Creative Writing

I don’t know if they still do it, or even if anyone did it beyond one class I had when I was young (grade school?), but in that class, they had us envision “My Life as a Pencil” or some such thing and then write about it.

On the surface, it’s a rather silly notion, and maybe best aimed at children, but it isn’t without merit as a writing exercise.  Aren’t we all trying to gain a new perspective?  Present ideas in new ways?  See the world from another person(thing)’s point of view?  Starting with an inanimate object or an animal forces us to veer greatly from the common views.  Does a dog worry about politics and wars across the globe?  Does a pencil care anything about world hunger?  And if they don’t worry or care about those things, what DO they think about?  Okay, so maybe pencils don’t “think”, but if they could what would be their concerns?  “If I have to write one more sentence without being sharpened, I swear I’m just going to break!”

Perhaps if you practice writing about those kinds of things, it may spark new ideas about what your characters might say or do or think.  It may push you to take a closer look at the world they live in and how that might affect them.  I knew a girl once who told of her life before she came to America.  She had lived in a Communist country (I forget which one – at the time there were more of them than there are now).  Her reality was that you eagerly sought to be a better “junior Communist”, sort of like being a good Scout and advancing in the program, earning badges and recognition.  She had no reason to question the “rightness” of that because it was all around her and everyone believed similarly.

Many of the characteristics of an individual are born of the life they have led, the environment in which they have grown up, their experiences and what they have been taught.  One child grows up racist while another does not.  They learned that in “their world”.  Similarly your characters draw from the world around them.  Someone saying mean or cruel things might never have been taught anything else.  What would it take for them to change their thinking and behave differently?  Another person telling them “Stop that!  It isn’t nice.  You shouldn’t do that anymore.” isn’t likely to work.  “Oh, okay, sorry.  I’ll stop right now.”  Uh, no.  People aren’t like that.  Your characters aren’t like that.

By the same token, few people are identical in spite of similarities.  Even “identical” twins tend to have something that differentiates them, even if it is just their color preference or favorite food.  Not all black men are the same, not all professional women are the same, not all stock brokers are the same.  Having race or gender or occupation in common isn’t the sum total of who they are.  Those differences are what make life, and people, interesting.  If all of us were carbon copies, life would be very dull.  No surprises, nothing new, every single day just like the last.

So, what is your cat thinking about as he gazes out the window?  How does your house like the way you decorate it for Christmas?  Are the stars laughing at us for wishing on them?

Find out!


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