Honing Creative Skills

The next stage is to explore your creative imagination further and begin exploring language, imagery and other techniques of creative writing. For this, there are some exercises you can try.

The first is called Discover Your Continent. Imagine a door in your home, or library or walled garden. Anywhere. Close your eyes and visualise the door. Try writing a description of it. Then imagine going through the door and visualise the first three things you see. The colours, the smells, any noises in the distance. Write about those. Then imagine going further into this environment and describe what else is there and how it feels. Try to complete 10 sentences or, in the case of a poem, 10 lines. Then describe meeting someone, maybe someone you know. What do they say? What do you say? Devote another 10 sentences or lines to this. Then put away for a few days, maybe longer, and go back with a fresh pair of eyes. Hopefully, you will be able to revise this raw material into a story or poem.

Another exercise is one I call Grow Your Own. Go to a shelf full of books, fiction or poetry, and choose a volume at random. Then just as randomly open the book and put your finger down on a page. Your finger should have landed on a word. Write that word down, along with the three words preceding it and the three following. You then have a seven word phrase. Using this as your opening phrase, continue writing on for the next five minutes. Don’t stop and don’t think, just keep writing. When finished, read through it forwards and then backwards, word for word. Underline any phrase or phrases that stand out to you. The phrase should make a kind of sense, or have inner sense. Now write something containing the phrase or phrases and, hopefully, a fuller piece will grow out of them.

A more disciplined exercise is writing a piece of Flash Fiction. The popular definition of flash fiction is a piece of prose that does not exceed 1000 words. This format is currently very popular on internet writing sites and examples can be seen on such locations. They tend to take the form of anecdotes or recorded conversation. I would suggest starting with 50 words or less. Try writing about the area you live within that word count; words and short phrases that sum up the area to you. For example, using this approach, I tried a short poem about Blackpool which goes like this:


Officially birthed

In Victoriana



Since the first hamlet



Earlier than that


Black & Pool

Dubh & Linn

In Nordic Irish

Dubh Linn. Sound familiar?

You will often amaze yourself how less can work out as more.


Getting Started

The page is an open space. Your space, where anything is possible because you call the shots. There is no constraint here, only the scope of your imagination. And this is a scope that is ever evolving. Writers are not just born, they are made. And continue to be made through life experiences and how these shape our creative imagination.

So this is where to begin. With a blank page and a pen. Simple as that. Start jotting down any thought you may have, no matter how random. Each random thought you have written is potentially the seed of a story, poem or article; whichever genre you feel comfortable in writing, or adventurous in exploring.

However, you may still find yourself stuck for ideas. But there are ideas all around you, just waiting to be plucked from the air. So try these as a starter. A voyage around your bedroom. A family secret. A family event. Your last holiday. Your first day at school. The possibilities are endless. And you don’t have to constrain yourself by being entirely factual. If your imagination can embellish the facts with more colour, then let it. That is what creative writing is about. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.