As a creative writing teacher, I get asked this question a lot: How can I get my students to write what I want them to write?
And the answer is, I don’t know. Sometimes.
But mostly, it’s a struggle.
See, I want my students to write great stories, and they want to write what they want to write. But somewhere along the line, they get blocked.
And then they blame me, thinking that if they can’t write the type of story I’m teaching them to write, then I must not be a good teacher. But if I am a good teacher, then they must be able to write what they want to write, and they don’t.
I want to teach my students to be brave and creative enough to write the story they want to tell, and I want to be the best teacher I can be. So how can I get them there?
Here are some suggestions.
Change Your Own Mindset
Believe it or not, your mindset is a HUGE factor in determining how good or bad you’ll do as a writer.
If you think that writing is difficult, then you’re going to have a difficult time becoming a good writer.
But if you believe that writing is fun and that you have what it takes, then your writing career will go much smoother. We all have tendencies that get in the way of our success, but you have to be aware of them and change them if you want to succeed.
Set Goals And Do Your Homework
Setting goals and doing your homework are essential if you’re going to become a good writer.
I have my students write down three goals for each class, and then I review those with them at the end of each class.
These goals should be specific and measurable, something you can look back on with pride, rather than something you hoped would happen or something you convinced yourself to believe.
For example, my students might write down the goal of having their work published. A lot of aspiring writers want to be famous, but they don’t really know what that means.
So they set the goal of having their work published, and then they are disappointed when they don’t become famous overnight.
Setting goals and doing your homework are important for a writer because it helps you define what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan on achieving it.
When I teach a writing class, I don’t want my students to just show up and write.
I want them to have a concept in mind of what they’re trying to write, and then I help them figure out the best way to go about it.
In addition to setting goals and doing your homework, be sure to follow through on what you set out to do.
If you want to be a published author, then write a great book.
Don’t just show up and write.
Take your time, and follow the advice and suggestions of those who know more about writing than you do.
Take criticism seriously, but don’t be discouraged by it. Learn what you can from your mistakes, and then try again.
A lot of writers think that their first draft is the best draft.
I have my students write rough drafts, where they throw all the characters and plot points together and see how it all fits, and then we go back and edit it.
Writing is a process, and you’re going to make mistakes along the way. The only mistake you’re going to make if you don’t try is not writing at all.
Use Your Words
When you write, don’t be afraid to use your words.
If you have something worth saying, then SAY it.
You might find that you don’t know how to word something, or maybe you have a concept in mind but don’t know how to word it.
In either case, it’s best to just talk about it.
I have my students write short stories based on true events, and a lot of the time, they don’t feel comfortable writing about something that happened to them.
So they don’t produce any work.
Then I have other students who feel that they can’t write about something that didn’t happen to them, so they don’t try either.
Just talking about your work helps you find the right words to use. If you’re stuck, then so are your readers. You’re both going to have to work together to figure it out.
Writing is not just about sitting down and putting words on a page.
It’s about getting into the right head space to write.
Sometimes we get so bogged down in the day-to-day routine that we forget to look up at the sky and notice the clouds drifting by, the birds chirping, or the sunshine glistening on the water.
Take time out of your day to do something creative.
Whether you find yourself stuck for words or you have a plot point you need help with, putting your mind in a different place can sometimes bring new ideas and inspiration.
Creative writing is all about having fun and being creative. So take time out of your schedule to do something that makes you happy. You might find that it helps you get into the right head space to have fun and be creative, and then your writing will follow.
It’s good to have goals, and it’s important to do your homework, take criticism seriously, and follow through on what you set out to do.
But it’s also important to have fun, be creative, and allow your mind to wander in the right direction. If you do those things, then you’ll be much more likely to produce quality work and have what it takes to be a successful creative writer.