Check out some books by your tutor Fiona Veitch Smith … (click on the book covers to find out more)

fiona-veitch-smith-the-jazz-files fiona-veitch-smith-the-peace-garden fiona-veitch-smith-david-and-the-hairy-beast fiona-veitch-smith-david-and-the-giant

free creative writing courseHello everyone, welcome to the first session of our free online creative writing course. Over the next eight sessions we will be looking at different aspects of creative writing and trying our hand at various forms. I’d strongly encourage you to have a go at the exercises along the way, and please feel free to leave comments or ask questions at the end. If you have arrived on this page without first reading the home page and frequently asked questions page (on tab above) please go back and do so now. If you have read them, enjoy the course!

Creativity and Art

What is creativity? The Collins dictionary defines it as ‘the ability to cause something to exist’. Without getting into too much of an existential discussion, I would say that with every thought that is expressed, something has been created. It was Descartes who said: ‘I think, therefore I am’; well I would add, ‘I think, therefore I create’ (do you feel a God complex coming on?). But how do we express our thoughts? Sometimes we do it verbally, other times by body language and still again through what is loosely termed ‘art’.

Art takes place when a thought is expressed and fixed in a way that other people may experience it on an aesthetic level – through music, writing, painting, sculpture, choreography and so on. Many artists say that their best work takes place when they ‘by-pass’ the thought and simply express the feeling. This may be true, but for writers, who use a verbal medium, a feeling must first be converted into a thought before it can be put into words. Don’t over analyse the thought before you express it, as this way you can ‘channel’ the purest interpretation of the feeling, but some cognitive process needs to take place. Some writers prefer to mull over a thought and give it form before they put pen to paper – I’m one of them – but it’s good practice to try and switch off the ‘editor’ at least for the first draft. First response trigger exercises are useful in this regard and can release some unexpected words and images.

Exercise 1:
Write down your first response to these words or phrases:

  • Blue ball
  • And that’s when the sadness came
  • Coffee

The first task of a good writer is to convert feelings into thoughts and then into words. This is the raw material that can then be converted into something more permanent. Some writers refuse to toy with their first drafts, believing their creativity will be diluted; I disagree. Allowing your critical mind to improve a piece of writing is where the craftsman meets the artist. Something produced only by the former will lack soul and something by the latter will lack form. Good writing is a combination of art and craft.

For public consumption

Art, of course, is highly subjective and one woman’s masterpiece is another woman’s unmade bed. We all have the ability to create, but whether or not our creation is ‘art’ must be left to the eye or ear of the beholder.

In this session we will look at how you can craft those creative thoughts into creative writing to share with other people. And that’s what sets ‘public’ writing apart from ‘private’ scribblings – there’s a perceived readership in mind. When I ramble on in my journal, I am the only one who will read it (hopefully!) so my only concern is getting my thoughts down on paper. The moment I want someone else to read it I begin to consider ways to improve the presentation and craft it into something more aesthetically pleasing. I consider which words may sound more colourful, whether or not my sentence structure is grammatically correct, whether I’m using evocative imagery, and so on.

Story, feeling or image?

What is it about those creative thoughts that you think might be of interest to other people? Do they speak of an eternal truth or a common experience? Do they make you laugh or cry? Do they suggest a story that will entertain or a poem that captures a moment that must be shared?

Exercise 2: In 50 words or less write down why you want to write then list three creative thoughts that you’ve had lately (each 10 words or less). These may be an image, a musing, a ‘truth’, a story, or so on. If you haven’t had any, take yourself for a walk and look around; what grabs your imagination? Browse through a newspaper or a magazine; do any stories or pictures catch your attention? Think back over your day; did anything funny, charming, shocking or unusual happen to you or someone you know?

Poetry or prose?

Some people are more suited to writing poetry than prose and some people do well at both. Although we won’t be discussing it in this course, other people are more suited to script. I’m one of them. I’ve had relative success as a prose writer and in fact have managed to earn a living from it, but it’s taken years of hard work to get to this point. I recently branched out into scriptwriting and found that I had much more of a natural ability. (If you’re interested in finding out more about scriptwriting, check out getting started in playwrighting). You may find that you’ve been trying to make it as a poet when actually you’re more suited to prose. Now I don’t want to pigeonhole anyone, but ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you more attracted to films than stills?
  • Do you enjoy telling people ‘stories’ from your life?
  • Do you prefer to read stories or poems?

If yes, to these, then you may be more suited to prose than poetry. If no, then the opposite may be true. If it’s ‘sometimes yes, sometimes no’ then perhaps you are suited to both. We shall be looking at how to write poems in more detail in session 7, but suffice to say, a poem is like a snapshot of a moment. If you can’t rest until you know what happened before and after, then prose may be your genre.

Exercise 3: Take one of the three creative thoughts you wrote down in Exercise 2, then list 20 separate words that communicate or describe that thought. Do not, at this stage, link the words into sentences. Once you have your 20 words use them in a poem of 16 lines or less. Then, take the same 20 words and work them into a short story of under 300 words. Which exercise came more easily? Which form has best communicated your creative thought?

Further Resources:

There are some excellent resources out there for creative writers. To get quick ‘starter’ images when your own well is dry I recommend The Writer’s Block by Jason Rekulak. I’m currently working through The Creative Writing Coursebook by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs and finding it very useful.

The next creative writing course session is how to write a short story. But before you move on to that, please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question in the box below.

1,244 comments on “Releasing your Creativity

  1. Jenna S on said:

    I just wanted to say that this course worked splendidly in getting me to start writing up again. The exercises worked great though in the 3rd one I had difficulty staying under the word count limit, but that’s mostly a personal problem. Thank you for providing a free course for people, like me, to brush up on their skills and really begin to understand themselves as authors.

  2. Juanika Choates on said:

    Thanks a lot

  3. Shobana Gomes on said:

    Thank you Fiona, loved the exercises!

  4. Arthur Sacramento on said:

    I came across this great online course looking for free creative writing course on the internet. Very interesting. I am trying to develop my writing abilities to be able to write books about my life experiences and try to help other people. I want the writing to be light and expressive. Thank you so much for your instructions. I have done all the requested exercises on this first step and I found it very useful.

  5. Ahmed Ali on said:

    Thank you so much for given me an opportunity to brush up my writing. My question to you is what do think I can do to improve my gramer, vocabulary and sentences building.
    Thanks again.
    Ahmed Ali

    • Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

      Hi, there are plenty of online courses that can help you do that. The British Council has some that I’m aware of. Search for ‘free English grammar classes’. Good luck!

  6. Janice Cooley on said:

    I’m really enjoying your course and I have learned that I like story writing the best. I wrote a lot of poems in high school but that was many years ago. Now story writing is what I want to do. And by the way, I love the way your course is set up. It’s practically dummy-proof and I really appreciate that.

  7. sherbaz on said:

    Great to see you there gain.No doubt it is superb and worth interesting.Although I had started your course few years back but left half cooked due to unavailability of net facility in the remote area where I live. Now the service of net is good and me rising again to catch your course. Starting without any delay
    Why writing? actually after retirement majority of people here think no life ahead and they linger like worn out socks.I hate this attitude- towards golden life.Why not second life in publishing, more glowing, more fun and more career boost. Job means a cage which can not make you fly. Isn’t it? I have legacy of writing for radio, stage and documentaries. Not new to English too. I have been to London and have earned masters degree in media related field. However, I am new to writing in English in creative domain. Hope your course will be effective one for me.
    Great many thanks for offering this course free.

  8. I have always had a flair for writing and use it as a major medium of expression and this course has fined tuned my writing skills to a proficient level. I am particularly impressed by the “pigeon hole”part..I was quite surprised at my poetic skills. Thanks Fiona for the valuable guidelines.

  9. Hi Fiona,
    For exercise 3 is the task to incorporate all 20 words into the poem and short story?

    • Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

      Hi Nav, yes that’s right. Try to use all 20 words – or variations on them. For instance, you may have written down ‘exciting’ but you fell that ‘excite’ fits your poem or story better. Good luck!


  10. Amanda on said:

    I have enjoyed writing since I was young. I am finally going to start working on one of my dreams. I would love to be able to write my own book in the future. I found this course on line and I couldn’t be more happy with it. Thank you for sharing all your valuable information.

  11. This is awesome!!! Ty

  12. Annette Antunes on said:

    Wow -I really was wondering if I have it in me to put my experiences onto the page in a truly creative way and after just 10 minutes into your course Exercise 3 showed me how easily I can actually write creatively. It’s early days but already I am feeling more confident. Thank you

  13. JoHanna Haas on said:

    I can’t wait to start.

  14. Naomi Klose on said:

    Thank you Fiona for posting this resource, I have only just started but I love the exercises you have put into it – they really do make you think hard!!

  15. jennifer owens on said:

    This was awesome and so fun! I have been praying, thinking and ignoring at times my desire to write. I feel like I am so full of ideas and things to share I know others feel as well I must be bursting at the seems! Now, as I am stuck home with Covid19 restrictions, I am forced to face one of my biggest fears….writing. Yup, of all the crap I have been through, I know myself well enough to know, once I start, I will not stop. Stop telling my truth, stop expressing myself in ways conversation stops me, and stop to take time to care what others may think. This is my time, maybe just to get it out for me, maybe to share with others and maybe to start something bigger than I could imagine. All hands off deck, Im in. Thank you for offering this its just what I needed :)

  16. Apple Grace on said:

    It is very helpful especially for a beginner like me, Fiona. Thank you so much ?? Now excited for the next lessons

  17. Monisha on said:

    Hi Fiona, Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I’ve just started doing the course. What drew me to it was the idea of finding my ‘writing’ voice. And the fact that I can do it at my own pace. From the first session, I’ve learnt that I am definitely a prose person, over poetry. On to the next lesson :-)

  18. Aisha on said:

    I am a beginner and i want to be an online freelancer,this course is really helpful,i write poems,and sometimes i find it really hard to say it all in few lines,just now,i realized i prefer prose,even though i never wrote any before.thank you so much

  19. Florie Deniz on said:

    I am a beginner but have a passion for writing. Your course module is highly effective yet beneficial and helping me understand well. Thank you for your efforts to make us grow in this field and earn a living. All the best to you in your future ventures.

  20. Nwankwo Mary uloma on said:

    I find this course really interesting and I look forward to learning more.

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