Of course writers of fiction are creative. They use their imagination to inhabit and people other worlds. But they also write what they know. I’ve often found imagination pushes what I know. I discover things I didn’t realise I already knew by engaging the imagination. But does that creativity spill out and appear elsewhere? And are we in fact being more creative in other areas than even in our writing?
Parallels between teaching and writing
For twenty-six years I was a secondary school teacher. Days during term time included five to six hours contact time with students and then two to three hours marking and preparation. Preparation was a joy. It was relaxation at the end of a busy day, it was preparing for the future and it offered hope. Perhaps they would understand and even enjoy what I was offering. Or better still they would be inspired, then motivated and in fact would direct their own learning.
Writing and teaching share a cycle of action research. You plan something and then you try it out. If it works you build on it. If it doesn’t, you adapt, teach again and then revaluate, planning again if need be.
I often tell my creative writing students that teaching and writing is actually a difficult combination until you become a competent and confidant enough teacher to be able to switch off at weekends and in the school holidays. Teaching saps much of your creative energy.
That said, I did start my MA in Writing for Children whilst I was head of Modern Languages at a demanding comprehensive school. So, anything is possible I suppose.
Working with prompts
I’ve always enjoyed this and have come up with some very pleasing work in response to random prompts. I now build this into my writing routine. After an edit of my novel I’ll write a short story based on one of the prompts from my Prompts book. And I also have a go every so often at submitting something to a “Themed” call for submission. Just to show that I can.
In fact the Prompts book is based on prompts. I invite other writers to provide them but I then also look at lists of prompts and turn each one into something slightly different.
This reminds me a little of lesson-planning. I enjoy creating events, whether they are our annual celebration events, book launches for myself or other writers, or seminars and talks on aspects of writing and publishing.
Working with restraints
This is a little like working with prompts anyway. You have to come up with something specific, maybe a certain number of words, or in a certain time frame or on a certain theme. I once created some higher reading papers for GCSE German. They had to include certain words and phrases, be pertinent to certain skill levels and there was a fairly strict word count. Great fun. I made them all episodes of the same story which began to read a little like something from My Family.