Unit 1: Free your Imagination

“Indulge yourself in your first drafts, and write against yourself in revisions.” — Jonathan Lethem

Click below to watch a video introducing this first unit and ideas about being creative.

Unit 1 Introduction – video transcript

All writing is imaginative. The translation of experience or thought into words is of itself an imaginative process. It's impossible to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in words, because words are of a different form than experience, and their choice is determined by an array of cultural and personal influences. Writers learn quickly that a written incident is not necessarily credible because it “really happened,” — it is convincing in the writing, not the facts. You will never exactly “catch” an experience you have lived, but you may reveal new insights in recasting that experience.

All writing is autobiographical as well as invented. Just as it's impossible to write the literal truth about any experience, so it's also impossible to invent without drawing on the experiences that furnish your brain. What you write will inevitably reveal to some extent both what you think the world is like and what you think it should be like. Between the two impossibilities — of perfectly capturing your experience in words and of avoiding it altogether — lies the territory that we call “creative”.

The overriding idea of this course, and particularly this first unit, is creative but serious play — the kind of play that makes you a superior swimmer or singer, a first-rate fiddler or football player. As with any skill, a writer's power grows by practising the moves and mastering the instrument.  So start playing with the quiz below and the activities on the following screens.

Writing about writing

To get into a playful mood, while taking in some food for thought, have a go at the quick quiz below. Click the circle next to whichever famous author you believe said each quote about writing. You will get feedback as soon as you click an option, but don't worry: you aren't being scored and can have as many guesses as you like without anyone knowing.

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham
“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann
“The idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for a while is just bliss.”
J.K. Rowling

As any writer will tell you, it feels wonderful when writing pours out feverishly, without you seeming to have any responsibility for it. But over and over again, writers attest to the fact that inspiration only comes with, and as a result of, the doing.

You'll need a playground, so click to move on to