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How Do I Improve My Creative Writing Skills?

Many students find creative writing one of the more difficult parts of English. I remember the days where my English teacher would present the class with a prompt on the board, some philosophical quote or image, and then get us to brainstorm different points about what we thought the stimulus symbolised or represented, after which we had to then compose an imaginative piece for. I recall sitting in my seat, paralysed, as the clock ticked in its unbearable persistence, each jump of the hand marking yet another moment in which I had nothing worthy of saying. I was unable to write much - if anything for that matter - let alone, produce an idea I was sincerely proud of and eager to translate into a story worthy of telling.


This was very difficult for me.


Firstly, rarely was I ever able to successfully extract a complex or profound idea from the stimulus, which meant that I was left with only a handful of rather simple and unamusing concerns that many writers have already explored (and much more effectively than I would have ever been able to do so myself). I thought: 'This idea is too simple. It's been said before. It's been done before.' Although there would be those few instances of pure luck where the Literary Gods would strike me with a eureka moment, where I would suddenly feel a rush of creative energy and conceive a beautifully layered and sophisticated idea that I felt was personally worthy of sharing and had in it, some value to the world, I knew I couldn't rely on mere chance when it came to exams.


I had to come up with a better strategy.


Looking back now, it felt that the problem with creative writing for me was that I felt that it was necessary to think of something that had never been previously thought of, as if I had to pull a rabbit out of a magical hat and say something that was so profoundly moving and riveting that Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickens and Woolf would rise up from their graves and give me a standing ovation for just how unique and exceptional the material inhabiting my mind was. To have produced a story that was simple meant that my mind was simple, that I was not capable of being admired by my teachers and peers. It was the fragility and delicateness of my ego that made these little tasks so difficult.


But today, when I compose a creative piece, it is on the off occasion where I bump into the same problem. And yet, the stories I tell now, if anything, lack both the extravagance and exuberance of those that I wrote before. In fact, I would go as far to say that my ideas have lost their fluorescence, instead emanating a calmness, a plainness and sense of realism, because I now realise that when we craft stories it's not necessarily about saying something that has never been said before.


Everything in this world has been recycled, and every idea that we have involves some form of thought-plagiarism. We borrow, emulate and copy our forerunners, with originality being rendered obsolete. The only original thought was man's first thought - with every single one following after it being a mere replication, extrapolation or interpretation of it. Once we realise that we aren't really all that special, that every passing thought, emotion, craving and setback of ours has probably been felt by some other person, dead or alive, we begin to see storytelling not as a rivalry for who can say something 'different' but who can speak to and touch the souls of so many that find themselves stuck in the same form of suffering. Though it is normal to want to say something interesting, to offer something fresh and new in the things we write, the stories we tell, I've realised however, the best stories are those which allow readers to fall into those problems that every single human being must confront as we pass through existence.


They are the ones that simply make us laugh or cry.


There's something in the way that our experiences interlock with each other and mirror one another that seems to hold the greatest beauty of all. Perhaps then, it's not about how groundbreaking or mind-bending our stories become as we continuously pursue our desire to break entrance into a higher sphere, but it's about returning back to the basics and swallowing our pride to produce a story so simple that every single person can find a solution to our shared problem of simply being a human.


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