Creative writing changed my life for the better and gave me motivation and excitement for the future. In this post I will tell you why practising creative writing and being rigorously creative can be educational, liberating and even therapeutic. I will also tell you how you can start writing today.

As this is my first post on this blog, let me briefly introduce myself:

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mila Oaks and I love to write.
Hi, my name is Mila Oaks.

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, but now I live in the Netherlands. I have always enjoyed exploring languages and (fictional) stories and thus became a lecturer in Media & Communication studies. However, I realized after two years that the job was not for me and in a period of figuring out my true strengths and weaknesses, I rediscovered creative writing, which I had loved to do as a child.

Compared to then, I don’t write detective stories for children anymore (maybe in the future) but I enjoy writing fantasy and science fiction. So I started writing a sci-fi book and got lost in the addicting habit of writing short stories. To me getting lost in a good fictional story is more than just escapism, when I write I feel like I can be rigorously honest with myself even though my exact interpretation of the words might be hidden from other readers. It is like a code, a secret language I have only with myself, and with those readers who are skilled in the art of fantasy story interpretation. šŸ˜‰

I believe that it is the imagination of humans that will shape our future.

At some point, I felt the urge to share my stories with the world and to talk with people about why creative writing and imagination are two skills that are so important for each of us but also for our society. Nowadays we are afraid that AI will take over the jobs of authors and painters and that there will be no space for artists anymore. But I still believe that it is the imagination of humans that will shape our future. Let me tell you why.

What Oxford has to say

The Oxford University campus. During summer you can take a course in creative writing here.

According to the Oxford summer school at the University of Oxford, a course in creative writing can benefit you in five ways:

  • Better Imagination
  • More Empathy
  • Increased Thought Clarification
  • Improved Vocabulary
  • Better ability to give Constructive Reviews

Now you might think ‘Duh! Of course, but how does it change my life like you pompously announced in the first paragraph?’ (You can see that I have quite a vivid imagination of you, the reader, already sitting on my shoulder and giving me constructive criticism.)

The Life-Changing Benefits

Better imagination generally means that you can think outside the box and come up with new solutions that others might not. If you are an overthinker like me that might also become dangerous, so be careful where your thoughts are taking you. šŸ˜ˆ A post by Psychology Today states, about the benefits of increased imagination:

“What we imagine can affect what we believe and vice versa.”

Psychology Today, 2022

If you can imagine a bright future and you can believe in it it will help you to achieve it. If you believe you can do something you can find ways to imagine how to do it and so on. Greater imagination will not only help you think outside the box and come up with solutions in your job for example but it can also help you imagine a brighter future that you can believe in. You just need to be aware of where your thoughts are taking you.

A media studies concept I was teaching to first-year students is the so-called Cultivation Theory, claiming that if users are regularly exposed to certain media it will affect their perception of society. If you regularly watch crime series you might think that the world around you is more violent than it is, if you watch bad news every day you might think that the world around you is mostly bad and so on… So if you are able to imagine a goal or a bright future more vividly it might help you to believe in it. But the same can happen if you always imagine a bad future.

How Empathy can affect the relationships around you

Empathy allows you to understand the people around you and their reactions better. It allows you to create deep connections with people and broaden your horizon. In creative writing, you create characters that might be unlike yourself and (especially in fictional stories) you put them in situations that you might never encounter, like fighting a dragon. You need to think about how they react and how they succeed or fail, what they learn from it, and what goes through their head during the fight.

Empathy allows you to create deep connections with people and to broaden your horizon.

If you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes you are better at helping others, persuading someone or getting to know people better by asking the right questions (not only what you find interesting but what someone else might like to talk about).

Clear your thoughts

As an overthinker, the spiral of possible negative outcomes is often standing in my way. What helps me then is that I have learned to focus on those thoughts that benefit me and let go of the others. Imagine your browser window with hundreds of tabs open and you have forgotten which one is playing this annoying music. Well, imagine you could just close all the tabs that you don’t need anymore and focus on the ones that are important right now for work or to finish your paper for uni.

Writing can help you with that. Journaling was not a huge trend for nothing. However, I personally never got motivated to journal. Instead, I write fictional stories where people are feeling similar emotions to what I am going through at that moment and when I am done with the story I can let go of the thoughts that pull me down, just close the tab with the annoying music and leave it in the story I just wrote.

An additional benefit is that improved vocabulary can help you when you want to learn a language for example. Apart from practising random sentences that you will probably never use in real life on Duolingo (like the fabulous sentence “excuse me, I am an apple” that I encountered when learning Dutch). Have you ever tried to write a story in a language that you want to learn or improve?

Group Therapy

You will not learn constructive reviews from just writing by yourself. That is why it is such a good idea to find a creative writing group once you have started with your own writing. If you feel comfortable with that group, writing together will give you motivation, confidence and, if you want, develop your ability for constructive criticism.

Practicing creative writing in a group will give you motivation and hold you accountable for writing regularly.

Writing with others will also hold you accountable for writing regularly. Some people start a hobby and forget about it after a while if they cannot share it with others. With a group, you are going through all the feelings from “I don’t think this is very good” to “This one will make you laugh” together.

I just joined a creative writing group a few months ago and it gives me so much motivation. Realizing that other people enjoy hearing my stories is the best feeling in the world when you are just starting to find your own voice. I also get inspired by the stories of the others, it helps me to find new ideas for stories, plot twists or characters.

How to start today

Set the scene - find a comfortable place to write.

Now to the last part of my promise: How you can start writing today. The easiest way to start is by following writing prompts. I will give you four examples in just a second. But first…

Set the scene – Before you start writing make sure you prepare a comfortable place for you to write, buy a nice new notebook if you want to write by hand or make your work desk comfortable for you. Get yourself a cup of hot tea or coffee and enjoy where your story takes you.

Put a timer – Now, imagine you have a nice cup of your favourite tea in your hand, you’re wearing your cosiest pyjama and you are sitting comfortably on a chair or on your couch. Maybe it is raining outside and the sun is slowly setting. You have a moment for yourself and you are so glad you can be inside your warm cosy house right now doing what you love. You sigh and lift your pen or your hands over your keyboard. But suddenly there it is: The blank page. How do you start?

This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

Neil Gaiman

Many writers recommend that the best practice to write is just to write. It does not matter if it is good or bad in the beginning but if you don’t start you cannot improve. A tip is to set a timer to 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes you just write whichever story you want to write about, you don’t stop to read over it again or to edit something. You just write for those 20 minutes and see what happens.

You can also promise yourself to just write one paragraph and if you don’t know what to write afterwards you stop for the day. I promise you that once you have written down that paragraph you get many more ideas on how to continue. Also, make sure to not look at your phone in those 20 minutes or distract yourself in any other way. This time is just for you and the scary blank page to get to know each other.

3 tips to start writing: Create a comfortable environment, set a timer promising yourself to write at least one paragraph during that time and read, read, read as many books as you can.

Read, read, read – If you want to practice creative writing more regularly I recommend you to read a lot (or listen to audiobooks if you prefer that). With every book you read, you improve your vocabulary (even if you are a native speaker of that language) and you learn from successful authors. Every good book can inspire your own stories.

Writing Prompts

Here are a few ideas for your first writing session:

The text prompt – Write a story about an abandoned building and what you find in there.

The random words prompt – Write a story that contains or is inspired by these words: Rain, noise, colourful, spirit, smile. (If you are writing in a group each person can think of a random word.)

The quote prompt – “A mask tells us more than a face.” Oscar Wilde

The picture prompt – Write a story inspired by this picture.

Creative writing picture prompt.

If you want more writing prompts you can find an endless stream of writing prompts here: (Reedsy) and I will be posting more writing prompts and stories for your inspiration soon.

I hope with this post I could inspire you to grab an empty page and start writing. If you feel comfortable, share your story in the comments. If my motivation did not inspire you to write yourself, I hope I could at least explain why I like it so much. If you want to read more of my stories you are at the right place. Click here for my first short story: A Tin Soldier’s Dream. Let me know in the comments what you think about creative writing and you’ll hear from me soon.

Your Mila Oaks


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