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Helena Artmann has a bachelor degree in Communications with a vast experience in PR and the online world. Before moving to Canada in 2005, Helena published a variety of articles in Brazilian magazines and websites, mostly about travel, adventure, outdoor, gear, environment and her favourite activities, mountaineer and hot air ballooning. This is her website: http://artmanncommunications.com

Creative Writing: 10 Things I Learned That Changed the Course of my Writing

I recently ended an incredible journey: six weeks of Creative Writing classes with Helen Rolfe and nine inspiring women. I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up for the course – I knew I wanted to improve my writing and work on my book, but that was pretty much it. What I gained from these six weeks and the support of this group was absolutely fabulous.

1.     We all have a story to tell – and finding the time to put pen to paper is worth it.

2.     We all have our own way to tell our story – but we always can make it better, stronger and powerful following some simple rules.

3.     We all get nervous when telling our story to the world – I didn’t imagine I was going to be that nervous and anxious in reading my story out loud, but I did. It was the very first time I read it out loud – ever. And in my second language – what a challenge! Thanks, ladies, for such a strong and loving support.

4.     Writing is healing – and what a profound transformation it can be! Helen guided us through many strategies and ideas for unlocking the writer within, giving us tools to be applied when we needed them. We all read our own piece during the last class and it was nothing short of extraordinary to see at least four of us going through healing processes on our writing. So emotional.

5.     Free writing is my next best friend – free writing was one of the tools and we would start every class with it. I alternated between writing it in English and Portuguese, but realized that it was the perfect tool to unleash insistent thoughts that were not letting me free up my mind and concentrate on more important tasks. Not anymore. What a freedom I felt!

6.     Blackout poetry can be a door to fabulous poetry – it took me all the way to the last class to understand the power of it. I found it ‘easy’ when I was doing the exercise and couldn’t see how I could benefit from it until one of our classmates used it as a tool to get to her last piece, the one she read in front of the class. She wrote a letter, an angry one, revealing all her thoughts and feelings from years of a specific event that happened when she was young. Based on her letter, she crossed the words (that’s where the blackout comes from) and revealed the poem she then read to us. It was amazing – and the result got me crying. Very powerful.

7.     After 30 years or so, I am considering writing poetry again – I used to write poetry a lot during my teen years. Then the journalism took place and I completely changed my style and my purpose in writing. Helen showed us Haiku and explained “haiku captures a moment”. She also showed us a haiku from a high school student, not related to the weather or nature like normally is, but it is fantastic:

Five syllables here

Then another seven here

Are you happy now?

8.     I learned to play with words – One exercise was to ‘copy’ a style we like. Not the content, but the style. I found all these exercises extremely complex, probably because I was doing them in English, but I don’t think I can use this as an excuse anymore. I chose to use a very brief passage from A House in the Sky and created a short piece about a fact that happened to me.

A House in the Sky:

I said, “Wait, excuse me, where are you taking me?”

The driver didn’t look back. He waved a hand. ‘No problem”, he said. “There is no problem, madame”.

In Bangladesh there never seem to be a problem. Or that was what everyone said, anyway.

My piece:

I said, “stop, right here, please!”

The driver stopped. He was surprised. “No problem”, he said. “Sorry if I scared you, madam”.

In Delhi they never seemed to follow instructions.

9.     I started handwriting again! – I started the course with an iPad and a keyboard. Two weeks after, I moved to handwriting. Helen pointed out that our hand connects to our brain in a different way through pen/pencil and paper versus the keyboard and the screen. I tend to edit things when writing on the computer. Pencil and paper are now my favorite – or should I say only? –  way to free write. Helen also gave us a few cards to carry on wherever we go. I don’t think I can live without them anymore, as it is a great way to grab that piece of thought that, otherwise, is going to escape!

10. Read and get read to – I never had someone reading for me in English before, as far as I can remember. As a visual person and hearing a story in my second language, I had a bit of a difficulty that took me a couple of weeks to realize. But I had fun as well. And these fabulous ladies took me into their trips and stories. What a privilege!

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10 Comments on “Creative Writing: 10 Things I Learned That Changed the Course of my Writing”

  1. Joshua M Swenson October 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Great insights! Thanks for sharing!

    • Helena Artmann October 23, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      Thanks for reading, Joshua! Happy writing! 😉

  2. kellysnotebook October 23, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Now I want to take a creative writing class. I can see how passionate you are about the class! Wonderful!

    • Helena Artmann October 23, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      Hi Kelly, thanks for commenting! Yes, do it! I bet you will love it too…

  3. Blandina October 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Acho que a experiência foi mto rica. Que coisa boa e de satisfação. Difícel tb.

    • Helena Artmann October 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      Foi boa sim! Tao boa que não queremos perder o embalo… 🙂

  4. Meghan J. Ward October 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    This was so insightful, Helena! I look forward to applying these, too!

    • Helena Artmann October 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

      Hi Meghan,

      Don’t forget to share the results when you try them!

      Thanks for reading, as always… 😉

  5. Max Perdigão October 27, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Ótimas dicas, Helena. Gostei da ideia de fazer um curso de curta duração, apesar de saber da minha deficiência, nunca havia pensado. Vou ver se encontro algum de extensão por aqui, estou precisando. Gosto de escrever mas falta técnica e… disciplina :-/ Abraços!

    • Helena Artmann October 27, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Aqui tem varios, Max! Eles chamam de ‘continuing learning’. Abracos e boa sorte!

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