The Art of Creative Writing – Complete Course Outline (Sessions 1-4)

The Art of Creative Writing

Session 1: Training Your Brain
Developing a Routine

  • Inspiration takes patience, discipline, and dedication If you want serious results, put in serious effort Write at the same time in the same place – train your brain for inspiration Discipline yourself – take short breaks to refuel, not relax Create a routine, and inspiration will follow

Personal Example: My Back Porch

  • Write on back porch w/Dana (portable typewriter)
  • Edit in my office inside (main computer)
  • Both have function and specific purpose
  • Remember: Just an example – that’s how I work

In Class Exercise

  • Take 15 min, partner up, and brainstorm/discuss Where/when can I write? Set personal goals for yourself *Biggie: Are you brave enough to have someone (partner) hold you accountable?
  • Share what you came up with as a group – inspiration
  • Agree to encourage each other with goals Remember: we’re all in this together – writing’s hard enough

Don’t be shocked if:

  • You’re exhausted Writing is hard, emotionally draining work (that’s why we take breaks) Keep yourself hydrated and fueled
  • You hit the wall Writers’ block is a real thing – expect it, but don’t beat yourself up
  • Life gets in the way Important things pop up that may detract from your goals Prioritize, take care of situations, but don’t make excuses (we all know the difference) Remember: They’re your goals – you can alter them if need be (but only if need be
  • After awhile, you can only truly write in one place/time It happens – that’s why we’re doing this You’re creating a sanctuary that triggers your brain to release inspiration – Weird, but it works

Assignment for Next Time:
Write about your writing spot.  Describe the space, time of day, and feel.  Music or silence?  Nature or indoors?  Even smell (are you lighting candles, etc.)?  Begin to claim the space in your mind, and allow inspiration to run wild.  Come ready to share.

Dave Burns “Writing is dreaming with your eyes open.”
Dave Burns – Linkedin Profile

Session 2: Finding Your Muse
Identifying Inspiration

Share writing about your ‘writing spot’

Question for the Class: What is a Muse?

On Writing – Stephen King (pgs.144- top of 145, beginning “There is a muse*…”)

Do the hard work; put in the time.  And when the Muse shows herself/himself, write frantically.  It is this moment that you have been preparing for.  We practice for a performance, we train for a race – we know when the event is to be held.  But not so in writing.  The Muse appears when she decides, and you must be ready.

In my book, Pieces of Me, I discuss ‘baiting’ the Muse – setting traps for her. These traps are things we talked about last week and again today:

  • Setting a routine – place, time, etc. Your writing spot
  • Setting goals for yourself
  • Patience, discipline, dedication
  • Again, bizarre as it sounds, it works – just ask Stephen King

This ‘Muse’ talk maybe a little ethereal for some, so here’s some concretes:

  • Term ‘Muse’ means nothing more than ‘Inspiration’
  • These tricks and traps help us focus that inspiration
  • Heard the term ‘in the zone?’  That’s what we’re creating – purposeful focus/attention

Some Writers Use Trigger Objects for Inspiration

  • Stack of books
  • Picture/painting
  • Candles/scents
  • Even music (example: Stephen King writes to heavy metal)

In Class Exercise

  • Take 15 min, break into 2 groups (Muse and Inspiration), brainstorm/discuss What sort of ‘traps’ can I set? / How can I foster inspiration? – Only you know what inspires you – Come up with at least one idea/trigger object
  • Share what you came up with as a group – remember: no ideas are silly/stupid

Assignment for Next Time:
Write about your Muse.  Is it male or female?  Is it human?  What things draw it out or make it shy away?  Or, if you prefer: Write about your Inspiration.  Come ready to share.

Dave Burns “Writing is dreaming with your eyes open.”
Dave Burns – Linkedin Profile

Session 3: Keeping Both Eyes Open… With a Notepad on Hand
Looking for Inspiration

Share writing about your Muse/Inspiration

  • Start several ideas before you settle on one – brainstorm Write and look for inspiration – again, don’t force an idea that may not be ready Remember you ‘Ideas/Projects’ folder? (‘Nuts and Bolts…’ Session 3)
  • The notepad, the voice recorder, etc. are your friends Always have something on hand to jot down ideas – in the car, @ work, etc. Not a bad idea to sleep with a notepad/etc. handy
  • Snap inspirational pictures w/your phone/camera Use technology to your advantage – snap a picture, go back and write about it

Question for the Class: What are other ways/things you can use to jot down ideas?

  • Visit inspirational places… often Museums, zoos, parks, even cemeteries can inspire ideas – go where it takes you
  • Listen for inspiration Does the sound of rushing water trigger thoughts? How about birds chirping?  Bees buzzing?
  • Using our 5 senses: Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, Sound Senses are our way of collecting information about outside world – use them

Question for the Class: What other things can be used for inspiration?

In Class Exercise

  • Take 30 min, pick an item in this room, and write about it Allow it to inspire you – not worrying about where the story goes
  • Share your writing with the class *Positive comments only – not ready for criticisms as of yet
  • Keep your work

Assignment for Next Time:
Finish your story from today.  Again, allow inspiration to lead you – don’t force the story in any specific direction.  Don’t try to make a point.  If you do, you will cut off your Inspiration/scare off the Muse.  Just tell the story as it comes to you.  Don’t worry about editing at this point.  Come ready to share your work with the group.

Dave Burns “Writing is dreaming with your eyes open.”
Dave Burns – Linkedin Profile

Session 4: The Writing, Proofreading, and Editing Cycle
Developing a Process

Share story about your inspirational item

On Writing – Stephen King (pg. 151 – James Joyce)

  • Proofreading, editing, and formatting are not fun – but they have to be done For a writer, writing should be the easy part – the job is only half done at that point
  • Anyone can learn grammar Don’t get discouraged if grammar, spelling, etc. is your hang-up – that can be learned But do learn it
  • “Ain’t nuthing more bad nor hard reeding than bad riting and spellun.” No matter how good of a writer I am, if I submit this, I won’t be taken seriously People will put the book down and stop reading – it’s too difficult to continue *Note: If I did this on purpose (dialect, etc.), I need to make that clear in the reading Remember: Computers are good – spell check (and those squiggly lines) are your friends
  • 2 schools of thought: Write everything out first, then go back and edit (Stephen King) Write and edit in chunks (Kurt Vonnegut) – Either way is fine, but pick one
  • Don’t assume it makes sense just because you follow it – get a second opinion Don’t feel you have to change something based on someone’s opinion (ideas, wording, etc.), just make sure what you’re trying to say is clear – clarity is key
  • Reread, reread, reread for errors Have someone you trust who has an editorial eye fine tooth comb your book Don’t be shocked if errors make it through to the final product (It happens more often than you’d think) – and don’t beat yourself up over it, either

In Class Exercise

  • Take 30 min, partner up, and proofread/edit each others’ inspiration stories
  • Share with the group how that experience (both sides) made you feel
  • What did you learn from both editing and being edited?

Final Thought:
Writing is laying your heart on the table and handing someone else a scalpel.  All art is. But we do it because we have to – we’re compelled to  – so we must develop thick skin.

Dave Burns “Writing is dreaming with your eyes open.”
Dave Burns – Linkedin Profile

About Dave Burns

"Writing is dreaming with your eyes open." - Dave Burns Available Books and Works: The Movement: A Children's Story for Grown-ups The Movement: Revisited Edem's Flight The Movement: Concluded - The Completed Anthology Pieces of Me a million little gods: the clearwater chronicles UnApologetic Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 1 Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 2 Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 3 For a complete list of books and works, visit the author @ or
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