Last October/November I took a creative writing workshop at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) with published author Carol Bruneau. The workshop lasted for eight classes, and in that time I learned some great tips for writing creatively, and practiced my writing through various exercises. Not all of Bruneau’s advice or writing exercises (of which there were many) helped me get over certain stumbling blocks, and I’m sure that some of what I wrote during the workshop isn’t worth the page on which it was written, but Bruneau’s workshop was great because it got me writing and thinking about new ways to look at my novel in progress. I’d like to share some of Bruneau’s wisdom, what writing exercises worked for me, and why taking a writing workshop can help motivate you and improve your writing.
Creative writing with Carol Bruneau: Week One
Carol Bruneau says that writing is walking really slowly and looking at stuff. To write you need to take notice of the world around you and really look. She suggests carrying a notebook with you wherever you go and jotting down the quirky things you see, the funny expressions you hear, and any interesting or odd incidents that you come across. You may never feel the need to use these notes in your fiction or creative non-fiction writing, but writing these things in a notebook gets you into the habit of noticing what is going on around you and thinking creatively about your experiences.
Bruneau also says that good writing speaks to the reader; it draws the reader in so that s/he can relate to the story. She suggests doing this by capturing synesthesia in your writing — in other words, write all of the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Although this wasn’t the first time I heard about writing from the senses, and I know I’ve occasionally done this in my writing before (but not deliberately and without intention), Bruneau gave us the following exercise, which allowed me to put this great writing technique into practice:
Write about a colour as though you are explaining it to a blind person. What does it mean to you? What/who does it remind you of?
This writing exercise made me think about colour and description in a different way. Not only did I attempt to describe the sight, sound, touch, taste and smell of a colour — an intangible perception — but I also personified that colour (I chose blue because it’s my favourite) and gave it a personality. Writing the senses breathed life into my description of the colour blue and made it more dynamic. It also got my creative juices flowing because I had to shift the way I think about colour in order to describe it to someone who has never seen it before. I really enjoyed this exercise — it was my AHA! moment of Bruneau’s first class. I certainly feel that describing the senses (not by accident but with intention) has greatly improved my creative writing. Try it and see for yourself!
In my next blog post I’ll discuss my experiences during week two of the WFNS Creative Writing Workshop in which Carol Bruneau got us to work on creating and developing characters — an area that I seem to have difficulty with.