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Use this link to make a copy of the Google Doc we will use for this writing module!

Google Doc: Creative Writing Workshop

Creative Writing Exercise 1#Writing About Myself

TED Ed Video: The case against "good" and "bad" by Marlee Neel

Workshop Focus: Word Choice for Clarity and Depth
  • Clarity: Get your reader to really understand who you are, what you value, and what you hope to accomplish in your life.
  • Depth: Lead your reader to the truth about you and about those events, people and ideas that have shaped your life.

Prompts Menu (Pick one to respond to):
  1. What are your favorite things about yourself, and why are those things so great?
  2. What do you wish you could do, and what does that say about you?
  3. What do you want to get over, get past, or get on with?
  4. What are some assumptions people make about you? Which of those assumptions are true, and which are not? How do these assumptions make you feel?
  5. How do you express your individuality?
Need help getting started?
  1. Just get started.
  2. Trust your thoughts and ideas.
  3. Understand that writing is a journey taken one idea at a time.
  4. Make lists of words and ideas.
  5. Organize your ideas using graphic organizers.
  6. Draw what you're thinking.
  7. Close your eyes, and visualize what you want to write about.
  8. Read your writing out loud to get a better sense of how it sounds.
  9. Use a thesaurus to find better, more interesting words. Go here:
Online Thesaurus

Mrs. Bestor's Example from PROMPT 2:

If I close my eyes and work my imagination, I can see it. My limbs stretch out, muscles taut, finger bones crammed into the fissures in the cool gray rock, sweat beads on my upper lip, on my temples, my pony-tailed hair points down in the direction I do not want to go. I am climbing a rock, the flat face of El Capitan.

I am defying gravity and my own fear, risking it all just for the sake of risking it all.

The air is still and heavy, scented by pine and water and sweat. The cries of the eagles patrolling the canyon echo about me like moving targets. My breath is ragged, my jaw clenched, but I am strong.

I am one with the landscape, melded to this moment, contentedly out of step with the life I lead elsewhere.

Tonight, slung in a Gortex hammock, I will sleep against this rock, hovering like a cloud one hundred feet over the canyon. The skin of my fingers and hands will be shredded, the muscles in my back will ache, the arches of my feet will cramp, yet I will sleep free of worry because in this place, in this time, I am singularly focused on being alive.

Creative Writing Exercise 2
#Playing with Metaphor in Haiku

TED Ed Video: The art of the metaphor by Jane Hirshfield

Workshop Focus:

  1. -Develop the art of writing in metaphor using the Japanese form of poetry called haiku
  2. -Record a significant event in your life or in history using a series of 3 - 5 haiku poems; include a metaphor in each
  3. -Give consideration to your tone. Are you going to use humor? Will you be serious? Is your subject one that evokes moments of sorrow, regret, anger, fear?
  4. (NOTE: Tone = the auThor's feeling at the time of his or her writing)

To apply the metaphor from the video, let's use our writing to create a handle and open the door to our personal truths.

The Rules of Haiku
  • 3 line poems
    • Line one: 5 syllables
    • Line two: 7 syllables
    • Line three: 5 syllables
  • Topics: nature, human experience and emotions, scenes from life, precious people
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Poem Bank for Inspiration
(Note: While the words in these poems have been accurately translated from Japanese to convey accurate meaning, the pattern of syllabication doesn't translate. As a result, some lines do not follow the syllable rules of haiku.)

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus -
A lovely sunset
- Matsuo Bashō

Reader’s Notes:
  • Terms?
    • Twilight = sunset
    • Hue = color
  • Meaning? Natural beauty is accessible on a small and large scale; what matters is that we look for it!

The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.
- Natsume Soseki

Reader’s Notes:
Meaning? The light from any given star may be so old and it may have taken so long to travel across the universe that the star it originated from may already have burned out! Whoa! Mind blowing, right? We matter, but we are small in comparison to the vast, unknowable Universe we inhabit.

My life,
How much more of it remains?
The night is brief.
- Masaoka Shiki

Reader’s Notes:
Questions to get us thinking about the deeper meaning here: Do you get the sense that this is a person in his or her later years, having already lived the longer hours of day and is now heading into the shorter hours of night? Is there regret here or a sense of urgency?
Tips for getting started...
  1. Think of something you want to write about, something that is freshly on your mind or something you feel strongly about. In other words, think about what you're thinking about!
  2. Compare that something to something else, something it most definitely is not, but something it shares common characteristics with.
  3. Be patient. Think hard. This will take some imagination.
  4. Next, create the metaphor, that comparison you can make that captures the intent of your poem, the kernel of truth you want to reveal.
  5. Now, write your haiku. Play with words and syllables and tone until you've developed a message, a meaning conveyed in metaphor with a limited number of syllables.

Think Aloud Example:
I want to write about betrayal, how people who are supposed to be there to help you and take of you responsibly, use their power for their own benefit.

To what can I compare that type of person? That feeling? A fire! A fire can be good. It can keep us warm, provide light, a source of heat for cooking, but what happens when what can be good turns bad? What happens when the fire burns out of control? We get burned; everything gets burned! That's what betrayal feels like!

So, that's going to be my starting point...a fire meant for my benefit ends up burning me.

Now, on to my haiku...line 1, 5 syllables, line 2, 7 syllables, line 3, 5 syllables.

A fire starts for warmth
Flames dance, red and glistening
Then comes the dragon

Now, let's change our tone a bit and write about something a little lighter than betrayal.

Let's write about how sometimes the best thing, the most critical thing, the most important thing we need is also a very simple thing, like going back to bed. Sometimes all we really need is the chance to go back to bed. Here we go...

Missed Opportunities
A snow-less winter
No early morning phone calls
No sleeping in now

Check out Macguire's haiku called "Out." His truth? It's all about perspective!

The crack of the bat
The sound of the leather smacking
The umpire's loud voice

So, depending on where you're at on the baseball field, OUT has a different meaning. OUT is a tragedy for the batter yet a triumph for the team in the field.

Then what's the metaphor here? What's the deeper truth? It's this: what is a win for some of us may be a loss for others. It depends who you are, where you are located, and what's going on around you. It's all about perspective!


Creative Writing Exercise 3
#All in #Fully Committed Descriptions

TED Ed Video: How to write descriptively by Nalo Hopkinson

Workshop Focus:
Transport your reader into a moment, a scene, or an experience using words so descriptive your readers will not be able to help but hear, see, taste, feel, and smell what you're writing about.

To begin, think about the following items. See them in your mind. Experience them with your senses.

  • a cooked spaghetti noodle
  • a green grape
  • a pretzel stick
  • a red and white peppermint candy

On your Creative Writing Workshop Google Doc create a list of descriptive words for each item based on the questions that follow. You are welcome to copy and paste into your Google Doc for Exercise 3 the following chart to help you organize your ideas.

Exercise 3: Descrptive Language Chart

If not, simply list your descriptive language choices for each item based on the following criteria:
  • How does it look? (color, size, texture, movement)
  • How does it sound?
  • How does it smell and/or taste?
  • How does it feel?
  • What do you do with it, or what does it do?

Now choose one of the items you just wrote about or another item you prefer to describe. Now place this item in a wider scene, integrating your description into the scene you've imagined.

For example:
Cooked Spaghetti Noodle:
She used her fork to unstick the cooled pale noodle from her plate. She wormed it around in the spaghetti sauce her mother had made. It was better that she remain quiet. Bringing up the subject of her report card was like bringing up vomit, hot, messy, and offensive. There was no way to talk about how much she hated school, how much it reminded her that she was a loser, a failure, and would never be anything but without inviting her father's rage. Yet her dilemma intensified the longer she sat at the dinner table curling and uncurling the same spaghetti noodle. She knew her teacher would be calling soon, and she could not decide if it was better to warn her parents of this in advance or hide in her room while the teacher talked to Mom and Dad about how yet again, Audrey had failed a test, neglected to turn in corrected homework, and was too embarrassed to ask the teacher for help. To Audrey, math was like her mother's spaghetti sauce. Most people liked it and found it easy to eat, but Audrey did not.

Red and White Peppermint Candy:
Crisp, sparkling flavors tingled in her mouth. She had not eaten for two days when she found the bright red and white peppermint in the bottom of her coat pocket. The small minty disc clacked against her teeth as she swirled it around in her mouth. The saliva generated by this exercise moistened the dryness she'd been tasting during her days of silent waiting. She savored the candy until there was nothing left but a single sweet sliver which quickly dissolved on her tongue. She held the candy's crinkly cellophane wrapper to her nose and sniffed it. The fresh scent reminded her of home, of her grandmother who used to keep a bowl of these same striped mints on a table in the entryway of the house. At the sight of bowl visitors felt welcome, but nothing about Melanie's home seemed welcoming now, not since her mother got remarried.

Creative Writing Exercise 4


In this visual presentation of his poem "Bad Day" slam poet Shane Koyczan gets honest with his audience. He takes us into his experience with mental, emotional, and social pain, yet he encourages us to remain strong, courageous, and hopeful in spite of our struggle.

Final Workshop Focus:

As we've been learning all week, good writing has the ability to communicate not just between the minds of the writer and the reader, but also between their hearts and their souls.

What worthwhile life lessons have you learned? Which of these do you want to share? With whom would you like to share your learning?

Write a poem, personal narrative, or letter sharing this lesson. Use all the strategies for strong writing that we've practiced this week -- word choice for clarity and depth, metaphor for getting at a deeper truth, descriptive, sensory rich language, and honesty in writing.

Did you hear some of the metaphors Koyczan created? He tells us to "scrape the gray sky clean" and "Be a mirror reflecting yourself back" and "Be the weed growing through the cracks in the cement. Beautiful because it doesn't know it isn't supposed to grow there." Each of these metaphors shouts its meaning, its affirmations for the audience!

Now, consider some of the poet's carefully chosen words and phrases.
  1. "Declare" instead of "tell"
  2. "Risers" instead of "people who overcome problems"
  3. "Resolute" instead "committed"
  4. "Nightmare" instead of "bad experience"

Getting Started:

Before you begin, generate a list of words that you will use, those that capture the positive feelings or experiences you want for yourself and your reader and those that capture the difficulties in life. Use those to build your written piece. You may choose to use repetition as Koyczan does in order to create rhythm and emphasize particular messages for your reader. You may choose to use rhyme, onomatopoeia, or alliteration for sound effect.

Here is an example of a word choice list.

Positive Words that Carry
My Message
Words About Life’s Challenges
luminous glow
Mrs. Bestor's Poem:

You are a wonder
Even your frailties and flaws glow
Your vulnerability is not your weakness

Continue to feel acutely because that is who you are
And even as new arrows sink deeply into your chest
Continue to use those injuries to provide comfort to others

This is your one go ‘round
So pay attention
Try things
Let failure be your teacher as well as success

Reach higher and push harder
Even when you think you unable
Be patient and be tender with yourself
You are not the only person seeking answers
To your questions

Struggle for truth and justice
Pledge that there will be no lost causes

Believe you are here for a reason
Find it
Fulfill it
Live in such a way that those you meet
Will have no doubt of that reason

You are perfect in all of your imperfection
Take heart in that

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Need more inspiration? Think about Forrest Gump. Forrest says, "Life is like a box of chocolates." You never know what you're going to get, but ultimately, anything in a box of chocolates will be fairly good, right?

Forrest could easily have made his simile into a metaphor by making his comparison directly: Life is a box of chocolates.
Perhaps beginning with a metaphor is best.

Finally when you have finished today's writing, highlight examples of the following in your writing:
  • METAPHOR -- in yellow
  • SENSORY DETAILS -- in blue
  • DELIBERATE WORD CHOICES (those words you thought long and hard about to make sure your reader really understands your truth) -- in pink

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