September 5, 2018

Communicating with Creative Storytelling

Communicating with Creative Storytelling

The crisp crackle of the cover as you open the book. The satisfaction when you turn the last page. Words that are new yet sound familiar, as if they were the words you were struggling to say all along.

I recently attended Ann Wylie’s creative writing conference in Portland. While there, I rediscovered my passion for all things word-related. I grew up writing but had lost touch with what I loved about it. You’ve probably experienced this, too. With impending deadlines, writing can become a chore and even a point of stress.

Ann reminded me how much fun writing can be. She gave me practical tips to improve my writing and overall creative process—and to give myself space to enjoy the process. I’ve also revisited advice I learned from great writers. And what better way to learn about writing than from those who do it best?

First, from the conference leader herself: “Communicate, don’t decorate.” -Ann Wylie

While this conference focused on key topics like adding color to your writing through description, this quote resonated with me the most. Make sure each description you add to your writing has a purpose. It’s easy to get caught up making your writing engaging and forget the key purpose of writing—to communicate.

Read each word and consider whether it adds value. Ask yourself: If I took this out, would the text still make sense and make my point? If the answer is yes, cut it.

This leads to my second takeaway, and one of my favorite quotes on writing:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…[until] your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.” -Stephen King

You may find yourself using adverbs in your effort to add vibrancy to your writing. What does this signal? Perhaps your verbs and adjectives aren’t strong enough to stand on their own. Try finding a verb that encapsulates the action you’re describing.  Instead of writing: “She hurriedly walked to her next class,” try: “She rushed to her next class.” The second option gets to the point faster and paints a vivid picture.

Sometimes, adverbs signal you're being repetitive. A statement like, “She thoughtfully considered what she was reading” includes an unnecessary adverb. You could instead say, “She considered.”

Mignon Fogarty, in her Grammar Girl blog, gives further tips for cutting adverbs.

“We don’t know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops.” -John Cleese   

At the writing conference, Ann delved into the creative process, explaining her approach to work:

·         Forage by researching widely to get inspiration.

·         Take time to analyze your research.

·         Step back to incubate and give yourself time to put your thoughts together.

·         Find your breakthrough, that “big idea.”

·         Then knuckle down and write.


Lastly, build in time for creativity

The most novel idea of Ann’s creative process was the time scheduled for inspiration. In our fast-paced culture, it’s easy to keep working and never stop to breathe. This can damage our ability to be creative since we don’t give ourselves time to become creative. Have you ever found your best idea while stopped at a traffic light? Me too. It’s because you gave yourself time.

Even when you don’t have time to step away from your work, take a mini break and switch tasks before coming back to your writing. You’ll find your rest was valuable for the creative process.

The takeaways: Remember, the purpose of writing is to communicate. Consider attending an Ann Wylie writing workshop. Cut adverbs to simplify your writing. And find inspiration with a process that gives space for creativity.

How have you found creativity in your writing? Tweet us @JayRayAdsPR