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5 Tips for Beginning Creative Writers

Are you interested in creative writing, but don’t know where to begin? Or you’re worried you won’t be good enough? Or, you used to write a lot, but stopped and want to get back into it? If so, here are a few tips to get you started! I am by no means an expert in creative writing, but after writing for a majority of my life and taking a fair amount of creative writing classes at UMass, I know a couple of tips that can help out beginning writers. These are some things that I definitely wish I heard when I started writing.

Also, before we begin, you should toss away the myth you might have heard that you have to study English to write creatively. Seriously, don’t think that just because your passion is biology, history, computer science, etc. means you can’t write creatively, or that your creative writing won’t be good. Similarly, don’t listen to anyone that says your writing doesn’t matter if that’s not what you want to do as a career, or if you don’t ever have intentions of publishing your writing. Anyone can write, and everyone’s writing matters. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get started!

1. Don’t worry about your writing being good.

Alright, I know this sounds crazy, (who doesn’t want their writing to be good?) but hear me out. Whether you’re an aspiring author or just writing a few minutes before bed, you shouldn’t worry about your writing being good at first. The most important thing when starting writing is just to get words onto the paper. Not everything that you write is going to be spectacular at first, and that’s okay. Just keep writing. The more you write, the more practice you’ll have, and the more ideas you’ll generate. You’ll have plenty of time later to edit your writing to make better, stronger second and third drafts.

2. You don’t have to write stories or poems to write creatively.

If you aren’t big into writing fiction stories or poems, or you’re just strapped for ideas, you can still write creative non-fiction stories. Is there a really funny family story that your parents tell every Christmas? Write it down! Did you have a really weird party experience with your friends that you can’t get out of your head? Write that down too! You can even just write creatively in your journal, talking about your day. Describe the way someone’s breath smelt on the bus. Write a dramatic love note to pizza. Write about your day, but from the perspective of your shoes. I’m sure you have plenty of material to write about before you even think about creating fictional characters and stories.

3. Start small.

You may have a killer novel idea about dragons and wizards or aliens invading earth, and that’s awesome, but when you’re beginning to write, you should start small. You want to pick something that’s relatively simple and focus in on all of the details. Start by describing the way the air smells and feels after a thunderstorm. Write about what your favorite pair of jeans look like, noting details like color, texture, smell, etc. Work on writing about the small details at first, and then build your stories/poems up from there.

4. Read. Read a lot.

More often than not, the more you read, the better you get at writing. Reading can give you inspiration, help improve your critical thinking, widen your vocabulary, and more. (If you want to know more, you can read this article from the Huffington Post!) You can pick up a novel or just read from some awesome online literary journals, many of which feature work from undergrad and graduate creative writers. UMass even has one, Jabberwocky. Seriously, keep reading!

5. Don’t be afraid to show your work to people, even if it’s not done.

In the same way that having classmates peer-edit papers helps improve your academic writing, having people read your creative work can help your creative writing. If you’ve been working on a story for a while, show it to one of your friends! Showing other people your writing, especially if you’re not used to it, can be terrifying, but I’ve found that my writing has always gotten better when it’s looked at by someone else. Ask your roommate, your partner, your mom, anyone who you trust to read your work. I guarantee they’ll be excited to do so! If you’re not ready to show someone your writing yet, you can still bounce ideas off of them. Who knows, maybe your friends or family will inspire you to take your writing in a whole new direction.

Once you’re ready to get going, here are a couple websites with writing prompts and a few great free literary journals to read. Also, I highly recommend the book Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Part autobiography, part instructional writing guide, it’s a perfect read for beginning and experienced writers alike. I read this book last summer, and it taught me so much about writing, more than I thought it would.

If you ever doubt your writing, or get frustrated with the process, just remember this: you’re writing for yourself, and no one else. As long as your enjoying it, your writing is worthwhile. Good luck!

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Rachel is an English major and a Senior at UMass Amherst, a student assistant at W.E.B. Dubois Library, an expert at procrastinating and tripping over stuff, and likes dinosaurs, tea, video games, and all things sparkly.
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