Creative Writing is Child’s Play

Children aren’t limited by convention. They haven’t discovered or embraced the rules. They don’t know to filter or sensor what they say. We can learn a lot from them.

Last week I asked for advice about picking up a story that I’d let sit too long. I received some wonderful tips. I’ve incorporated some into my personal writing process.

However, nothing prepared me for the creative writing exercise that took place two days ago.

While trapped in the car on a road trip, each of my boys decided they were going to write a story. “Maybe we can get our stories published Mom.” Does a writer’s heart good to hear.

Writing approaches are as varied as there are authors or writers. Some outline, develop character, and research first, creating a specific plan to reach the desired end of their project. Others just write to see what comes out.

My boys operate on opposite sides of the spectrum in planning and going with the flow. My oldest wants to map out his goal while the youngest just tells his story. Both boys offered me valuable writing lessons.

I find it difficult to assign names to people, places, and things. But my oldest made it seem easy. In order to start his story, he wanted to create a list of character names to work from. My first thought was to use the names generator in Scrivener, but he just wanted to make them up. He came up with boys’ names and I was charged with girls’ names.


    • Mooea
    • Yeeoow
    • Noowaau
    • Nugy
    • Abluy

I can’t pronounce these names. He seems to like vowels more than consonants so I said, “You should pick names that people can pronounce.” Way to kill creativity, right?

His response was awesome. “I can name them whatever I want. Besides, they’re aliens.”

But he altered his course because the final names he added were:  Beetle and Storm, still fun but not as “out there” as the above.

I should have kept my mouth shut and let him create. He taught me that I don’t need to overthink my choices, especially not in the first draft.

The girls’ names were less creative as they were my task but I like some of them. So with his permission some of his characters my find their way into my novel.


    • Sierra
    • Marsha
    • Feather
    • Blondie
    • Francie
    • Willow
    • Smudge

His final step in our playful session was to describe the story and give it a title. It’s an alien ghost story called:  Spirit Kingdom. Cool, right?

Why do I make writing so hard?

Another challenge for me is deciding where the story begins. My youngest doesn’t have this challenge. He handed me a pencil and said, “I need you to write down my story.” Here’s what he told me:

“This is a story about a boy named Noah, who finds a pair of magical shoes.

When he’s bad, bad things happen. So he needs to learn a lesson. He has to be nice or the leaves will fall.

Noah went to bed. While he was asleep a witch named, Will, touched the shoes with his wand. He put a spell on the shoes.

Noah woke up the next day and put on his shoes. The shoes made him dance all day.

‘Oh no, my shoes,’ he said because they need repair.”

It’s a great start to a story that I would read. The premise is simple, yet a lot could happen if he were to pursue it.

He taught me to just let the words flow. You can edit and change them later. It’s more important to just get the story out of your head and on paper, which I should already know. (Just as a side note, he cried when his paper crumpled in his backpack because he thought this would hinder publishing.)

Children create stories as a way of life. It’s their way of viewing and relating to the world around them. It’s how they play and interact with one another. I love listening to them play made up games but it never occurred to me until this happened that good writing is like children playing make believe.

No matter what your writing approach you can write with childlike abandon. Spend some time playing make believe and let me know if it has a positive influence on your writing.