Finding the right creative space can be difficult for a young person, especially when it comes to writing. Knowing how you best write can go a long way in creating that excellent piece of work. On the flip side, it can be disastrous when the conditions don’t suit.
Primary-aged school students experience a vast range of writing conditions. They’ll progress through school having teachers who: demand silence, encourage collaboration, provide stimuli, give complete freedom, brainstorm beforehand, ask students to think of something new, play music in the background, have students write outdoors, have students write indoors, allow 10 minutes, allow 90 minutes, offer help, encourage independence, edit the work for the students, only accept self-editing, focus on persuasive texts, focus on narrative texts, and the list goes on. Some teachers have set conditions which change little during the year, while others may expose their students to several of the above in an attempt to mix things up. In either case, children are never allowed to settle into a pattern of conditions in their primary years. But is this a bad thing?
While the chopping and changing of writing conditions creates difficulty for students to settle into a consistent groove, it exposes them to a rich variety of experiences. It allows them to see that writing for different purposes entails different situations and set-ups. And students use this range of experiences to work out what suits them best. They work out what they want to write and how they want to write it. That’s when you’ve hit gold. Once a student has identified their preferred methods, questions arise such as, ‘Can you put music on?’, ‘Can I sit on my own?’, ‘Can you tell everybody to be quiet?’ and ‘Can I work outside?’.
The best young writers I’ve taught had the ability to identify and create their ideal writing space, but more importantly, make different conditions work for them. They adjusted their approach according to the purpose and set-up of the task. They produced GOOD work in all situations, and GREAT work when their creative space was just right. Those young writers identified how to promote their A-game, without using conditions as an excuse to “clock-off”.
Writing is a very personal task, and experiencing a range of conditions allows young people to discover their ideals. It’s part of the rich tapestry of primary education made up careful planning and trial and error. Allowing students to find the right creative space is just part of the game.
I recently went to Kangaroo Valley for a writing retreat to finish Exploding Endings 3. The creative space there allowed me to go over the manuscript as a whole, as well as write a couple of brand new last-minute inclusions. The space and quiet was conducive to my best creativity, and inspiration was the result. It’s definitely a nice headspace to be in when writing.
How do you best create? I’d love to hear in comments below.