The number one question that kids ask me when I do school talks, more popular even than how much I earn or what colour my toothbrush is (true story, I get asked this!), is this one:
Where do you get your ideas?
When I tell them that ideas are all around us and that writers are just people who’ve trained themselves to see them, I can see immediately that some kids get it straight away – and others are more confused than ever.
“I’m not very imaginative,” one girl told me. “I don’t really see dragons and fairies all around me.”
“Er, neither do I,” I said, “but everywhere I look there are things that spark ideas for stories, and sometimes dragons wander into those stories…”
The truth is, though, that it’s actually the second part that’s most important: writers are people who’ve trained themselves to see ideas. Trained themselves. Practised over and over.
But how do you do that? Can you really learn to be more creative?
I think you can, and I’ve got five tips for you that will help get your training started.
HOW TO BE MORE CREATIVE: FOUR WRITING TIPS FOR KIDS
1. Let yourself be bored
I know what you’re thinking. “Allison, seriously?” But I’ve got to tell you that it’s very hard to come up with creative ideas when you’re filling every waking minute with your phone or social media or television or sport or whatever form of organised (or disorganised) activity you reach for when you have five minutes to yourself.
The best ideas happen when you’re not busy doing something else. Give yourself some space in your day for thinking and wondering.
2. Try something new to read
Sometimes we get into a rut with our reading. We know what we like, and going back to it over and over is like revisiting old friends. I get that. I still have books that I read when I was a kid and I love slipping back into those worlds.
But I have to tell you that it’s the other stuff I read – the different things, the non-fiction, the books recommended to me by other people, the books I didn’t even think I’d like – that give me the best ideas for my own stories.
The same goes for things you watch. When I tell kids at my school talks that I get some of my best ideas for stories because my husband likes to watch train documentaries, they look at me like I’ve lost the plot. But I do. Those train guys visit some of the weirdest and wackiest places and I get ideas every time I watch one.
Try something new. You never know where it will take you.
3. Write it all down
If you have a great idea for a story, or even if you just see something funny one day, or hear a word you really like, write it down. Keep a journal.
This does not have to be a diary, as in ‘today I woke up, went to school, it was boring, I came home’, but rather just somewhere for you to keep little snippets.
Make it a habit to write one thing in it every day. One tiny thing you saw, or heard, or read. Maybe it’s a picture, or a snippet from a newspaper (if you still have one), or something that grabbed your attention in a train documentary (seriously, it happens…).
If you do that, you will never be short of a story idea. When someone asks you to write a story, you just go to your journal and pick the idea you like best.
4. Think about why you write
I get it. Sometime you’re only writing because you have a school assignment due. But I think it’s always worth considering the true beauty of writing. And it’s this:
When you write, you control the whole world of your story.
Nothing happens unless you want it to.
The bad guys always get their comeuppance (if that’s what you want).
The good guy always has the wittiest retort to any playground insult.
Is there anywhere else in your life that you get to control everything? I thought not. Tap into your creativity by taking one thing that happened today that you wish had gone differently, and write it the way you want. Make it so.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here. If you’d like to learn more about writing from me, have a look at my Creative Writing Quest For Kids, an online course that takes you through the process of writing a great story from start to finish.
PSSST! I’ve also got some great tips for parents here: 5 tips to help get kids creating (not consuming)