Write like a creative writer

What can creative writing teach you about writing at work? More than you might think. When our Marianne isn’t working at Writer HQ, she’s busy writing plays. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share her top tips for improving your writing.

Part I: getting started

Don’t get it right, get it written

A friend once told me she’d like to write a novel. But if she did, it would have to be the Next Great British Novel. Anything less would be an abject failure. Unsurprisingly, she’s never written a word.

The blank page can be terrifying. And the more pressure you put on yourself to write the killer proposal, the kickass marketing concept, the hilarious email... the harder it gets. Sometimes it’s easier to do nothing (or procrastinate until the last possible moment) than put pen to paper.

There’s no one way to get around this. The simplest thing I do to calm my panicked brain is call a document ‘notes’ or ‘draft’. It’s not ‘the Next Great Play’, it’s just ‘notes’. And that gives me permission to write anything I like, without worrying whether it’s any good or not.

First drafts of creative works are rarely great – they don’t need to be. You just need to get to the end of them.

Be a bit kinder to yourself during this stage, and plough on through.

(And if you’re a chronic procrastinator, this is the best article you’ll ever read about why it happens, and how to fix it. Warning: it’s longish, so don’t read it if you’re mid-procrastination.)

Constraints liberate

If you’re looking to generate ideas, don’t leave the brief wide open, give yourself restrictions. One playwriting exercise is to write a play in ten lines: the first line should be ten words, the second line should be nine words, and so on down to a final one-word line. It sounds impossibly tricky, but it focuses the mind.

Could you summarise your annual report into a haiku? Could you write your business strategy as a tweet? Give yourself limits, and you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

Time constraints, like the tomato timer method, can help, too. Turn off all your email and social media, set yourself 25 minutes to do as much as you can and then take a five-minute break for a cuppa.

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