Having only ever taught creative writing before, I was keen to introduce exercises that each of them could apply to their own projects. So, at the end of the second session I asked them all what they wanted from the course.
I was quite taken aback when, as one, they shouted: "FUN!!"
I rolled my eyes and I thought: "pearls before swine!"
But then I got to thinking that maybe they were right, and that it was they who had a thing or two to teach me about creativity, and not the other way around.
Because creativity and play have a lot in common.
In order to be creative, we need to develop the same attitudes and state of mind that we do when we play. Firstly, we must be completely absorbed but not too attached to the end product. We must remain fluid and able to respond spontaneously in the moment. We must let the game take us where it will - outside any preconceived notions or linear thought processes. We mustn't be too anxious when we play, or too self conscious (perhaps that's why adults play so little). Play requires that we forget ourselves, let go, and see what happens. Exactly the qualities required for creativity.
A long time ago I asked an older, wiser writer friend if she knew a cure for writer's block. She said she met with her fellow writer friends once a month just to do writing exercises. I told her I didn't have time for that and that I needed to focus on getting this book done. She replied that she found the exercises helpful because they helped her to 'take it all less seriously'.
There was a pause, during which we looked at one another and I knew that there was a lesson in there for me, somewhere. But I didn't take it. Now my students are teaching me the same lesson. Perhaps it's time I listened.
Heather Dyer - children's author and Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow
- For enquiries about creative writing workshops for children or adults, or editorial services, go to www.heatherdyer.co.uk
- For enquiries about academic writing workshops, go to: http://rlfconsultants.com/consultants/heather-dyer/