By Graham Strong
I took a creative writing class in university, and the second-most important lesson I learned was the power of trying new writing approaches to unlock creativity. Our assignment was to write a poem in the style of e.e. cummings. It was the magician’s classic trick of misdirection – we were so busy trying to write in his distinctive way that we didn’t notice our own creativity at work. Even though I’m not exactly a poet, the highest mark I received in the course was for that assignment.
Why did it work? It’s simple: it helped the writers in the class get out of our ruts.
Ruts are a natural thing. Humans are designed to learn pathways to success by exploring what works and bumping into what doesn’t – and then following those pathways to success over and over again. But as useful as that is for a species, it’s deadly to creativity.
Here’s a secret: that well-worn, rutted path is just one way to the finish line. There are other successful paths yet to be found. As creatives, we need something to knock us out of our cow cart path and find new – and more interesting – directions.
Flash fiction can help us jump the tracks. It is a chance to experiment and grow as writers, no matter what type of writing you normally do. The format is compressed enough that you really have to focus on telling the story in a short amount of space. That in itself forces you to be creative. It also makes you think about different ways of getting your story across to your reader because of the strict confines of the writing form.
Challenge yourself as a writer by giving flash fiction a whirl. Then enter your best story in our summer Flash Fiction contest for a chance to win cash prizes.
You’ll find yourself exploring new fields in no time!
(PS – the most important lesson I learned, in case you were wondering, was how to take criticism. Very important for a writer!)
Some Writing Prompts to Get You Started
Stuck on what to write about? It’s a common affliction – so common in fact that there are dozens of websites out there to help you out with writing prompts and story ideas. Here are a few writing prompts to rev up your imagination:
Nothing tickle your fancy? Check out: http://writingexercises.co.uk/random-words-exercises.php for a nifty little program that generates eight one-word prompts at a time.
Graham is a full-time freelance marketing writer, journalist, and ghostwriter and has been a writer his entire life. Graham is a former Editor-in-Chief of Argus, the Student Newspaper of Lakehead University, and helped transition it into one of the first digitally produced newspapers in North America. Graham won an Honourable Mention in NOWW’s first writing contest in 1998 for his short story Hat Trick. Professionally, Graham provides marketing writing services to businesses and organizations around the world. He also writes for several news outlets including the Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal and the Northern Ontario Medical Journal, and has written for Canadian Press. In his spare time he is writing his first novel. Graham lives in Thunder Bay with local potter Noël Keag and their three incredible sons. His favourite writers are Paul Quarrington, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hunter S. Thompson.