Creative Writing. It’s something we think about every day, but at the same time, we don’t even acknowledge its existence. We think up ideas for stories and adventures as we ride in the car, eat McDonald’s, and sleep. It is extremely important for our minds to be able to express our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and everything else that makes us human beings. As teenagers, our brains are still developing, and although the school system was created to make workers, our society needs creators. Red and blue, not black and white. Purple, not gray.
But where is it in schools?
In school, students are reading old books. “Classics” they call them. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, and Romeo and Juliet. All realistic fiction books. We have had fantasy stories every once and awhile, but when was the last time we read a fantasy book in English class that was adventurous and actually exciting? When was the last time you read something in English class that you actually wanted to read?
Yeah, I can't remember either.
You could say I’m biased, but when asked why us students should be taught creative reading and writing in English, my answer would automatically be something along the lines of-- “Why wouldn’t you want to do creative writing? Why wouldn’t you want to read creative fiction?”
Creative reading and writing is something every student (or even every person) should learn to love and appreciate. It expands your mind and helps you gain a better understanding of the English language and the world around you. Fiction should be taught more in English class because of how beneficial it is to teenagers everywhere.
When you are a high school student, you can’t help but feel as though the entire world is coming down on top of you. You are told how to speak, think, work, problem solve, and how to analyze everything. If you don’t believe me, think about it. Vocabulary test, and the expectation that you will use these words in your writing and on assignments. You are given deadlines that force you to focus on just those things. You are showed how to complete problems in math class with specific steps. You are told to find the theme of a story or speech and explore the text but then told exactly what the message actually is and how the one you found is wrong.
Have you ever been in art class and just get so excited because you can make any sort of clay model? You can draw anything you want too? It’s all up to you. You get to choose everything. It’s exactly the same when you are writing a story. When it comes to creative writing, everything is up to you. It is your own adventure, your own story. You get to choose who, what, when, where, and why. You get to imagine what people look like, what they act like, and how they dress. Who they are. You could say that it’s not just creative writing, it’s also realistic fiction. You still get to control everything and make the characters into your own image. Right? Well, I suppose. Until you have to do research about what laws they have in Egypt. Or your character is exploring New York City, and you have to actually go and look up the name of the streets and the buildings on those streets and-ugh! This is too much work! I give up! I’m not writing this anymore!
But if you wrote a fiction piece, where you can bend the laws of physics and humanity and you can create new worlds, all to your own design. A world where magic is so common, if you are born without it you are an outcast. A world where the Norse Gods are real, and they are angry. A world where Dragons are the superior race, and there are not many humans left. It doesn’t have to be fantasy for it to be creative though. You can create a world where Earth was destroyed, so humans now explore deep space in search of a new planet. Or in the year 3457, a group of aliens from a planet far away have taken over Earth and the rebellion has started.
That sounds a lot more exciting than researching where exactly the Pantheon is in Rome. Or looking at the specific laws in Utah.
Anyway-- Onwards soldier!
Creative writing has been proven to connect to the levels of happiness you experience. When you are writing what you want, exploring what you want, you enjoy it. I can say that I agree with this. One-hundred percent. I am a writer. I write every day. Writing to cool down at night. Writing to explore different worlds, and escape this one. Writing to get a response. Writing to get a reaction. Writing to see what others thought. Writing to read the comments online. Writing to see that other people enjoy my writing. Writing just to write.
It doesn’t always have to be creative writing to make you happy. It can be writing down the events of the day. What you dreamed about. How your day went. A study by Stefanie Spera, Eric Buhrfeind, and James Pennebaker shows how writing affects a group of jobless engineers. One group did nothing out of the ordinary. The remaining were supposed to write for twenty minutes every day for five days. Half were tasked with writing about time management, and the other half would keep a journal about their deepest thoughts and feelings.
A few months later, less than five percent of the engineers who didn’t write anything were reemployed. Twenty-six percent of the groups writing expressively were reemployed.
“Interestingly, expressive writing didn’t land the engineers any more interviews. It just increased the odds that they were hired when they did have an interview. Expressive writing affected the quality, not the quantity, of their job search. The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less.” (Adam Grant)
About eight months later, nineteen percent of the engineers from the control group were reemployed, and fifty-two percent of the engineers in the expressive group were reemployed.
Self-expression is extremely important; it helps you relax. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. It helps relieve some of the more stressful things in your life. Now, using writing as an excuse to not do your work isn’t going to help with stress at all, trust me, I know. But taking some time during your day to explore something other than what's happening in your life can be very… calming. You are using it as an escape. And sometimes that's all you need. A little escape.
Writing is powerful.
Wait! Really, it is! You can use writing for basically anything. You can use it for your own purposes, like writing an alternative ending to your favorite tv show that was canceled. Or you can use it to entertain, like writing fantasy. Writing is a way to spread your messages, ideas, and feelings to the world. You can use writing for good and you can use it for bad. But it all depends on how well you use your words. How you morph your nouns and adjective from words in the dictionary to colors and emotions. Just like a car, or a plane or a boat, you can use writing to travel the world; explore it.
Imagination. The action of forming new ideas. The action of lying in your bed and letting your brain wander into Wonderland late at night. The action of exploring the back of your brain while you hum along to a song mindlessly on the bus. The way that you look at the world all depends on your imagination. You use your imagination to make yourself more aware of and question your surroundings. And you can expand this ability with creative writing.
Think about it.
I am a high school student. I’m white and I’m female. I have written a tall, outgoing Cuban boy going to college. I have written a small non-binary person traveling through space. I have written an angry Korean boy who was orphaned at a young age and just, really likes sword fighting. I am none of these things, but I used my imagination to expand my thoughts, and explore what it would be like to be these people.
“By encouraging adolescents to write from different narratives, it forces them to examine all sides of a story, not just one perspective.” (Sheaffer).
You are digging down deep, searching for those small details that you didn’t know exist. You can’t do that by writing boring essays. Essays are just someone telling you how to write something. How to think about this thing. How to examine this thing. How to determine your outcome of this thing. Everything is a check-off list. Simply adding things because you need that A to get your dad to pay for gas money this month.
And trust me, that’s not how you want to write.
Have you ever had a word of the day in English class? Words you never heard of before, and will probably never hear again? But we are taught them because it’s English class. You learn English. You study what words mean and why, and that’s the end of it. You learn to understand the meaning of the things given to you, but it isn’t your own understanding of it. It’s your teachers understanding and society's understanding.
With creative writing, the moral of the story is up for grabs. You can see whatever it is any way you want. For example, look at Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. The most famous fantasy book since The Chronicles of Narnia. There are so many different aspects of that books, you could say anything is the theme really. Love, friendship, death, power, rebellion. Everyone sees the theme differentially. Me? I see Harry Potter as a story about fate. Whether it is that you will always be tied to your fate or you don’t have to be tied to your fate, I’m not sure. But I know that that is the theme I picked up from it.
While you’re reading Animal Farm you are understanding the words they are saying. That’s why you read it. But while you are reading Harry Potter, you are understanding the story. As you turn the thin white pages, you gain new experiences that you can learn from. For example, you learn you can’t always trust those around you. (Sometimes they are secretly Death). You learn that your friends will always stay at your side if they are really your friends. You learn not to judge someone for who their family is. And you learn that Umbridge is way worse than Voldemort. I’m just kidding (but she totally is). You learn the importance of friendship. Friendship. Power and the struggle people will go through to get it.
“While rudimentary English classes lays the groundwork for understanding the nature of language, creative writing helps elaborate on the importance of story, and it is not an extraneous lesson. Stories overwhelm our culture. Stories help us build strong relationships. Story structure is at the base of all things, a sacred geometry if you will. I bet you anything we all use stories far more than (or on par with) mathematics daily.” (Sheaffer).
Stories have been with us since the beginning. Since the eighties, at least! Nah, I’m just kidding. Since we became humans. Developed, able-bodied human beings, with goals and talents and a knack for storytelling.
But you never use writing after school! Why learn it, if it isn’t important in my future? After high school, there is no need for them to learn it. You could even apply that logic to music and art! Why take any of those classes unless you are going to use them in the distant future?
“Some people don’t like reading fantasy!”
“It just doesn’t come naturally to some people!”
“There is no point!”
All of these arguments are invalid and make no sense.
Using that logic, why would someone who wants to be a singer take Algebra, just like how someone who wants to be an engineer shouldn’t have to take art classes. Why is it that you have to take these overly complicated math and science classes, things that you would only use if you were going to become a rocket scientist when you want to become a writer?
Well, just like how we take math to open people up to it and to learn problem-solving skills, you take music class to open you up to it. You don’t have to fall in love with music, no one is saying you have to, but it is an experience. You may actually love it. But you will never know if you love it unless you try. And you can’t use the excuse that you just aren’t good at it until you have tried. That’s the same excuse you used with your mom and dad when you were six and just didn’t want to try to ride your bike anymore. You thought you couldn’t do it, but when you finally tried, you found that it wasn’t that hard after all.
Writing is something that has always been in my life. I have used words to explore everything from what it would feel like to be a watch to what Death thinks of us humans. You can do anything you want with writing. The world is your oyster. You can create and defend and hope and dream all on one page. And now, as I slam my fingers against the back keys in frustration, I can’t help but wonder what I’m going to write next. Not necessarily this exact piece of writing, but what I’m going to write when I get home. Because that's the beauty of writing. You are putting your brain on shuffle and seeing what will happen. You have no clue what is going to come up next.
Now, we are always going to have to write essays as high school students, that isn’t going to change. I mean, this literally is an essay about why we shouldn’t have to write essays. (It’s both productive and contradicting.) But teachers and students alike should be more open to fiction, and the capabilities it has. Exploration. Discovery. Revenge. Healing. Anything can come out of a good story. The question is whether or not you are going to write it.
Red and Blue. Purple, not gray.