Ann Loseva

More Creative Writing – Ann

Ann Loseva

Concerns About “Creative Writing
–  Ann Loseva


Eight years ago I was studying German as a second foreign language at the teacher training university I later graduated from. I remember writing a two-stanza poem in German as homework once. My task was to include irregular (strong) verb forms, and so I composed the most ridiculous and meaningless poem ever. Luckily the endings so conveniently and effortlessly rhymed. I didn’t feel creative or victorious over the language then. I still don’t know why forceful poetry writing should necessarily be seen as practising creative writing, and I hope all poetry lovers can excuse me for saying that. My skepticism extends beyond just poems to the notion of creative writing in general.

Ironically, the likely arguable truth that I’m currently preaching to my students and myself is that writing is a panacea. Writing helps systematize thoughts and then express them more clearly in speaking. Writing helps us process reading better. Writing to me is about the most consuming activity, demanding real and serious brain effort. Seeing the words pouring out of your pen or keyboard is getting evidence of what relationship with a language you have. No wonder these two terms my students have been faced with a lot of writing tasks. There’s been no label “creative” for any of these tasks, though, mostly because I’m doubtful these tasks have been creative. My doubts originate from the unobvious and controversial meaning of the word creative — which seems to bother me quite a bit these days. Those concerns run along these lines:

  • If creative stands for something that is out of the box, then I can’t help mentioning that what’s out of the box for each and every single student, for me, for any teacher is different. What are (or are there any) measuring guidelines and thresholds for creative writing?
  • What is supposed to be seen and valued as creative – form, content, viewpoint, a combination of these?
  • If creativity is about expressing your individual perspective, is an opinion essay an example of creative writing?
  • Is a student who articulates his/her opinion concisely in 2 sentences less creative than a mate writing up a whole page on the same idea?
  • Are there any level priorities? Will my students of a very low level and limited skills to construct sentences be devoid of this opportunity to write up something creative?

There’s a student I teach who turns upside down every simplest writing task. None of his sentences, following the most elementary of patterns, is ever serious or matches the task completely. Answering questions, completing sentences, rephrasing – he always puts his own spin to the task, he plays with the language to make us laugh, to seem ridiculous, to always be different. There’s a lot about how English works that this student has yet to learn. Still, it’s amazing how he can be that smart and free with the language while apparently having very basic and vague understanding of it. I can imagine that for some teachers his attempts to draw attention through his linguistic experiments would seem sheer nonsense, but to me this is an understanding of where his kind of creativity stems from.

In fact, do individual and original equal creative? How do I measure the originality of a learner of a foreign language when I stuff their heads with the same vocabulary items and grammar patterns? Some students may not have the language feel and extensive vocabulary, and yet are very concise in linguistic expression.

Another student of mine, a shy boy, a hardworking but not well performing learner, made a presentation. He’d prepared his text well and learnt it by heart. He couldn’t connect words to make up grammatically correct replies to his group-mates’ questions afterwards. But the captions to the photos on his slides were unforgettable. The presentation entitled “The dark side of tourism” featured such dark sides on slides as “Mosquitos. Mites. Bears.” and “Fire. Wood. Firewood.” This is creative writing, if you ask me.

What else is creative writing? When I run thin on ideas, I turn to my students for inspiration and insights, and most often I get what I look for. Two groups of students, all of them majoring in Physics, took my call seriously and answered (in what was not “creative writing” form) the following question: What does “creative writing” mean to you? 

Here are some of their thoughts – which served as both proof and revelations on the topic for me and opened up a range of perspectives on what can be considered creative writing. It’s also my belief that they wrote these lines somewhat creatively.

Creative writing is constantly searching for words and expressions, the process of exploring the language and its potential.

Creative writing is conscious rule breaking.

Creative writing means crossing the borders of the task. It’s like feeling that you can do more than will satisfy you and make people really get into your work. For example, this task (answering the question) wasn’t done with creativity. Come remake everything as tiny ideas visualize in thoughts *of* yours.

Usual writing is something that a writer has to do, but creative writing is something that a writer wants to do, he’s interested in what he writes.

Creative writing is such type of writing where we can see some personality of a writer. It may be a special way of expressing thoughts or use of specific terms. It also may be the introduction of new concepts, for example copyright neologisms.

Creative writing means that I don’t cheat on it and don’t use a template.

And finally, an indirect proof that I’m no creative writing teacher: I think creative writing is a composition. I don’t like this, it’s difficult for me to express my thoughts, especially in English, of course this should be studied. I am not sure I’ll be glad if this activity appears in our classes.

As you might have already guessed, I don’t seem to teach much creative writing. I hope I’m doing my best to make my students see that they can write in English and cope with the challenges I give them. “Trying” for creative language output seems self-deluding and unfairly demanding of students. However, there are learners who keep amazing me by causing me to question my aversion to … poem writing. A couple of days ago during a brainstorm of ideas for our final class with postgraduate Physics students, one of the first ideas that came up to them was to write a scientific poem together.

Next week I’m going to teach creative scientific poetry writing. Never say never.


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Anna Loseva

Anna Loseva is a Russian teacher of English in a university in Tokyo. She curates the iTDi Blog, writes (mostly about teaching and learning) on her own blog at, and co-runs Reflective Practice Group in Tokyo. Other than that, Anna spends time reading, travelling, doing yoga, and learning more about sketchbook art. Anna is passionate about teacher AND student self-development and she strongly believes that fruitful education process is driven by the mix of positive thinking, inner as well as outer motivation and avid curiosity.

13 thoughts on “More Creative Writing – Ann”

  1. What a lot to think about now! “What is creative writing?” Would you believe the question never occurred to me?

    I don’t think creative writing can be taught in the sense of somehow teaching creativity. I think that providing students with the opportunities to be creative as they choose is enough. I think maybe creativity to me means seeing something differently from how I see it (and expressing something differently from how I express it). Too often in my own education have teachers smashed ideas that didn’t match their own.

    1. Anne, I believe you very eagerly. I can’t say I’d been thinking about it so very much myself before I chose to write this post. Again, proves to me just how important writing is.

      I thank you very much for answering the question here for yourself! I had it in mind to pose the question of what creative writing is for every teacher who’d read this, but then I thought those who’ll feel the urge to share, will do so without being invited to. =))

      And you know, your understanding is probably matching mine. Especially the point about “creative” meaning “different”, different from what you’d do or how you’d imagine it (=something) to be. This is exactly the idea I was trying to refer to with my line about teachers thinking the ridiculous sentences of my student as of sheer nonsense – and eventually failing him. I can very easily see that happen. It somehow leads to me to think about a teacher’s broad and open mind and readiness to accept what’s different, but that’s thoughts for another post maybe)

      Thank you for the comment!

  2. I am going to use your questions in my creative writing class this summer! Let’s see what the teachers have to say. Thank you for always helping us see the other side of things. Your skepticism is gets my create juices flowing!

    1. I’m flattered you think my questions are good for your course – and as I said it elsewhere, I’d love to one day enroll in a class of yours, for sure!
      Thank you for reading my *skeptical* writing and reacting to it the way you do, creatively))

  3. Ann, I have been teaching in Vietnam for the past 5 years, and I will have to admit, we haven’t been using much creative writing in our writing segment of our classes. But, until now, since reading your article, things are about to change! I will let you know of the outcome on another writing..Thanks so much for helping me become a better teacher!

    1. Larry, thank you for reading the post and telling about your situation. I’m flattered to even think that this skeptical take on creative writing can introduce some change into some class, whatever the outcome! It’s amazing, thank you for kind words and please do let me know in this or that way what it is exactly that will happen in your class – or is already happening. =)

  4. Thank you for your interesting post, Ann 🙂 It’s very unusual to read how creative Physicists can be. That’s great that you use such kind of activities where your students can show their creativity and imagination. Such kind of tasks are very engaging and motivating for students.

    1. It feels liberating to me to let go off the conventions of what I “should expect” from a certain type of learners (would-be physicists is just one kind of an example here).
      Thank you for dropping by and leaving this nice comment!

  5. What thought-provoking ideas here! The questions mentioned in the article made it clear that it is by no means an easy task to define “creative writing”. I think what is really crucial is what students can do with language productively. This goes along with the point you made about “doing my best to make my students see that they can write in English and cope with the challenges I give them. “Trying” for creative language output seems self-deluding and unfairly demanding of students”; I could not agree any more.

    1. It’s not an easy task at least for me, Samir, you’re right. And you’re even more right in stressing the point of using the language productively.
      Thank you very much for your comment!

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