Why creative writing should not be overlooked at school

In a world of standardised tests and automatic, technology-enabled processes, has creative writing been forgotten?

Still an important discipline…

Creative writing, taught well, is more disciplined than you might think. As the closest form of writing to ‘real life’, creative writing often allows students to let go of the restrictions of more formal writing – but writing well while writing freely requires skill. Students must understand the reader’s needs – such as needing to identify with characters, however fantastical they may be – in order to write a story that works.  Creative writing is not always lacking in clear structure – it can be free-form or it can also be highly structured, such as in some forms of poetry. Even the humble short story has a shape and some conventions in order to make it effective.

Why creative writing still matters


  1. Mental health: The creativity of creative writing, like any creative form, allows plenty of scope to explore and express emotions and identity. Given the freedom to do this, people gain clarity, understanding, confidence and resilience. Creative writing has long been a tool used by mental health and social workers to empower people undergoing challenges such as disadvantage and trauma.


  1. Social skills: Exploring how people interact through our stories is a powerful way to develop emotional complexity. Just as make-believe play is important in early childhood development, exposure to character development exercises and imagining how characters interact with people, places and events helps people at all ages to think about how humans behave and why. In addition, creative writing can be a social exercise where students work together on a story or share and critique stories to help each other improve. It can foster collaboration and teamwork through the development of a ‘writing community’.


  1. Cognitive development: As human beings, we understand the world through stories. Stories told to us, read and discussed help us to bridge the gap between our current understandings of the world and more insightful, complex ones. Giving children (and adults) time to explore stories through their own writing can help them reflect on learnings from past experiences as they retell them, or explore ideas through the interactions between their created characters and events.


  1. Language skills: Good primary school teachers understand that students need opportunities to write every day. Writing helps them practise and develop language, and creative writing helps them build strength in putting together ideas in a cohesive and meaningful way, through attention to plot, dialogue and action. The mastery of language and the ability to formulate and communicate ideas clearly are skills all students need for life.


  1. Inclusivity: Unlike some more standardised or routine activities at school, creative writing, taught well, is engaging for all students (this includes students with special needs, as there are many ways to develop creative ‘stories’). In the Washington Post article ‘Why you are wrong if you think creative writing is a waste of time’, one teacher explains:


“To do their best work, students need to feel that school is about them, and they need to feel connected to the content on a personal level.  When students are given opportunities to experiment with their voices and create through their own original work, they feel a sense of place and they are able to feel in charge.  That’s when they shine.”



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