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Opening the floodgates of creativity

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'The greatest learning tool God gave us is: The child's imagination, writing is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration'

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When I was invited to write a weekly column for the Cape Argus two years ago, I asked what I was supposed to write about?

The editor replied: anything.

That explains the wide range of topics I cover. It invariably addresses some of the problems that face our school-going children.

In my bid to improve literacy and encourage pupils at all levels, I offer some strategies to demystify the demon of creative writing.

First, it is best to write about things you know. Your name, your address, information about your family, your pet’s name.

This kind of information is usually a good start for keeping a diary.

You write what you know. It cannot be wrong or irrelevant. A diary contains your own truths that can never be wrong.

We progress to category-writing, like: My favourite food or fruit is The person I love most is These triggers sound simple, but they open the gates of creativity. We stimulate the imagination.

For instance, if you could be a fruit, what would it be? Or an animal?

We have moved from the known to the imaginative. Pictures, books, photographs, family albums could be introduced openly or unobtrusively. The main thing is that the writer is on familiar ground.

Now we start to explore. We take a cartoon and block out the speech bubbles. We tell a story of the pictures.

This reinforces sequence. From there, a verse from credible texts or a photograph from a newspaper provides “hangers” for sentences.

Then we move on to spoken scenarios. We say: “There is a girl. She is six years old. A sudden sound makes her say: “Mummy.” Tell me the story.

The steps above are tiny increments in building confidence. From there we move to advanced writing. We move into re-telling a story.

This is a major step. Language rules are established here. Or the story could be retold in another tense. We can provide endings or beginnings and trigger creativity.

I hope you are still reading. Because I have tried to tell you an important truth.

We under-utilise the greatest learning tool God gave us: the child’s imagination. Once the child has written, read back what he has said. Do some panel-beating.

Allow peers to add or subtract to what has been said or written. These simple strategies work by repetition. Writing is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.

What is paramount is that writing must be taught, not tested.

If what I have said resonates with you, you know my e-mail address. Let us form support groups that cover all the areas from transactional to creative writing.

I am willing to engage with you in order to bury the fear of the blank page, what the scholars call the tabula rasa.

Let’s get writing.