chance to be alone with your thoughts. It’s like therapy. “The blank page on which I read my mind,” Dylan Thomas said.
Writing makes everything seem possible
When you write, you find your way again. Where once you were stuck, writing helps you process and power through. You see possibilities and options that you never even realised were there before.
Writing helps you play
When you write, you get to be free. You get to be you, but you also get to be whoever you want to be. Your imagination knows no bounds. And it feels so good to play with that. It’s like seeing the world as a child again.
Writing makes you capable
When you write, you astonish yourself with what you produce. The words come and you write such sentences that, when you read them back, are simply so beautiful, you can’t quite believe they came from you. And yet, they did, they do. Writing gives you the ownership of something that no one else can take away from you.
Writing makes sparks fly
When you write, you feel connected. You feel connected to yourself - to your mind, your thoughts, your heart. And you feel connected to other people. Writing helps us understand each other and that is ultimately the very essence of being human. One day, someone you don’t know might read that short story or blog post or article that you wrote. And if you’ve written it to your very best creative ability - by which I mean, with thought, care and intention and craft - then your writing will make that person, that stranger, feel like you’re sitting next to them. They will catch their breath because something you wrote spoke to them. When you write, you touch people more deeply than you know.
This is why I write. This is why I believe we all need to write.
What does writing creatively mean?
When I define my writing, I talk about it as writing creatively, not creative writing. You might be wondering what the difference is.
It’s simple; creative writing almost always refers to the pursuit of fiction. It implies that all other writing is not creative. I do not believe this.
For me, writing creatively is a way to write with thought, care, intention and craft, regardless of the genre or subject. It’s a way to pour out all the words inside of you, and it doesn’t matter if it’s for a bestseller or for your eyes only in your journal.
Put very simply, “creatively” is an adverb, a doing word. I consider both the act of writing and the act of being creative to be equally important and equally active pursuits. Writing creatively implies a vastness of freedom and imagination that I haven’t been able to reach when I think about the term creative writing.
If this sounds illogical, let me elaborate.
When I worked as a national newspaper journalist, I craved escapism from the dry world of brevity and news reporting. I took creative writing courses for that reason. And while the courses I took were valuable for giving me the time I needed to write and taught me technicalities about narrative styles and plot devices, what they didn’t do was help me connect with that joyful, uplifting feeling of being inspired. I just couldn’t reach that in a classroom.
And that’s when I realised that I needed to work on finding my own creativity inside me. That’s when I turned the term “creative writing” upside down and started calling it writing creatively instead. Simply naming it something else made me feel liberated and more open to exploring ideas.
So all in all, that’s why I prefer to call this course learning the craft of writing creatively. Writing creatively puts the emphasis on your creativity, your thought and your intention, not technicalities or the pressure to be published. Writing creatively sets your creative voice free for whatever kind of writing you wish to pursue. But to get there, first you have to unlock and set free the creativity that is already latent inside you. We start there.
Week One: Homework
One: define your creativity
Creativity is, of course, subjective. My version of creativity might not match up to yours. So let’s stop for a moment, before we throw ourselves into this course together. This is my first task for you.
Imagine a life - your life - without creativity and complete the following sentence:
“My life without creativity is…” Write down five words to describe it.
And now imagine the total opposite. Imagine you’re living your best, most creative life. Now, complete the sentence:
“My life with creativity is…” and write down five words to describe that life.
You don’t have to share these sentences with anyone, they are just for you, but I ask that you keep that last sentence, the one that describes your life with creativity, close to you throughout this course, so that you don’t lose sight of what it is you are searching for.
Write that sentence down in your journal. Stick it next to your bedside. Put it in your purse. Let it be your secret, the sort of secret that makes your heart flutter. And carry that secret, that longing, with you whenever you feel bogged down by day-to-day realities, or whenever you feel like you can’t keep up with this course because life happens to get in the way. This little task will keep you focused on what you want (and remind you what you really don’t want), not just out of this course, but on your journey to living a more creative, expressive, thoughtful life.
And meanwhile, let’s start that journey together.
Two: create your own writing manifesto
Why do you want to write? What will writing bring to you? How do you hope it will enrich your life? Consider these questions, and create your own writing manifesto. If you understand what you want to get out of writing, then chances are you’ll be even more committed to it when you start. Piece a paragraph together and then share your thoughts on the relevant homework thread in our Facebook group - this way, we can all feel focused, inspired and motivated.
Three: start reading what inspires you
Finally revisit your bookshelf and pick one of your absolute favourite books off the shelf - a book that you love for the way it has have been written. The sort of book that leaves you wishing you could write like that too. Start re-reading it, with the aim to have finished it by the end of this course (more on this later). Again, please feel free to share the books you’ve chosen on the Facebook group so that we can all have a glimpse into the kind of writing that inspires each of us.