Eha Vain: Writing – the art of creating

Thursday, 28 August 2014
Maarit Saarelainen-Sahlman. Photo: Irina Vassiljeva/ Maarit Saarelainen-Sahlman. Photo: Irina Vassiljeva/

Creative writing is the art of creating using words. Creative writers enjoy freedom and power that are not shackled by rules or boundaries. Everyone can write, but fluency in creative writing is something that is learnt and honed – which is exactly what teachers and trainers did at the third international creativity forum 'Creative self-expression' held at the Narva College of the University of Tartu on 18 & 19 August.

While the creative writing courses led by Maarit Saarelainen-Sahlman in Finland normally last an entire weekend, in Narva she had just an hour and a half to showcase her method and carry out exercises with the participants attending the creativity studio.

All they needed to make a start, however, was pen, paper and imagination. A safe and personal atmosphere in the room is taken as read, says Saarelainen-Sahlman, as is knowing that whatever gets written down is right. There's no such thing as a mistake in creative writing, and no such thing as marks. Writing is something you can do anywhere, about anything – the only thing you're bound by is the limits of your own imagination.

The impetus behind creative writing comes from memories, recollections and sensory experiences. Switching the mind on can dredge up old scenes and feelings and generate new stories. As such, Saarelainen-Sahlman's method has a certain therapeutic effect, since reading what you've written (to others) can be a release from stress and tension you otherwise find it hard to shake off and can help you find answers to questions you've long been asking. It's also been noted that creative writing can have a positive influence on how widely read people are.

Creative writing has other benefits, too: for one, it maintains the tradition of story-telling, as reflected in the activities undertaken at the Umeå school of Swedish primary teachers Erika Andersson and Susanne Nilsson. Inspired by local legends, the pupils at the school drew pictures, made short films using their iPads and penned their own modern-day legends, which were then published as a book and presented to their parents at a special creative event.

Knowledge and experience regarding the creative methods that can be used to enrich language lessons, break down linguistic stereotypes and encourage the correct and considered use of language were shared by Estonian language and literature teachers Piret Järvela and Edward Kess, to whom individualised use of language requires courage and resolve. You don't have to speak like others – you can get your point across in indirect and figurative ways, too Words spoken in sincerity are always worthy words.

Creative self-expression enriches people emotionally, boosting their empathy and self-belief and fostering their social skills. All of this is important in ensuring that there is a trusting relationship and cooperation between the teacher and the student. It is equally important in interpersonal communication and in effective teamwork, whether it take the form of verbal or non-verbal communication.

The venue of the creativity forum has always been special. The first time it was held was on the island of Naissaar, while the venue in the second year was the seaside idyll Käsmu. This year's forum took place in Narva, on the Estonian-Russian border – more specifically in the architecturally and spiritually unique building of the Narva College of the University of Tartu. Helping to find speakers for the event and bring them to Narva were the embassies of the Nordic countries and the Finnish Institute in Estonia. More details of the forum are available on the website of the Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia.

This article written by Eha Vain, cultural adviser with the Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia was published in the Raamat newspaper of the Estonian Publishers Association on 28 August (in Estonian).

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