Writing Beginner

What Is Creative Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 20 Examples)

Creative writing begins with a blank page and the courage to fill it with the stories only you can tell.

I face this intimidating blank page daily–and I have for the better part of 20+ years.

In this guide, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of creative writing with tons of examples.

What Is Creative Writing (Long Description)?

Creative Writing is the art of using words to express ideas and emotions in imaginative ways. It encompasses various forms including novels, poetry, and plays, focusing on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes.

Bright, colorful creative writer's desk with notebook and typewriter -- What Is Creative Writing

Table of Contents

Let’s expand on that definition a bit.

Creative writing is an art form that transcends traditional literature boundaries.

It includes professional, journalistic, academic, and technical writing. This type of writing emphasizes narrative craft, character development, and literary tropes. It also explores poetry and poetics traditions.

In essence, creative writing lets you express ideas and emotions uniquely and imaginatively.

It’s about the freedom to invent worlds, characters, and stories. These creations evoke a spectrum of emotions in readers.

Creative writing covers fiction, poetry, and everything in between.

It allows writers to express inner thoughts and feelings. Often, it reflects human experiences through a fabricated lens.

Types of Creative Writing

There are many types of creative writing that we need to explain.

Some of the most common types:

  • Short stories
  • Screenplays
  • Flash fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction

Short Stories (The Brief Escape)

Short stories are like narrative treasures.

They are compact but impactful, telling a full story within a limited word count. These tales often focus on a single character or a crucial moment.

Short stories are known for their brevity.

They deliver emotion and insight in a concise yet powerful package. This format is ideal for exploring diverse genres, themes, and characters. It leaves a lasting impression on readers.

Example: Emma discovers an old photo of her smiling grandmother. It’s a rarity. Through flashbacks, Emma learns about her grandmother’s wartime love story. She comes to understand her grandmother’s resilience and the value of joy.

Novels (The Long Journey)

Novels are extensive explorations of character, plot, and setting.

They span thousands of words, giving writers the space to create entire worlds. Novels can weave complex stories across various themes and timelines.

The length of a novel allows for deep narrative and character development.

Readers get an immersive experience.

Example: Across the Divide tells of two siblings separated in childhood. They grow up in different cultures. Their reunion highlights the strength of family bonds, despite distance and differences.

Poetry (The Soul’s Language)

Poetry expresses ideas and emotions through rhythm, sound, and word beauty.

It distills emotions and thoughts into verses. Poetry often uses metaphors, similes, and figurative language to reach the reader’s heart and mind.

Poetry ranges from structured forms, like sonnets, to free verse.

The latter breaks away from traditional formats for more expressive thought.

Example: Whispers of Dawn is a poem collection capturing morning’s quiet moments. “First Light” personifies dawn as a painter. It brings colors of hope and renewal to the world.

Plays (The Dramatic Dialogue)

Plays are meant for performance. They bring characters and conflicts to life through dialogue and action.

This format uniquely explores human relationships and societal issues.

Playwrights face the challenge of conveying setting, emotion, and plot through dialogue and directions.

Example: Echoes of Tomorrow is set in a dystopian future. Memories can be bought and sold. It follows siblings on a quest to retrieve their stolen memories. They learn the cost of living in a world where the past has a price.

Screenplays (Cinema’s Blueprint)

Screenplays outline narratives for films and TV shows.

They require an understanding of visual storytelling, pacing, and dialogue. Screenplays must fit film production constraints.

Example: The Last Light is a screenplay for a sci-fi film. Humanity’s survivors on a dying Earth seek a new planet. The story focuses on spacecraft Argo’s crew as they face mission challenges and internal dynamics.

Memoirs (The Personal Journey)

Memoirs provide insight into an author’s life, focusing on personal experiences and emotional journeys.

They differ from autobiographies by concentrating on specific themes or events.

Memoirs invite readers into the author’s world.

They share lessons learned and hardships overcome.

Example: Under the Mango Tree is a memoir by Maria Gomez. It shares her childhood memories in rural Colombia. The mango tree in their yard symbolizes home, growth, and nostalgia. Maria reflects on her journey to a new life in America.

Flash Fiction (The Quick Twist)

Flash fiction tells stories in under 1,000 words.

It’s about crafting compelling narratives concisely. Each word in flash fiction must count, often leading to a twist.

This format captures life’s vivid moments, delivering quick, impactful insights.

Example: The Last Message features an astronaut’s final Earth message as her spacecraft drifts away. In 500 words, it explores isolation, hope, and the desire to connect against all odds.

Creative Nonfiction (The Factual Tale)

Creative nonfiction combines factual accuracy with creative storytelling.

This genre covers real events, people, and places with a twist. It uses descriptive language and narrative arcs to make true stories engaging.

Creative nonfiction includes biographies, essays, and travelogues.

Example: Echoes of Everest follows the author’s Mount Everest climb. It mixes factual details with personal reflections and the history of past climbers. The narrative captures the climb’s beauty and challenges, offering an immersive experience.

Fantasy (The World Beyond)

Fantasy transports readers to magical and mythical worlds.

It explores themes like good vs. evil and heroism in unreal settings. Fantasy requires careful world-building to create believable yet fantastic realms.

Example: The Crystal of Azmar tells of a young girl destined to save her world from darkness. She learns she’s the last sorceress in a forgotten lineage. Her journey involves mastering powers, forming alliances, and uncovering ancient kingdom myths.

Science Fiction (The Future Imagined)

Science fiction delves into futuristic and scientific themes.

It questions the impact of advancements on society and individuals.

Science fiction ranges from speculative to hard sci-fi, focusing on plausible futures.

Example: When the Stars Whisper is set in a future where humanity communicates with distant galaxies. It centers on a scientist who finds an alien message. This discovery prompts a deep look at humanity’s universe role and interstellar communication.

Watch this great video that explores the question, “What is creative writing?” and “How to get started?”:

What Are the 5 Cs of Creative Writing?

The 5 Cs of creative writing are fundamental pillars.

They guide writers to produce compelling and impactful work. These principles—Clarity, Coherence, Conciseness, Creativity, and Consistency—help craft stories that engage and entertain.

They also resonate deeply with readers. Let’s explore each of these critical components.

Clarity makes your writing understandable and accessible.

It involves choosing the right words and constructing clear sentences. Your narrative should be easy to follow.

In creative writing, clarity means conveying complex ideas in a digestible and enjoyable way.

Coherence ensures your writing flows logically.

It’s crucial for maintaining the reader’s interest. Characters should develop believably, and plots should progress logically. This makes the narrative feel cohesive.


Conciseness is about expressing ideas succinctly.

It’s being economical with words and avoiding redundancy. This principle helps maintain pace and tension, engaging readers throughout the story.

Creativity is the heart of creative writing.

It allows writers to invent new worlds and create memorable characters. Creativity involves originality and imagination. It’s seeing the world in unique ways and sharing that vision.


Consistency maintains a uniform tone, style, and voice.

It means being faithful to the world you’ve created. Characters should act true to their development. This builds trust with readers, making your story immersive and believable.

Is Creative Writing Easy?

Creative writing is both rewarding and challenging.

Crafting stories from your imagination involves more than just words on a page. It requires discipline and a deep understanding of language and narrative structure.

Exploring complex characters and themes is also key.

Refining and revising your work is crucial for developing your voice.

The ease of creative writing varies. Some find the freedom of expression liberating.

Others struggle with writer’s block or plot development challenges. However, practice and feedback make creative writing more fulfilling.

What Does a Creative Writer Do?

A creative writer weaves narratives that entertain, enlighten, and inspire.

Writers explore both the world they create and the emotions they wish to evoke. Their tasks are diverse, involving more than just writing.

Creative writers develop ideas, research, and plan their stories.

They create characters and outline plots with attention to detail. Drafting and revising their work is a significant part of their process. They strive for the 5 Cs of compelling writing.

Writers engage with the literary community, seeking feedback and participating in workshops.

They may navigate the publishing world with agents and editors.

Creative writers are storytellers, craftsmen, and artists. They bring narratives to life, enriching our lives and expanding our imaginations.

How to Get Started With Creative Writing?

Embarking on a creative writing journey can feel like standing at the edge of a vast and mysterious forest.

The path is not always clear, but the adventure is calling.

Here’s how to take your first steps into the world of creative writing:

  • Find a time of day when your mind is most alert and creative.
  • Create a comfortable writing space free from distractions.
  • Use prompts to spark your imagination. They can be as simple as a word, a phrase, or an image.
  • Try writing for 15-20 minutes on a prompt without editing yourself. Let the ideas flow freely.
  • Reading is fuel for your writing. Explore various genres and styles.
  • Pay attention to how your favorite authors construct their sentences, develop characters, and build their worlds.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to write a novel right away. Begin with short stories or poems.
  • Small projects can help you hone your skills and boost your confidence.
  • Look for writing groups in your area or online. These communities offer support, feedback, and motivation.
  • Participating in workshops or classes can also provide valuable insights into your writing.
  • Understand that your first draft is just the beginning. Revising your work is where the real magic happens.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to rework your pieces.
  • Carry a notebook or digital recorder to jot down ideas, observations, and snippets of conversations.
  • These notes can be gold mines for future writing projects.

Final Thoughts: What Is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is an invitation to explore the unknown, to give voice to the silenced, and to celebrate the human spirit in all its forms.

Check out these creative writing tools (that I highly recommend):

Read This Next:

  • What Is a Prompt in Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 200 Examples)
  • What Is A Personal Account In Writing? (47 Examples)
  • How To Write A Fantasy Short Story (Ultimate Guide + Examples)
  • How To Write A Fantasy Romance Novel [21 Tips + Examples)

Creative Primer

What is Creative Writing? A Key Piece of the Writer’s Toolbox

Brooks Manley

Not all writing is the same and there’s a type of writing that has the ability to transport, teach, and inspire others like no other.

Creative writing stands out due to its unique approach and focus on imagination. Here’s how to get started and grow as you explore the broad and beautiful world of creative writing!

What is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is a form of writing that extends beyond the bounds of regular professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature. It is characterized by its emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or poetic techniques to express ideas in an original and imaginative way.

Creative writing can take on various forms such as:

  • short stories
  • screenplays

It’s a way for writers to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a creative, often symbolic, way . It’s about using the power of words to transport readers into a world created by the writer.

5 Key Characteristics of Creative Writing

Creative writing is marked by several defining characteristics, each working to create a distinct form of expression:

1. Imagination and Creativity: Creative writing is all about harnessing your creativity and imagination to create an engaging and compelling piece of work. It allows writers to explore different scenarios, characters, and worlds that may not exist in reality.

2. Emotional Engagement: Creative writing often evokes strong emotions in the reader. It aims to make the reader feel something — whether it’s happiness, sorrow, excitement, or fear.

3. Originality: Creative writing values originality. It’s about presenting familiar things in new ways or exploring ideas that are less conventional.

4. Use of Literary Devices: Creative writing frequently employs literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification, and others to enrich the text and convey meanings in a more subtle, layered manner.

5. Focus on Aesthetics: The beauty of language and the way words flow together is important in creative writing. The aim is to create a piece that’s not just interesting to read, but also beautiful to hear when read aloud.

Remember, creative writing is not just about producing a work of art. It’s also a means of self-expression and a way to share your perspective with the world. Whether you’re considering it as a hobby or contemplating a career in it, understanding the nature and characteristics of creative writing can help you hone your skills and create more engaging pieces .

For more insights into creative writing, check out our articles on creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree and is a degree in creative writing worth it .

Styles of Creative Writing

To fully understand creative writing , you must be aware of the various styles involved. Creative writing explores a multitude of genres, each with its own unique characteristics and techniques.

Poetry is a form of creative writing that uses expressive language to evoke emotions and ideas. Poets often employ rhythm, rhyme, and other poetic devices to create pieces that are deeply personal and impactful. Poems can vary greatly in length, style, and subject matter, making this a versatile and dynamic form of creative writing.

Short Stories

Short stories are another common style of creative writing. These are brief narratives that typically revolve around a single event or idea. Despite their length, short stories can provide a powerful punch, using precise language and tight narrative structures to convey a complete story in a limited space.

Novels represent a longer form of narrative creative writing. They usually involve complex plots, multiple characters, and various themes. Writing a novel requires a significant investment of time and effort; however, the result can be a rich and immersive reading experience.


Screenplays are written works intended for the screen, be it television, film, or online platforms. They require a specific format, incorporating dialogue and visual descriptions to guide the production process. Screenwriters must also consider the practical aspects of filmmaking, making this an intricate and specialized form of creative writing.

If you’re interested in this style, understanding creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree can provide useful insights.

Writing for the theater is another specialized form of creative writing. Plays, like screenplays, combine dialogue and action, but they also require an understanding of the unique dynamics of the theatrical stage. Playwrights must think about the live audience and the physical space of the theater when crafting their works.

Each of these styles offers unique opportunities for creativity and expression. Whether you’re drawn to the concise power of poetry, the detailed storytelling of novels, or the visual language of screenplays and plays, there’s a form of creative writing that will suit your artistic voice. The key is to explore, experiment, and find the style that resonates with you.

For those looking to spark their creativity, our article on creative writing prompts offers a wealth of ideas to get you started.

Importance of Creative Writing

Understanding what is creative writing involves recognizing its value and significance. Engaging in creative writing can provide numerous benefits – let’s take a closer look.

Developing Creativity and Imagination

Creative writing serves as a fertile ground for nurturing creativity and imagination. It encourages you to think outside the box, explore different perspectives, and create unique and original content. This leads to improved problem-solving skills and a broader worldview , both of which can be beneficial in various aspects of life.

Through creative writing, one can build entire worlds, create characters, and weave complex narratives, all of which are products of a creative mind and vivid imagination. This can be especially beneficial for those seeking creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree .

Enhancing Communication Skills

Creative writing can also play a crucial role in honing communication skills. It demands clarity, precision, and a strong command of language. This helps to improve your vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, making it easier to express thoughts and ideas effectively .

Moreover, creative writing encourages empathy as you often need to portray a variety of characters from different backgrounds and perspectives. This leads to a better understanding of people and improved interpersonal communication skills.

Exploring Emotions and Ideas

One of the most profound aspects of creative writing is its ability to provide a safe space for exploring emotions and ideas. It serves as an outlet for thoughts and feelings , allowing you to express yourself in ways that might not be possible in everyday conversation.

Writing can be therapeutic, helping you process complex emotions, navigate difficult life events, and gain insight into your own experiences and perceptions. It can also be a means of self-discovery , helping you to understand yourself and the world around you better.

So, whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, the benefits of creative writing are vast and varied. For those interested in developing their creative writing skills, check out our articles on creative writing prompts and how to teach creative writing . If you’re considering a career in this field, you might find our article on is a degree in creative writing worth it helpful.

4 Steps to Start Creative Writing

Creative writing can seem daunting to beginners, but with the right approach, anyone can start their journey into this creative field. Here are some steps to help you start creative writing .

1. Finding Inspiration

The first step in creative writing is finding inspiration . Inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. Observe the world around you, listen to conversations, explore different cultures, and delve into various topics of interest.

Reading widely can also be a significant source of inspiration. Read different types of books, articles, and blogs. Discover what resonates with you and sparks your imagination.

For structured creative prompts, visit our list of creative writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

Editor’s Note : When something excites or interests you, stop and take note – it could be the inspiration for your next creative writing piece.

2. Planning Your Piece

Once you have an idea, the next step is to plan your piece . Start by outlining:

  • the main points

Remember, this can serve as a roadmap to guide your writing process. A plan doesn’t have to be rigid. It’s a flexible guideline that can be adjusted as you delve deeper into your writing. The primary purpose is to provide direction and prevent writer’s block.

3. Writing Your First Draft

After planning your piece, you can start writing your first draft . This is where you give life to your ideas and breathe life into your characters.

Don’t worry about making it perfect in the first go. The first draft is about getting your ideas down on paper . You can always refine and polish your work later. And if you don’t have a great place to write that first draft, consider a journal for writing .

4. Editing and Revising Your Work

The final step in the creative writing process is editing and revising your work . This is where you fine-tune your piece, correct grammatical errors, and improve sentence structure and flow.

Editing is also an opportunity to enhance your storytelling . You can add more descriptive details, develop your characters further, and make sure your plot is engaging and coherent.

Remember, writing is a craft that improves with practice . Don’t be discouraged if your first few pieces don’t meet your expectations. Keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, enjoy the creative process.

For more insights on creative writing, check out our articles on how to teach creative writing or creative writing activities for kids.

Tips to Improve Creative Writing Skills

Understanding what is creative writing is the first step. But how can one improve their creative writing skills? Here are some tips that can help.

Read Widely

Reading is a vital part of becoming a better writer. By immersing oneself in a variety of genres, styles, and authors, one can gain a richer understanding of language and storytelling techniques . Different authors have unique voices and methods of telling stories, which can serve as inspiration for your own work. So, read widely and frequently!

Practice Regularly

Like any skill, creative writing improves with practice. Consistently writing — whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly — helps develop your writing style and voice . Using creative writing prompts can be a fun way to stimulate your imagination and get the words flowing.

Attend Writing Workshops and Courses

Formal education such as workshops and courses can offer structured learning and expert guidance. These can provide invaluable insights into the world of creative writing, from understanding plot development to character creation. If you’re wondering is a degree in creative writing worth it, these classes can also give you a taste of what studying creative writing at a higher level might look like .

Joining Writing Groups and Communities

Being part of a writing community can provide motivation, constructive feedback, and a sense of camaraderie. These groups often hold regular meetings where members share their work and give each other feedback. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with others who share your passion for writing.

Seeking Feedback on Your Work

Feedback is a crucial part of improving as a writer. It offers a fresh perspective on your work, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Whether it’s from a writing group, a mentor, or even friends and family, constructive criticism can help refine your writing .

Start Creative Writing Today!

Remember, becoming a proficient writer takes time and patience. So, don’t be discouraged by initial challenges. Keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the process. Who knows, your passion for creative writing might even lead to creative writing jobs and what you can do with a creative writing degree .

Happy writing!

Brooks Manley

Brooks Manley

what is creative writing in sentences

Creative Primer  is a resource on all things journaling, creativity, and productivity. We’ll help you produce better ideas, get more done, and live a more effective life.

My name is Brooks. I do a ton of journaling, like to think I’m a creative (jury’s out), and spend a lot of time thinking about productivity. I hope these resources and product recommendations serve you well. Reach out if you ever want to chat or let me know about a journal I need to check out!

Here’s my favorite journal for 2024: 

the five minute journal

Gratitude Journal Prompts Mindfulness Journal Prompts Journal Prompts for Anxiety Reflective Journal Prompts Healing Journal Prompts Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Journal Prompts Mental Health Journal Prompts ASMR Journal Prompts Manifestation Journal Prompts Self-Care Journal Prompts Morning Journal Prompts Evening Journal Prompts Self-Improvement Journal Prompts Creative Writing Journal Prompts Dream Journal Prompts Relationship Journal Prompts "What If" Journal Prompts New Year Journal Prompts Shadow Work Journal Prompts Journal Prompts for Overcoming Fear Journal Prompts for Dealing with Loss Journal Prompts for Discerning and Decision Making Travel Journal Prompts Fun Journal Prompts

Inspiring Ink: Expert Tips on How to Teach Creative Writing

You may also like, how to start and keep a dream journal: a guide to dream diaries.

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10 Types of Creative Writing (with Examples You’ll Love)

A lot falls under the term ‘creative writing’: poetry, short fiction, plays, novels, personal essays, and songs, to name just a few. By virtue of the creativity that characterizes it, creative writing is an extremely versatile art. So instead of defining what creative writing is , it may be easier to understand what it does by looking at examples that demonstrate the sheer range of styles and genres under its vast umbrella.

To that end, we’ve collected a non-exhaustive list of works across multiple formats that have inspired the writers here at Reedsy. With 20 different works to explore, we hope they will inspire you, too. 

People have been writing creatively for almost as long as we have been able to hold pens. Just think of long-form epic poems like The Odyssey or, later, the Cantar de Mio Cid — some of the earliest recorded writings of their kind. 

Poetry is also a great place to start if you want to dip your own pen into the inkwell of creative writing. It can be as short or long as you want (you don’t have to write an epic of Homeric proportions), encourages you to build your observation skills, and often speaks from a single point of view . 

Here are a few examples:

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The ruins of pillars and walls with the broken statue of a man in the center set against a bright blue sky.

This classic poem by Romantic poet Percy Shelley (also known as Mary Shelley’s husband) is all about legacy. What do we leave behind? How will we be remembered? The great king Ozymandias built himself a massive statue, proclaiming his might, but the irony is that his statue doesn’t survive the ravages of time. By framing this poem as told to him by a “traveller from an antique land,” Shelley effectively turns this into a story. Along with the careful use of juxtaposition to create irony, this poem accomplishes a lot in just a few lines. 

“Trying to Raise the Dead” by Dorianne Laux

 A direction. An object. My love, it needs a place to rest. Say anything. I’m listening. I’m ready to believe. Even lies, I don’t care.

Poetry is cherished for its ability to evoke strong emotions from the reader using very few words which is exactly what Dorianne Laux does in “ Trying to Raise the Dead .” With vivid imagery that underscores the painful yearning of the narrator, she transports us to a private nighttime scene as the narrator sneaks away from a party to pray to someone they’ve lost. We ache for their loss and how badly they want their lost loved one to acknowledge them in some way. It’s truly a masterclass on how writing can be used to portray emotions. 

If you find yourself inspired to try out some poetry — and maybe even get it published — check out these poetry layouts that can elevate your verse!

Song Lyrics

Poetry’s closely related cousin, song lyrics are another great way to flex your creative writing muscles. You not only have to find the perfect rhyme scheme but also match it to the rhythm of the music. This can be a great challenge for an experienced poet or the musically inclined. 

To see how music can add something extra to your poetry, check out these two examples:

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

 You say I took the name in vain I don't even know the name But if I did, well, really, what's it to ya? There's a blaze of light in every word It doesn't matter which you heard The holy or the broken Hallelujah 

Metaphors are commonplace in almost every kind of creative writing, but will often take center stage in shorter works like poetry and songs. At the slightest mention, they invite the listener to bring their emotional or cultural experience to the piece, allowing the writer to express more with fewer words while also giving it a deeper meaning. If a whole song is couched in metaphor, you might even be able to find multiple meanings to it, like in Leonard Cohen’s “ Hallelujah .” While Cohen’s Biblical references create a song that, on the surface, seems like it’s about a struggle with religion, the ambiguity of the lyrics has allowed it to be seen as a song about a complicated romantic relationship. 

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

 ​​If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks Then I'll follow you into the dark

A red neon

You can think of song lyrics as poetry set to music. They manage to do many of the same things their literary counterparts do — including tugging on your heartstrings. Death Cab for Cutie’s incredibly popular indie rock ballad is about the singer’s deep devotion to his lover. While some might find the song a bit too dark and macabre, its melancholy tune and poignant lyrics remind us that love can endure beyond death.

Plays and Screenplays

From the short form of poetry, we move into the world of drama — also known as the play. This form is as old as the poem, stretching back to the works of ancient Greek playwrights like Sophocles, who adapted the myths of their day into dramatic form. The stage play (and the more modern screenplay) gives the words on the page a literal human voice, bringing life to a story and its characters entirely through dialogue. 

Interested to see what that looks like? Take a look at these examples:

All My Sons by Arthur Miller

“I know you're no worse than most men but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father.” 

Creative Writing Examples | Photo of the Old Vic production of All My Sons by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller acts as a bridge between the classic and the new, creating 20th century tragedies that take place in living rooms and backyard instead of royal courts, so we had to include his breakout hit on this list. Set in the backyard of an all-American family in the summer of 1946, this tragedy manages to communicate family tensions in an unimaginable scale, building up to an intense climax reminiscent of classical drama. 

💡 Read more about Arthur Miller and classical influences in our breakdown of Freytag’s pyramid . 

“Everything is Fine” by Michael Schur ( The Good Place )

“Well, then this system sucks. What...one in a million gets to live in paradise and everyone else is tortured for eternity? Come on! I mean, I wasn't freaking Gandhi, but I was okay. I was a medium person. I should get to spend eternity in a medium place! Like Cincinnati. Everyone who wasn't perfect but wasn't terrible should get to spend eternity in Cincinnati.” 

A screenplay, especially a TV pilot, is like a mini-play, but with the extra job of convincing an audience that they want to watch a hundred more episodes of the show. Blending moral philosophy with comedy, The Good Place is a fun hang-out show set in the afterlife that asks some big questions about what it means to be good. 

It follows Eleanor Shellstrop, an incredibly imperfect woman from Arizona who wakes up in ‘The Good Place’ and realizes that there’s been a cosmic mixup. Determined not to lose her place in paradise, she recruits her “soulmate,” a former ethics professor, to teach her philosophy with the hope that she can learn to be a good person and keep up her charade of being an upstanding citizen. The pilot does a superb job of setting up the stakes, the story, and the characters, while smuggling in deep philosophical ideas.

Personal essays

Our first foray into nonfiction on this list is the personal essay. As its name suggests, these stories are in some way autobiographical — concerned with the author’s life and experiences. But don’t be fooled by the realistic component. These essays can take any shape or form, from comics to diary entries to recipes and anything else you can imagine. Typically zeroing in on a single issue, they allow you to explore your life and prove that the personal can be universal.

Here are a couple of fantastic examples:

“On Selling Your First Novel After 11 Years” by Min Jin Lee (Literary Hub)

There was so much to learn and practice, but I began to see the prose in verse and the verse in prose. Patterns surfaced in poems, stories, and plays. There was music in sentences and paragraphs. I could hear the silences in a sentence. All this schooling was like getting x-ray vision and animal-like hearing. 

Stacks of multicolored hardcover books.

This deeply honest personal essay by Pachinko author Min Jin Lee is an account of her eleven-year struggle to publish her first novel . Like all good writing, it is intensely focused on personal emotional details. While grounded in the specifics of the author's personal journey, it embodies an experience that is absolutely universal: that of difficulty and adversity met by eventual success. 

“A Cyclist on the English Landscape” by Roff Smith (New York Times)

These images, though, aren’t meant to be about me. They’re meant to represent a cyclist on the landscape, anybody — you, perhaps. 

Roff Smith’s gorgeous photo essay for the NYT is a testament to the power of creatively combining visuals with text. Here, photographs of Smith atop a bike are far from simply ornamental. They’re integral to the ruminative mood of the essay, as essential as the writing. Though Smith places his work at the crosscurrents of various aesthetic influences (such as the painter Edward Hopper), what stands out the most in this taciturn, thoughtful piece of writing is his use of the second person to address the reader directly. Suddenly, the writer steps out of the body of the essay and makes eye contact with the reader. The reader is now part of the story as a second character, finally entering the picture.

Short Fiction

The short story is the happy medium of fiction writing. These bite-sized narratives can be devoured in a single sitting and still leave you reeling. Sometimes viewed as a stepping stone to novel writing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Short story writing is an art all its own. The limited length means every word counts and there’s no better way to see that than with these two examples:

“An MFA Story” by Paul Dalla Rosa (Electric Literature)

At Starbucks, I remembered a reading Zhen had given, a reading organized by the program’s faculty. I had not wanted to go but did. In the bar, he read, "I wrote this in a Starbucks in Shanghai. On the bank of the Huangpu." It wasn’t an aside or introduction. It was two lines of the poem. I was in a Starbucks and I wasn’t writing any poems. I wasn’t writing anything. 

Creative Writing Examples | Photograph of New York City street.

This short story is a delightfully metafictional tale about the struggles of being a writer in New York. From paying the bills to facing criticism in a writing workshop and envying more productive writers, Paul Dalla Rosa’s story is a clever satire of the tribulations involved in the writing profession, and all the contradictions embodied by systemic creativity (as famously laid out in Mark McGurl’s The Program Era ). What’s more, this story is an excellent example of something that often happens in creative writing: a writer casting light on the private thoughts or moments of doubt we don’t admit to or openly talk about. 

“Flowering Walrus” by Scott Skinner (Reedsy)

I tell him they’d been there a month at least, and he looks concerned. He has my tongue on a tissue paper and is gripping its sides with his pointer and thumb. My tongue has never spent much time outside of my mouth, and I imagine it as a walrus basking in the rays of the dental light. My walrus is not well. 

A winner of Reedsy’s weekly Prompts writing contest, ‘ Flowering Walrus ’ is a story that balances the trivial and the serious well. In the pauses between its excellent, natural dialogue , the story manages to scatter the fear and sadness of bad medical news, as the protagonist hides his worries from his wife and daughter. Rich in subtext, these silences grow and resonate with the readers.

Want to give short story writing a go? Give our free course a go!



How to Craft a Killer Short Story

From pacing to character development, master the elements of short fiction.

Perhaps the thing that first comes to mind when talking about creative writing, novels are a form of fiction that many people know and love but writers sometimes find intimidating. The good news is that novels are nothing but one word put after another, like any other piece of writing, but expanded and put into a flowing narrative. Piece of cake, right?

To get an idea of the format’s breadth of scope, take a look at these two (very different) satirical novels: 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

I wished I was back in the convenience store where I was valued as a working member of staff and things weren’t as complicated as this. Once we donned our uniforms, we were all equals regardless of gender, age, or nationality — all simply store workers. 

Creative Writing Examples | Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Keiko, a thirty-six-year-old convenience store employee, finds comfort and happiness in the strict, uneventful routine of the shop’s daily operations. A funny, satirical, but simultaneously unnerving examination of the social structures we take for granted, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is deeply original and lingers with the reader long after they’ve put it down.

Erasure by Percival Everett

The hard, gritty truth of the matter is that I hardly ever think about race. Those times when I did think about it a lot I did so because of my guilt for not thinking about it.  

Erasure is a truly accomplished satire of the publishing industry’s tendency to essentialize African American authors and their writing. Everett’s protagonist is a writer whose work doesn’t fit with what publishers expect from him — work that describes the “African American experience” — so he writes a parody novel about life in the ghetto. The publishers go crazy for it and, to the protagonist’s horror, it becomes the next big thing. This sophisticated novel is both ironic and tender, leaving its readers with much food for thought.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is pretty broad: it applies to anything that does not claim to be fictional (although the rise of autofiction has definitely blurred the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction). It encompasses everything from personal essays and memoirs to humor writing, and they range in length from blog posts to full-length books. The defining characteristic of this massive genre is that it takes the world or the author’s experience and turns it into a narrative that a reader can follow along with.

Here, we want to focus on novel-length works that dig deep into their respective topics. While very different, these two examples truly show the breadth and depth of possibility of creative nonfiction:

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Men’s bodies litter my family history. The pain of the women they left behind pulls them from the beyond, makes them appear as ghosts. In death, they transcend the circumstances of this place that I love and hate all at once and become supernatural. 

Writer Jesmyn Ward recounts the deaths of five men from her rural Mississippi community in as many years. In her award-winning memoir , she delves into the lives of the friends and family she lost and tries to find some sense among the tragedy. Working backwards across five years, she questions why this had to happen over and over again, and slowly unveils the long history of racism and poverty that rules rural Black communities. Moving and emotionally raw, Men We Reaped is an indictment of a cruel system and the story of a woman's grief and rage as she tries to navigate it.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

He believed that wine could reshape someone’s life. That’s why he preferred buying bottles to splurging on sweaters. Sweaters were things. Bottles of wine, said Morgan, “are ways that my humanity will be changed.” 

In this work of immersive journalism , Bianca Bosker leaves behind her life as a tech journalist to explore the world of wine. Becoming a “cork dork” takes her everywhere from New York’s most refined restaurants to science labs while she learns what it takes to be a sommelier and a true wine obsessive. This funny and entertaining trip through the past and present of wine-making and tasting is sure to leave you better informed and wishing you, too, could leave your life behind for one devoted to wine. 

Illustrated Narratives (Comics, graphic novels)

Once relegated to the “funny pages”, the past forty years of comics history have proven it to be a serious medium. Comics have transformed from the early days of Jack Kirby’s superheroes into a medium where almost every genre is represented. Humorous one-shots in the Sunday papers stand alongside illustrated memoirs, horror, fantasy, and just about anything else you can imagine. This type of visual storytelling lets the writer and artist get creative with perspective, tone, and so much more. For two very different, though equally entertaining, examples, check these out:

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

"Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure." 

A Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. A little blond boy Calvin makes multiple silly faces in school photos. In the last panel, his father says, "That's our son. *Sigh*" His mother then says, "The pictures will remind of more than we want to remember."

This beloved comic strip follows Calvin, a rambunctious six-year-old boy, and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend, Hobbes. They get into all kinds of hijinks at school and at home, and muse on the world in the way only a six-year-old and an anthropomorphic tiger can. As laugh-out-loud funny as it is, Calvin & Hobbes ’ popularity persists as much for its whimsy as its use of humor to comment on life, childhood, adulthood, and everything in between. 

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell 

"I shall tell you where we are. We're in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We're in Hell." 

Comics aren't just the realm of superheroes and one-joke strips, as Alan Moore proves in this serialized graphic novel released between 1989 and 1998. A meticulously researched alternative history of Victorian London’s Ripper killings, this macabre story pulls no punches. Fact and fiction blend into a world where the Royal Family is involved in a dark conspiracy and Freemasons lurk on the sidelines. It’s a surreal mad-cap adventure that’s unsettling in the best way possible. 

Video Games and RPGs

Probably the least expected entry on this list, we thought that video games and RPGs also deserved a mention — and some well-earned recognition for the intricate storytelling that goes into creating them. 

Essentially gamified adventure stories, without attention to plot, characters, and a narrative arc, these games would lose a lot of their charm, so let’s look at two examples where the creative writing really shines through: 

80 Days by inkle studios

"It was a triumph of invention over nature, and will almost certainly disappear into the dust once more in the next fifty years." 

A video game screenshot of 80 days. In the center is a city with mechanical legs. It's titled "The Moving City." In the lower right hand corner is a profile of man with a speech balloon that says, "A starched collar, very good indeed."

Named Time Magazine ’s game of the year in 2014, this narrative adventure is based on Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. The player is cast as the novel’s narrator, Passpartout, and tasked with circumnavigating the globe in service of their employer, Phileas Fogg. Set in an alternate steampunk Victorian era, the game uses its globe-trotting to comment on the colonialist fantasies inherent in the original novel and its time period. On a storytelling level, the choose-your-own-adventure style means no two players’ journeys will be the same. This innovative approach to a classic novel shows the potential of video games as a storytelling medium, truly making the player part of the story. 

What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow

"If we lived forever, maybe we'd have time to understand things. But as it is, I think the best we can do is try to open our eyes, and appreciate how strange and brief all of this is." 

This video game casts the player as 17-year-old Edith Finch. Returning to her family’s home on an island in the Pacific northwest, Edith explores the vast house and tries to figure out why she’s the only one of her family left alive. The story of each family member is revealed as you make your way through the house, slowly unpacking the tragic fate of the Finches. Eerie and immersive, this first-person exploration game uses the medium to tell a series of truly unique tales. 

Fun and breezy on the surface, humor is often recognized as one of the trickiest forms of creative writing. After all, while you can see the artistic value in a piece of prose that you don’t necessarily enjoy, if a joke isn’t funny, you could say that it’s objectively failed.

With that said, it’s far from an impossible task, and many have succeeded in bringing smiles to their readers’ faces through their writing. Here are two examples:

‘How You Hope Your Extended Family Will React When You Explain Your Job to Them’ by Mike Lacher (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

“Is it true you don’t have desks?” your grandmother will ask. You will nod again and crack open a can of Country Time Lemonade. “My stars,” she will say, “it must be so wonderful to not have a traditional office and instead share a bistro-esque coworking space.” 

An open plan office seen from a bird's eye view. There are multiple strands of Edison lights hanging from the ceiling. At long light wooden tables multiple people sit working at computers, many of them wearing headphones.

Satire and parody make up a whole subgenre of creative writing, and websites like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Onion consistently hit the mark with their parodies of magazine publishing and news media. This particular example finds humor in the divide between traditional family expectations and contemporary, ‘trendy’ work cultures. Playing on the inherent silliness of today’s tech-forward middle-class jobs, this witty piece imagines a scenario where the writer’s family fully understands what they do — and are enthralled to hear more. “‘Now is it true,’ your uncle will whisper, ‘that you’ve got a potential investment from one of the founders of I Can Haz Cheezburger?’”

‘Not a Foodie’ by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (Electric Literature)

I’m not a foodie, I never have been, and I know, in my heart, I never will be. 

Highlighting what she sees as an unbearable social obsession with food , in this comic Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell takes a hilarious stand against the importance of food. From the writer’s courageous thesis (“I think there are more exciting things to talk about, and focus on in life, than what’s for dinner”) to the amusing appearance of family members and the narrator’s partner, ‘Not a Foodie’ demonstrates that even a seemingly mundane pet peeve can be approached creatively — and even reveal something profound about life.

We hope this list inspires you with your own writing. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be that there is no limit to what you can write about or how you can write about it. 

In the next part of this guide, we'll drill down into the fascinating world of creative nonfiction.

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27 Creative Writing Examples To Spark Your Imagination

With all the types of creative writing to choose from, it’s hard enough to focus on just one or two of your favorites. 

When it comes to writing your own examples, don’t be hard on yourself if you hit a wall.

We’ve all done it.

Sometimes, all you need is a generous supply of well-crafted and inspirational creative writing examples. 

Good thing you’re here!

For starters, let’s get clear on what creative writing is. 

What Is Creative Writing? 

How to start creative writing , 1. novels and novellas, 2. short stories and flash fiction, 3. twitter stories (140 char), 4. poetry or songs/lyrics, 5. scripts for plays, tv shows, and movies, 6. memoirs / autobiographical narratives, 7. speeches, 9. journalism / newspaper articles, 11. last wills and obituaries, 12. dating profiles and wanted ads, 13. greeting cards.

Knowing how to be a creative writer is impossible if you don’t know the purpose of creative writing and all the types of writing included. 

As you’ll see from the categories listed further on, the words “creative writing” contain multitudes: 

  • Novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and even nanofiction;
  • Poetry (traditional and free verse); 
  • Screenplays (for theatrical stage performances, TV shows, and movies)
  • Blog posts and feature articles in newspapers and magazines
  • Memoirs and Testimonials
  • Speeches and Essays
  • And more—including dating profiles, obituaries, and letters to the editor. 

Read on to find some helpful examples of many of these types. Make a note of the ones that interest you most. 

Once you have some idea of what you want to write, how do you get started? 

Allow us to suggest some ideas that have worked for many of our readers and us: 

  • Keep a daily journal to record and play with your ideas as they come; 
  • Set aside a specific chunk of time every day (even 5 minutes) just for writing; 
  • Use a timer to help you stick to your daily writing habit ; 
  • You can also set word count goals, if you find that more motivating than time limits; 
  • Read as much as you can of the kind of content you want to write; 
  • Publish your work (on a blog), and get feedback from others. 

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to begin let’s move on to our list of examples.  

Creative Writing Examples 

Read through the following examples to get ideas for your own writing. Make a note of anything that stands out for you. 

Inspiring novel-writing examples can come from the first paragraph of a well-loved novel (or novella), from the description on the back cover, or from anywhere in the story. 

From Circe by Madeline Miller

““Little by little I began to listen better: to the sap moving in the plants, to the blood in my veins. I learned to understand my own intention, to prune and to add, to feel where the power gathered and speak the right words to draw it to its height. That was the moment I lived for, when it all came clear at last and the spell could sing with its pure note, for me and me alone.”

From The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: 

“‘I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination…. ” 

The shorter your story, the more vital it is for each word to earn its place.  Each sentence or phrase should be be necessary to your story’s message and impact. 

From “A Consumer’s Guide to Shopping with PTSD” by Katherine Robb

“‘“Do you know what she said to me at the condo meeting?” I say to the salesman. She said, “Listen, the political climate is so terrible right now I think we all have PTSD. You’re just the only one making such a big deal about it.”

“The salesman nods his jowly face and says, “That Brenda sounds like a real b***h.”’

From Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (collection of short stories)

“Something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again.” (From ‘A Temporary Matter’)

Use the hashtag #VSS to find a generous sampling of short Twitter stories in 140 or fewer characters. Here are a few examples to get you started: 

From Chris Stocks on January 3rd, 2022 : 

“With the invention of efficient 3D-printable #solar panels & cheap storage batteries, the world was finally able to enjoy the benefits of limitless cheap green energy. Except in the UK. We’re still awaiting the invention of a device to harness the power of light drizzle.” #vss365 (Keyword: solar)

From TinyTalesbyRedsaid1 on January 2nd, 2022 : 

“A solar lamp would safely light our shack. But Mom says it’ll lure thieves. I squint at my homework by candlelight, longing for electricity.” #vss #vss365 #solar

If you’re looking for poetry or song-writing inspiration, you’ll find plenty of free examples online—including the two listed here: 

From “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

“How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

From “Enemy” by Imagine Dragons

“I wake up to the sounds

Of the silence that allows

For my mind to run around

With my ear up to the ground

I’m searching to behold

The stories that are told

When my back is to the world

That was smiling when I turned

Tell you you’re the greatest

But once you turn they hate us….” 

If you enjoy writing dialogue and setting a scene, check out the following excerpts from two very different screenplays. Then jot down some notes for a screenplay (or scene) of your own.

From Mean Girls by Tina Fey (Based on the book, Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman

“Karen: ‘So, if you’re from Africa, why are you white?’

“Gretchen: ‘Oh my god, Karen! You can’t just ask people why they’re white!’

“Regina: ‘Cady, could you give us some privacy for, like, one second?’

“Cady: ‘Sure.’

Cady makes eye contact with Janis and Damien as the Plastics confer.

“Regina (breaking huddle): ‘Okay, let me just say that we don’t do this a lot, so you should know that this is, like, a huge deal.’

“Gretchen: ‘We want to invite you to have lunch with us every day for the rest of the week.’ 

“Cady: ‘Oh, okay…’ 

“Gretchen: Great. So, we’ll see you tomorrow.’

“Karen: ‘On Tuesdays, we wear pink.’” 

#10: From The Matrix by Larry and Andy Wachowski

“NEO: ‘That was you on my computer?’

“NEO: ‘How did you do that?’

“TRINITY: ‘Right now, all I can tell you, is that you are in danger. I brought you here to warn you.’

“NEO: ‘Of what?’

“TRINITY: ‘They’re watching you, Neo.’

“NEO: ‘Who is?’

“TRINITY: ‘Please. Just listen. I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone and why, night after night, you sit at your computer. You’re looking for him.’

“Her body is against his; her lips very close to his ear.

“TRINITY: ‘I know because I was once looking for the same thing, but when he found me he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer.’

“There is a hypnotic quality to her voice and Neo feels the words, like a drug, seeping into him.

“TRINITY: ‘It’s the question that drives us, the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.’

“NEO: ‘What is the Matrix?’

Sharing stories from your life can be both cathartic for you and inspiring or instructive (or at least entertaining) for your readers. 

From The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

“It was in fact the ordinary nature of everything preceding the event that prevented me from truly believing it had happened, absorbing it, incorporating it, getting past it. I recognize now that there was nothing unusual in this: confronted with sudden disaster, we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred: the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy. ‘He was on his way home from work—happy, successful, healthy—and then, gone,’ I read in the account of the psychiatric nurse whose husband was killed in a highway accident… ” 

From Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt: 

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

From Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s by Jennifer Worth: 

“Nonnatus House was situated in the heart of the London Docklands… The area was densely-populated and most families had lived there for generations, often not moving more than a street or two away from their birthplace. Family life was lived at close-quarters and children were brought up by a widely-extended family of aunts, grandparents, cousins, and older siblings. 

The purpose of most speeches is to inform, inspire, or persuade. Think of the last time you gave a speech of your own. How did you hook your listeners? 

From “Is Technology Making Us Smarter or Dumber?” by Rob Clowes (Persuasive)

“It is possible to imagine that human nature, the human intellect, emotions and feelings are completely independent of our technologies; that we are essentially ahistorical beings with one constant human nature that has remained the same throughout history or even pre-history? Sometimes evolutionary psychologists—those who believe human nature was fixed on the Pleistocene Savannah—talk this way. I think this is demonstrably wrong…. “

From “Make Good Art” by Neil Gaiman (Keynote Address for the University of Fine Arts, 2012):

“…First of all: When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.”

“This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.”

“If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.” 

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From “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (TEDGlobal)

“…I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. My father was a professor. My mother was an administrator. And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural villages. So, the year I turned eight, we got a new house boy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his family. And when I didn’t finish my dinner, my mother would say, “Finish your food! Don’t you know? People like Fide’s family have nothing.” So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.

“Then one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.” 

Essays are about arguing a particular point of view and presenting credible support for it. Think about an issue that excites or angers you. What could you write to make your case for a specific argument? 

From “On Rules of Writing,” by Ursula K. Le Guin:

“Thanks to ‘show don’t tell,’ I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented. (I make them read the first chapter of The Return of the Native , a description of a landscape, in which absolutely nothing happens until in the last paragraph a man is seen, from far away, walking along a road. If that won’t cure them nothing will.)” 

From “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale ” by Kate Bernheimer (from The Writer’s Notebook) : 

“‘The pleasure of fairy tales,’ writes Swiss scholar Max Lüthi, ‘resides in their form.’ I find myself more and more devoted to the pleasure derived from form generally, and from the form of fairy tales specifically, and so I am eager to share what fairy-tale techniques have done for my writing and what they can do for yours. Fairy tales offer a path to rapture—the rapture of form—where the reader or writer finds a blissful and terrible home….  “

Picture yourself as a seasoned journalist brimming with ideas for your next piece. Or think of an article you’ve read that left you thinking, “Wow, they really went all out!” The following examples can inspire you to create front-page-worthy content of your own.

From “The Deadliest Jobs in America” by Christopher Cannon, Alex McIntyre and Adam Pearce (Bloomberg: May 13, 2015):

“The U.S. Department of Labor tracks how many people die at work, and why. The latest numbers were released in April and cover the last seven years through 2013. Some of the results may surprise you…. “

From “The Hunted” by Jeffrey Goldberg ( The Atlantic: March 29, 2010)

“… poachers continued to infiltrate the park, and to the Owenses they seemed more dangerous than ever. Word reached them that one band of commercial poachers had targeted them for assassination, blaming them for ruining their business. These threats—and the shooting of an elephant near their camp—provoked Mark to intensify his antipoaching activities. For some time, he had made regular night flights over the park, in search of meat-drying racks and the campfires of poachers; he would fly low, intentionally backfiring the plane and frightening away the hunters. Now he decided to escalate his efforts….. “

It doesn’t have to cost a thing to start a blog if you enjoy sharing your stories, ideas, and unique perspective with an online audience. What inspiration can you draw from the following examples?

#21: “How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World” by Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger (Problogger.com):

“After all, that’s the dream, right?

“Forget the mansions and limousines and other trappings of Hollywood-style wealth. Sure, it would be nice, but for the most part, we bloggers are simpler souls with much kinder dreams.

“We want to quit our jobs, spend more time with our families, and finally have time to write. We want the freedom to work when we want, where we want. We want our writing to help people, to inspire them, to change them from the inside out.

“It’s a modest dream, a dream that deserves to come true, and yet a part of you might be wondering…

“Will it?…. “

From “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” (blog post) by Mark Manson :

Headline: “Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many f*cks in situations where f*cks do not deserve to be given.”

“In my life, I have given a f*ck about many people and many things. I have also not given a f*ck about many people and many things. And those f*cks I have not given have made all the difference…. “

Whether you’re writing a tribute for a deceased celebrity or loved one, or you’re writing your own last will and testament, the following examples can help get you started. 

From an obituary for the actress Betty White (1922-2021) on Legacy.com: 

“Betty White was a beloved American actress who starred in “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

“Died: Friday, December 31, 2021

“Details of death: Died at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 99.

“A television fixture once known as the First Lady of Game Shows, White was blessed with a career that just wouldn’t quit — indeed, her fame only seemed to grow as she entered her 80s and 90s. By the time of her death, she was considered a national treasure, one of the best-loved and most trusted celebrities in Hollywood…. “ 

From a last will and testament using a template provided by LegalZoom.com : 

“I, Petra Schade, a resident of Minnesota in Sherburne County — being of sound mind and memory — do hereby make, publish, and declare this to be my last will and testament…

“At the time of executing this will, I am married to Kristopher Schade. The names of my (and Kristopher’s) four children are listed below…

“I hereby express my intent not to be buried in a cemetery. I ask that my remains be cremated and then scattered at the base of a tree.

“None will have any obligation to visit my remains or leave any kind of marker. I ask that my husband honor this request more than any supposed obligation to honor my corpse with a funeral or with any kind of religious ceremony.

“I ask, too, that my children honor me by taking advantage of opportunities to grow and nurture trees in their area and (if they like) beyond, without spending more than their household budgets can support…. “

Dating profiles and wanted ads are another fun way to flex your creative writing muscles. Imagine you or a friend is getting set up on a dating app. Or pretend you’re looking for a job, a roommate, or something else that could (potentially) make your life better. 

Example of dating profile: 

Headline: “Female 49-year-old writer/coder looking for good company”

“Just moved to the Twin Cities metro area, and with my job keeping me busy most of the time, I haven’t gotten out much and would like to meet a friend (and possibly more) who knows their way around and is great to talk to. I don’t have pets (though I like animals) — or allergies. And with my work schedule, I need to be home by 10 pm at the latest. That said, I’d like to get better acquainted with the area — with someone who can make the time spent exploring it even more rewarding.”  

Example of a wanted ad for a housekeeper: 

“Divorced mother of four (living with three of them half the time) is looking for a housekeeper who can tidy up my apartment (including the two bathrooms) once a week. Pay is $20 an hour, not including tips, for three hours a week on Friday mornings from 9 am to 12 pm. Please call or text me at ###-###-#### and let me know when we could meet to discuss the job.”

These come in so many different varieties, we won’t attempt to list them here, but we will provide one upbeat example. Use it as inspiration for a birthday message for someone you know—or to write yourself the kind of message you’d love to receive. 

Happy 50th Birthday card:  

“Happy Birthday, and congratulations on turning 50! I remember you telling me your 40s were better than your 30s, which were better than your 20s. Here’s to the best decade yet! I have no doubt you’ll make it memorable and cross some things off your bucket list before your 51st.

“You inspire and challenge me to keep learning, to work on my relationships, and to try new things. There’s no one I’d rather call my best friend on earth.” 

Now that you’ve looked through all 27 creative writing examples, which ones most closely resemble the kind of writing you enjoy? 

By that, we mean, do you enjoy both reading and creating it? Or do you save some types of creative writing just for reading—and different types for your own writing? You’re allowed to mix and match. Some types of creative writing provide inspiration for others. 

What kind of writing will you make time for today? 

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Humanities LibreTexts

1.1: Intro to Creative Writing

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  • Page ID 132138

  • Sybil Priebe
  • North Dakota State College of Science via Independent Published

what is creative writing in sentences

chapter 1: intro to creative writing:

Creative writing\(^7\) is any writing that goes outside the bounds of “normal”\(^8\) “professional,”\(^9\) journalistic, “academic,”\(^{10}\) or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. 

Both fictional and nonfictional works fall into this category, including such forms as novels, biographies, short stories, and poems. In the academic setting, creative writing is typically separated into fiction and poetry classes, with a focus on writing in an original style, as opposed to imitating pre-existing genres such as crime or horror. Writing for the screen and stage—screenwriting and playwrighting—are often taught separately but fit under the creative writing category as well.

Creative writing can technically be considered any writing of original composition. 

the creative process: \(^{11}\)

Some people can simply sit down to write and have something to write about. For others, finding something to write about can be the hardest part of creative writing. Assuming that you are not in the first group, there are several things you can do to create ideas. Not all of these will work for all people, but most are at least useful tools in the process. Also, you never know when you might have an idea. Write down any ideas you have at any time and expand on them later.

For stories and poetry, the simplest method is to immerse yourself in the subject matter. If you want to write a short story, read a lot of short stories. If you want to write a poem, read poems. If you want to write something about love, read a lot of things about love, no matter the genre. 

the writing process “reminder”\(^{12}\)

Please Note: Not all writers follow these steps perfectly and with each project, but let’s review them to cover our butts:



Outline\(^{13}\) your entire story so you know what to write.  Start by writing a summary of your story in 1 paragraph. Use each sentence to explain the most important parts of your story. Then, take each sentence of your paragraph and expand it into greater detail. Keep working backward to add more detail to your story. This is known as the “snowflake method” of outlining.

getting started:

Find a comfortable space to write: consider the view, know yourself well enough to decide what you need in that physical space (music? coffee? blanket?).

Have the right tools: computer, notebook, favorite pens, etc.

Consider having a portable version of your favorite writing tool (small notebook or use an app on your phone?).

Start writing and try to make a daily habit out of it, even if you only get a paragraph or page down each day.

Keys to creativity: curiosity, passion, determination, awareness, energy, openness, sensitivity, listening, and observing...

getting ideas:

Ideas are everywhere! Ideas can be found:

Notebook or Image journal

Media: Magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, movies, etc.

Conversations with people

Artistic sources like photographs, family albums, home movies, illustrations, sculptures, and paintings.

Daily life: Standing in line at the grocery store, going to an ATM, working at your campus job, etc.

Music: Song lyrics, music videos, etc.

Beautiful or Horrible Settings

Favorite Objects

Favorite Books

How to generate ideas:

Play the game: "What if..."

Play the game: "I wonder..."

Use your favorite story as a model.

Revise favorite stories - nonfiction or fiction - into a different genre.

writer's block:\(^{14}\)

Writer’s block can happen to ANYONE, so here are some ways to break the block if it happens to you:

Write down anything that comes to mind. 

Try to draw ideas from what has already been written.

Take a break from writing. 

Read other peoples' writing to get ideas.

Talk to people. Ask others if they have any ideas.

Don't be afraid of writing awkwardly. Write it down and edit it later.

Set deadlines and keep them.

Work on multiple projects at a time; this way if you need to procrastinate on one project, you can work on another!

If you are jammed where you are, stop and write somewhere else, where it is comfortable.

Go somewhere where people are. Then people-watch. Who are these people? What do they do? Can you deduce\(^{15}\) anything based on what they are wearing or doing or saying? Make up random backstories for them, as if they were characters in your story.

peer workshops and feedback acronyms: \(^{16}\)

Having other humans give you feedback will help you improve misunderstandings within your work. Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to see what you “missed” in your own writing. Please try not to get upset by the feedback; some people give creative criticism and others give negative criticism, but you will eventually learn by your own mistakes to improve your writing and that requires peer review and feedback from others. 

If you are comfortable having your friends and family read your work, you could have them\(^{17}\) peer review your work. Have a nerdy friend who corrects your grammar? Pay them in pizza perhaps to read over your stuff!? If you are in college, you can use college tutors to review your work.

Peer Workshop activities can help create a “writing group vibe” to any course, so hopefully, that is a part of the creative writing class you are taking.


The acronyms involved with feedback – at least according to the educators of Twitter – are WWW and TAG. Here’s what they stand for, so feel free to use these strategies in your creative writing courses OR when giving feedback to ANYONE.

Are you open to the kinds of feedback you’ll get using that table above with the WWW/TAG pieces?

What do you typically want feedback on when it comes to projects? Why?

What do you feel comfortable giving feedback to classmates on? Why?

\(^7\)"Creative Writing." Wikipedia . 13 Nov 2016. 21 Nov 2016, 19:39 < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_writing >. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

\(^8\)Whoa, what is normal anyway?

\(^9\)What IS the definition of “professionalism”?

\(^{10}\)Can’t academic writing be creative?

\(^{11}\)"Creative Writing/Introduction." Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project . 10 May 2009, 04:14 UTC. 9 Nov 2016, 19:39

< https://en.wikibooks.org/w/index.php...&oldid=1495539 >. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

\(^{12}\)It doesn’t really matter who created it; all you need to know is that you don’t HAVE to follow it perfectly. Not many people do.

\(^{13}\)Wikihow contributors. "How to Write Science Fiction." Wikihow. 29 May 2019. Web. 22 June 2019. http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Science-Fiction . Text available under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

\(^{14}\)"Creative Writing/Fiction technique." Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project . 28 Jun 2016, 13:38 UTC. 9 Nov 2016, 20:36

< https://en.wikibooks.org/w/index.php...&oldid=3093632 >. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

\(^{15}\)Deduce = to reach a conclusion.

\(^{16}\)"Creative Writing/Peer Review." Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. 16 Aug 2016, 22:07 UTC. 9 Nov 2016, 20:12

< https://en.wikibooks.org/w/index.php...&oldid=3107005 >. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

\(^{17}\)This textbook we’ll try to use they/them pronouns throughout to be inclusive of all humans.

Online Spellcheck Blog

Creative Writing: 10 Ways to Write Better Sentences

what is creative writing in sentences

Creative writing is a craft that takes time and effort to master. Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a screenwriter, or any other type of creative writer, your sentences are the building blocks of your work. They need to be both clear and engaging to hold your reader’s attention.

In this article, we will present you with ten different ways to write better sentences as a creative writer! So let’s begin.

1 Avoid Passive Voice

Passive voice is a common pitfall for many writers, and avoiding it is essential for creating engaging and impactful sentences.

In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon, rather than performing the action itself. This can create a sense of distance between the reader and the action, making the writing feel flat or uninspired.

For example, consider the difference between these two sentences:

Passive voice: The cake was eaten by Tom.

Active voice: Tom ate the cake.

The active voice sentence places the subject (Tom) at the center of the action, creating a sense of immediacy and urgency. Your writing will feel stronger if you focus on the person doing the action.

Of course, there may be some rare situations when you want to use passive voice purposefully, to create a certain effect. For example, passive voice can be used to emphasize the action or object being acted upon, rather than the person performing the action. This can be useful when the object is more important than the person performing the action.

For instance:

Passive voice: The painting was stolen from the museum.

Active voice: Someone stole the painting from the museum.

In this example, the passive voice emphasizes the painting as the object of the action, rather than the person who stole it.

How to identify passive voice

To identify passive voice, look for the use of “to be” verbs (such as “was,” “is,” or “were”) followed by a past participle verb (such as “eaten,” “stolen,” or “written”). To correct passive voice, simply switch the object and subject of the sentence or rephrase the sentence entirely to use active voice.

Passive voice: The report was written by Jane.

Active voice: Jane wrote the report.

By avoiding passive voice and focusing on active voice, you can create more dynamic, engaging, and memorable sentences that draw readers in and keep them engaged with your writing.

2 Cut Unnecessary Similes in Creative Writing

Similes are a great way to add descriptive language and make your writing more vivid and engaging. However, using too many or unnecessary similes can be distracting for readers. It can even come across as clichéd or overdone.

Here’s an example of unnecessary use:

“The sun rose over the mountains like a giant glowing orb.”

In this sentence, the simile does not add any additional information or create a new perspective on the sunrise. The reader already knows what the sun looks like and doesn’t need the added comparison to a giant glowing orb.

Instead, the writer could simply describe the sunrise in a way that feels fresh and evocative, such as:

“The sun slowly peeked over the jagged peaks, casting a golden glow over the landscape below.”

This description captures the beauty and majesty of the sunrise without relying on a clichéd simile.

While this simile may be effective in some contexts, in others it can seem overused and unoriginal. It’s important to consider the purpose of each simile and whether it truly adds to the meaning and impact of the sentence.

To avoid overusing similes, focus on using them only when they add something important to the writing. Similes can be particularly effective when they create a connection between something abstract and concrete, or when they provide a fresh perspective on something familiar.

For example: “She stood in the rain, feeling like a drowning flower in a sea of water.”

In this simile, the writer creates a vivid image of someone feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable in a way that feels impactful.

By cutting unnecessary similes and focusing on the ones that truly add value to your writing, you can create engaging sentences that capture your reader’s attention and hold it until the very end!

3 Avoid Complex Sentences

In writing, it’s essential to strike a balance between engaging your reader with rich and varied sentences and making sure your writing is easy to understand.

One common mistake is to cram too much information into a single sentence. When a sentence has too many clauses and phrases, it can become difficult to follow. Instead, aim for shorter sentences that communicate one idea at a time. This approach can help keep your writing clear and concise.

However, do not be afraid to vary your sentence length and structure! Mixing up sentence patterns can create a dynamic rhythm and keep readers engaged. Just make sure the meaning of each sentence is clear and easy to follow.

To identify and correct complex sentences, try reading your writing aloud. If you find yourself running out of breath or stumbling over words, it may be a sign that your sentences are too long or complicated. Break them down into shorter sentences that are easier to follow. Remember, your goal is to engage your reader while keeping your writing accessible. Strive for clarity , and use sentence complexity sparingly and intentionally.

In rare situations when a complex sentence is necessary, it’s important to ensure that each clause is clear and serves a distinct purpose. Using punctuation, such as commas or semicolons, can help break up complex sentences into more manageable chunks.

Here’s an example:

Complex Sentence: While I was walking in the park, I saw a group of children playing and laughing, and I couldn’t help but smile, remembering the carefree days of my own childhood.

Simplified Sentence: I saw children playing and laughing in the park and it made me smile, remembering my own carefree days.

In the simplified version, unnecessary details and clauses are removed, making the sentence easier to read and follow.

4 Avoid Body Parts Taking Action

Another common mistake that amateur writers often make is using body parts as the subjects of sentences.

For example, instead of saying “The hand grabbed the book,” it’s better to say “I grabbed the book,” or “He grabbed the book.”

This is important because it helps to create a stronger sense of agency and personal connection between the reader and the characters or narrator in the writing.

When body parts are used to take action, it can create a sense of detachment and objectivity that can be jarring to the reader. By using people as the subjects of your sentences, you can create a more engaging and emotionally resonant narrative that draws readers in and keeps them invested in the story.

So, next time you are writing a sentence, remember to keep the focus on the characters or narrators themselves, rather than on their body parts.

what is creative writing in sentences

5 Avoid starting actions

Starting sentences with actions is a common habit among many writers. However, it can be an easy trap to fall into. Having a character start or begin actions, reduces the immediacy of the action and rarely enhances understanding.

For example:

“Anna started to smile ” is an example of a sentence that could be simplified and made more engaging by removing unnecessary words. Instead, you could simply say “Anna smiled.” Both will convey the same meaning. But, “Anna smiled” feels much stronger and more immediate.

By removing the unnecessary phrase “started to,” the sentence becomes more direct and impactful, putting the focus on the action itself rather than the build-up to it. This creates a stronger sense of immediacy and engagement, drawing the reader into the moment and making them feel more connected to Anna and the story as a whole.

When every sentence starts with an action, it can create a sense of monotony that can bore readers and make your writing feel flat. Instead, try varying the structure of your sentences to keep your writing interesting and engaging.

You could start with descriptive language , dialogue , or even a question to pique the reader’s interest and draw them into the story. By using a variety of sentence structures, create a more dynamic and compelling narrative – it will keep readers interested and invested.

6 Set the Tone with Word Choices

The words you choose to use in your creative writing can have a profound impact on the tone and mood of your piece. By carefully selecting the right words, you can create a sense of atmosphere and emotion that draws the reader into your story and helps to immerse them in your world. Whether you are aiming for a lighthearted and humorous tone, a dark and brooding atmosphere, or something in between, your word choices can help to set the tone and create the right emotional impact for your readers.

 •  The car crept down the narrow street.

 •  The car raced down the narrow street.

 •  The car meandered down the narrow street.

In the first sentence, the word “crept” creates a sense of caution and slowness, suggesting that the driver is navigating the street with care. In the second sentence, the word “raced” creates a sense of urgency and excitement, suggesting that the driver is in a hurry. In the third sentence, the word “meandered” creates a sense of leisure and relaxation, suggesting that the driver is taking their time and enjoying the scenery.

By choosing different words to describe the same action, you can create a wide range of impressions and moods in your writing, helping to set the tone and create a more engaging and immersive experience for your readers.

7 Remove Filtering

Filtering is a writing technique where the author uses words or phrases to “filter” the reader’s experience of the story, rather than allowing them to experience it directly. This can take the form of phrases like “I saw,” “I heard,” “I felt,” or “I thought,” which can create a sense of distance between the reader and the story, making it harder for them to become fully immersed in the world and the characters.

To create a more engaging and immersive reading experience, it is important to remove filtering from your writing as much as possible. Instead of telling the reader what the character saw or heard, show them the experience directly through sensory details and vivid descriptions.

For example, instead of saying “I heard a loud noise,” you could say “A deafening crash echoed through the room, making me jump in my seat.” By showing, rather than telling, you create a more engaging and immersive reading experience for your audience.

8 Reduce “was -ing” Construction

Using too many “was -ing” constructions in your writing can make sentences feel passive and unengaging, as it often emphasizes the action rather than the character performing the action. This can make your writing feel flat and lifeless, rather than dynamic and engaging.

To avoid this, reduce the use of “was -ing” constructions and instead opt for more active sentence structures. This can involve using stronger, more descriptive verbs, or reworking your sentences to put the emphasis on the character performing the action.

For example, consider these two sentences:

He was walking down the street.

He sauntered down the street.

In the first sentence, the “was -ing” construction makes the action feel passive and uninteresting. In the second sentence, however, the more descriptive verb “sauntered” creates a sense of purpose and intentionality, making the action feel more engaging and dynamic.

Focusing on more active sentence structures, you can create writing that feels more dynamic, engaging, and alive, helping to draw your readers into the story and keep them hooked.

9 Keep the Wording Natural

When writing, use language that feels natural and organic, rather than stiff or stilted. This means avoiding overly formal language or phrases that do not sound like something a real person would say.

One way to keep your wording natural is to read your writing aloud and listen for any phrases or sentences that feel awkward or clunky. You can also ask yourself if a real person would actually say the words you have written, or if they would use different phrasing or word choices.

“It is imperative that we arrive at the designated location by the appointed time.”

“We need to get there on time.”

The first sentence is overly formal and does not sound like something a real person would say in everyday conversation. The second sentence, on the other hand, is more natural and to the point.

10 Use of Vocabulary Level

A vocabulary level can be great for conveying characterization, values, etc. However, it is important to consider how the level of vocabulary impacts reading speed . More advanced vocabulary can slow down the reader, so it is important to use it strategically.

Different target reader groups may have different preferences for the pace of reading. Some readers enjoy savoring each word and reading at a slower pace, while others prefer a faster pace that keeps them engaged and moving through the text quickly. As a writer, you must consider the impact of your word choices on the reading speed and experience of your audience.

While it can be tempting to showcase your extensive vocabulary, try to use it in moderation and only when it adds value to the writing. Ultimately, your goal as a writer is to engage your audience and keep them interested in your story or message. Keeping your readers in mind when selecting your vocabulary can help ensure that your writing is effective and impactful.

Advanced vocabulary: The erudite professor began pontificating about the intricacies of the esoteric subject, inundating his audience with a plethora of abstruse terminology.

Simplified vocabulary: The knowledgeable professor started explaining the complexities of the obscure topic, using lots of difficult terms that were unfamiliar to most people.

Both sentences convey the same message, but the first one uses more advanced vocabulary that may slow down the reader. The second sentence uses simpler vocabulary that is easier to understand and moves the reader through the text more quickly.

Improving your sentence writing skills is a vital component of becoming a better writer. By using active voice, avoiding passive voice, cutting unnecessary similes, simplifying complex sentences, removing filtering, setting the pace with sentence length, and strategically using vocabulary level, you can create more engaging and impactful sentences and capture your readers’ attention.

Remember, the goal is not to impress with fancy words or convoluted phrasing. The goal is to effectively communicate your ideas and stories in a way that resonates with readers. Try following these ten tips. You will be on your way to crafting powerful, memorable sentences that elevate your writing to the next level!

what is creative writing in sentences

You Can Journal

114 Writing Prompt Sentences For More Creative Stories

Sometimes when you’re writing, you could use a little help getting started. Am I right?

The fact is that some of the most effective writing prompts are actually writing prompt sentences – a single sentence beckoning you to expound upon a thought or storyline. And lucky for you, we have truckloads of them!

The Art of an Engaging Opening Line

Writing prompt sentences offer a first impression into a literary world—they grab the writer’s attention and set the tone for their entire piece. A powerful opener can captivate you and draw you into a narrative you just have to write.

While this post will focus on providing you with fresh, new writing prompt sentences, it’s important to consider how some of the world’s most popular stories begin. Some writers even enjoy borrowing the opening sentence of these popular books and creating a new story from it:

Great First Lines

Great first lines are more than just words; they are an invitation into a story. 

Lines that stand out:

  • Are concise:  They aim to be punchy and to the point.
  • Evoke curiosity:  They stir the reader’s interest with mystery or an unexpected twist.
  • Set the scene:  They provide a glimpse into the world or mood of the story.

For example:

It was the perfect vacation, or so I thought.

This writing prompt sentence sets the scene in paradise, invites the writer (and reader!) to imagine what might have gone wrong, and keeps the door open to a wide array of possibilities with its brevity.

The Power of One-Line Writing Prompts

Writing prompt sentences are compact storytelling engines. Here’s how they can enhance your writing:

  • Spark creativity:  They force you to develop complex ideas from a single, powerful sentence.
  • Flex writing muscles:  Regular practice with one-liners can improve overall writing skills.

what is creative writing in sentences

Setting the Scene

Some of the best story starters focus on the story’s setting.

The setting creates the world where characters live and act. Setting-focused writing prompt sentences invite writers to vividly construct these scenes from the get-go.

The Living Room

The man’s living room was cluttered in the most peculiar way.

And setting story starters aren’t limitied to appearance! Consider creative writing prompts that invite writers to describe a setting’s ambience.

There was a faint scent of lavender in the air.
Her cubicle induced anxiety, immediately and lethally.

The Perfect Vacation Scene

The right writing prompt sentences can make writers feel the sun’s warmth and the sand between their toes as they craft the perfect vacation scene. Whether it’s a tropical beach or a cozy mountain lodge, focus on sensory details like temperature, sounds, scents, and textures.

The crisp, fresh air saturating the front porch of the cabin reminded her of him.
The sun was blinding but beautiful, warming his cheeks in a way that reminded him of childhood.
She woke up to the lapping of waves.
He’d never noticed the smell of pine before, passing the time in his cramped apartment, but here it engulfed him in a sweet thickness.
The sand was coarse between her toes, the water biting.

Middle of the Night Zookeeper Adventures

Young writers will enjoy settings that evoke their imaginations, with bonus points for including animals!

I knew sneaking through the zoo in the middle of the night wouldn’t be easy, but I never expected this!

It all started when the night zookeeper caught sight of the strange old man crouched in the shadows.

Of all of the strange encounters the night zookeeper had experienced, this tiny dragon was easily the strangest.

Characters and Relationships

Creating dynamic characters and exploring their relationships is a cornerstone of storytelling. Characters must interact in ways that are both authentic and push the story forward.

The Strange Old Man Next Door

Whether a strange old man or woman lives next door, drives an ice cream truck, or walks the local park in the middle of the night, the allure of the unknown is sure to draw writers in.

The strange old man next door knew something I didn’t.
No one knew it, but the small town cab driver was 321 years old in Earth years.
The next door neighbours were careful to leave the front door of their house unlocked before leaving for their cruise ship.

The Legacy of Family and Friendships

Family can leave you with the warm fuzzies…or a bad taste in your mouth.

The death of my great uncle left a peculiar legacy, one you’ve certainly never heard of before.
The little boy was clearly my son…but how?
I never intended to be gone for such a long time but of course, my mother would be the last person to believe that.

Friendships define your main character, and their involvement often catalyzes growth or change. 

She may never be my best friend again, but her apology was at least a starting point.
The rustling of keys in the lock told me my best friend had arrived, but I could have never prepared myself for what came through my front door with him.

Encounters with a Little Sister

Young writers from 1st grade all the way through high school can benefit from exploring sibling relationships. Story starters involving a little sister or brother represent a chance for them to explore the innocence or mischief of siblings and their relationship to them, and with the right creative writing prompts, even develop empathy.

From the second the words left her mouth, it was clear my little sister never intended to reveal the secret.
The first time my little brother did it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Plot Twists and Surprises

At the core of some of the most compelling narratives are the plot twists and surprises that throw readers for a loop. Incorporating plot twists in your sentence prompts is a great way to help maintain suspense and deliver a jaw-dropping moment.

An Unexpected Fortune Cookie Message

The fortune cookie revealed a crisp piece of paper where, instead of a vague aphorism or lucky number, it read…my address. 
I expected to find a small piece of paper inside of my fortune cookie, not this, not by any means.

The Roller Coaster of Life

Whether literal or figurative, a roller coaster offers a perfect metaphor for life’s unpredictable twists and turns. 

I expected the roller coaster ride to be noisy, but the loud crash at the top of the rails seemed far from intended.
I never knew it was possible to crash from the highest high of my life to the lowest low within a millisecond, a catch of the breath…but here I was.

what is creative writing in sentences

Sensory Details in Writing

Engaging senses in your writing can transport readers into the scene. It’s like giving them a front-row seat to the unfolding narrative.

The Chill of Icy Fingers

I padded my bare feet across the cold pavement, each step shooting a biting chill, like icy fingers clawing up my calves.
The warmth of my bed met an abrupt halt as the icy fingers grabbed my arm.

Memories from a Photo Album

Flipping through a photo album can evoke vivid memories.

When her eyes fell upon the photo, she immediately recalled how crisp the air had felt on her skin the morning the photo was taken.
He could still feel his itchy sweater in the photo, still smell the stale stench of alcohol, still hear the music jangling out of the jukebox.

Prompts for Different Age Groups

Writing prompts offer a great way to engage with writing at any age. Let’s explore what kinds of one-line prompts best suit different educational stages, from playful themes for young writers to thought-provoking scenarios for high school students.

Engaging Young Writers

To capture the imagination of young writers, consider sentence prompts that allow for creative exploration and storytelling.

Here are a few ideas:

Describe your dream pet.
Tell a story about the day the sky turned green.

Sentence Prompts for Middle School

For  middle school  students, prompts that challenge their thinking and encourage deeper reflection are ideal.

Try these engaging prompts:

Imagine a world without technology.
Write about a character who finds a mysterious key.

High School Writing Challenges

High school students benefit from prompts that tackle complex issues and facilitate critical thinking.

Engage them with prompts such as:

Discuss the impact of social media on your generation.
Create a dialogue between two historical figure.

Incorporating Technology and Novelty

You can use everyday items and fantastical devices to create intriguing story starters. Technology and novelty, especially in combination, have the power to unlock new worlds in your imagination.

The Mystery of the Cell Phone

It was an unlocked cell phone…no contacts, no history, just a single, scheduled notification that read, “Remember gran’s words…or die trying.”
When we finally figured out how to turn on the mysterious phone, it immediately shone a bright light that quickly blinded and surrounded us and carried us into the clouds like a hot air balloon.

Time Travel via Time Machine

The ice cream truck wasn’t an ice cream truck at all, but a time machine.
The very act of time travel is riddled with millions of things that could go wrong…but this scenario, this lifeless body, hadn’t made the list.

what is creative writing in sentences

The End or a New Beginning?

While one-sentence writing prompts demand a strong start, every creative writing piece also requires a satisying ending.

Imagine every story’s ending as a chance to echo resonances of the beginning. The last sentence should be reflective of the first sentence, giving a sense of closure or perhaps a teasing window into another world.

Much like the last page of your favorite book might do, short stories particularly benefit from this technique. Their brevity allows for a neat, full-circle feel.

When crafting this pivotal sentence, you have the opportunity to nudge your reader. You’re not just ending a story; you’re implanting the possibility of a new beginning in their mind.

Whether it’s the start of a discussion, a reflection, or a sequel to your narrative, you are in control of what that concluding thought leaves behind.

Creative Writing Techniques

Fully harnessing your creative potential requires utilizing a variety of techniques. These strategies are designed to stimulate your imagination and provide a diverse range of resources to suit your unique writing style.

Stirring the Creative Juices

Engaging with creative writing prompts and techniques offers a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Creative Writing Prompts : Steering away from average and expected journal prompts into those that challenge your imagination and storytelling skills can push you out of your comfort zone into something new.
  • Freewriting : Give yourself a limited time, say 15 minutes, and write continuously without worrying about grammar or coherence.
  • Mind Mapping : Visually organize your thoughts around a central concept to explore connections and foster new ideas.

These techniques free your mind from the usual constraints, encouraging a flow of ideas that might just germinate into a compelling narrative.

Resource Types for Diverse Styles

Your style is as unique as you are, and thankfully, there are a variety of resource types to cater to each writer’s needs.

  • Books and E-books : Get your hands on writing guides that can provide detailed tips and exercises tailored to different genres.
  • Online Platforms : Subscribe to websites offering interactive lessons and forums where you can share work and get feedback.
  • Workshops and Webinars : Join live sessions with experts that address specific writing challenges and answer your burning questions.

By exploring these resources, you’ll find the support and inspiration necessary to sharpen your writing and keep your creative journey exciting and productive.

114 Writing Prompt Sentences For More Creative Stories

Which writing prompt sentences will you try first? We can’t wait to hear what you write!

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150+ Story Starters: Creative Sentences To Start A Story

The most important thing about writing is finding a good idea . You have to have a great idea to write a story. You have to be able to see the whole picture before you can start to write it. Sometimes, you might need help with that. Story starters are a great way to get the story rolling. You can use them to kick off a story, start a character in a story or even start a scene in a story.

When you start writing a story, you need to have a hook. A hook can be a character or a plot device. It can also be a setting, something like “A young man came into a bar with a horse.” or a setting like “It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.” The first sentence of a story is often the hook. It can also be a premise or a situation, such as, “A strange old man in a black cloak was sitting on the train platform.”

Story starters are a way to quickly get the story going. They give the reader a place to start reading your story. Some story starters are obvious, and some are not. The best story starters are the ones that give the reader a glimpse into the story. They can be a part of a story or a part of a scene. They can be a way to show the reader the mood of a story. If you want to start a story, you can use a simple sentence. You can also use a question or an inspirational quote. In this post, we have listed over 150 story starters to get your story started with a bang! A great way to use these story starters is at the start of the Finish The Story game .

If you want more story starters, check out this video on some creative story starter sentences to use in your stories:

150+ Creative Story Starters

Here is a list of good sentences to start a story with:

  • I’ve read about a million stories about princesses but never thought I could ever be one.
  • There was once a man who was very old, but he was wise. He lived for a very long time, and he was very happy.
  • What is the difference between a man and a cat? A cat has nine lives.
  • In the middle of the night, a boy is running through the woods.
  • It is the end of the world.
  • He knew he was not allowed to look into the eyes of the princess, but he couldn’t help himself.
  • The year is 1893. A young boy was running away from home.
  • What if the Forest was actually a magical portal to another dimension, the Forest was a portal to the Otherworld?
  • In the Forest, you will find a vast number of magical beings of all sorts. 
  • It was the middle of the night, and the forest was quiet. No bugs or animals disturbed the silence. There were no birds, no chirping. 
  • If you wish to stay in the Forest, you will need to follow these rules: No one shall leave the Forest. No one shall enter. No one shall take anything from the Forest.
  • “It was a terrible day,” said the old man in a raspy voice.
  • A cat is flying through the air, higher and higher, when it happens, and the cat doesn’t know how it got there, how it got to be in the sky.
  • I was lying in the woods, and I was daydreaming.
  • The Earth is a world of wonders. 
  • The fairy is the most amazing creature I have ever met.
  • A young girl was sitting on a tree stump at the edge of a river when she noticed a magical tree growing in the water.
  • My dancing rat is dressed in a jacket, a tie and glasses, which make him look like a person. 
  • In the darkness of the night, I am alone, but I know that I am not. 
  • Owls are the oldest, and most intelligent, of all birds.
  • My name is Reyna, and I am a fox. 
  • The woman was drowning.
  • One day, he was walking in the forest.
  • It was a dark and stormy night…
  • There was a young girl who could not sleep…
  • A boy in a black cape rode on a white horse…
  • A crazy old man in a black cloak was sitting in the middle of the street…
  • The sun was setting on a beautiful summer day…
  • The dog was restless…”
  • There was a young boy in a brown coat…
  • I met a young man in the woods…
  • In the middle of a dark forest…
  • The young girl was at home with her family…
  • There was a young man who was sitting on a …
  • A young man came into a bar with a horse…
  • I have had a lot of bad dreams…
  • He was a man who wanted to be king…
  • It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.
  • I know what you’re thinking. But no, I don’t want to be a vegetarian. The worst part is I don’t like the taste.
  • She looked at the boy and decided to ask him why he wasn’t eating. She didn’t want to look mean, but she was going to ask him anyway.
  • The song played on the radio, as Samual wiped away his tears.
  • This was the part when everything was about to go downhill. But it didn’t…
  • “Why make life harder for yourself?” asked Claire, as she bit into her apple.
  • She made a promise to herself that she would never do it.
  • I was able to escape.
  • I was reading a book when the accident happened.
  • “I can’t stand up for people who lie and cheat.” I cried.
  • You look at me and I feel beautiful.
  • I know what I want to be when I grow up.
  • We didn’t have much money. But we knew how to throw a good party.
  • The wind blew on the silent streets of London.
  • What do you get when you cross an angry bee and my sister?
  • The flight was slow and bumpy. I was half asleep when the captain announced we were going down.
  • At the far end of the city was a river that was overgrown with weeds. 
  • It was a quiet night in the middle of a busy week.
  • One afternoon, I was eating a sandwich in the park when I spotted a stranger.
  • In the late afternoon, a few students sat on the lawn reading.
  • The fireflies were dancing in the twilight as the sunset.
  • In the early evening, the children played in the park.
  • The sun was setting and the moon was rising.
  • A crowd gathered in the square as the band played.
  • The top of the water tower shone in the moonlight.
  • The light in the living room was on, but the light in the kitchen was off.
  •  When I was a little boy, I used to make up stories about the adventures of these amazing animals, creatures, and so on. 
  • All of the sudden, I realized I was standing in the middle of an open field surrounded by nothing but wildflowers, and the only thing I remembered about it was that I’d never seen a tree before.
  • It’s the kind of thing that’s only happened to me once before in my life, but it’s so cool to see it.
  • They gave him a little wave as they drove away.
  • The car had left the parking lot, and a few hours later we arrived home.
  • They were going to play a game of bingo.
  • He’d made up his mind to do it. He’d have to tell her soon, though. He was waiting for a moment when they were alone and he could say it without feeling like an idiot. But when that moment came, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
  • Jamie always wanted to own a plane, but his parents were a little tight on the budget. So he’d been saving up to buy one of his own. 
  • The night was getting colder, and the wind was blowing in from the west.
  • The doctor stared down at the small, withered corpse.
  • She’d never been in the woods before, but she wasn’t afraid.
  • The kids were having a great time in the playground.
  • The police caught the thieves red-handed.
  • The world needs a hero more than ever.
  • Mother always said, “Be good and nice things will happen…”
  • There is a difference between what you see and what you think you see.
  • The sun was low in the sky and the air was warm.
  • “It’s time to go home,” she said, “I’m getting a headache.”
  • It was a cold winter’s day, and the snow had come early.
  • I found a wounded bird in my garden.
  • “You should have seen the look on my face.”
  • He opened the door and stepped back.
  • My father used to say, “All good things come to an end.”
  • The problem with fast cars is that they break so easily.
  • “What do you think of this one?” asked Mindy.
  • “If I asked you to do something, would you do it?” asked Jacob.
  • I was surprised to see her on the bus.
  • I was never the most popular one in my class.
  • We had a bad fight that day.
  • The coffee machine had stopped working, so I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
  • It was a muggy night, and the air-conditioning unit was so loud it hurt my ears.
  • I had a sleepless night because I couldn’t get my head to turn off.
  • I woke up at dawn and heard a horrible noise.
  • I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep that night.
  • I put on the light and looked at myself in the mirror.
  • I decided to go in, but the door was locked.
  • A man in a red sweater stood staring at a little kitten as if it was on fire.
  • “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “I’m going to take a picture.”
  • “I think we’re lost,” he said, “It’s all your fault.”
  • It’s hard to imagine what a better life might be like
  • He was a tall, lanky man, with a long face, a nose like a pin, and a thin, sandy moustache.
  • He had a face like a lion’s and an eye like a hawk’s.
  • The man was so broad and strong that it was as if a mountain had been folded up and carried in his belly.
  • I opened the door. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was there.
  • I walked down the street. I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.
  • I arrived at my parents’ home at 8:00 AM.
  • The nurse had been very helpful.
  • On the table was an array of desserts.
  • I had just finished putting the last of my books in the trunk.
  • A car horn honked, startling me.
  • The kitchen was full of pots and pans.
  • There are too many things to remember.
  • The world was my oyster. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
  •  “My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He was a decorated hero who’d earned himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
  • Beneath the menacing, skeletal shadow of the mountain, a hermit sat on his ledge. His gnarled hands folded on his gnarled knees. His eyes stared blankly into the fog. 
  • I heard a story about a dragon, who was said to be the size of a house, that lived on the top of the tallest mountain in the world.
  •  I was told a story about a man who found a golden treasure, which was buried in this very park.
  • He stood alone in the middle of a dark and silent room, his head cocked to one side, the brown locks of his hair, which were parted in the middle, falling down over his eyes.
  •  Growing up, I was the black sheep of the family. I had my father’s eyes, but my mother’s smile.
  • Once upon a time, there was a woman named Miss Muffett, and she lived in a big house with many rooms.
  • When I was a child, my mother told me that the water looked so bright because the sun was shining on it. I did not understand what she meant at the time.    
  •  The man in the boat took the water bottle and drank from it as he paddled away.
  • The man looked at the child with a mixture of pity and contempt.
  • An old man and his grandson sat in their garden. The old man told his grandson to dig a hole. 
  • An old woman was taking a walk on the beach. The tide was high and she had to wade through the water to get to the other side.
  • She looked up at the clock and saw that it was five minutes past seven.
  • The man looked up from the map he was studying. “How’s it going, mate?”
  • I was in my room on the third floor, staring out of the window.
  • A dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway.
  • The church bells began to ring.
  • The moon rose above the horizon.
  • A bright light shone over the road.
  • The night sky began to glow.
  • I could hear my mother cooking in the kitchen.
  • The fog began to roll in.
  • He came in late to the class and sat at the back.
  • A young boy picked up a penny and put it in his pocket.
  • He went to the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror.
  • It was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness. We once had everything and now we have nothing.
  • A young man died yesterday, and no one knows why.
  • The boy was a little boy. He was not yet a man. He lived in a house in a big city.
  • They had just returned from the theatre when the phone rang.
  • I walked up to the front of the store and noticed the neon sign was out.
  • I always wondered what happened to Mary.
  • I stopped to say hello and then walked on.
  • The boy’s mother didn’t want him to play outside…
  • The lights suddenly went out…
  • After 10 years in prison, he was finally out.
  • The raindrops pelted the window, which was set high up on the wall, and I could see it was a clear day outside.
  • My friend and I had just finished a large pizza, and we were about to open our second.
  • I love the smell of the ocean, but it never smells as good as it does when the waves are crashing.
  • They just stood there, staring at each other.
  • A party was in full swing until the music stopped.

For more ideas on how to start your story, check out these first-line writing prompts . Did you find this list of creative story starters useful? Let us know in the comments below!

150 Story Starters

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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What is creative writing?

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Narrative or creative writing will be developed throughout a child's time at primary school. This table gives a rough idea of how story structure, sentence structure, description and punctuation are developed through story-writing lessons at school. (Please note: expectations will vary from school to school. This table is intended as an approximate guide.)

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  • KS1 & KS2 workbooks
  • Bursting with fill-in prompt sheets and inspiring ideas
  • Story structure tips, style guides and editing suggestions

Creative writing in primary school

Story structure Events in a story in an order that makes sense. 

Sentence structure Joining two clauses in a sentence with the word 'and.'

Description Simple  adjectives  to describe people and places. 

Punctuation Use of capitals, full stops, exclamation marks and question marks.

Year 2 Story structure Stories sequenced with time-related words such as: then, later, afterwards, next.

Sentence structure Starting to use sentences with two  clauses  connected by 'and,' 'but,' 'so,' 'when,' 'if' and 'then.' Keeping the tense of the writing consistent.

Description Using a broader range of adjectives. 

Punctuation Using capital letters, full stops , question marks , exclamation marks , commas for lists and apostrophes for contracted forms (e.g. they're) and the possessive (e.g. 'Sarah's pen').

Year 3 Story structure Stories structured with a clear beginning, middle and end. Starting to write in paragraphs.

Sentence structure Continuing to use sentences with two parts, linked with  connectives  such as 'because', 'but' and 'so'.

Description Broad range of adjectives plus some  powerful verbs . 

Punctuation Using all of the punctuation above. Starting to use some speech punctuation .

Story structure Gaining confidence with structuring a story and with organising  paragraphs .

Sentence structure Using sentences connected with more sophisticated connectives such as because,' 'however,' 'meanwhile' and 'although.' 

Description Using a range of adjectives, powerful verbs and adverbs. Some use of  similes . Using fronted adverbials (placing the adverb at the start of the sentence, e.g. 'Quickly, the children stood up'). 

Punctuation Increasingly accurate use of speech punctuation. Using commas after fronted adverbials .

Story structure Good structure of description of settings , characters and atmosphere. Integrating dialogue to advance the action. Using time connectives to help the piece of writing to come together. 

Sentence structure Using a range of connectives to connect parts of sentences.  

Description Using adjectives, powerful verbs and adverbs. Possibly some use of figurative language such as  metaphors , similes and personification . 

Punctuation Using brackets , dashes or commas to indicate parenthesis .

Story structure Continuing to structure stories confidently. Using adverbials such as: in contrast, on the other hand, as a consequence.

Sentence structure Using more sophisticated connectives like 'although,' 'meanwhile' and 'therefore.' Using the  passive form. Using the subjunctive . 

Description Continuing to use a range of descriptive language (see above) confidently. 

Punctuation Using all of the previously mentioned punctuation correctly. Using semi-colons , colons and dashes to mark the boundary between clauses.

How creative writing is taught in primary schools

When teachers teach creative writing, they usually follow the units suggested by the literacy framework,  including the following:

  • stories with familiar settings
  • stories from other cultures
  • fairy tales (also known as traditional tales )
  • fantasy stories
  • myths and legends
  • adventure and mystery
  • stories with historical settings.

Teachers will start with a text that they are confident will engage the interest of the class. It is often a good idea to find a well-illustrated text to bring the story alive further. They will spend a week or two 'loitering on the text', which will involve tasks where characters and scenarios from the text are explored in-depth. These tasks may include:

  • Drawing a story map or mountain to get an idea of the structure of the story
  • Writing a letter from one character to another
  • In pairs, improvising a conversation between two characters in the story
  • Making notes on a spider diagram about a particular character
  • Writing the thoughts of a character at a particular point in the story
  • Writing a diary entry as one character in the story

Once teachers feel that the text has been thoroughly explored, they will guide the children in writing their own version of the story . This involves planning the story, brainstorming characters and setting and then writing a draft of the story. Children will then be encouraged to edit and re-write their draft.  Teachers may mark the draft and write their own suggestions on it, or they may ask children to swap their writing with their partner and encourage them to make suggestions on each other's work. Throughout this process, teachers are aiming to encourage children to develop skills in the above four sections of the table: story structure, sentence structure, description and punctuation.

Finally, children will write up a 'neat' finished version of their writing. Teachers often give children a format for doing this, such as bordered paper on which they can add illustrations, or a booklet for which they can design a front cover.

what is creative writing in sentences

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Write Better Sentences: 9 Tips That Pro-Writers Swear By

Write Better Sentences: 9 Tips That Pro-Writers Swear By

Table of contents

what is creative writing in sentences

Writing well is a challenge.

Terrible sentences suffer from a lack of structure, clarity, and cohesion. 

On the other hand, some sentences suffer from too many words without substantial content. 

As a writer, you must ensure you’re clear on your message. The goal is to get your point across without rambling and losing the reader.

Write better sentences

This is why the words you choose and how you structure them is important. Each sentence plays a specific role so if you learn how to string them together correctly, you can write better sentences.

But that requires knowledge of grammar, sentence structure, and narrative-building.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the art of writing better sentences—and common pitfalls that prevent you from creating a solid sentence.

Let AI suggest better sentences > Let AI suggest better sentences >

better sentences

Why writing better sentences is important

No profession is free from the expectation of good writing. If nothing else, you’ll still be writing emails, Slack messages, and progress reports.

If you cannot communicate your ideas, how else will you be heard or collaborate with others?

And to be good at writing, you need to write better sentences. 

Sentences form the basic unit of a piece. While some say writing them is like writing music, others say it’s like doing math. A recent study by scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland found that sentences resemble fractals —a mathematical structure. Fractals are objects that, when expanded, have a structure resembling the whole.

So, when you build your sentences, keep the entire argument in mind. You need to know what the end goal is. If you don’t, it becomes hard to envision your piece’s direction, leading to unnecessary tangents.

Good writing is not only about writing a grammatically correct sentence or content. It hones in on the following: 

  • How do you communicate something
  • How do you choose the right words
  • How do you incorporate a specific style and flow

For example, you’ve bought a DIY bookshelf from Ikea that you now need to assemble. No matter how often you follow the instructions, you still end up with a half-built shelf that doesn’t look like the picture on the box.

This is what bad writing looks like.

The idea is there.

The words are there.

The visual imagery is there.

But the right structure isn’t.

The goal is to ensure that the reader comprehends what you’re saying—and can absorb that information. To ensure that, structuring your sentences the right way is crucial.

Here’s another way to look at it:

Since writing is integral to every job, you’d have a competitive advantage if you excelled at it. 

Think we’re being dramatic?

Here’s data that says otherwise:

  • The first point of contact for most job applications is a cover letter (even the resume comes second).
  • According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73.4% of employers want a candidate with strong written communication skills.
  • Content ranks No.1 for jobs with the highest salary increases post-pandemic. 

So, investing the time to learn how to write better sentences could help you communicate well—and excel at whatever you’re doing.

What makes a sentence good?

A good sentence expresses a complete thought. Grammar rules say, “A good sentence contains a subject and a verb and forms an independent clause.” But there’s more to it.

"A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?” – Politics and the English Language (Essay), George Orwell

Half your work is done when you know what you want to say and how you want to say it. It’s more about saying the right thing with as few words as possible.

But this is easier said than done. Here are a few mistakes that hold you back from writing solid sentences.

Fix errors that weaken your sentence structure and make your sentence sound better

1. use of run-on sentences..

Run-on sentences occur when two complete sentences are joined incorrectly, i.e., without proper punctuation or conjunction. 

While they’re usually identified only when the sentences are too long, they don’t necessarily have to be for them to be considered incorrect.

Example: “ Yesterday was a great day my parents and I went out for dinner, ice cream.”

Why it’s wrong: The sentence combines two independent clauses (sentences) and doesn’t include punctuation or conjunction.

Corrected sentence: “Yesterday was a great day! My parents and I went for dinner and ice cream.”

2. Lack of subject-verb agreement.

If the subject of your sentence is singular, your verb should be singular too. If the subject is plural, your verb should be plural too. 

A common mistake writers make is describing singular words with plural verbs and vice versa.

Example: “ The list of ideas were at the top of my head.”

Why it’s wrong: As the subject is singular (list), the verb needs to be singular too (was).

Corrected sentence: “The list of ideas was at the top of my head.”

3. Use of unintentional sentence fragments.

When sentences miss a subject, verb, or complete thought, they’re called sentence fragments. 

This is a usual mistake because it’s typical to use them in a conversation—where the context is clear.

Example: “ She went to see the new museum. Even though she had a stomach ache.”

‍ Why it’s wrong: The second sentence doesn’t have a subject, and it’s unclear who the subject is and what they’re doing even though they had a stomach ache.

Corrected sentence: “She went to see the new museum even though she had a stomach ache.”

Pro tip: Pop this sentence into Wordtune and get it instantly corrected into a complete sentence (It'll also make it better):

Make your sentence sound better

4. Use of overloaded sentences.

A sentence cramming in too much information becomes difficult to follow—losing its clarity. Usually, you can split these sentences into multiple sentences to rectify the issue.

Example: “ Writers need to invest time learning the basics of language structure and grammar in order to ensure that they can create pieces that communicate an idea effectively but also ensure that the reader is able to walk away with strong takeaways from said pieces without the need for further clarification.”

Why it’s wrong: The sentence has 50 words which is way more than the recommended length of 20 words. It’s slightly difficult to follow because it communicates more than one idea—a need to learn the basics of writing and how it can help them.

Corrected sentence: “Writers need to invest time in learning the basics of language structure and grammar. It’ll help them create pieces that communicate ideas effectively and ensure that they’re also clear to their readers.”

Pro tip: Again, Wordtune can help you find and filter-out all those unnecessary keywords using the shorten feature. In the example below, the tool reduced the length of the sentence from 50 words to 33 words, all with a click of a button.

Find a better sentence alternative

5. Use of faulty parallelisms.

When you use the same grammatical form in two or more parts of the sentence, it’s called parallelism. The idea is to use the same structure to maintain consistency in the sentence.

Example: “ Every day, I spend two hours exercising and to meditate to help me relax.”

Why it’s wrong: The sentence uses two different structures (-ing and root form of the verb).

Corrected sentence:  

  • “Every day, I spend two hours exercising and meditating to help me relax.”
  • “Every day, I exercise and meditate for two hours to feel relax.”

The elements of a good sentence

According to Grammar rules, all of these are good sentences:

“Hydrophobic plants hate water.”

“The meeting starts at 9 am.”

“My grandmother is sick.”

This is the very basic definition. All these sentences contain a subject, a verb, and an independent clause. But is it enough? 

An actual good sentence has two more criteria :

  • It leads your narrative forward.
  • It is clear and concise . 

These two criteria, however, are harder to measure than checking for subjects and verbs. 

But you can learn to implement these, and we’re here to teach you. 

So let’s dig in. 

1. Drive your narrative forward

“Every short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build towards it.” – Edgar Allen Poe

This is true for ALL narratives and, by extension, all sentences. 

Each section in your blog or each chapter in your book should have one mood, and every sentence should build towards it. 

But what keeps sentences from building a narrative?

Filler content.


2. Trim the fat in your writing

This is what fluff looks like:

“When you write sentences that are long, drawn-out, and convoluted—only to get a simple point across—your readers will get frustrated and leave.”

See what I did there?

Here’s the alternative: “Unnecessarily long sentences frustrate and distance your readers.”

So, how do you get rid of fluff?

Step 1: Identify all the words that mean the same thing. 

For example, in the above sentence: 

‘Long, drawn-out, and ‘convoluted’ all mean the same thing.

Step 2: Pick the simplest word from the list.

In this case, “long.”

Step 3: See if you can find one word that condenses multiple words or ideas.

For example, the thought that something does XYZ “only to get a simple point across” conveys that the process is not required. 

One word: Unnecessary. 

Let’s look at this with another example: 

Fluffy example: “Creating content can be a laborious task with a thousand moving parts that don’t really belong there.”

Fluff-free example: Crating content can be cumbersome. 

“Laborious,” “a thousand moving parts,” and “[parts] that don’t really belong there” convey the same idea: cumbersomeness. 

After you’ve removed fluff and filler in your sentences, you need to vary sentence length to create a natural rhythm. 

3. Captivate your reader with a rhythm

Short sentences add spunk. Long sentences add value, examples, and context—even if they drag on sometimes. Use both, but strategically. 

Here’s an example:

“Music can delight. It has the power to transport you to a different world. But sometimes, when all is dark, and it’s quiet outside, I see this world through music—and it looks completely different. That’s what makes it great.” 

Alternating sentence length adds a lyrical quality to your writing and helps you keep the reader engrossed in your piece.

4. Evoke emotions with mental imagery

Your sentences need to drive the narrative forward. But that can only happen when you mix facts and emotions to create a powerful one that sticks with your reader.

In addition, the sentence needs to be informative enough to convey everything the reader needs to know.

“The loud barks of the rabid dogs sent a chill down the young man’s spine, freezing him on the spot.”

5. Clarity and Brevity

Clarity of thoughts comes through clarity of ideas. 

Whenever you’re writing about a subject, ensure that you spend at least twice the time researching it. It helps you form stronger ideas, back up opinions, and talk knowledgeably about a subject. 

Free AI Sentence Rewriter > Free AI Sentence Rewriter >

How to write better sentences

How to write better sentences

1. use relevant examples..

Examples make things crystal clear for your reader. It removes any ambiguity in their minds and helps you paint a vivid picture in their mind—without using visual imagery.

While examples are great, you know what’s even better? Definitions with examples. 

Here’s what this looks like in action:

Definition : “Low color contrast can make data visuals hard to understand.”

Definition with an example: “Low color contrast — like similar shades of blue paired together — can make data visuals hard to read.”

Here’s another example: 

Definition : “Intelligent workers get infuriated by mindless chores.”

Definition with an example: “ Intelligent workers get infuriated by mindless chores like updating calendars, sending check-ins, and scheduling emails.”

2. Avoid modifiers. 

Modifiers add a sliding scale to your claims.

Let’s say one of your children, Claire or Stella has lost the car keys. And your Husband says, “It can’t be Stella; she’s not irresponsible.”

This statement sounds more trustworthy than if he had said, “It can be Stella; she’s not very irresponsible.”

The second sentence induces the subconscious thought, “Stella might be irresponsible, but she’s only a little irresponsible.”

Pro tip (from Mark Twain ) for spotting that sneaky ‘very’: Substitute ‘damn’ every time you want to write “very.” Your editor will delete it, and your writing will be just as good. 

3. Avoid passive voice like the plague. 

This is crucial, especially if engagement is your goal. On the other hand, if you’re writing terms and conditions, you can add all the passive voice you want.

Why? It detaches your reader. 

Example of passive voice: “Detachment from readers is caused by passive voice.”

Active voice: “Passive voice detaches your readers.”

Let’s try one, 

Passive voice: “25 qualified leads were generated by the company from their latest blog post.”

Active voice: “The company generated 25 qualified leads from their latest blog post.”

The difference is considerable. Active voice makes you sit up and pay attention. Passive voice sounds like the radio running in the background. 

4. Ensure it has a good flow. 

Writing flows refers to the pace or rhythm of your piece. Good writing has a natural feel to it and avoids unnecessary breaks or repetitions.

Ideally, the reader should find it easy to read the piece without spending too much mental energy on it. 

If your text reads like a car stopping its brakes every five seconds, then it lacks a strong flow and cohesion.

Example: John likes traveling. He often travels for work. He has visited countries in Europe and Asia. His favorite destination is Paris. He loves Paris because of its exquisite food culture. He goes there three times a year.

Corrected example: John likes traveling, and he does so often for work. He has visited many countries in Europe and Asia, but his favorite destination is Paris. He loves it because of its exquisite food culture, so he visits it three times a year.

5. Split long sentences.

This error is similar to writing overloaded sentences, but there’s a distinction between them. The difference is that while overloaded sentences can go on tangents, not all long sentences do.

Long sentences become hard to follow, especially in digital writing. 

Readers tend to have an extremely short attention span, so they don’t want to spend time re-reading and comprehending your simple Slack message.

‍ Example: Technical content usually focuses on niche concepts that serve a specific audience which is why including foundational concepts makes no sense because your audience is already familiar with it, and if you do start at the basics, it will look like you’re patronizing them, which is not the goal.

Corrected example: Technical content usually focuses on niche concepts that serve a specific audience. So, it doesn’t make sense to include foundational concepts as they’re already familiar with them. Including them will look like you’re patronizing them—which is not the goal.

Checklist to refine clarity

‍ Refrain from using hyperbole. Terms like: ‍

  • regret missing out on
  • cannot do without

( Why can’t they do without? They absolutely can. The only must-haves are food, water, and air’. Everything else can be done without. )

Not “The ability to write is a must-have for everyone.” But “The ability to write ensures clear communication of ideas for professionals in the business world.”

Explain crucial terms when your audience might be unfamiliar with them. 

Not “Critical reasoning enhances your writing.” But “Critical reasoning, which is the objective analysis of ideas, enhances the clarity of thought.”

Take your readers on a journey. 

Not “Our product achieves reporting efficiency.” But “When you’re eyeballs deep in test results (and struggling to finish), XYZ product takes over. We ensure you have an overview while leaving the manual labor to XYZ’s automation.”

If you must use overly descriptive terms, back them with cold hard facts. 

Explain the descriptions. Don’t keep your readers guessing.

Not “Clarity enhancing checklist.” But “An internal report from our 3000 writers showed a 70% decrease in confusion after using ‘Bani's Checklist for Improving Clarity.'”

Expand abbreviations/acronyms in the first instance, as the same acronym could mean different things.

It clarifies who the subject is and removes any ambiguity in the reader's mind.

Not “The A/A program prevents the exclusion of underrepresented communities.” But “The Affirmative Action (A/A) program prevents the exclusion of underrepresented communities.”

Be specific. Clarify the why or how to make your sentences clearer.

Not “XYZ product can help you save hundreds of hours spent on manual data cleanup.” But “XYZ product can help you save hundreds of hours spent on manual data cleanup by automating the data collection and categorization processes.”

9 tips to continually improve your writing

1. read as often as you can. .

Good writing gets stored in your brain and finds its way out when you need inspiration. 

But also notice what you're reading—that's how you improve your writing. Summarize articles, rewrite bad sentences ; over time, you'll become so good at self-editing that it'll be second nature.

2. Write with your reader in mind. 

This is sometimes hard but always worth it. 

To make this a habit, paste your readers' pain points on top of your document. 

For example, if you're writing a piece on how to take notes and your readers are high school students, the top of your document should read:

"My readers have been taking notes for the last 8-10 years but haven't yet found a way to do it efficiently.  My readers need notes to make sense of their ever-increasing academic workload.  My readers need actionable checklists, not generic 'how to's."

Note: It's okay to ask questions and seek clarification when you don't understand something. 

3. Show, don't tell. 

Demonstrate the action of your story, don't just describe it. 

Example: “Lia sprinted down the pebbled street when she saw her father” is better than “Lia ran when she saw her father.”

It paints a vivid picture of Lia's actions without being too fluffy.

4. Practice thinking in threes. 

Three phrases make a good bullet list, complete a thought, and take up just enough space. 

The Rule of Three, a powerful copywriting principle, is based on our ability to retain information that comes in triplets. 

It builds a solid structure for your argument and helps your brain quickly record that information.

Example: “Jason found his passion for writing, quit his job, and launched his independent business in six months.”

5. Break your text down in bullets often. 

This helps you think clearly about your subject matter and add white space between your text blocks.

In this case, you can combine this with the Rule of Three principle to create effective and memorable lists.

  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Lots of warm fluids
  • Plenty of rest

6. Combine logic with emotion.

You need to create a healthy balance of facts and emotions. It needs to sound logical, which you can achieve by ensuring subject-verb agreement.

Example: “Dave drove himself into the ditch because it was raining cats and dogs—blurring his vision of the road.”

This sentence combines facts (driving into the ditch) and emotion (raining cats and dogs) in a way that paints a vivid picture while staying true to the facts.

7. Track your verbs.

When you're writing, it's hard to keep track of the various tenses. Plus, you might also use the wrong verbs. These issues can confuse your reader, so track your verbs to avoid them.

For example, if somebody is going to be questioned about their whereabouts, use the verb "questioned," not "asked" or "said".

“Lisa is going to be questioned by the police today about her whereabouts last evening.”

8. Work on your writing crutches.

Everybody (including me) has their own writing crutches. It could be an overuse of certain words, incorrect verbs or descriptors, or anything else you might think of.

The more you write , the better your chances of identifying your writing crutches. 

We recommend reviewing your previous pieces to see what mistakes you make or edits you're receiving from your editors/managers.

It'll help you identify where you're going wrong, and you'll become intentional about how you write.

9. Practice, practice, practice.

You can't become a great writer overnight. It takes months and years of intentional practice to get there. 

In his book, Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read, Brooks Landon mentioned:

"We will do this by studying the ways in which sentences combine information by coordinating it, subordinating it, or subsuming it in modification."

When you put in the time and effort to study the art of crafting a strong sentence, you'll be able to create them soon enough.

Writing good sentences is hard work

Great sentences often follow an obvious pattern. They incorporate the rules of writing with a tinge of creativity to get through to their readers. When you study the basics of sentence structure and practice it regularly, over time, it becomes second nature. 

The only way to get better is to hone your craft by doing three things: 

  • Identifying why your sentences are unclear
  • Making the necessary modifications
  • Refining it with ruthless editing

When you eliminate complexity and clarify what you want to say, crafting the right sentence becomes easier. 

It will not only help you write better sentences, but it can also improve the reader's understanding of what you're trying to say.

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7 Practical Solutions to Make AI Sound More Human: A Writer’s Guide

7 Practical Solutions to Make AI Sound More Human: A Writer’s Guide

What’s a Semicolon? + When to Use It (With Examples)

What’s a Semicolon? + When to Use It (With Examples)

The 12 Longest Words in English Defined and Explained

The 12 Longest Words in English Defined and Explained

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2.1 Sentence Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the components of a basic sentence.
  • Identify the four most serious writing errors.

Imagine you are reading a book for school. You need to find important details that you can use for an assignment. However, when you begin to read, you notice that the book has very little punctuation. Sentences fail to form complete paragraphs and instead form one block of text without clear organization. Most likely, this book would frustrate and confuse you. Without clear and concise sentences, it is difficult to find the information you need.

For both students and professionals, clear communication is important. Whether you are typing an e-mail or writing a report, it is your responsibility to present your thoughts and ideas clearly and precisely. Writing in complete sentences is one way to ensure that you communicate well. This section covers how to recognize and write basic sentence structures and how to avoid some common writing errors.

Components of a Sentence

Clearly written, complete sentences require key information: a subject, a verb and a complete idea. A sentence needs to make sense on its own. Sometimes, complete sentences are also called independent clauses. A clause is a group of words that may make up a sentence. An independent clause is a group of words that may stand alone as a complete, grammatically correct thought. The following sentences show independent clauses.

Independent Clause: We went to the store, we bought the ingredients on our list, and then we went home

All complete sentences have at least one independent clause. You can identify an independent clause by reading it on its own and looking for the subject and the verb.

When you read a sentence, you may first look for the subject , or what the sentence is about. The subject usually appears at the beginning of a sentence as a noun or a pronoun . A noun is a word that identifies a person, place, thing, or idea. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. Common pronouns are I , he , she , it , you , they , and we . In the following sentences, the subject is underlined once.

In these sentences, the subject is a person: Malik . The pronoun He replaces and refers back to Malik .

In the first sentence, the subject is a place: computer lab . In the second sentence, the pronoun It substitutes for computer lab as the subject.

In the first sentence, the subject is a thing: project . In the second sentence, the pronoun It stands in for the project .

In this chapter, please refer to the following grammar key:

Subjects are underlined once.

Verbs are underlined twice.

LV means linking verb, HV means helping verb, and V means action verb.

Compound Subjects

A sentence may have more than one person, place, or thing as the subject. These subjects are called compound subjects . Compound subjects are useful when you want to discuss several subjects at once.

Prepositional Phrases

You will often read a sentence that has more than one noun or pronoun in it. You may encounter a group of words that includes a preposition with a noun or a pronoun. Prepositions connect a noun, pronoun, or verb to another word that describes or modifies that noun, pronoun, or verb. Common prepositions include in , on , under , near , by , with , and about . A group of words that begin with a preposition is called a prepositional phrase . A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and modifies or describes a word. It cannot act as the subject of a sentence. The following circled phrases are examples of prepositional phrases.

We went on a business trip. That restaurant with the famous pizza was on the way. We stopped for lunch.

Read the following sentences. Underline the subjects, and circle the prepositional phrases.

  • The gym is open until nine o’clock tonight.
  • We went to the store to get some ice.
  • The student with the most extra credit will win a homework pass.
  • Maya and Tia found an abandoned cat by the side of the road.
  • The driver of that pickup truck skidded on the ice.
  • Anita won the race with time to spare.
  • The people who work for that company were surprised about the merger.
  • Working in haste means that you are more likely to make mistakes.
  • The soundtrack has over sixty songs in languages from around the world.
  • His latest invention does not work, but it has inspired the rest of us.

Once you locate the subject of a sentence, you can move on to the next part of a complete sentence: the verb . A verb is often an action word that shows what the subject is doing. A verb can also link the subject to a describing word. There are three types of verbs that you can use in a sentence: action verbs, linking verbs, or helping verbs.

Action Verbs

A verb that connects the subject to an action is called an action verb . An action verb answers the question what is the subject doing? In the following sentences, the action verbs are in italics.

Linking Verbs

A verb can often connect the subject of the sentence to a describing word. This type of verb is called a linking verb because it links the subject to a describing word. In the following sentences, the linking verbs are in italics.

If you have trouble telling the difference between action verbs and linking verbs, remember that an action verb shows that the subject is doing something, whereas a linking verb simply connects the subject to another word that describes or modifies the subject. A few verbs can be used as either action verbs or linking verbs.

Although both sentences use the same verb, the two sentences have completely different meanings. In the first sentence, the verb describes the boy’s action. In the second sentence, the verb describes the boy’s appearance.

Helping Verbs

A third type of verb you may use as you write is a helping verb . Helping verbs are verbs that are used with the main verb to describe a mood or tense. Helping verbs are usually a form of be , do , or have . The word can is also used as a helping verb.

Whenever you write or edit sentences, keep the subject and verb in mind. As you write, ask yourself these questions to keep yourself on track:

Subject: Who or what is the sentence about?

Verb: Which word shows an action or links the subject to a description?

Copy each sentence onto your own sheet of paper and underline the verb(s) twice. Name the type of verb(s) used in the sentence in the space provided (LV, HV, or V).

  • The cat sounds ready to come back inside. ________
  • We have not eaten dinner yet. ________
  • It took four people to move the broken-down car. ________
  • The book was filled with notes from class. ________
  • We walked from room to room, inspecting for damages. ________
  • Harold was expecting a package in the mail. ________
  • The clothes still felt damp even though they had been through the dryer twice. ________
  • The teacher who runs the studio is often praised for his restoration work on old masterpieces. ________

Sentence Structure, Including Fragments and Run-ons

Now that you know what makes a complete sentence—a subject and a verb—you can use other parts of speech to build on this basic structure. Good writers use a variety of sentence structures to make their work more interesting. This section covers different sentence structures that you can use to make longer, more complex sentences.

Sentence Patterns

Six basic subject-verb patterns can enhance your writing. A sample sentence is provided for each pattern. As you read each sentence, take note of where each part of the sentence falls. Notice that some sentence patterns use action verbs and others use linking verbs.


Subject–linking verb–noun, subject–linking verb–adjective, subject–verb–adverb, subject–verb–direct object.

When you write a sentence with a direct object (DO), make sure that the DO receives the action of the verb.

Subject–Verb–Indirect Object–Direct Object

In this sentence structure, an indirect object explains to whom or to what the action is being done. The indirect object is a noun or pronoun, and it comes before the direct object in a sentence.

Use what you have learned so far to bring variety in your writing. Use the following lines or your own sheet of paper to write six sentences that practice each basic sentence pattern. When you have finished, label each part of the sentence (S, V, LV, N, Adj, Adv, DO, IO).

  • ________________________________________________________________


Find an article in a newspaper, a magazine, or online that interests you. Bring it to class or post it online. Then, looking at a classmate’s article, identify one example of each part of a sentence (S, V, LV, N, Adj, Adv, DO, IO). Please share or post your results.

The sentences you have encountered so far have been independent clauses. As you look more closely at your past writing assignments, you may notice that some of your sentences are not complete. A sentence that is missing a subject or a verb is called a fragment . A fragment may include a description or may express part of an idea, but it does not express a complete thought.

Fragment: Children helping in the kitchen.

Complete sentence: Children helping in the kitchen often make a mess .

You can easily fix a fragment by adding the missing subject or verb. In the example, the sentence was missing a verb. Adding often make a mess creates an S-V-N sentence structure.

Figure 2.1 Editing Fragments That Are Missing a Subject or a Verb

Editing Fragments That Are Missing a Subject or a Verb

See whether you can identify what is missing in the following fragments.

Fragment: Told her about the broken vase.

Complete sentence: I told her about the broken vase.

Fragment: The store down on Main Street.

Complete sentence: The store down on Main Street sells music .

Common Sentence Errors

Fragments often occur because of some common error, such as starting a sentence with a preposition, a dependent word, an infinitive , or a gerund . If you use the six basic sentence patterns when you write, you should be able to avoid these errors and thus avoid writing fragments.

When you see a preposition, check to see that it is part of a sentence containing a subject and a verb. If it is not connected to a complete sentence, it is a fragment, and you will need to fix this type of fragment by combining it with another sentence. You can add the prepositional phrase to the end of the sentence. If you add it to the beginning of the other sentence, insert a comma after the prepositional phrase.

Figure 2.2 Editing Fragments That Begin with a Preposition

Editing Fragments That Begin with a Preposition

Clauses that start with a dependent word —such as since , because , without , or unless —are similar to prepositional phrases. Like prepositional phrases, these clauses can be fragments if they are not connected to an independent clause containing a subject and a verb. To fix the problem, you can add such a fragment to the beginning or end of a sentence. If the fragment is added at the beginning of a sentence, add a comma.

When you encounter a word ending in -ing in a sentence, identify whether or not this word is used as a verb in the sentence. You may also look for a helping verb. If the word is not used as a verb or if no helping verb is used with the -ing verb form, the verb is being used as a noun. An -ing verb form used as a noun is called a gerund.

Once you know whether the -ing word is acting as a noun or a verb, look at the rest of the sentence. Does the entire sentence make sense on its own? If not, what you are looking at is a fragment. You will need to either add the parts of speech that are missing or combine the fragment with a nearby sentence.

Figure 2.3 Editing Fragments That Begin with Gerunds

Editing Fragments That Begin with Gerunds

Incorrect: Taking deep breaths. Saul prepared for his presentation.

Correct: T aking deep breaths , Saul prepared for his presentation.

Correct: Saul prepared for his presentation. He was taking deep breaths.

Incorrect: Congratulating the entire team. Sarah raised her glass to toast their success.

Correct: She was c ongratulating the entire team. Sarah raised her glass to toast their success.

Correct: Congratulating the entire team , Sarah raised her glass to toast their success.

Another error in sentence construction is a fragment that begins with an infinitive. An infinitive is a verb paired with the word to ; for example, to run , to write , or to reach . Although infinitives are verbs, they can be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. You can correct a fragment that begins with an infinitive by either combining it with another sentence or adding the parts of speech that are missing.

Incorrect: We needed to make three hundred more paper cranes. To reach the one thousand mark.

Correct: We needed to make three hundred more paper cranes to reach the one thousand mark.

Correct: We needed to make three hundred more paper cranes. We wanted to reach the one thousand mark.

Copy the following sentences onto your own sheet of paper and circle the fragments. Then combine the fragment with the independent clause to create a complete sentence.

  • Working without taking a break. We try to get as much work done as we can in an hour.
  • I needed to bring work home. In order to meet the deadline.
  • Unless the ground thaws before spring break. We won’t be planting any tulips this year.
  • Turning the lights off after he was done in the kitchen. Robert tries to conserve energy whenever possible.
  • You’ll find what you need if you look. On the shelf next to the potted plant.
  • To find the perfect apartment. Deidre scoured the classifieds each day.

Run-on Sentences

Just as short, incomplete sentences can be problematic, lengthy sentences can be problematic too. Sentences with two or more independent clauses that have been incorrectly combined are known as run-on sentences . A run-on sentence may be either a fused sentence or a comma splice.

Fused sentence: A family of foxes lived under our shed young foxes played all over the yard.

Comma splice: We looked outside, the kids were hopping on the trampoline.

When two complete sentences are combined into one without any punctuation, the result is a fused sentence . When two complete sentences are joined by a comma, the result is a comma splice . Both errors can easily be fixed.


One way to correct run-on sentences is to correct the punctuation. For example, adding a period will correct the run-on by creating two separate sentences.

Using a semicolon between the two complete sentences will also correct the error. A semicolon allows you to keep the two closely related ideas together in one sentence. When you punctuate with a semicolon, make sure that both parts of the sentence are independent clauses. For more information on semicolons, see Section 2.4.2 “Capitalize Proper Nouns” .

Run-on: The accident closed both lanes of traffic we waited an hour for the wreckage to be cleared.

Complete sentence: The accident closed both lanes of traffic ; we waited an hour for the wreckage to be cleared.

When you use a semicolon to separate two independent clauses, you may wish to add a transition word to show the connection between the two thoughts. After the semicolon, add the transition word and follow it with a comma. For more information on transition words, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Run-on: The project was put on hold we didn’t have time to slow down, so we kept working.

Complete sentence: The project was put on hold ; however, we didn’t have time to slow down, so we kept working.

Coordinating Conjunctions

You can also fix run-on sentences by adding a comma and a coordinating conjunction . A coordinating conjunction acts as a link between two independent clauses.

These are the seven coordinating conjunctions that you can use: for , and , nor , but , or , yet , and so . Use these words appropriately when you want to link the two independent clauses. The acronym FANBOYS will help you remember this group of coordinating conjunctions.

Run-on: The new printer was installed, no one knew how to use it.

Complete sentence: The new printer was installed , but no one knew how to use it.

Dependent Words

Adding dependent words is another way to link independent clauses. Like the coordinating conjunctions, dependent words show a relationship between two independent clauses.

Run-on: We took the elevator, the others still got there before us.

Complete sentence: Although we took the elevator, the others got there before us.

Run-on: Cobwebs covered the furniture, the room hadn’t been used in years.

Complete sentence: Cobwebs covered the furniture because the room hadn’t been used in years.

Writing at Work

Figure 2.4 Sample e-mail

A sample e-mail:

Isabelle’s e-mail opens with two fragments and two run-on sentences containing comma splices. The e-mail ends with another fragment. What effect would this e-mail have on Mr. Blankenship or other readers? Mr. Blankenship or other readers may not think highly of Isaebelle’s communication skills or—worse—may not understand the message at all! Communications written in precise, complete sentences are not only more professional but also easier to understand. Before you hit the “send” button, read your e-mail carefully to make sure that the sentences are complete, are not run together, and are correctly punctuated.

A reader can get lost or lose interest in material that is too dense and rambling. Use what you have learned about run-on sentences to correct the following passages:

  • The report is due on Wednesday but we’re flying back from Miami that morning. I told the project manager that we would be able to get the report to her later that day she suggested that we come back a day early to get the report done and I told her we had meetings until our flight took off. We e-mailed our contact who said that they would check with his boss, she said that the project could afford a delay as long as they wouldn’t have to make any edits or changes to the file our new deadline is next Friday.
  • Anna tried getting a reservation at the restaurant, but when she called they said that there was a waiting list so she put our names down on the list when the day of our reservation arrived we only had to wait thirty minutes because a table opened up unexpectedly which was good because we were able to catch a movie after dinner in the time we’d expected to wait to be seated.
  • Without a doubt, my favorite artist is Leonardo da Vinci, not because of his paintings but because of his fascinating designs, models, and sketches, including plans for scuba gear, a flying machine, and a life-size mechanical lion that actually walked and moved its head. His paintings are beautiful too, especially when you see the computer enhanced versions researchers use a variety of methods to discover and enhance the paintings’ original colors, the result of which are stunningly vibrant and yet delicate displays of the man’s genius.

Key Takeaways

  • A sentence is complete when it contains both a subject and verb. A complete sentence makes sense on its own.
  • Every sentence must have a subject, which usually appears at the beginning of the sentence. A subject may be a noun (a person, place, or thing) or a pronoun.
  • A compound subject contains more than one noun.
  • A prepositional phrase describes, or modifies, another word in the sentence but cannot be the subject of a sentence.
  • A verb is often an action word that indicates what the subject is doing. Verbs may be action verbs, linking verbs, or helping verbs.
  • Variety in sentence structure and length improves writing by making it more interesting and more complex.
  • Focusing on the six basic sentence patterns will enhance your writing.
  • Fragments and run-on sentences are two common errors in sentence construction.
  • Fragments can be corrected by adding a missing subject or verb. Fragments that begin with a preposition or a dependent word can be corrected by combining the fragment with another sentence.
  • Run-on sentences can be corrected by adding appropriate punctuation or adding a coordinating conjunction.

Writing Application

Using the six basic sentence structures, write one of the following:

  • A work e-mail to a coworker about a presentation.
  • A business letter to a potential employer.
  • A status report about your current project.
  • A job description for your résumé.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Introduction to Creative Writing

Course description.

Introduces the craft and practice of creative writing. Engages with both contemporary and classic authors within the primary genres of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. May also include exploration of other genres such as drama, screenwriting, digital storytelling, film, and performance genres. Develops use of craft elements discussed in class to compose original work in at least two genres. Covers revision practices for voice and purpose. Audit Available.

Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to: 

  • Identify the basic craft elements of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction writing. 
  • Read critically to analyze poetry, fiction, essays, and other written works. 
  • Write original poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction works. 
  • Participate in workshop method of critiquing creative writing. 
  • Revise works within the creative writing process.

Suggested Outcome Assessment Strategies

The determination of assessment strategies is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: writings (journals, self-reflections, pre writing exercises, essays), quizzes, tests, midterm and final exams, group projects, presentations (in person, videos, etc), self-assessments, experimentations, lab reports, peer critiques, responses (to texts, podcasts, videos, films, etc), student generated questions, Escape Room, interviews, and/or portfolios. 

Department suggestions: Original poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction works, peer workshop, written analysis of creative texts.

Course Activities and Design

The determination of teaching strategies used in the delivery of outcomes is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: lecture, small group/forum discussion, flipped classroom, dyads, oral presentation, role play, simulation scenarios, group projects, service learning projects, hands-on lab, peer review/workshops, cooperative learning (jigsaw, fishbowl), inquiry based instruction, differentiated instruction (learning centers), graphic organizers, etc.

Course Content

Outcome #1: identify the basic crat elements of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction writing..

  • point of view
  • symbolism/allegory
  • figurative language
  • rhyme scheme
  • speaker vs poet
  • basic poetic forms (i.e. sonnet, haiky, villanelle, sestia, acrostic, ballad, ode, free verse, limerick, etc.)

Outcome #2: Read critically to analyze poetry, fiction, and essays.

  • identiry genre
  • identify main idea/point/purpose
  • describe structure
  • impacts of author choices
  • annotating a text
  • making claims
  • summary vs analysis
  • in class workshop
  • instruction in constructive feedback (both written and verbal)
  • crafting question as feedback

Outcome #3: Write original poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction work.

  • Brainstorming
  • writing journal 
  • acrostic prompts
  • hermit crab/mimic forms
  • written description of images
  • timed freewriting
  • at least one fiction draft
  • 2-5 poem drafts
  • at least one creative nonfiction draft

Outcome #4: Participate in workshop method of critiquing creative writing.

  • set community standards for in class workshop
  • written drafts submitted in advance
  • instruction on constructive and polite feeback
  • guided workshop process
  • both verbal and written feedback among peers

Outcome #5: Revise works within the creative writing process.

  • reverse outlines
  • cut & amp; rearrange
  • scan and highlight
  • revision checklists
  • diction/word choice
  • consistent point of view
  • shifts in verb tense
  • sentence/line variety
  • paragraph breakdown
  • integrate insights from workshop process in revision work
  • integrate insights from readings in revision work
  • write self-assessment of revision process

Suggested Texts and Materials

  • OER Text:  Write or Left: An OER Textbook for Creative Writing Classes. Compiled and written by Sybil Priebe, an Associate Professor at the North Dakota State College of Science.
  • OER Text:  the anti-textbook of writing (remixed). By Sybil Priebe and students.
  • OER Text:  Introduction to Creative Writing. Linda Frances Lein, Alexandria Technical and Community College – Distance Minnesota
  • OER Text:  Creative Writing, Creative Process. Matthew Cheney, Plymouth State University

what is creative writing in sentences


From debuts to do-overs, what it means to start an artistic life — at any age

Letter From the Editor

A cover of T: The New York Times Style Magazine's April 21, 2024 Culture issue, with the heading "Beginners. From debuts to do-overs, what it means to start an artistic life — at any age." On the cover is Ice Spice, with orange hair, wearing a black ruched top with one shoulder strap and a crucifix necklace.

Clockwise from top left: Ice Spice, Sky Lakota-Lynch, Meg Stalter, Tyla, Sarah Pidgeon and Titus Kaphar.

T’s Culture issue looks at artistic beginnings in all their forms.

By Hanya Yanagihara

The First Stroke

A painting of a nude woman turning away from two men who are leaning over a balcony, with one whispering in the other's ear.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Susanna and the Elders” (1610).

Why, even as they progress in their practices, all artists remain perpetual beginners.

By Aatish Taseer

David Kershenbaum, wearing an open shirt and sunglasses, sits next to Tracy Chapman, wearing a jean jacket, in front of a control board in a recording studio.

Tracy Chapman (right).

Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Musicians, writers and others on the work that started it all for them — and on what, if anything, they’d change about it now.

Interviews by Lovia Gyarkye and Nicole Acheampong

When These Two First Worked Together

what is creative writing in sentences

Marc Jacobs and Cindy Sherman.

Love, spats, splits and enduring affinity: creative partnerships that have stood the test of time.

Interviews by Ella Riley-Adams, Nick Haramis, Nicole Acheampong, Julia Halperin and Coco Romack

Begin Again

Jordi Roca.

Video by Anna Bosch Miralpeix

What it’s like to make new art after many years or amid new challenges — or to change careers completely.

Interviews by Michael Snyder, M.H. Miller and Emily Lordi

When the Beginning Is Also the End

what is creative writing in sentences

Miguel Adrover.

Catarina Osório de Castro

People who found great creative success in one field — before life took them in a totally different direction.

By John Wogan and M.H. Miller

J u v e n i l i a

A sketch of a tiger head.

Do Ho Suh’s “Tiger Mask” (1971).

Courtesy of the artist © Do Ho Suh

What artists see when they look back at work they made in their youth.

Interviews by Julia Halperin, Kate Guadagnino and Juan A. Ramírez

what is creative writing in sentences

A first album, a first restaurant, a first time on Broadway: Ten debuts happening right now.

Interviews by Juan A. Ramírez and Emily Lordi

How It Begins

Jenny Holzer.

Photographs by Nicholas Calcott

The very first steps, whether you’re an actor getting into character or an artist presenting the survey of your life’s work.

Interviews by Laura May Todd

The Beginners’ Hall of Fame

A floral painting against a purple background.

Tabboo!’s “Lavender Garden” (2023).

Courtesy of the artist, Karma and Gordon Robichaux

Six people who found a new creative calling later in life — or for whom recognition was long overdue.

By Jason Chen

Advice on Beginning

what is creative writing in sentences

Kim Gordon.

Laura Levine/Corbis, via Getty Images

Ten creative minds on how to start, pivot and productively procrastinate.

Interviews by Kate Guadagnino

what is creative writing in sentences

Courtesy of Joseph Dirand Architecture

We asked 80 artists and other creative people to tell us what they’re starting right now or hope to start very soon.

T’s Culture Issue: Beginners.

An exploration of artistic beginnings in all their forms.

There’s a reason all of us — magazine editors in particular, perhaps, but not only us — love an artistic debut. It’s not just that those releasing their first album, book or movie, or having their first gallery exhibit or Broadway show, are usually young; it’s that they embody that most delicious and evanescent of qualities: promise. Any painter could be the next Rothko or Basquiat; any singer could be the next Joni or Aretha. There the new artist sits, poised between our expectations and their unwritten reality. Becoming emotionally invested in an untested creative life is like becoming financially invested in an exciting new company — should they (or it) work, the reward is not just theirs but ours. “See?” we tell ourselves. “We knew it all along.”

But the real test of being an artist isn’t the first album, book, movie or Broadway show, as significant as those accomplishments are. It’s what happens after. All artists know that living a true creative life means facing an endless series of beginnings: It’s starting over after setbacks; it’s pushing forward through doubt and despair; it’s trying again when someone tells you no; it’s slogging ahead when no one seems to like or care about what you make; it’s ignoring the voice inside you that tells you to stop; it’s striving and failing, again and again and again. There is no point of complete security, no award or recognition that bestows total confidence — a life in art means that, to some degree, you’re starting anew every day. As the novelist Andrew Holleran tells T, “Writing is basically unconscious, and you don’t get any smarter about it. Imagine a brain surgeon who didn’t learn from each operation? We’d be horrified. But when you sit down to write, you’re always wondering how to do it.”

On the covers, clockwise from top left: ICE SPICE wears a Burberry dress, $2,290, burberry.com ; Graff necklace, price on request, graff.com ; and her own earrings and ring. Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Ian Bradley. Makeup by Karina Milan at the Wall Group. SKY LAKOTA-LYNCH wears a Canali coat, $3,060, canali.com ; and a Bode jacket, $1,080, bode.com . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. MEG STALTER . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tiago Goya at Home Agency using Oribe. Makeup by Holly Silius at R3-MGMT. TYLA wears a Ferragamo top, $1,190, and earrings, $730, ferragamo.com . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Sasha Kelly. Hair by Christina “Tina” Trammell. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. SARAH PIDGEON wears a Gucci dress, $24,500, gucci.com . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. TITUS KAPHAR wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello coat, $4,900, ysl.com . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty.

In this issue, we look at what it means for an artist to begin, from actual debuts (such as Sky Lakota-Lynch, one of our cover stars, who’s appearing this spring in “The Outsiders,” his first original Broadway role) to do-overs (such as Jon Bon Jovi, about to embark on tour after throat surgery and a 40-year career, or the cabaret performer turned visual artist Justin Vivian Bond). And though the artists who appear in these pages are all different, they share a spirit of generosity: It’s no easy thing to give voice to your dreams and insecurities, much less to do so publicly. Their collective perseverance — a mix of dogged determination and wild hope — is a reminder for all of us that a creative life, that all life, takes nerve. It takes humility. It takes a kind of arrogance that sees you through the most barren periods.

And by the way: You don’t need to be young to lead a creative life. All you have to do is start. Start — and then never stop.

On March 12, as we were readying this issue to go to press, one of our colleagues, Carter Love, T’s senior photography editor, died. He was 41.

Being a good photo editor demands taste and a sense of coordination. For a fashion or celebrity shoot, they, along with the creative director and style director, assemble teams: the photographer, of course, but also the stylist, models, hair and makeup artists and set designers. For a travel story, the photo editor selects and hires the fixer, the photographer, the location scout, the translator and the transportation. Once on set, a photo editor stays until the very end of the shoot, even if the shoot goes all day. Carter worked on these — and many other — kinds of stories, often simultaneously; in this issue alone, he produced a dozen images, from the portrait of the longtime collaborators Cindy Sherman and Marc Jacobs to the picture of the fashion designer turned photographer Miguel Adrover.

Along with his native senses of taste and coordination, Carter was — crucially — able to laugh at the absurdities, the unexpected little (and not-so-little) disasters that inevitably arise during a shoot, no matter how thorough the planning: rain on a day when sun was predicted; equipment stuck in customs; a subject’s last-minute cancellation. He had a big laugh, resonant and full, which everyone in the office could hear; at work parties, he sometimes broke into song. In addition to his big laugh, he had a big voice. He was tall and wiry and quick moving, with magnificent red hair — I’d often look up from my desk and see his head and torso streaking across the top of the cubicle walls, hurrying off somewhere.

One of Carter’s most used phrases was “absolutely.” Could I see more options from this shoot? “Absolutely.” Could I have a list of the talent that had already confirmed? “Absolutely.” Thanks, Carter, for this new information. “Absolutely.”

Barely a week after his death, that word keeps beating in my head. Will we always ask ourselves why he had to die? Absolutely. Were we lucky to work with him? Absolutely. Will we miss him? Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Digital production and design: Danny DeBelius, Amy Fang, Chris Littlewood, Coco Romack, Carla Valdivia Nakatani and Jamie Sims.

ONE EVENING 17 years ago, V.S. Naipaul came to dinner at my flat in Delhi. The writer, who had become something of a mentor to me, was transfixed by a painting I had bought a few years before. It was a self-portrait, over 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide. “I find it hypnotic,” Naipaul said, filing away spoonfuls of yellow dal. Observing the beauty of the hand clasped (as if in horror) over the mouth, the thumb livid against the dark hollows of the eyes, he added of the artist, “This is someone who has really seen, who has gone back again and again to see.”

Listen to this article, read by Neil Shah

I was at the beginning of my writing career, using my first advances to collect a few works of art. It was thrilling to have someone with as discerning an eye as Naipaul’s — “the brilliant noticer,” in the words of the literary critic James Wood — approve of “How Did You Sleep?” (2002), but it also made me sad. Its creator, Zack, who’d been a close friend at Amherst College in Massachusetts in the late 1990s, had recently given up painting, and “How Did You Sleep?” had become a symbol to me of the precarity of what it means to get started as an artist.

A painting of a nude woman turning away from two men who are leaning over a balcony, with one whispering in the other's ear.

The Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi was 17 in 1610 when she painted “Susanna and the Elders” (above). She went on to be the 17th century’s most accomplished female painter.

Zack, now 43, was of a mixed-race background from Topeka, Kan. After struggling with feelings of inferiority in our first year related to his public school education, he taught himself to paint from scratch. I would visit him and watch as he, dressed in paint-stained khakis and New Balance sneakers, toiled away at the self-portraits that were his trademark. He was a model to me of artistic labor and discipline, even if those early paintings were painfully amateurish.

Then, in our last semester, having been abroad a while, I entered Fayerweather Hall for the art department’s end-of-year show and saw “How Did You Sleep?” I was dumbstruck. I’m not sure I would’ve even been able to recognize it as Zack’s work — so prodigious had been his development as a painter — if it hadn’t been a self-portrait. Painted in the wake of 9/11, it showed the artist in a blue shirt with an expression of prophetic terror, as if watching a disaster foretold. I remember wanting to own it because it was proof, like none I had ever had before, that there really did exist such a thing in the world as raw talent. I persuaded Zack to sell it to me. The painting followed me from Amherst to my first job in New York, and on to London and Delhi.

By the time Naipaul saw it, Zack was working in strategic and financial communications in New York and no longer painting — “Every notary bears within him the debris of a poet,” Gustave Flaubert tells us. “My new job is intense,” Zack had written to say. “It’ll be good for a few years, but it’s not a career.” But neither was art; and Zack, who works as a researcher at Google now, was my first fearful example of how that mythical thing we call talent is real, and how talent alone isn’t enough.

IT WASN’T MY intention to start an essay about artistic beginnings with a story of artistic death. I love those romantic tales of creative daring and breakthrough: the English travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin quitting his job at The Sunday Times of London’s magazine with a simple telegram that read, “Have gone to Patagonia”; or, more dramatically, Paul Gauguin abandoning his wife, kids and job as a salesman to pursue his dream of being a painter. I love the improbability of the lives that could not have been: Salman Rushdie, the adman; W. Somerset Maugham, the doctor; the director Kathryn Bigelow, renovating dilapidated apartments in New York with the then-obscure composer Philip Glass. I remember Arundhati Roy teaching my mother and aunt aerobics in the basement of the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi before going on to win the Booker Prize for her debut novel, “The God of Small Things” (1997). It’s exhilarating to see destiny pick those who could but only have been artists out of the mundanity of their lives and light the way to a life of vocation.

I’m especially moved by those first moments of validation by which an artist comes out to himself, as it were. Consider Joseph Conrad in his mid-30s, working aboard the ship Torrens, with the manuscript of his first novel, “Almayer’s Folly” (1895). It had acquired, he writes in “A Personal Record” (1912), “a faded look and an ancient, yellowish complexion.” At sea, Conrad met his first reader, Jacques, a “young Cambridge man.” “Well, what do you say?” Conrad, brimming with anxiety, asked his new friend. “Is it worth finishing?” “ ‘Distinctly,’ he answered, in his sedate, veiled voice,” Conrad recalls years later, “and then coughed a little.” With that one word, Jacques, who was soon to be carried away by a fatal cold, had given a seafaring Polish exile a vital nod of encouragement. “The purpose instilled into me by his simple and final ‘Distinctly,’” writes Conrad, one of literature’s late bloomers (he was 38 when he published his first novel), “remained dormant, yet alive to await its opportunity.”

This quiet admission to oneself, as sacred as the vows of priesthood, of wanting to undertake the creative life is a necessary step; but like talent, it’s not enough. To be an artist is not a private act but a public one. No artist is born into a vacuum, or later speaks into one. They are as much a product of the society they emerge from as a response to it. Nor is artistic expression all spirit, all feeling. As Naipaul has frequently noted, writers require a complex edifice of interlocking parts — an infrastructure, if you will — to thrive. More broadly speaking, all successful artists rely on a network of critics, journals and newspapers, a discerning audience, bookshops and concert halls and galleries — which is generations in the making, presupposing certain values, certain economic and political realities. The Ukrainian-born novelist Clarice Lispector came of age in the Brazil of the 1920s. At 13, she “consciously claimed the desire to write,” as her biographer Benjamin Moser quotes her in “Why This World” (2009), but no sooner had she claimed her destiny than she felt herself in a void. The idea of vocation had been instilled in her, but that didn’t mean she knew how to proceed. “Writing was always difficult for me,” Lispector once wrote, “even though I had begun with what is known as vocation. Vocation is different from talent. One can have vocation and not talent; one can be called and not know how to go.”

Lispector had both vocation and talent, but what makes any artist’s first steps so tentative is that the path forward is narrower than we imagine. We come into the world believing we can be a great many things (and for a great many this is true) but, for those destined to be artists, the creative choices they make are almost as limited as the choice of being an artist itself. Maugham wanted to demystify the impulse that had him give up medicine to answer his calling as a novelist. “I am a writer as I might have been a doctor or a lawyer,” he writes in “The Summing Up,” his 1938 literary memoir, but, soon after that, despite himself, Maugham stumbles on that aspect of the artistic life that eludes banalization, for it’s truly mysterious — namely, the bond between the artist and his subject. “Though the whole world,” writes Maugham, “with everyone in it and all its sights and events, is your material, you yourself can only deal with what corresponds to some secret spring in your own nature.” 

A painting of a skull next to an hourglass with flowers, butterflies and bubbles around it.

“Vanitas Still Life” (circa 1665-70) by Jan van Kessel the Elder, who was from a long line of celebrated Flemish painters — Pieter Bruegel the Elder was his great-grandfather — and was perhaps destined to be an artist.

It’s this, the inexorability of the correspondence between an artist and the world, that gives those first steps their magical quality. It represents a rebirth so profound that it can often entail the killing off of a former self. One of my literary heroes, the writer Rebecca West — the author of that magisterial work of travel, inquiry and sympathy “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia” (1940) — was abandoned (as I was) by her father as a child. In late Victorian England, it left her with an exaggerated regard for what were seen as male qualities, as well as the need to compensate for their absence. “Men, she felt,” writes J.R. Hammond in “H.G. Wells and Rebecca West” (1991), his biography of their romantic and literary relationship, “should be strong and dependable; deep inside herself she sensed they were not to be trusted.” These gendered dynamics were surely at work as West, first making her way in the world at age 20, sloughed off the softer given name of Cissie Fairfield to adopt, as a pseudonym, the name of the spirited protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s play “Rosmersholm” (1886).

No artist is without this set of special circumstances. They are the ground from which the need for expression arises. The path forward comes upon the artist-in-waiting with the power of certain mathematical proofs, elegant, inevitable, at once simple and inscrutable. “Falling in love for the first time and getting started as a writer,” my friend the writer Karan Mahajan, 39, the author of the novels “Family Planning” (2008) and “The Association of Small Bombs” (2016), replied by email when I asked him what it had been like for him, “both things happened at once for me. Suddenly, I had my material, and it encompassed all aspects of my life: my childhood in Delhi; immigration to the United States as a student; a future decided by plane journeys. I could love myself as the other loved me.”

For the Pakistani-born American painter Salman Toor, 40, the moment when, he says, “something vital clicked into place” meant that he suddenly found himself in “a direct relationship” between the things he was thinking and talking about every day and the paintings he was at work on. “In 2016,” he says, “I did a few paintings out of a need to be completely honest with myself. I wanted to illustrate the stories I was bursting to tell. A lot of these stories were about coming out and showing the excitement, anxieties and challenges of belonging to multiple cultures and living a cute little life in the East Village.”

The date surprised me. I had been aware of Toor’s work for almost a decade before this moment. To me, he was the painter of a certain kind of South Asian disquiet. No one captured the massive cultural and economic disparities of my life in Delhi (and his in Lahore) like Toor. Upon scenes of revelry and privilege — a party, a picnic, a rich westernized couple frolicking out of doors with a glass of wine and an iPhone — he would, in the form of servants in the background looking on, introduce an element of unease that hinted at the fragility of the societies we lived in. But quite unbeknown to me, Toor’s life in New York had opened up a new vein of material. To put it another way, he had begun again. And this is what we tend to forget: In the careers of certain artists, those who make big, varied bodies of work in which different strands of their experience are subsumed, the business of beginning, and beginning again, never ceases. Each new beginning brings with it all the uncertainty and blankness of the first. Experience might protect such an artist from forcing what’s clearly not working, but that core anxiety of not knowing if one will create again always remains. “Do not worry,” Hemingway would console himself, “you have always written before and you will write now.”

WHAT CONSTITUTES A beginning? In the common conception, it’s the first book, the first album, the first show at a major gallery. Yet an artist has myriad private ways in which they mark moments of true breakthrough. My childhood friend the sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar, 42, regards her fourth album as her first. She had grown up under the influence of her mighty father, Ravi Shankar, the man credited with having introduced Indian classical music to the West. Every artist struggles with what the literary critic Harold Bloom has called the anxiety of influence but, in Anoushka’s case, it was even more pronounced. As she told me, Ravi Shankar was “my guru, my teacher, my father.” It was he who had composed her first three albums.

Ravi, before he went on to become the greatest sitarist of his generation, had been part of a dance troupe led by his brother Uday, which caused a sensation in the Europe and America of the 1930s. “Hindu thought, alive, authentic, in flesh and bone, in sound, gesture and spirit,” is how the French mystic René Daumal describes the Shankar troupe in his book “Rasa” (1982), but Ravi was conflicted. He eventually broke with the troupe and dedicated himself entirely to the sitar. “He had a real directional shift that I didn’t have,” Anoushka says. Her beginnings, though she was six decades younger than her father, were in a sense more traditional. They entailed the surprise of finding newness within tradition. “I think my journey,” she says, “was more progressively finding how the thing that was in front of me — the sitar, namely — the thing that had been given to me, could be my outlet, could be my voice.” 

A coda to this intergenerational tale of artistic beginnings is the story of Anoushka’s half sister, Norah Jones, who spent years of her childhood estranged from her father and grew up in Texas with her American mother. At a time when both Anoushka and I were discovering our half siblings, I remember going to see Norah play at little-known clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She was staking claim to what felt like a genetic destiny in music, though in a tradition entirely different from that of her father and sister. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed beginnings as meager and transformational as these for, not long after, Norah’s debut album, “Come Away With Me” (2002), was released; it went on to win five Grammys, sell 30 million copies and all but save the piracy-shattered music industry.

We live in a society that prizes the individual above all else but, in the art of premodern Europe and classical India, to begin as an artist didn’t necessarily entail breaking with tradition, nor was it given to every artist to be original. “Raphael was adept at this,” writes Rachel Cusk in her travel memoir “The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy” (2009), in which she describes the Italian Renaissance painter’s relationship to his first guru, Perugino. Raphael had become so good at imitating Perugino, Cusk tells us, that the copies of his master’s work were indistinguishable from the originals. The art of pastiche, of inhaling the influence of an older admired artist so completely that it enters your soul, exists today, too. The South African writer J.M. Coetzee’s early works owe a huge debt to Samuel Beckett, as Rushdie’s do to Gabriel García Márquez and Thomas Pynchon’s to James Joyce. The difference in the modern era is that influence is something we must shrug off in order to become our own people, yet not everyone can. Cusk deals very movingly with Raphael’s quest (and ultimate failure) to be his own man. In a field crowded with giants such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he “retreated behind the mask of humility, never to come out again.” But far from this being his downfall as an artist, it, too, was a kind of beginning. “In the end,” writes Cusk, “his borrowing of such greatness amounted to greatness itself. Not everyone who sees a Michelangelo can go off and paint a Michelangelo.”

THERE ARE SO many ways to begin. I said it wasn’t my intention to open with a story of artistic death, but I never explained why I did. The reason is that after six books, and 20 years after writing my first publishable sentences, stamina, endurance and the ability to stay the course have come to mean at least as much to me as that first raw efflorescence of talent. If Zack’s story acquired the force of parable for me, it was because it showed me the vanity of our preoccupation with talent. Many with fewer gifts who are yet more steadfast go on to have brilliant careers as artists. There’s an undeniable mystery in why some among us become artists, but there’s a greater mystery to me still in those who survive the vicissitudes of creative life, leaving behind bodies of work through which there runs an arc of growth as sublime as the vaulting of a Gothic cathedral.

A true artist always brings something new into the world. A new color, a new complexion, a new way of looking — a “new kind of beauty,” to use Marcel Proust’s phrase for the special distinctiveness he felt that Fyodor Dostoyevsky had brought to literature. We make the mistake of thinking of that newness as an externality, a scaffolding, a mere matter of style. But in fact, the originality we detect on the surface is an emanation from the birth of a new idea. It’s something far more radical, far more unnerving, than we are prepared to accept. Real artists bring about real rupture. We want to domesticate the discomfort that makes us feel but, deep down, we know the old rules no longer apply; and for one fleeting moment, our world, with us in it, is laid bare, transfigured by the imagination of someone who has dared to see it anew.

Read by Neil Shah. Narration produced by Emma Kehlbeck. Engineered by Quinton Kamara

Amy Tan , 72, writer, on “The Joy Luck Club” (1989)

Amy Tan holds Daisy Tan's right elbow with her left hand. They are walking down the a sidewalk and smiling.

Tan with her mother, Daisy Tan, in San Francisco in 1989. The author’s 11th book, “The Backyard Bird Chronicles,” a collection of illustrated essays, is out this month.

Robert Foothorap

I was a business writer [of marketing materials for companies and brochures for their employees] in the mid-1980s and, even though I was successful, I was unhappy. I wasn’t doing anything meaningful. Writing fiction allowed me, through subterfuge, to access emotional realms that I hadn’t explored before. When you write your first novel, you tend to include a lot of autobiographical elements. “The Joy Luck Club” [about the lives of four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters] became deeply personal without my knowing it. I wasn’t consciously writing about racism or generational divides, even though that’s exactly what I was writing about. At that time [Tan was 37 when the book came out], I was just trying to find a story.

A cover of the book "The Joy Luck Club" with illustrations of dragons and a mirrored cloud-like pattern.

Courtesy of Putnam © 1989 Gretchen Schields. Photo by Joshua Scott

People got all kinds of things out of it. They said it saved their marriage or helped their relationships. I felt wonderful about that, but I couldn’t take credit. I didn’t intend to write a book that was going to improve people’s lives. That would’ve been a noble pursuit but, to do that, I’d have had to come up with a book that was very different — less spontaneous and honest. Without a doubt, what made me proudest was that my mother read it. She wasn’t proficient in English, but she understood it more than anybody else. — L.G.

Avril Lavigne , 39, musician, on “Let Go” (2002)

Avril Lavigne sits cross-legged on an office chair wearing headphones with a microphone in front of her face.

Lavigne at a recording studio in Cologne, Germany, in 2002. The musician’s new tour, “Avril Lavigne: The Greatest Hits,” begins next month.

Fryderyk Gabowicz/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

I remember going into the studio and people trying to tell me what to do or how my music should be, but I knew what I wanted to create. “Let Go” reflects how I felt as a young girl coming into the music industry. I was 15 when I got signed and 16 when I made that album. I had all this angst and rebellion, and I wanted to be expressive in that tone. But the adults around me kept delivering cheesy song ideas, and I wasn’t feeling the way people were playing the guitar. It was all too light and fluffy; that’s the stuff that made me run.

The cover for Avril Lavigne's Let Go album, with the text in a scratched font, and a blurred cover image of Lavigne, wearing all navy, with her arms crossed, standing on the street.

Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment and Avril Lavigne

When I went to Los Angeles and connected with [the album’s co-writers Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock of] the Matrix and Clif Magness, they were way cooler and more open-minded. Lauren and I spent a lot of time together. I sat with her in the backyard on a picnic blanket writing “Complicated”; we really connected. I was finally understood. The production was a little poppy for me. If I had to redo the album today, I’d tweak some things here and there production-wise and apply some of my experience from the past 20 years. Still, the important songs like “Sk8er Boi” and “Complicated” rocked enough — they had the live guitar and drums — and “I’m With You” wasn’t too polished. On songs like “Unwanted” and “Losing Grip,” we really went all the way — no holding back. — L.G.

Chloë Sevigny , 49, actress, on “Kids” (1995)

Chloë Sevigny turns to face the camera. Behind her are various theme park attractions, including a ferris wheel and a carousel.

Sevigny at the Jersey Shore in 1995. The actress, who has appeared in over 50 features, recently shot “Bonjour Tristesse,” an upcoming adaptation of the 1954 Françoise Sagan novel.

From left: Lila Lee-Morrison; © Shining Excalibur Pictures/courtesy of Everett Collection

A poster for the movie "Kids", showing the letters K-I-D-S overlaid over four portraits of actors in, respectively, red, blue, green and yellow.

© Shining Excalibur Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection

I still find the marketing around “Kids” [about a day in the life of some wayward New York City teenagers] a little outrageous: “The most shocking film of the year!” “A must-see!” But it worked. A lot of us making it thought of it as a cautionary tale, but so many kids have come up to me and said, “That’s why I moved to New York. I wanted to live that life.” I was an amateur [at 19, when I made the film]. I knew the cinematographer, Eric Alan Edwards. He’d shot [Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie] “My Own Private Idaho,” and I thought the acting in that was impeccable. I trusted that if something [in my performance] was false, he’d say something. I don’t know why, but I just gave myself over to [Edwards and the director, Larry Clark]; I trusted that they wanted to get to the truth of things.

The hardest scene for me to shoot was when [my character, 15-year-old Jennie] is at the clinic receiving information that she’d contracted H.I.V. I thought, “How does one even begin to try to act that?” I was very tentative. If I were to approach that scene now, I think I’d have the confidence to try more things — one take crying, others doing this and that. At the time, I was trying to be as real as I thought I could be on camera with a crew around me.

I’m surprised that “Kids” is still making such an impact, but I’m also not. Afterward, I thought, “OK, this set a bar. These are the kinds of people I want to work with.” — N.A.

A photo of five people posing for a photograph. Stephen King wears a green shirt and a jacket and holds a baby who is drinking from a bottle.

King, the author of over 70 books, with his wife, Tabitha, and their children (from left) Joe, Owen and Naomi at their house in Orrington, Maine, in 1979. His next book, a short-story collection titled “You Like It Darker,” will be published in May.

James Leonard

Stephen King , 76, writer, on “Carrie” (1974)

One of my rules about writing is similar to a rule in [the card game] Hearts: If it’s laid, it’s played. I have a tendency not to go back and reread things, particularly with “Carrie” [a horror novel about a bullied high school student capable of telekinesis]. I’m afraid of how naïve it may be, how much it might be the work of a very young writer. It’s like when you’re a kid and you don’t know how to behave. You look back on certain things and say, “I shouldn’t have grabbed that,” or, “That wasn’t polite.” I don’t want to go back and see that my shirttail was untucked or my fly was unzipped.

The cover of a book, with the title "Carrie: a novel of a girl with a frightening power." The cover image shows half a portrait of a woman with an embroidered jacket and brown hair blowing in the air.

Courtesy of Doubleday. Photo by Joshua Scott

I’d change a lot. It would have a little more depth when it came to the characters. Remember, it started as a short story. I had this idea about a girl with paranormal powers who was going to get revenge on the girls who made fun of her. It was too long for the markets that I had in mind, and I didn’t know very much about girls anyway, particularly girls’ gym classes and locker rooms, so I threw the story away. My wife fished it out of the trash, uncrumpled the pages, looked at it and said, “This is pretty good. I’ll help you.” It’s a very short book, way under 300 pages. Also, there are pejoratives that were common then that I wouldn’t use now, even though they’re realistic and come out of the mouths of characters we don’t like. On the whole, I must’ve done a fairly good job because the book was published [when I was 26] and [in 1976] they made a movie out of it.

One of the things I think about a lot was that my mother got to read it. She had cancer at that point and died before any of my other books were published. Because of “Carrie,” I had a chance to take care of her and get her in a hospice. By then we had the money, otherwise we would’ve been out of luck. — L.G.

A man with a mustache and short brown hair stands amid brown reeds.

Holleran in Florida in the 1980s. Three of the author’s five novels, including “Dancer From the Dance,” were republished in paperback this past December.

From left: Lee Calvin Yeomans, courtesy of Andrew Holleran; Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

The cover of the book "Dancer From the Dance" with an illustration of a head with short ginger hair and an earring partially silhouetted in profile.

Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

Andrew Holleran , 79, writer, on “Dancer From the Dance” (1978)

“Dancer” has had a life of its own, which I could’ve never predicted. I wrote the book at my parents’ house in Florida one winter [when I was 33]. It was going to be the last book I ever wrote, because I’d been writing for 10 years after graduating from an M.F.A. program and had only had one story published in a magazine. I said to myself, “You have to stop now and go to law school.” Luckily, the book came out of me very quickly and, in retrospect, became a description of six years I’d spent in New York. It was very easy because I’d obviously touched something that mattered to me.

I’ve never reread “Dancer” [about gay life in 1970s New York] so, while I’m sure that if I did, I’d revise, revise, revise, I can’t imagine changing any of it. The campy style of the letters that frame the book is probably outdated, which is a shame since I love camp.

I’ve learned since then that writing is basically unconscious, and you don’t get any smarter about it. Imagine a brain surgeon who didn’t learn from each operation? We’d be horrified. But when you sit down to write, you’re always wondering how to do it. — L.G.

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein stand on a staircase with a curved bannister and portraits hanging on wooden walls.

Harry and Stein, of the rock band Blondie, in the U.K. in 1977. Stein’s memoir, “Under a Rock,” will be published in June.

From left: Jeff Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo; CBW/Alamy Stock Photo

The cover of the album Blondie, with the title in capital letters and italicized. It shows five people dressed in black tops and jackets standing in front of each other.

CBW/Alamy Stock Photo

Debbie Harry , 78, and Chris Stein , 74, musicians, on “Blondie” (1976)

Debbie Harry: We recorded “Blondie” [when Harry was 30 and Stein was 25] in a studio used by jazz musicians, and there wasn’t a lot of fancy recording technique. It was a different era. I think the fact that the album wasn’t overproduced gives it a kind of timelessness. We still perform some of those songs. Every once in a while, we drag up “X Offender” and “Rip Her to Shreds.”

Our music wasn’t just about one style or sound; we had songs that expressed different feelings and attitudes in music. A lot of things, like “Man Overboard” [a danceable heartbreak track], we really didn’t pull off the way I think Chris wanted to, but it’s there.

Chris Stein: That song would’ve worked fantastic with a dembow beat [but I wasn’t introduced to reggaeton until years later]. If I were to change anything about the album, it’d have more to do with the production than what we were slapping on the tape. Generally, we’d just go in and do a bunch of takes, pick the best one, throw some stuff on it and that was pretty much it. There was hardly any overdubbing. We learned so much from the producer Mike Chapman a couple of years later — the difference between “Blondie” and our later albums was like night and day.

Still, I like “Blondie.” It represents how we felt at the time and what was happening to us. When I look back on it, I think of the whole downtown milieu and a period in New York that I don’t know if anyone thought we’d be talking about 50 years later. — L.G.

Zadie Smith, wearing a black top and glasses, with her hair parted in the center, sits and looks over her left shoulder towards the camera. The wall behind her is red.

Smith at her mother’s home in northwest London in 2000. The author’s sixth novel, “The Fraud,” was published last year.

Courtesy of William Morrow. Photo by Joshua Scott

Zadie Smith , 48, writer, on “White Teeth” (2000)

I love the joy in my novel “White Teeth” [a multigenerational story of race and identity among the residents of London’s Willesden neighborhood], even though I haven’t picked it up in 25 years. Back then [Smith was 24 when the book came out], I was trying to write about people; I was interested in the interpersonal above all else. The people in the neighborhood I came from were always described in a manner of pathology, and I was trying to explain that we weren’t pathological. I was always writing around this kind of elephant in the room, which is what you know people have already assumed about your characters. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to do less of that because I’ve got company. There are so many writers from so many countries, particularly in West Africa, [that] I wanted to see as a child.

The cover of the book "White Teeth" with a white background and the title of the book embossed silver.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

I’ve become more interested in power lately. I’m very aware of being like the Ancient Mariner, that the structures I’m talking about that made life not always pathological have vanished. The conditions of the characters in “White Teeth” — their decent health care, their reasonable housing, their free university education — are gone. I’m still on the side of joy, but the question is, what kind of structures allow people to experience it. As I’ve gotten older, I write about them not out of nostalgia but out of political urgency. — L.G.

Two figures stand in front of a memorial with finely carved names and large dates on a black granite wall.

Left: a mock-up of Lin’s 493-foot Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Right: Lin with her parents, Julia Chang Lin and Henry Huan Lin, at her Yale graduation in 1981. The designer’s 44th sculpture, for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, is scheduled to be completed next year.

Courtesy of Maya Lin (2)

A polaroid of three figures smiling, with their hands crossed, sitting on a low stone wall in formal attire.

Lin with her parents, Julia Chang Lin and Henry Huan Lin, at her Yale graduation in 1981. The designer’s 44th sculpture, for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, is scheduled to be completed next year.

Courtesy of Maya Lin

Maya Lin , 64, sculptor, on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) in Washington, D.C.

It was a battle to keep the Vietnam Veterans Memorial simple and spare. I was moved by World War I memorials built by the French and British. They offered a much more realistic and sobering look at the high price of war, which is human life. When I went to the site [of what would become the monument] on Thanksgiving break [in 1980, when I was 20 and in my junior year at Yale], I felt a need to cut the earth and open it up. The structure isn’t so much an object inserted into the earth; it’s the earth itself being polished like a geode. I considered everything, even the walkway, which was put in to intentionally separate the wall from the ground. If you put the granite sidewalk all the way up against the wall, it would no longer be a polished geode — it’d be a curb. I put grass there. But no one could have predicted how popular it would be, so people trampled the grass and it died.

A year or two after the memorial was built, unbeknown to me, the architects of record worked with [the National] Park Service to put in [Belgian blocks on either side of the granite path]. That needs to be rethought because it’s an ugly detail. They’re out of scale. It drives me crazy every time I see it. — L.G.

David Kershenbaum, wearing an open shirt and sunglasses, sits next to Tracy Chapman, wearing a jean jacket, in front of a control board in a recording studio.

Chapman with the producer David Kershenbaum at a Los Angeles recording studio in 1987. The musician’s debut album will be reissued on vinyl this summer to mark its 35th anniversary.

From left: Lester Cohen/Getty Images; courtesy of Elektra Records

A sepia-toned album cover, with the title "Tracy Chapman" rotated to the side, running vertically on the left side, and a portrait of Chapman looking down.

Courtesy of Elektra Records

Tracy Chapman , 60, musician, on “Tracy Chapman” (1988)

I had this notion when I first started writing songs that to respect the muse — or whatever source of inspiration brought me to put pen to paper — I shouldn’t do any editing. The first thing that came to me was meant to be. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” which I wrote when I was 16, emerged from that mind-set. It was one of those songs that came out in one sitting. It’s a very forceful declaration.

A song like “Fast Car,” which I wrote when I was maybe 22, wasn’t a very long process, but it reflected a different strategy about songwriting. It was more about revelation, sharing a story about a person and the changes happening in their life. I made edits to “Fast Car.” I definitely changed words and lines. I’m too embarrassed to tell you exactly what, but it was the verse that starts “See, my old man’s got a problem.” Let’s just say that there was something else there.

In some ways, writing a song is about asking and answering questions: “Who is this character, why are they doing this and where is the story going?” When I was young, I thought all these questions could be answered with the first iteration of the song. I’m not as enamored with this idea that the very first thing that comes to mind is what I have to remain committed to. — L.G.

Jewel , 49, musician, on “Pieces of You” (1995)

Jewel, surrounded by people in a recording studio, wearing a white and orange striped shirt, looks back over her left shoulder.

Jewel at the musician Neil Young’s private studio in Northern California in 1994. An immersive exhibit of the singer-songwriter’s work will open at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., in May.

Courtesy of the Jewel Kilcher Archive and Bershaw Archival Management

What’s important to me about “Pieces of You” is that I made an honest album. I liked [the writers] Charles Bukowski and Anaïs Nin because they told the truth about themselves, and it wasn’t always pretty. With my work, my goal was to be just as honest. “Pieces of You” wasn’t more developed than I was — I didn’t know how to play with a band, and I didn’t choose a producer who’d make me sound slicker or lend their experience to make me sound more polished. I wanted it to be a snapshot of who I was [between 16 and 19]: inexperienced, emotionally charged and trying to figure life out.

An album cover, with the title "pieces of you" and text reading "what we call human nature in actuality is human habit." The cover image is Jewel, smiling with hair blowing in her face in a wing-shaped cutout.

Courtesy of Craft Recordings and Jewel

Writing was medicine for me. I had extreme anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I wrote songs to calm myself down and to help me fall asleep at night. I never wrote them thinking I’d have a career. There wasn’t really a craft — it was more about what comforted me, what suited me, what interested me to think and write about. I was an avid reader, and a lot of my writing took after Flannery O’Connor, [John] Steinbeck and [Anton] Chekhov, like short stories put to music.

I remember writing at that age that I didn’t want my music to be my best work of art — I wanted my life to be my best work of art. I take music seriously, but I take that promise to myself more seriously. — L.G.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

JANE FONDA AND LILY TOMLIN, ACTRESSES Have co-starred in three films and a TV show, from “9 to 5” (1980) to “80 for Brady” (2023).

what is creative writing in sentences

Video by Kurt Collins

what is creative writing in sentences

JANE FONDA: It was 1978, and I heard that Lily Tomlin was performing in a [one-woman] show called “Appearing Nitely” in Los Angeles. I don’t know how many characters she played, but she embodied them all so fully. I was smitten. I went backstage to meet her. At the time, I was in the process of developing “9 to 5” [the 1980 comedy about a trio of female office workers who overthrow the company’s sexist boss] and, as I was driving home, I thought, “I don’t want to be in a movie about secretaries unless Lily Tomlin is in it.”

LILY TOMLIN: She swept in backstage with a big cape on. We couldn’t believe it — this was Jane Fonda! For a couple of years, I’d worn a hairdo from “Klute” [the 1971 thriller for which Fonda won an Oscar], but I didn’t have it when she showed up that day. I was like, “Why did I drop my ‘Klute’ hairdo at this propitious time?”

J.F.: It took a good year to convince Lily and Dolly [Parton, the film’s other lead] to do the movie. It’s not that they weren’t interested, but it was very difficult. Why was it so difficult, Lily?

L.T.: I think I was that way about everything.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin pose for a portrait. Fonda has her arms crossed and Tomlin has her hands in her pockets

From left: Fonda, 86, and Tomlin, 84, photographed at Hubble Studio in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, on Jan. 29, 2024.

Kanya Iwana

J.F.: You are that way about everything: “I don’t know if I can do this. I’m not right for the part.” You do that every time. But it was your idea to get Colin Higgins to direct and to cast Dabney Coleman [as the boss]. You should’ve been the one producing it! My only decision was to make the movie, because one of my close friends, [the former director of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau] Karen Nussbaum, would tell me stories about organizing women office workers and what they had to go through.

L.T.: I thought I had some lines that were hitting you over the head with the joke. Yet when the movie was released, those lines got the biggest response from the audience.

J.F.: Both of us got a kick out of Dolly’s innocence. When she showed up the first day, she’d memorized the entire script. And then the day that Dolly sang —

L.T.: Oh, that was a glorious moment.

J.F.: She used her long nails like a washboard and started to sing, “Working 9 to 5. …” Lily and I looked at each other and we knew: “This is it — we’ve got an anthem.” But I think my favorite shooting experiences were when we had the dead body in the back of the car. We went to the Apple Pan [a diner in Los Angeles] because Dolly wanted to get a cheeseburger, remember?

L.T.: Everybody would tell stories about their life, and we just fell in love with each other.

J.F.: Our worlds are so different. Our backgrounds are so different. Our senses of comedy — I mean, I don’t really have one.

L.T.: Jane was so earnest. She felt so passionate about every activist problem that she was trying to solve. It was inspiring and endearing.

J.F.: Since then, we’ve done seven seasons of [the Netflix TV series] “Grace and Frankie” [which ran from 2015 to 2022]. Ten days after we wrapped, we started a movie that we both like a lot called “Moving On.” When that came out [in 2023], I was interested in the reviews — almost every one of them talked about our chemistry. And it was like, “Well, maybe we should always work together.” — E.R.A.

Fonda: Hair: Jonathan Hanousek at Exclusive Artists Management. Makeup: David Deleon at Allyson Spiegelman Management. Tomlin: Hair: Darrell Redleaf Fielder at Aim Artists Agency. Makeup: Shelley Rucker at Aim Artists Agency. On-set producer: Joy Thomas. Photo assistant: Jeremy Eric Sinclair. Digital tech: Aron Norman

MARC JACOBS, FASHION DESIGNER, AND CINDY SHERMAN, ARTIST Have collaborated on multiple projects for the Marc Jacobs brand, from a 2005 photo book to the spring 2024 campaign.

Marc Jacobs and Cindy Sherman both stand in front of a gray background wearing black shirts and raising their right arms.

From left: Jacobs, 61, and Sherman, 70, photographed at Go Studios in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, on March 5, 2024.

MARC JACOBS: In 2004, I reached out to ask if you’d [be in a Marc Jacobs campaign]. I knew your work very well, and I knew that you’d done an ad in 1984 for [the French fashion brand] Dorothée Bis. That made me think, “Maybe she’d do this with us.” I was a little intimidated about asking.

CINDY SHERMAN: I was so intimidated that you’d asked. I remember thinking, “I’m going to bring a bunch of wigs and makeup.” It was just me for a few shots, but then [the German photographer] Juergen [Teller] got playful and started putting himself in the pictures. He gradually shaved parts of his face and head. He’d started the shoot with a full head of hair and beard; by the end, he was completely bald with no facial hair at all.

M.J.: I wasn’t there, but I got calls from Juergen saying, “It’s [expletive] excellent, it’s [expletive] excellent.” He says that when he’s really excited. You created some hilarious characters. There was one where you were both older, sitting on a bench.

C.S.: Rifling through a big bag.

M.J.: That image became a billboard on Melrose [Avenue in Los Angeles]. It was great because fashion campaigns like that didn’t exist back then. Nobody would’ve ever said, “ That’s our ad,” because it wasn’t exactly selling clothes or bags. But it was exciting.

C.S.: What’s funny is that you’d asked me, a year or two ago during Covid, to do something — I don’t even remember what it was. I’d gained a bit of weight, so I was self-conscious and kept turning you down. [For the 2024 campaign I ended up doing] some of the outfits were a little tight. The people assisting me said, “We can fix that.” And I said, “No, no, it’s [perfect for] the character.” I guess I could’ve thought of someone who was trying to hide, but I decided, “No, she seems like she could just let it all hang out in her leather pants.” How do you feel when you see different types of women wearing your pieces or putting them together in unusual ways?

M.J.: It’s the ultimate validation. Of all the stuff that exists out there, they’re spending their money on something I’ve made. How about you with collectors?

C.S.: Sometimes it’s a little weird. I remember an early series of horizontal pictures that I called “The Centerfolds” (1981) — I thought they were kind of disturbing, but some collector said, “I have that one hanging over my bed because it’s so sexy.” And I’m thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to know that.” But you can’t control what happens to a piece.

M.J.: Or what other people see in it. Feedback is part of the equation. It’s like, “I’m not just doing this for me. I need you.” — E.R.A.

Production: Prodn. Hair: Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup assistant: Nanase. Photo assistants: John Temones, Tony Jarum, Logan Khidekel

CARLOS NAZARIO, STYLIST, AND WILLY CHAVARRIA, FASHION DESIGNER Have worked together on three collections since 2022.

Willy Chavarria, wearing a black T-shirt and necklaces, stands and crosses his arms. Next to him sits Carlos Nazario, wearing a white T-shirt.

From left: Nazario, 36, and Chavarria, 56, photographed at Chavarria’s studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on March 18, 2024.

Emiliano Granado

WILLY CHAVARRIA: Carlos and I would see each other at Calvin Klein [Nazario has styled for the brand; Chavarria was its senior vice president of design from 2021 until 2023], but our first formal meeting was lunch at the Odeon. Like Truman Capote’s swans, we had salads and talked about water and weight loss.

CARLOS NAZARIO: It wasn’t like we were meeting to discuss a project. That sort of evolved organically.

W.C.: I was terrified to ask you to work with me. I remember texting to [see] if you’d style my [fall 2023] show. Do you know what you said? “I thought you’d never ask.”

C.N.: Willy’s work spoke to me in such a profound way. There was such a similarity — if not in aesthetic, definitely in intention. A lot of brands lack depth and a soul. I’m Afro-Latino. I grew up in New York with a certain relationship to how one presents themselves to the world, what glamour means and looks like and how it’s communicated. I was always intrigued by how Willy’s designs encompassed all those things.

W.C.: [The way we collaborate] is so natural and unpretentious. We end up telling a story that we feel good about.

C.N.: Every relationship between a stylist and designer is unique. Some designers require a lot more — from research to manufacturing and the show. Others want you to come in right at the end and say, “Let’s put that on this model.” With Willy, our conversations prior to my first day were conceptual. We talked about what he wanted it to feel like, rather than what he wanted it to look like.

W.C.: For that first show together, we wanted the cast — all people of color, many of them queer and trans — to feel elevated and empowered. Marlon [Taylor-Wiles, the show’s movement director] was going to have the models look down at the guests.

C.N.: At the rehearsal, we were like, “Maybe it’s a bit creepy.” I wasn’t uncomfortable [giving my opinion] because Willy’s such an easy person to talk to. But anytime you’re coming into a space where everyone has clearly defined roles, you feel like a stepparent. You’re a bit like, “Do I discipline the daughter? Do I tell her the skirt’s too short?” I didn’t want to overstep, but I also wanted to make my presence worth it. As we got more comfortable [with each other], we got more comfortable trying things.

W.C.: The next season, we took more risks. We wanted it to feel refined and elegant, but we also wanted to inject a youthfulness.

C.N.: At a lot of [brands], it’s like, “This season, everything’s a miniskirt. If your thighs aren’t great, see you in the fall!” Willy’s casting allows for a very broad vision in terms of what the styling can do: You’ll have someone like me, who’s 5-foot-4 [Nazario walked in the fall 2024 show], and then you’ll have someone who’s 6-foot-4.

W.C.: You’ll have a woman in her late 50s and a 17-year-old boy.

C.N.: Everyone from twinks to daddies. If you tried to dress everyone the same, it’d be a disaster.

W.C.: I can suggest something that you don’t like, and you’ll say, “Let’s go with it. Let’s see.” And I’ll do the same. I’ve worked with stylists who will deliberate over the positioning of a hat for hours. The stress level is so intense, it kills the moment. Having the freedom [to experiment reflects] a levity we want the brand to have. You know, we address serious subjects, like human rights, inclusion …

C.N.: Self-identity. But if we’re stressed, everyone’s stressed. We try to keep it light, but we also understand the weight of the responsibility. It’s rare that you work with people who understand what you’re feeling and what you want to convey. And I think our trust lies in that. — N.H.

Photo assistants: Eamon Colbert, Jordan Zuppa

MINK STOLE, ACTRESS, AND JOHN WATERS, FILMMAKER Have worked together on almost every one of his movies since “Roman Candles” (1967), including “Pink Flamingos” (1972), “Hairspray” (1988) and “A Dirty Shame” (2004).

what is creative writing in sentences

Video by Melody Melamed

what is creative writing in sentences

MINK STOLE: John, I’ve just been told your conference line is charging me a penny a minute.

JOHN WATERS: Oh, c’mon. I’ve been using it for 20 years. It’s never said that.

M.S.: It’s fine. I can handle it.

T: How did you two first meet?

J.W.: Mink also grew up in Baltimore, although I was friends with her older sister Mary, who now goes by Sique. My memory’s that we met in Provincetown, Mass., right before doing my second movie [the 1967 short] “Roman Candles” [in which Stole plays a party guest who gets spanked]. She was looking to go bad and found the right crowd. Prescott Townsend, one of the first gay radicals, allowed us to live in a tree fort he’d made.

M.S.: That was the summer I got introduced to homosexuality.

J.W.: Did we take acid that summer?

M.S.: I kind of think we did, yeah.

J.W.: And then we took it again 50 years later. My mother always used to say, “Don’t tell young people to take drugs.” But I’m not — I’m telling old people to. Anyway, we shot “Roman Candles” partly at my parents’ house and, oddly enough, a decade later, you filmed a big scene at that same house, in my parents’ bedroom, when you played [the delusional housewife] Peggy Gravel in “Desperate Living” [1977].

Mink Stole and John Waters, both wearing white shirts and dark gray jackets pose against a light gray background.

From left: Stole, 76, and Waters, 77, photographed, respectively, at Edge Studios in Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, on Feb. 4, 2024, and at Waters’s home in Tuscany-Canterbury, Baltimore, on March 7, 2024.

Melody Melamed

M.S.: We threw a baseball through a window and kind of trashed the place. Your mom was a sport.

J.W.: So was yours. Mink and I were arrested [along with three other members of the crew] for conspiracy to commit indecent exposure while making [the 1969 film] “Mondo Trasho.” It was in the paper. They printed your poor mother’s address.

M.S.: We were acquitted.

J.W.: We’d been filming a scene at Johns Hopkins University with [the actor and drag performer] Divine, in full makeup and a gold lamé top with matching toreador pants, in a 1959 red Cadillac convertible with the top down in November. I never asked permission [to shoot]. The police came and we all ran. The fact that we got caught and Divine escaped didn’t say a lot for the Baltimore police. Mink played an escaped mental patient; she did a nude tap dance.

M.S.: I’d get upset when the press would call us unprofessional because, although it was true that not one of us had ever taken an acting lesson, we were incredibly professional. And none of it was ad-libbed. John wouldn’t have tolerated that. He knew every comma, every “and,” every “but.”

J.W.: What’s that French term for people who go crazy when they’re together?

M.S.: “Folie à something”?

J.W.: “Folie à famille.” Everybody chipped in, and we just went for it.

T: Mink, were there any scenes you refused to shoot?

M.S.: Before we started filming “Pink Flamingos” [1972, in which Stole plays the proprietor of a black-market baby ring], John very casually said, “Will you set your hair on fire?” And I said, “Yes, that’ll look great on film.” But then as the moment approached, I panicked.

J.W.: I was on pot when I thought of that.

M.S.: It would’ve been great, except that I’d be bald today. I think that’s the only thing I ever refused to do.

T: What’ve you learned from each other?

M.S.: In the early films, we all acted largely. We spoke in italics. In the later ones, when I’d start to behave that way, John would say, “Take it down.” I was shocked [the first time he said it].

J.W.: When we made those early movies, I was influenced by the theater of the ridiculous — by cruelty, shouting and craziness. It wasn’t them overacting, it was me telling them to overact.

M.S.: I have enormous respect for John, and John for me. Aside from the fact that I love him dearly, I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t met him.

J.W.: And we’ve never had the same boyfriend.

M.S.: Or wanted the same boyfriend.

J.W.: Mink and I have been through a lot together. We’ve fought, we’ve made up. I don’t trust people who don’t have old friends. For me, they outlast family. Mink and I are even going to be buried together in the same graveyard. We call it Disgraceland. — N.H.

Waters: Makeup: Cheryl Pickles Kinion. Photo assistants: Daniel Garton, Ashley Poole

COBY KENNEDY AND HANK WILLIS THOMAS, ARTISTS Have spent three decades collaborating on public art installations and community-focused projects, including 2023’s “Reach,” a more than 2,700-pound fiberglass-and-resin sculpture at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport of two hands nearly touching.

Coby Kennedy and Hank Willis Thomas pose in front of a gray background.

From left: Kennedy, 47, and Thomas, 48, photographed at Thomas’s studio in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Feb. 28, 2024.

D’Angelo Lovell Williams

COBY KENNEDY: We met on a collaboration, actually. It was the summer of 1992.

HANK WILLIS THOMAS: I’d been recruited to work with Coby to renovate the darkroom at Howard University [in Washington, D.C.], where his father [Winston Kennedy] was the chair of the art program. We were in high school. Building a darkroom when you don’t really know how — that’s kind of the way we’ve always worked. Back then, Coby was a street writer.

C.K.: A graffiti writer, in the parlance of our times. My graffiti and school crews melded into this conglomerate [called] the Earthbound Homies.

H.W.T.: This was [during the] peak ’90s hip-hop days. The group was [made up of] all these young, primarily Black artists. I wasn’t one of them, I was a documenter.

C.K.: Hank was in museum studies, while the rest of us were in visual arts. He was very quiet and observant. It felt like he was always regarding you.

H.W.T.: The core of our relationship has been fostering opportunities for others to interlace their practices. The Wide Awakes [their most recent art collective, named after a progressive group that supported Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election] took off in my old studio in December 2019.

C.K.: We were trying to plug into society and see how we could influence it. When 2020 happened — the pandemic, the lockdown, the insurrection — we really hit the accelerator with it.

H.W.T.: I’d call the Wide Awakes our first public collaboration. But then again, 2016 is when “Reach” [their sculpture at Chicago’s O’Hare airport] first started. We’re excited to have it be one of the largest public acknowledgments of something we’ve been doing for 30 years.

C.K.: In our collaborations, we kind of fill in each other’s gaps.

H.W.T.: As a conceptual artist, I have great ideas — a lot of them. Coby, who has a history as an industrial designer and animator, is the bridge between the proposal and how it happens. With virtually every one of my public sculptures, he’s done all the initial concepting. He’s always had this ability to see what others are thinking. We also have different tastes.

C.K.: And they’re sometimes at odds with each other, which is one of the best parts [of our working relationship], because I’d hate for both of us to be middle ground.

H.W.T.: Coby has a very clear, singular vision, while I create art through consensus. I want to make a statement [so I’m often asking others], “What do you think about it?” I envy Coby’s talent. But I also think not having his talent gives me a reliance on other people, which is helpful in the context of making public art.

C.K.: I know that he’ll tell me the truth about anything I come up with, and he knows that if I have to talk trash about one of his ideas, I’ll talk trash about it.

H.W.T.: As much as I’d like Coby to think like me, then he wouldn’t be him and I wouldn’t be me. We allow each other to be who we are. — N.A.

INGAR DRAGSET AND MICHAEL ELMGREEN, ARTISTS Have worked as the duo Elmgreen & Dragset on more than 90 solo shows and site-specific installations, including a 2005 replica of a Prada store near Marfa, Texas, since 1995.

A portrait of Dragset and Elmgreen smiling and standing in front of a gray background. Dragset wears a black T-shirt and Elmgreen wears a black hoodie.

From left: Dragset, 54, and Elmgreen, 62, photographed at their studio in Neukölln, Berlin, on Feb. 7, 2024.

Julia Sellmann

INGAR DRAGSET: We met at After Dark, the only gay club at the time in Copenhagen, in 1994. I was 24 and Michael was 32. I thought he looked amazing — he had this Dennis Rodman-style hair that was bleached with baroque black patterns on it. We both had big Dr. Martens boots and were much grungier than the rest of the crowd.

MICHAEL ELMGREEN: The club was a classic disco — a lot of blown-out hair and Gloria Gaynor. It wasn’t difficult to spot each other.

I.D.: We got more than a little tipsy. When we both started to walk home, we realized that we lived not only in the same neighborhood but in the same building. That was the beginning of our 10-year romantic relationship. The artistic collaboration started eight months later, a little bit by accident. I was doing theater at the time.

M.E.: I was writing poetry and experimenting with texts that would morph in front of people’s eyes on IBM computers. To my surprise, I was considered a visual artist.

I.D.: Michael got invited to do an exhibition in Stockholm. He had the idea of creating abstract pets that people could cuddle, but he didn’t know how to make them. And I said, “Well, I’m good at knitting.” So that’s how the collaboration started.

M.E.: The Swedes are, as we know, a bit stiff; they were terrified about interacting with the artwork. So we were sitting in [opposite] corners with these knitted pets, cuddling them, and people thought it was a performance.

I.D.: That accidental performance inspired us to do more. The next one was a piece where I was furiously knitting at one end of a very long white cloth while Michael was unraveling everything from the other end. That should tell you a bit about our partnership.

M.E.: When we were coupled, we were almost the same size in clothes, so we even shared socks, we shared bank accounts, all our friends.

I.D.: We had one email account, one cellphone.

M.E.: Starting a new chapter after we split up was like meeting again, workwise. We had separate lives for some hours of the day. Suddenly, you could bring in exciting things that the other hadn’t experienced.

I.D.: It was a very difficult time. We put most things on hold, but we had one exhibition that would’ve been hard to cancel: a solo show at Tate Modern [in London]. In a big room with a window overlooking the Thames, we added another windowpane and, in between the panes, we had an animatronic but very realistic-looking sparrow that seemed to be gasping for life and flapping its wings, and nobody could help it.

M.E.: I think the beauty of it all was that we dared to stop being boyfriends because we knew we wouldn’t lose each other. Today, it’d be impossible to say who came up with what idea. It’s not two half authorships. It’s like this imaginary third persona in between us that we feed — an invisible genius kid who’s much, much younger, brighter and more charming than either of us. He’s creating the artworks. — J.H.

BOBBI SALVÖR MENUEZ, ACTOR, AND MICHAEL BAILEY-GATES, ARTIST Have collaborated on dozens of performances and photography projects throughout their decade-long friendship.

A portrait of Bobbi Salvör Menuez and Michael Bailey-Gates against a gray background.

From left: Menuez, 30, and Bailey-Gates, 30, photographed at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024.

BOBBI SALVÖR MENUEZ: I curated a 2014 show at [the Brooklyn exhibition space] Muddguts that was part of a series in which I invited people who didn’t always make performance work to create something in a performance context. We’d been in a group show together before and had mutual friends, and I was excited about the work I was seeing Michael make.

MICHAEL BAILEY-GATES: It was me, Bobbi and maybe two or three other people. I had this party trick of being able to talk really fast, like an auctioneer. When I said certain phrases, one of them would stand up, and another would scream at the top of their lungs or throw an object at someone.

B.S.M.: It felt like the beginning of us making things together on the fly. We both had this down-to-get-into-it energy that was well matched.

M.B.G.: We shared an urgency to make work come to life. Sometimes it’s as simple as being a body for another person. I’ve been the lead in Bobbi’s performances, and I’ve been in the background, lying on a floor covered in red paint. Performance art in New York at the time was about executing an idea without a lot of money. These days, I don’t go into a shoot thinking we’re performing, but it’s very much that: The camera is the audience looking back at us.

B.S.M.: Michael has this ability to see the kaleidoscopic possibility of someone’s self- expression. Around 2018, I was out as nonbinary to my close friends and finding my new name. I took a break from auditions and started working part-time as a substitute teacher. When a film I’d shot the year before got into [the 2019] Sundance [Film Festival], it was an invitation to step back into the spotlight. I’d shaved my head and was nervous about that formal, public coming- out moment. It just felt so cringe. I went to Los Angeles before going to Sundance and made some pictures with Michael that were only for us. Those were the first images of Bobbi that entered the world.

M.B.G.: I never want to make a picture of somebody that’s not reflective of them. I’ve chosen in my practice to always focus on a small group of friends, and those collaborations are the grounding force of my work. Without them, what would my pictures be? They’d be something less precious. — C.R.

Makeup: Zenia Jaeger at Streeters using Submission Beauty. Hair assistant: Drew Martin. Production: Resin Projects. Photo assistants: Michael Preman, Jack Buster

Humberto Leon, restaurateur and creative director

Humberto Leon rests his cheek on his hand and leans his elbow on a countertop. He is wearing a black jacket with white stripes and a white shirt.

Leon, 48, photographed at his restaurant Chifa in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2023.

Ryan James Caruthers

Then: The co-founder, with Carol Lim, of Opening Ceremony, the influential New York clothing store established in 2002; the co-creative director of the French fashion house Kenzo between 2011 and 2019.

Now: Co-runs three restaurants in Los Angeles — Chifa, Monarch and Arroz & Fun.

In 1975, the year I was born, my mom opened a restaurant in Lima — my mom’s from Hong Kong, my dad from Peru — and so I’ve always thought of a meal as a way to learn and to meet new people. In 2020, I’d recently quit Kenzo and sold Opening Ceremony. My sisters and brother-in-law were in the midst of changes of their own, and we’d always wanted to tell my mom’s story. So we decided to open a restaurant together in Eagle Rock, the Los Angeles neighborhood where my family first lived when we immigrated to the United States in the late ’70s. We named it Chifa, after my mom’s place in Lima, and based the menu on a similar mix of classic Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado (beef stir fry) and anticucho (meat skewers) and Chinese home cooking — though my brother-in-law, the chef John Liu, has added some of his Taiwanese family’s culinary staples, too.

Starting anything new is scary, and I didn’t have the confidence to do so until the pandemic, which gave me time to try new ideas. (I also wrote a screenplay and a script for a TV show.) I tried to channel the intuition [I’d brought to Opening Ceremony] into other fields. I realized that what I’d done with the store was ultimately about the fond memories people had of the place rather than any specific product. Food does something similar: It creates conversations and memories.

I had the same feeling when I opened the store: “Will anyone show up?” We’d built Opening Ceremony from the ground up — no ads, only word of mouth — and that experience lent itself to launching Chifa, as well as Monarch and Arroz & Fun [our second and third restaurants, which opened last year in the Arcadia and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods, respectively]. In many ways, I’m bringing the same sensibility to the restaurants that I brought to Opening Ceremony: They’re places where you can discover new things. We aren’t aiming for formality or perfection. If anything, part of the experience is dropping your fork and noticing the cool terrazzo floor or really looking at the flatware, which we made with the designer Izabel Lam. As a person who shops and eats a lot, I want to be excited, to feel that nervousness of trying something new. — M.S.

Nick Cave, musician, writer and artist

Nick Cave, wearing a shirt, tie and white jacket and sitting in a pink room in front of a tall mirror, holds a paint brush above a porcelain figure. In front of him, on the table, are paint palates, a bowl of fruit and various sculptures.

Cave, 66, photographed at his studio near his home in Brighton, England, on Jan. 29, 2024.

Then: Rose to prominence with his post-punk band the Bad Seeds, formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1983; became one of rock’s most celebrated lyricists and performers.

Now: Makes ceramics at a studio close to his home on the south coast of England, and his first major solo show, “ The Devil — A Life ,” is on view now through May 11 at Xavier Hufkens gallery in Brussels. Will release a new record with the Bad Seeds later this year.

I learned early on that the grand designs you have in life don’t always pan out. Starting in secondary school, I wanted to be a painter. I went to art school [for university in 1976] and, to my horror, failed my second year. At the same time, my first band [the Boys Next Door, which eventually became the Birthday Party] was starting to do well in the underground scene in Melbourne. I was much more interested in painting — I did figurative work that often referenced myself — but I’d failed, so I carried on with the band.

I started making ceramics during the pandemic. I collect Victorian Staffordshire-style figurines, the sort of thing an English grandmother might have on her mantelpiece, and one day I thought, “I could make these.” I found I was really swept up by clay. I struggle hugely with writing songs — not the music, but the lyrics. They never feel good enough. Mostly it’s all doubt and despair. But I don’t think I’ve felt more pleasure than I have when pulling a piece out of the kiln and looking at something I’ve made with my hands.

At some point, I had an idea to make a devil, mostly because I wanted to paint a figure in a fiery red glaze. I made one devil and then others, and eventually they began to tell a story. In the beginning, there’s a sort of lightheartedness about this wicked little guy: In his youth, he’s embedded in the world and in love with it. But then he kills his child, and [the figures] get dark and desperate. Later, he becomes remorseful and dies a terrible death. And in the end he’s forgiven by his child.

The death of a child is obviously very important to me because two of my own children have died. [Cave’s son Arthur died in 2015 at age 15. His oldest son, Jethro, died in 2022 at age 31.] And the works were saying something very powerful to me about my unfolding situation in life, something that my songs didn’t really talk about. I found that I could look at this poor devil in a pool of tears, with his lost child extending his hand to him, as a kind of meditation on my own place in the world and find a way that I — or we or whoever — may live a life. — M.H.M.

Jordi Roca, pastry chef

In an ice cream shop with blue walls and pipes painted red and white, Jordi Roca leans on a glass countertop covering various tubs of ice cream and toppings.

Roca, 45, photographed at Rocambolesc Gelateria in Girona, Spain, on March 13, 2024.

Anna Bosch Miralpeix

Then: Joined the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca — founded in 1986 by his brothers, Joan and Josep, in Girona, Spain — in 1997, becoming head pastry chef in 2000.

Now: After starting his own gelateria chain, Rocambolesc, in Girona with his wife, Alejandra Rivas, in 2012, and being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder four years later, opened an outpost of the gelateria in Houston in 2022 with a neurodiverse team.

When I first started to lose my voice, it didn’t have much of an effect on my creative process in the kitchen. I had to learn to interact more through gesture, but I could still speak during quieter moments. That was around 2016, when I was giving a lot of interviews. It was a period in my career when I needed to speak but, instead, was a time of introspection. Once I got the diagnosis — I have an unusual expression of spasmodic dysphonia [a neurological disorder that causes spasms in the voice box] — it meant I could finally move forward. Now I think of this as just part of who I am.

The idea to open a U.S. branch of Rocambolesc, the gelateria, which has five locations in Spain, came a year or so before this. In 2015, when we were [hosting] cooking events around the world for Celler de Can Roca, we met our business partner Ignacio Torres in Houston. He has family members with autism, and having a place that would hire people with autism and Down syndrome was part of his idea from the beginning. By the time we opened Rocambolesc in Houston in 2022, we’d already had experiences in Celler de Can Roca with team members who had neurological differences. But staffing a project with a neurodiverse team was a huge personal gamble taken by Ignacio and his wife, Isabel, to transform the stigmas around neurodivergence in the United States. The project’s really been embraced in Houston. We have staff who’ve been with us right from the beginning. Of course, my own difficulties have given me a deeper empathy with people who can’t always express themselves in the way they might like. But what I’ve learned — especially through this project — is that we all live in the same world. There’re just many ways to see it. — M.S.

Cassi Namoda, painter

Cassi Namoda leans back on a step ladder with one arm over a large painting of a woman with green outlines on an orange background. Around her, in a large space with a brick roof and plenty of pillars, various paintings are displayed.

Namoda, 35, photographed with paintings in progress at her studio in Biella, Italy, on Feb. 25, 2024.

Claudia Gori

Then: A visual artist known for her spare yet color-rich depictions of contemporary African people and landscapes who was last based in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts.

Now: Living in Biella, in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, where she’s working in a new studio and preparing to become a mother.

Biella has a beautiful, fantastical landscape — you have a backdrop of the snowcapped Alps, but there are also palm trees, beeches, pines and cypresses. It’s an easier flight to my family in Mozambique [than from the United States]. And we’re a 10-minute drive away from my husband’s family.

I found an incredible studio where I can visualize having my child and making magnificent work. The commercial art world is a masculine environment. But this is my own world. There’s a large kitchen with big windows and an amazing chef’s oven, so there can be lunches. I’ll put in a daybed because I know I need naps. There’ll be a baby corner, with a crib and maybe some safe paints. I’m really into self-preservation and embracing femininity.

My life before was very utilitarian. Some days, I’d get to the studio early and be there until 3 or 4 a.m., eating popcorn and puffing on a cigarette. The child has already forced me to have a healthier balance with work. But I have these dreams about me before [there was] this new spirit in me. It’s not a somber or sad thing, like, “Oh, I wish I was Cassi in Tambacounda, Senegal, plein-air painting in the field.” But I’m remembering that person.

I finally got into the Italian health care system, which has been a nightmare. It’s not superfriendly to foreigners. Meanwhile, I’m preparing for a solo exhibition in September and a museum show opening in December. In my head I’m like, “The baby’s coming really soon, I don’t really have a doctor, I’m still setting up my studio and I have a 53-foot-long cargo container with all of my belongings arriving on Monday!”

There are large works to start but, with this heavy belly, I can’t balance on a ladder. I might bring the canvases down to the floor and rest them on bricks. I’m visiting a softer, more romantic side. The world’s in a dark place; why not make something beautiful? I’m seeing flamingo pink and yellow and sandy tones. It’s soft and rosy. I don’t think it’s because I’m having a girl — the sex of the baby is a surprise — but that’s how I’m feeling right now. — E.L.

Jon Bon Jovi, musician and singer-songwriter

Bon Jovi, with gray hair pushed to one side, wears a leather jacket and leans his elbows on a wooden table and looks into the camera.

Bon Jovi, 62, photographed at his restaurant JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., on March 1, 2024.

Sebastian Sabal-Bruce

Then: Co-founded the rock band Bon Jovi in Sayreville, N.J., in 1983. Began experiencing vocal difficulties in 2014.

Now: Is recovering from throat surgery, a process depicted, among other things, in the docuseries “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” out this month. Will release a new album, “Forever,” with the band in June.

My problems started about a decade ago. In 2013, we had the number one tour in the world, and I was great for 100-plus shows. But in 2014, I wasn’t really making any music, which was hard psychologically. Then some of the recordings and shows we did, especially after 2017, were challenging — my range seemed to have narrowed and it was becoming difficult to sing consistently. But none of the professionals I saw could figure it out.

In March 2022, a doctor in Philadelphia explained that one of my vocal cords was atrophying. I thought I could get my voice back in shape if I just did enough shows, so I went back on the road. But it was a struggle. Finally, that June, I had an implant put [inside the cartilage of my larynx] to bring my [vocal folds] together. There was no singing at all for the first six weeks. Then I started speech therapy. I have rehab four times a week. But I’m still not sure what to expect. Yesterday when I was rehearsing with the band, I had a rough go with the song “Limitless” from the album “2020” [released by the group that same year]. I said, “Guys, I only ever sang this song when I was broken. I don’t know how to sing it not broken.” If I had the word “lay,” I’d put an “E” on the end of it to try to push it up to pitch: “layeee.” But right after that, I popped the high notes on [our 1986 hit] “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

This new album’s much more of a collaborative record than the ones I’ve made in the past. It’s a celebration of my accepting any and all input and acts of kindness. It’s not been a good decade. It’s not been easy to not be the best guy in the band; it’s not easy to be the worst. It’s humbling but I don’t mind the humility. I just want my tools back. Yesterday, I pressed the point-of-no-return button and said yes, in theory, to a handful of possible shows abroad for the summer, the first ones since the spring of 2022. I’m not an applause junkie. I do it because I love to write a song and play it for people. If I have all my tools, it’ll be a joy. — E.L.

Grooming: Loraine Abeles

Titus Kaphar, artist

Titus Kaphar sits on an office chair in a gallery space with three large paintings of the exteriors of houses hanging on the walls.

Kaphar, 47, photographed at his studio in New Haven, Conn., on Feb. 22, 2024.

Artwork, from left: Titus Kaphar, “I Knew,” 2023 © Titus Kaphar; Titus Kaphar, “Do You Want It Back?” 2023 © Titus Kaphar; Titus Kaphar, “Some Things Can’t Be Worked Out on Canvas,” 2023 © Titus Kaphar

Then: An artist whose works, which often confront family history and the experience of being Black in America, are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions.

Now: Wrote and directed his first feature-length film, “Exhibiting Forgiveness,” which premiered at Sundance in January. Paintings Kaphar made for the film (pictured above) will be shown at Gagosian in Beverly Hills in September.

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” started as a series of paintings — in particular, with one of a burning lawn mower. It didn’t take long to realize that what I was doing wasn’t best processed with paintings alone. [The film focuses on a successful artist, Tarrell, played by André Holland, who struggles to deal with the reappearance of his estranged, abusive father, La’Ron, played by John Earl Jelks, who’d force Tarrell to perform grueling manual labor as a child.] The power of painting’s often the absences: what’s not there, what’s implicit. You don’t know what happened before and you don’t know what will happen after. In film, you have an opportunity for elaboration.

I’ve tried hard not to read reviews of the film, though a friend sent me one. It was positive but what [the critic] wrote at the end, I’ll never forget. He said, “But I can’t say this film is entertaining.” [ Laughs. ] With film, some of us expect entertainment, to have a great time. And that response does frame the way we distinguish film from painting. As a painter, I don’t stand in front of [Pablo Picasso’s] “Guernica” and go, “This isn’t entertaining!” I didn’t approach filmmaking as anything different from painting. I wanted the film to be a painting in motion. The way I make decisions in the studio, about how to follow my intuition or instincts, or how to lay out a composition, was the same process I used on set. The difference is I had an extraordinary cinematographer and cast of actors to help me realize the paintings in my head.

At its essence, “Exhibiting Forgiveness” is about generational healing. I took on this project because I wanted to have a conversation with my children about the world I grew up in, which is so different from the world they’ve grown up in. And I think making the film helped resolve something within me. The revelation I had is that I can’t make my father out as the villain in my mind. He’s a victim of violence himself. And even though [he] created challenges for me, I’ve never wondered whether or not he loved me. — M.H.M.

Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, artist

Bárbara Sánchez-Kane wearing a double-breasted black jacket stands in a doorway.

Sánchez-Kane, 36, photographed at his studio (the artist uses she/her and he/him pronouns interchangeably) in Mexico City on Jan. 22, 2024.

Ana Topoleanu. Artwork, clockwise from left: Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “La Diegada,” 2016, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane; Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “Tragic Stages,” 2023, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane; Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “Moctezuma’s Revenge,” 2017, performance by Sierva M, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane, photo: Karla Ximena

Then: The designer of Sánchez-Kane, the genderless clothing brand she founded in Mérida, Mexico, in 2016.

Now: An artist working with painting, sculpture and performance — while still running the label.

One of my first shows in a museum was at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2017. The curators invited me to present a collection from my fashion line that I’d shown in New York, and I said, “No, but maybe I can do a performance.” There’s a kind of freedom in making wearable sculptures because, in the end, clothing has to be ergonomic: The jacket I made with boxing gloves has an opening for your hands so you can eat a burger. But for the ICA show, I created a pair of transparent plastic pants with a metal frame that made them almost impossible to walk in. And last year, for my first New York solo exhibition, at Kurimanzutto gallery, I made a piece from 1,170 black plastic belts that was so big and heavy, I had to break it into parts to show it. I remember reading an article by the queer theorist Jack Halberstam on the work of the artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who would [create] windows in structures where they shouldn’t be. For me, the work is like that: opening windows that give you a different way of seeing what’s in front of you.

I started as an industrial engineer first and then became a fashion designer, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter what you’ve studied or haven’t. When I feel like the worst sculptor, I think, “Well, at least I’m a good designer.” And when I feel like a great sculptor, I might look at [the clothes in my studio] and think, “Those terrible [expletive] trousers!” Expanding into other fields is a way to embrace yourself. All we have is our imagination, which allows us to create things: objects, garments, skins that we wear when we go out into the world. I’m not saying they’ll save us, but maybe they can help us navigate the transition to another universe. — M.S.

Miguel Adrover, 58, Calonge, Majorca

A black-and-white portrait of Miguel Adrover with a feather in his hair wearing a black suit jacket.

The former fashion designer Miguel Adrover, now a full-time photographer, photographed at home on Majorca, Spain, on Jan. 8, 2024.

The provocative Spanish fashion designer, who had a New York-based clothing line, put a sheep on the runway and made a coat out of the ticking from the gay icon Quentin Crisp’s discarded mattress. He left the industry over a decade ago.

I started my own line in 1999 in New York, where I had been living in the East Village since 1991, and shut it down in 2005 and left the city. In 2012, I [returned] to present one runway show, which I called Out of My Mind. It was made up of personal garments I’d repurposed. I was 46. 

I’d been trying to find a way out of this unsustainable industry, this imaginary fantasy that fashion creates. My collections dealt with social justice, environmental consciousness and diversity before those topics became mainstream, and some seasons I didn’t sell anything. I never had a sugar daddy, and I invested everything I made back into the company. 

I miss New York a lot. I’m homesick for it, but it isn’t the same city, and fashion is very different, too — it feels inauthentic and disconnected from reality. When I was doing consulting and research for Alexander McQueen [in the mid-90s], we had no money. But the energy was amazing. When you don’t have money, that’s when you’re most creative. Now all of these big companies have so much money that it feels like a different world. [Still] I’d love to have the chance to put on one last presentation, one last show to express how I feel today and how I see the world right now. 

When I left New York, I decided to come to Majorca, where my parents have a farm. I started doing photography accidentally; I had no knowledge of cameras, every day was a process of me learning something totally on my own. There was a 300-year-old well on the property with no water inside, and I realized it could be my studio. It’s kind of like a basement; light comes from a little window high above. It reminds me of my apartment in New York. It’s where I develop my [projects]. I use things that surround me: tulips and rose bushes, fruit trees, a tropical garden, chickens. 

When I got here, I didn’t have a team [as I did in fashion], and one of the challenges was being surrounded by people who don’t care about what I did or what I’m doing. Photography was the ideal thing to do because I don’t need anybody, I can do it on my own. I don’t have any models; I started working with mannequins and, for many years, I collected them on eBay or from secondhand stores on the island. [I decided] I’d rather not use models — when you photograph human beings, they’re pretending or acting, and I was running away from that.

It’s been nine years since I found photography, and I’m really happy. I have a monograph coming out later this year. The photographs are like my biography. I’ve developed my style in photography and I have a creative language. Fashion was the platform I once used, but the soul inside me is the same. — interview by J.W.

Ralph Ellison, writer, circa 1913-94

Ralph Ellison sits in front of an a typewriter under an awning writing.

Ralph Ellison, the author of the 1952 novel “Invisible Man,” in June 1957 during his fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.

James Whitmore/The Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Ralph Ellison spent seven years writing his only completed novel, “Invisible Man,” and its publication in 1952, when he was in his late 30s, not only catapulted him to literary fame but made him nothing less than a spokesperson for postwar America. His contemporary Norman Mailer would write of him that at his best, “He writes so perfectly that one can never forget the experience of reading him.” “Invisible Man,” a surreal picaresque that follows an unnamed Black protagonist — “a man of substance, of flesh and bone,” Ellison writes — as he travels through a country full of people who “refuse to see me,” is a book of such remarkable confidence that Ellison’s career, in later years, became mired in questions of what next? Ellison, a prolific writer of essays, reviews and criticism, worked for years on a follow-up, suffering one setback when a 1967 house fire destroyed portions of his manuscript. When he died in 1994, he left behind thousands of pages of drafts, fragments and unfinished tangents. Ellison’s literary executor and longtime friend, John F. Callahan, tried to edit the material down into a “single, coherent narrative,” as he put it, and published the result, called “Juneteenth,” in 1999; the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called it “disappointingly provisional and incomplete.” Ellison often struggled with writing. He once likened his second novel to a “bad case of constipation” and, in a 1958 letter to his friend the author Saul Bellow, Ellison wrote, “I’ve got a natural writer’s block as big as the Ritz and as stubborn as a grease spot on a gabardine suit.” — M.H.M.

Charles Laughton, actor and director, 1899-1962

Charles Laughton sits in a director's chair wearing a straw hat with a girl looking through a viewfinder in his lap.

The actor turned director Charles Laughton with the actress Sally Jane Bruce on the set of “The Night of the Hunter” (1955).

Everett Collection

Born in the last year of the 19th century, Charles Laughton left his family’s successful hotel business at the age of 26 to study acting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. What he lacked in movie star looks — the critic J. Hoberman described him as “coarse-featured, overweight and slovenly” — he made up for in talent. Following a successful stage career in London’s West End, he turned to film, making a name for himself as a versatile character actor in the 1930s and ’40s. In 1955, at the age of 55, he made his most indelible contribution to his craft, directing “The Night of the Hunter,” a film noir so dark it easily passes today as horror. (William Friedkin, the director of 1973’s “The Exorcist,” described it as “one of the scariest films ever made.”) Robert Mitchum plays a terrifying ex-convict posing as a preacher and stalking the children of his former cellmate in order to find a hidden fortune. While casting Lillian Gish in the role of the children’s caretaker, Laughton told the actress about his disappointment in audiences’ lack of attention for movies, how they “slump down with their heads back, or eat candy and popcorn. I want them to sit up straight again,” he said. Though now often ranked among the greatest American movies, “The Night of the Hunter” — released just a few years before Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) made the psychological thriller into a marketable genre — was a commercial flop. Reviews were mixed; The New York Times’s Bosley Crowther called it “a weird and intriguing endeavor.” Years later, Terry Sanders, a second-unit director of the film, wrote that “the rejection by critics and the indifference of audiences hit [Laughton] hard and crushed his spirit. It wasn’t just disappointment he felt, it was utter and deeply debilitating devastation.” He never directed a second movie. — M.H.M.

Willis Alan Ramsey, 73, Loveland, Colo.

Willis Alan Ramsey stands with his hands behind his back wearing a cowboy hat.

The singer-songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, photographed at Sam’s Town Point bar in Austin, Texas, on March 14, 2024.

Caleb Santiago Alvarado

The singer-songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, originally from Alabama, released his self-titled debut album in 1972, becoming a forebear of the alt-country genre. Jimmy Buffett and Lyle Lovett became devoted fans. More than 50 years later, Ramsey still hasn’t completed his second album.

I started trying to write songs around 1968. My first song was just awful, but I got better over time. I dropped out of college twice, the second time in 1970, from the University of Texas [at Austin], after discovering a folk club where I became an opening act for $5 a night. Those were golden, halcyon days in Austin filled with sunshine and margaritas and very little traffic. That fall, I left to begin performing at colleges around the country. I was briefly back in Austin to play at U.T. and, somehow, during two days there, I’d managed to play for Gregg Allman and Leon Russell, two of the most influential musicians of that decade. They both gave me their cards and said to look them up if I ever made it their way. [I went to Los Angeles] and recorded a demo at Skyhill, Leon’s personal home studio, and he basically offered me the moon to sign with his new label, Shelter Records [which folded in 1981]. I’d just turned 20. Over the next year, I recorded my first and only album to ever be released [“Willis Alan Ramsey,” often known as the Green Album for its green cover].

I finished the record when I was 21. I was just a kid. Leon gave me my career, to the extent that I’ve had one [but the reason I never released another record was also] Leon’s fault. He told me that if I signed with Shelter, he’d show me the studio and how it worked, and he did. I immediately wanted to learn everything I could about the recording process. I used seven studios and three rhythm sections [to make the record]. I was given carte blanche. The budget was 85 grand. I could do it for 200 grand [now], but I can’t do it any cheaper. I’d need to rehearse every musician. And my songs are all over the place. I get bored doing one particular style.

I’m the most frustrated recording artist you’ve probably ever met in your life. But I still feel I’ll figure something out. I’ve always been optimistic. I’ve got at least three more records of material. I’m pretty tough on myself in terms of writing, and I’m very attached to what I’ve written. I just haven’t been able to get a deal that’d work for me. I mean, the world works, you know? I think the key is just to work with the world. — interview by M.H.M.

Photo assistant: Sergio Flores

Harper Lee, writer, 1926-2016

A portrait of Harper Lee sitting on a rocking chair on a porch smoking a cigarette.

The writer Harper Lee in her hometown, Monroeville, Ala., in 1961, the same year that her debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” won the Pulitzer Prize.

Donald Uhrbrock/Getty Images

“I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement,” Harper Lee said in a 1964 radio interview, describing her low expectations for her 1960 debut, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Instead, her novel, about a lawyer in the fictional town of Maycomb, Ala. (a stand-in for the writer’s hometown, Monroeville), who defends a Black man from a false accusation of rape by a white woman, became one of the biggest literary sensations of its era. Lee, who worked as an airline reservations agent in New York for a few years before quitting (with friends’ financial support) to work on her writing, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961; two years later, a film adaptation starring Gregory Peck won three Academy Awards. “To Kill a Mockingbird” would go on to sell tens of millions of copies and become a fixture of high school English classes.

Lee had a hard time with her sudden fame. After that radio interview in 1964, she mostly avoided the press and, as the years and decades passed without a second novel, Lee continued to guard her privacy, albeit regularly attending the Methodist Church in Monroeville and occasionally visiting the local high school during lessons about her work. The year before she died at age 89 in 2016, a previously unknown novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which had been written before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” appeared to tepid reviews and claims that Lee, by then largely deaf and blind following a stroke, had been manipulated into releasing subpar work. Controversy aside, even just the announcement of a lost novel reignited interest in Lee’s lone masterpiece; at that point, sales of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in trade paperback nearly tripled. — M.H.M.

Luc Tuymans, 65, visual artist

A drawing of a van driving down the street as two people in aprons collect trash cans.

Luc Tuymans, “Mijn Grote Vakantie” (1967).

Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Alex Salinas

When I was 7 or 8, we had to make drawings for school about our summer holidays. I was completely intrigued by the people gathering the garbage outside of our house in Antwerp [Belgium] — their truck, their dress code. During a summer day, I took out my colored pencils. I wrote underneath the drawing, “My Big Vacation.”

It came across as fairly cynical: My big vacation was garbage. It wasn’t meant that way. I really was intrigued by this operation. [Looking at it now] I’m amazed that there’s this perspective already in it. The teacher didn’t believe I made the drawing and took me by the ear to the blackboard to do it again in front of the class.

I’d been bullied a lot as a kid. I was extremely shy. Drawing was a way out, in a sense. I’d draw people who came to visit my parents and, at the end of the year, when exams were done, I’d make drawings for the whole class — whatever they wanted. I always had a ballpoint pen and a piece of paper with me, and people would gather around me while I was drawing, sometimes 20 to 30 of them. The kids were happy to have a drawing, but it didn’t really change the bullying pattern.

I saved most of my [childhood] drawings and gave them to my nephew. Unluckily, he lost them. This is virtually the only one that survived, and I gave it to my wife as a present.

It’s quite interesting to see the size of things — the difference between the houses and the people — and most of all, the idea of space that was already in the drawing. [If I were to redraw this today] it’d be a bit more meticulous, more worked out. But it’s an indication of things that would come later. My skepticism is embedded in this drawing without my doing that consciously — this quite specific, sardonic sense of humor. When I found it again, I had to laugh very, very hard. — J.H.

Do Ho Suh, 62, visual artist

what is creative writing in sentences

Do Ho Suh, “Tiger Mask” (1971).

This drawing is based on a Japanese anime character, Tiger Mask, that was really popular in the ’70s. Back in those days, Korean TV broadcast Japanese anime in black and white. Everybody at school watched. The character is a pro wrestler who puts on a tiger mask to disguise his identity. I drew the mask directly from the anime. I was probably 9.

Once my friends saw it, they all wanted one. Demand for tiger masks became much greater than supply. Some of the rich kids wanted to trade their Japanese pencils — which had graphics or custom characters on the surface — and colorful erasers for a drawing. My parents couldn’t afford those things, and they weren’t available in Korea. The kids’ parents must have traveled to Japan, which was quite rare back then, and brought them back. [Eventually] I had a box full of those pencils, but I didn’t have the guts to actually use them. The pencils are untouched; the erasers are dried out. For some reason, my mom kept them all these years. — J.H.

Niki Nakayama, 49, chef and Restaurant owner

Tonkatsu is a Japanese home-style staple. It’s a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet — “ton” means “pork” and “katsu” is a sort of translation of “cutlet” — and it was my absolute favorite food when I was a kid. When my mom made tonkatsu, she’d have my sister and me do the breading, and we really bonded over that. It helped me understand family. We’d set up in the dining room and dredge the cutlets in flour, dip them into the egg wash, cover them with dried breadcrumbs and stack them high on paper plates that we’d bring in to my mother to fry up. Our kitchen had high countertops, and I can remember her standing at the stove in these three-inch platform clogs she’d wear to be a little taller. 

I loved seeing how something became something else — it felt like unraveling magic. One day when I was about 9, I came home from school and got the brilliant idea to make my own [but with chicken]. I grabbed some drumsticks from the freezer, did the breading and, while standing on a stool, dipped them in hot oil. (I never admitted this to my mom.) When they turned the color they were supposed to, I was so proud. I bit into one and it was still frozen. That was my first shock of “I can’t believe I didn’t make [this thing] the way I imagined it would be.”

Anytime I was in Japan, especially in my 20s, my friends there would ask what subarashii gochiso, or “the best thing one could possibly eat,” was for me. I’d say tonkatsu, and they’d be like, “What?!,” because it’s such a simple dish — it was like asking for a sandwich. It isn’t the sort of thing I specialize in at my restaurant [N/Naka in Los Angeles], and I don’t have it often anymore because, as I age, I’m trying to eat lighter, but I still associate it with deliciousness and with happiness. Ever since childhood, I’ve thought of food as being about coming together and cooking as an expression of care and love. Having been on the receiving end of that, I do the work that I do to try to make people happy. — K.G.

Marina Abramović, 77, performance artist

A painting of two vehicles crashing into each other.

Marina Abramović, “Truck Accident (I)” (1963).

© Marina Abramović/Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives/ARS, 2024

When I was a teenager in Communist Yugoslavia, there were these ugly green trucks that weighed so much, they often fell over. I started taking photographs of them and trying to paint them at home. But that wasn’t enough for me, so I bought some toy cars and left them on the highway to see if the real trucks would smash them; they were always untouched. I was fascinated by car crashes. Then when I was 17 or 18 years old, I painted the big car smashed and the little car protected — the idea that innocence survives everything.

My mother studied art history, and I was always going to museums. When I was a baby, my first words weren’t “mama” or “papa”; they were “El Greco.” I had my first exhibition at a youth center when I was 14. They mostly had group shows, but I made so much work that I had my own show. I always say I was jealous of Mozart because he started at 5.

I didn’t know then that painting wasn’t my ultimate goal. It takes a long time to realize who you are. I remember the incredible joy of going into my studio — an extra space in my family’s apartment — with my little cup of Turkish coffee. I would be so much in the dream of painting that I’d accidentally drink turpentine instead of the coffee.

Though I wasn’t aware of it [until recently], this crash represents the energy that I’d create in my early performances: two bodies running toward each other, crashing into each other and making this blurry image. My research today is about the body and how to create a field in which you aren’t afraid of pain, of dying, of limits. When you’re young, you don’t see the straight line but, [looking back] it all seems so logical. — J.H.

Deborah Roberts, 61, visual artist

A drawing of a boy resting his chin on his knee.

Deborah Roberts, “James” (1982).

Courtesy of the artist

I used to do a lot of drawings of people at church or kids in the neighborhood. I made this when I was 19, of this boy who came by to play with my brothers. My mother threw most of my drawings away. She had eight children; she couldn’t have all that stuff piling up.

[With that many siblings] you only get attention when you’re sick. But I got a lot of attention for drawing. I was the best artist in my school. The teacher would ask me, “What grade would you want?” I’d say, “I want an A+.” I had a big head. Then I went to the gifted and talented program with high school art students from all over Austin, Texas. I wasn’t the best anymore, but it just made me work harder. That’s where I was first introduced to the work of Henry Ossawa Tanner [one of the first African American painters to achieve international fame, in the early 20th century]. I didn’t even know there were Black artists. We didn’t have the internet or access to museums. We were poor.

I’d ride a small yellow bus to a community college to meet in a special room for the three-hour art class. Eventually, I became the best student in that class, at least in my head. They didn’t ask me what grade I wanted, but I still got an A.

If I were doing it now, I’d blend that hair into the wood better. I wouldn’t have light sources coming from two different areas. But if you look at my collages today, my whole idea’s about seeing people as humans, as children, as vulnerable. I think this is a very vulnerable piece. — J.H.

David Henry Hwang, 66, playwright

The opening page of a manuscript.

David Henry Hwang, manuscript of “Only Three Generations” (1968).

Courtesy of David Henry Hwang. Photo: Lance Brewer

I was about 10 years old, and my maternal grandmother got sick and it looked like she might be close to the end. I remember feeling that that’d be quite tragic — not only would I lose my grandmother but she also happened to be the family historian. I was one of those kids who, for whatever reason, was always really interested in hearing about family history. 

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but my mom grew up in the Philippines, where my maternal grandparents still lived, so I asked my parents if I could spend a summer there. I went and collected what we’d now call oral histories from my grandmother on cassette tapes, then came back and compiled them into a 60-page family history, “Only Three Generations,” which was [photocopied] and distributed to my family members. Then in the early aughts, someone — my uncle, I think — went and printed two or three dozen copies as a bound version.

I wasn’t someone who felt [that] writing was my calling. I didn’t do another major writing project until I got to college and started writing plays, so I find it interesting that the one time I took on [something] like this was to contextualize myself in a historical framework. That’s consistent with what I’ve done as an adult: sometimes being at sea about who I am and looking at history to gain a sense of self.

The [history] starts with my great-great-grandfather, then the second [part]’s about my great-grandfather and then the third section’s about my grandmother’s generation. I [used] their real names. I think I was trying to be fairly accurate, as opposed to when it later became the basis of my [1996] play “Golden Child.” There’s a lot more liberty taken there. When we did the play on Broadway, my grandmother was still alive and came to see the show. She was supportive of it, but I feel like she liked this version better. — J.A.R.

Ice Spice, wearing a black dress and heels, leans back in a beanbag chair.

Ice Spice wears a Balenciaga jacket, $2,150, balenciaga.com; Norma Kamali dress, $350, normakamali.com; Graff cross necklace, $14,000, graff.com; Alexander McQueen shoes, $1,150, alexandermcqueen.com; stylist’s own tights; and her own jewelry. Photographed at a private home in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2024.

Photograph by Shikeith. Styled by Ian Bradley

Name: Ice Spice Profession: Rapper Age: 24

Debuting in: Her first full-length album, “Y2K,” titled after her birth date — Jan. 1, 2000 — which comes out this year.

What she’s excited about: “Going on tour. I can’t wait to see my fans up close and personal and really interact with them — interacting with fans online can be a little overwhelming. All their profile pictures are of me. It feels like a bunch of me’s talking back: It’s weird. Especially when it’s pictures I’ve never seen or don’t remember.”

What she’s nervous about: “I don’t even want to put out that energy. People don’t need to know what I’m nervous about.”

How she works in the studio: “If I was already dressed up and cute, that’d produce a different vibe — but for the most part I like to be really comfortable. I need inspiration around me, too, so I’ll have stacks of money sitting next to the mic. Or I have a bunch of stickers of, like, boobs and butts, stuff like that. They’re drawings, though — I don’t just have porn in my studio.”

How it’s gotten easier since making her EP: “When I was working on [2023’s] ‘Like ..?,’ I was stressed out because I had no idea how the next song was going to come out. Each time, I was like, ‘How am I going to make another song that’s good?’ But then it happened, and then it happened again and again so, after that, I was like, ‘OK, making music is really fun.’ As long as I’m having fun, it’s going to sound fun — and I’m going to be happy with it.” — J.A.R.

Production: Resin Projects. Makeup: Karina Milan at the Wall Group

Mia Katigbak leans forward with her left leg in the air holding a railing with both hands.

Katigbak, photographed at Lincoln Center Theater in Manhattan on Feb. 2, 2024.

Jennifer Livingston

Name: Mia Katigbak Profession: Actress and co-founder of NAATCO Age: 69

Debuting in: Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” (1899), opening this month.

What she’s excited about: “My character, Marina [the central family’s maid], infantilizes everyone. Everything is falling apart around her, but she’s like, ‘Aren’t the old ways better?’ There are a lot of possibilities in that — without getting too metaphorical about the state of Russia, politically and socially.” 

What she’s nervous about: “There’s always going to be that common nervousness of ‘I’m going to mess up,’ but somebody brought to my attention that NAATCO [the National Asian American Theatre Company, which was founded in 1989] has done quite a lot of Chekhov; I didn’t even realize it, and I chose all of them. What I find fabulous about Chekhov is that there are sad situations but also human comedy. You have to find the funny if you’re in dire straits, otherwise you’ll slit your wrists.”

How she feels about having her Broadway debut after five decades on the New York stage: “You live long enough, [expletive] happens. I’d kind of figured, ‘Maybe I’m not Broadway material.’ Usually, when Asians get cast, it’s a musical, and I’m not a singer-dancer, so it was never necessarily going to be a goal. I’m a little bit more realistic: I recently got a text [with a photo of the ‘Uncle Vanya’ ad] from a colleague who said, ‘Look at Miss Fancy Pants,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m just a working stiff.’”

How she reinterprets classics: “From the get-go, the point of NAATCO was to ask people to open their vistas in terms of ‘how, what, by whom, for whom’ in theater. We tackled the Western classics first — William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1600) and Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’ (1938) — and my only caveat was not to change them to Asian settings. I remember the first couple of years, maybe decades, people always used to ask, ‘Oh, you’re doing Shakespeare! Are you going to set it in Japan?’ Which isn’t bad, but it’s not the only way to do it. Reception was mixed; there was criticism from both Asian and non-Asian audiences. When we started to do new work — with Michael Golamco’s ‘Cowboy Versus Samurai’ in 2005 — it became a redefinition of what immigrant stories were. Most of the time, the work’s thought of as only one thing, so that was something to figure out. But you can say that about all good theater: It’s asking you to receive something in a different way.” — J.A.R.

Arielle Smith stands with her hands behind her back in the corner of a dance studio.

Smith, photographed at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in the London suburb of Twickenham on Feb. 14, 2024.

Andrea Urbez

Name: Arielle Smith Profession: Choreographer Age: 27

Debuting in: A reimagined “Carmen,” based on the French writer Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella about a Roma woman in southern Spain, which Smith has set instead in Cuba for the version (of the same name) she’s choreographing that premieres at San Francisco Ballet this month.

What she’s excited about: “As a performer, I trained in classical ballet but then went into contemporary dance — the reason I fell out of love with ballet was that the female roles didn’t feel empowering. Not that I needed to be empowered all the time, but every story was dictated by the relationship a woman has to a man. So when Tamara [Rojo, the company’s artistic director] approached me, my first thought was, ‘How could we justify another “Carmen”?’ I wondered how the story would change if one of her lovers was a woman. Musically it’s also not the same — we’ve got a new score from the Mexican Cuban composer Arturo O’Farrill [departing from the French composer Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera], so it’s quite a leap from where it was birthed.”

What she’s nervous about: “I don’t see the point in telling a story again the same way, so that’s one element I’m not nervous about ... but I’m about everything else. The challenge is trying to tell an intimate story in a big space. To make this piece well, it has to move people in some way, and that’s what I’m anxious to get across — for people to feel something.”

How she’s translating the Spanish-set story to Cuba: “Bizet wasn’t Spanish, [so] I thought it’d be more interesting to mainly hear Cuban sounds. I’m Cuban; Tamara’s Spanish; and [the Uruguayan fashion designer] Gabriela Hearst is our costume designer. It’s a full Latinx team, but we’re all different. And this is a universal story that’s not driven by geography. It’s not set on a certain road in Havana but in the soul of these people. I’m not trying to overly examine Cuba. It’s about who I am, as a person who happens to be Cuban, and what my voice contributes.” — J.A.R.

Photo assistant: Callum Su

what is creative writing in sentences

Pidgeon, photographed at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan on March 10, 2024.

Sean Donnola

Name: Sarah Pidgeon Profession: Actor Age: 27

Debuting in: “Stereophonic,” a new play by David Adjmi with music by Will Butler (formerly of the indie-rock band Arcade Fire), which transfers to Broadway this month following a run at Playwrights Horizons, where it premiered last fall — that production was Pidgeon’s New York stage debut.

What she’s excited about: “This story [about a fictional band’s interpersonal struggles while recording an album in the 1970s] talks about relationships and what one has to sacrifice to make art. New York’s full of artists, and I’m excited to hear what types of conversations people have after seeing the show.”

What she’s nervous about: “The transition to the Golden Theatre. Singing’s so vulnerable. It’s one thing to mess up in front of 200 people, another to mess up in front of four times that many. Off Broadway, we’d have instruments [accidentally] break down halfway through a scene, and we’d have to figure out how to make it feel authentic.”

How she created her character, Diana, one of the band’s lead singers: “Diana’s not looking to other people to give her an example — she’s not following some blueprint. Her band’s waiting for her to make that next great song, and she gets commodified really fast. I can’t say the same for myself, but I’m [also not dealing with being] a woman in [rock in] the 1970s.”

How she settled into the three-hour play’s slowed-down, naturalistic rhythms: “Our director, Daniel Aukin, kept talking about a documentary feel. I think the design of the play — of hearing overlapping conversations — is [very] fly-on-the-wall. Because of its realism, it can evoke the feeling of a film. There’s this sense that it’s not necessarily a performance when we’re doing these shows; it’s not showy. It’s this thrill of being able to keep things private while also recognizing there’re people in the audience two feet away from you. As an actor, you really feel the tension.” — J.A.R.

Hair: Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup: Monica Alvarez at See Management

Olujobi (third from left), at the Public Theater in Manhattan on March 9, 2024, along with (from left) the “Jordans” actor Naomi Lorrain, the director Whitney White and the actors Brontë England-Nelson, Kate Walsh, Ryan Spahn, Toby Onwumere, Meg Steedle, Matthew Russell and Brian Muller.

Video by David Chow

Name: Ife Olujobi Profession: Playwright Age: 29

Debuting in: “Jordans,” her first fully staged production, opening this month at New York’s Public Theater under the direction of Whitney White. The play is about a 20-something woman named Jordan (Naomi Lorrain), the only Black employee at a creative studio, whose office life is upended when her boss hires another Jordan (Toby Onwumere), who’s also Black, to be the company’s director of culture. 

What she’s excited about: “For a while, this was that play everybody thought was great but nobody wanted to produce. I thought it’d just be a thing that ends up on the page: It’s such a crazy, visual play that lives in this imaginative space, with a lot of production elements. I’m excited to bring that to life — and have it be people’s introduction to me.”

What she’s nervous about: “Making a play that feels current — in the sense that I started writing it in 2018, did the first reading in 2019 and now we’re in 2024. The play addresses the idea of bringing people of color into a [professional] situation as a trend, not out of any genuine interest in them. It has to do with quote-unquote diversity in the workplace, and it feels like we’ve gone through three different cycles of that conversation since I started writing it. I’m trying to synthesize everything that we’ve been through in the past six years but not feel like I’m shaping the play to respond to these fluctuations.”

How she found her way to playwriting: “I was in the Public’s Emerging Writers Group in 2018, which was my introduction to theater. I was never a theater kid; film was my first love — I’d done my thesis in screenwriting. After I graduated [from New York University], I’d written a play, and I used that to get into the [playwriting] group. The idea for ‘Jordans’ came partly from my own experience post-grad of being fired three times in a row and being like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was also trying to express something about being the only Black person entering all these professional spaces.”

How the play’s surrealist tone came to be: “The main character gets coffee poured on her face in the first scene. For me, that was a big breaking open of the play: ‘This is the kind of world that she’s living in. What else can happen in this world?’ It has what we might call surreal elements, but I don’t always think about it that way because, within this play, everything is real. It’s not a dream.” — J.A.R.

Photo assistant: Serena Nappa. Digital tech: Zachary Smith. Production: Shay Johnson Studio

what is creative writing in sentences

Kim, photographed at his restaurant, Noksu, in Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2024.

Daniel Terna

Name: Dae Kim Profession: Chef Age: 28

Debuting in: Noksu, the 14-seat tasting counter he’s run since last October below ground in Manhattan’s Herald Square, where he serves Korean-inflected dishes, including grilled mackerel with brown butter and squab with gochujang agrodolce.

What he’s excited about: “I had a feeling, during the pandemic, that something might change — like everyone had to start [again] from zero. Even three-star sous-chefs changed careers: They’ve stopped working in restaurants; they’re selling truffles or doing kitchen shows or TikToks. There was a gap, and I thought if I played up my Asian heritage and my French cooking background, someone would be looking for that. Then I met [the restaurant’s] owners, and they offered me this space in a Koreatown subway station.”

What he’s nervous about: “With restaurants, you prove yourself every day. There’s no tomorrow, no next week. I knew I had to have a tasting menu: I have a personal goal — I’m not telling anyone what it is — and, to reach that level, I think it can only be a tasting menu. I’m not enjoying cooking that much; it’s not a passion. This is my career. I don’t cook at home but, if I think about that goal, it makes me come to the restaurant.”

What he took from working at the New York restaurants Per Se and Silver Apricot: “I really thought, ‘What kind of person am I? What kind of cook? What’s my individualism?’ Working in fine dining is such an honor, but it’s their food. It’s not me. I started focusing on food that would represent who I was.”

How he’s handling everyone’s dietary restrictions: “Right now, we don’t accommodate, because we’re a small kitchen. But sometimes they can push you: If a guest can’t eat dairy, how do you make that sauce creamy without using milk? It requires more work, more thought, more team effort. It’s happened a couple of times, and we just freestyle.” — J.A.R.

what is creative writing in sentences

Tyla wears an Alexander McQueen jacket $5,990, and shorts, $1,690, alexandermcqueen.com; and Prada shoes, $1,120, prada.com. Photographed at Issue Studio in Los Angeles on March 16, 2024.

Photograph by Shikeith. Styled by Sasha Kelly

Name: Tyla Profession: Singer-songwriter Age: 22

Debuting in: Her first full-length album, “Tyla,” released last month. It’s the product of more than two years of collaboration with writers and producers from around the world — and her first time traveling outside of South Africa (she grew up in Johannesburg). Together, they refined her sound, which she describes as “music that people can dance to: Afrobeats, pop, R&B and amapiano,” the last of which is syncopated electronic music that originated in South Africa in the 2010s.

What she’s excited about: “My first tour. My creative director, Thato Nzimande, and I have been speaking about this forever. I have Coachella coming up and, after sitting for so long with this music and all these ideas, I’m excited to see people’s reactions.”

What she’s nervous about: “I used to be very nervous about performing because all of this is very new and, once something’s on the internet, it’s saved forever. I don’t want to look at it years from now and be cringing . I’m a perfectionist but, as an artist, you’re never going to be happy with everything all the time. That’s something I had to learn — how to let go.”

How she synthesizes South African and American influences: “I love the sound of amapiano production, with the log drum and the shakers and the drops. But I’ve also always wanted to be a chart-topper like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears and now SZA, except I wanted to do it with my sound [her first hit, “Water,” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in October]. Obviously, people believe, ‘Oh, I have to make just pop.’ But that’s boring to me. I want to sell what I know and love.”

Why South African music has global appeal: “People say they can feel it, and that’s cool because we feel it. It’s very spiritual to us; it’s a genre we feel in our bodies. All these amapiano dance moves that everyone does, it’s not even dancers that come up with these moves — it’s just random people, drunk uncles in the corners of clubs. It’s organic, and I think people are looking for that genuine vibe.” — E.L.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Hair: Christina “Tina” Trammell. Makeup: Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty

Peck (near center, in a black shirt), photographed at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan on Feb. 27, 2024, along with (top row, from left) the “Illinoise” musicians Kathy Halvorson and Jessica Tsang, the dancer Craig Salstein, the musician Brett Parnell, the dancers Byron Tittle and Christine Flores, the musician Kyra Sims, the dancer Robbie Fairchild, the musician Daniel Freedman, the vocalist Shara Nova, the music arranger and orchestrator Timo Andres and the music director Nathan Koci; (middle row, from left) the vocalist Elijah Lyons, the dancer Ahmad Simmons, the vocalist Tasha Viets-VanLear, the dancers Ricky Ubeda and Kara Chan, the writer Jackie Sibblies Drury and the associate music director Sean Peter Forte; (bottom row, from left) the musician Domenica Fossati and the dancers Jeanette Delgado, Ben Cook, Alejandro Vargas and Rachel Lockhart.

Video by Jason Schmidt

Name: Justin Peck Profession: Director and choreographer Age: 36

Debuting in: “Illinoise,” the first stage musical he’s directing, which opens this month on Broadway after a run last month at the Park Avenue Armory. Based on the singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’s 2005 indie-folk album, “Illinois,” the show was also conceived and choreographed by Peck, who collaborated on its narrative with the playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.

What he’s excited about: “The ‘Illinois’ song cycle [in which every track relates to the Midwestern state] is one of the great albums of the last 20 years: [Sufjan] didn’t have a recording studio; he’d find a musician up in [New York’s] Washington Heights and record a violin part without realizing what it was going to be part of — he’d run all over, assembling [bits]. I’ve had a long collaboration with him [Peck has based six ballets on Stevens’s music, beginning with “Year of the Rabbit” for New York City Ballet in 2012], so it feels full circle, having discovered that album as a teenager.”

What he’s nervous about: “It’s not a conventional musical; it lives between genres. It’s framed as a gathering around a campfire, being intoxicated by the heat … a campfire beckons storytelling. We enter into the worlds of these people sharing stories on an evening in the wilderness. That’s a difficult thing for managing audience expectations. One of the most challenging parts is trying to tell a full story without words. There are lyrics, but even the lyrics have a sense of poetry to them. They’re not literal.”

How he brought on board his collaborator Jackie Sibblies Drury: “Sufjan was involved early in developing the musical arrangements but has been relatively hands-off [since being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, last year] and wasn’t in a place where he wanted to go back to that time in his life. I needed a storytelling partner. Jackie told me how much she loved the album; when she moved to Chicago, she and her then boyfriend listened to it on the road there. A lot of these songs resonated with both of us at a coming-of-age time in our lives, and that’s part of our approach: intimate and personal.” — J.A.R.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Photo assistants: Shinobu Mochizuki, Tom Rauner. Digital tech: Kyle Knodell

what is creative writing in sentences

Stella, photographed at Fannie Mae Dees Park in Nashville on March 7, 2024.

Stacy Kranitz

Name: Maisy Stella Profession: Actress and singer Age: 20

Debuting in: “My Old Ass,” a coming-of-age comedy in which her character, Elliott, a young woman leaving her small Canadian hometown for college, meets her 39-year-old self, played by Aubrey Plaza, while tripping on mushrooms. In theaters this August, it’s Stella’s first movie — and her first acting project since spending much of the past decade on the TV series “Nashville” (2012-18), in which she played a country star’s singer daughter.

What she’s excited about: “Being reintroduced in a way that feels true to me. I was a baby when ‘Nashville’ started; it’s hard to have people see you as a character for so many years. You have to be careful with the next thing you do, especially after you take a break [to finish high school], and I wanted to be represented in a way that felt genuine and pushed me in the direction I wanted to go. I thought a project like this would come 10 years down the line, if ever.”

What she’s nervous about: “I think I confuse anticipation with anxiety. I just feel general anticipation all the time, whether it’s about a date this weekend or this movie coming out; it’s that feeling that something’s about to happen. In my body, I might confuse it with nerves, but there are happy and cozy feelings, as well, so it levels out.”

How she collaborated with the writer-director Megan Park on her dialogue: “I watch a lot of young adult shows and think, ‘Oh my God, we sound so dumb. We don’t talk like that.’ Not everything’s abbreviated and slang. Megan [who’s 37] knows how to write for Gen Z because she includes us in her process. She doesn’t have an ego and molds her characters to who’s playing them. We’d do scripted takes and then ‘fun runs,’ where we got to improv, and she’d add lines in the moment.”

What was it like creating the template for Plaza’s character: “You’d think Aubrey would’ve come first, but I was the first one attached to the film. In any other situation, it’d be me matching her, but I feel like Elliott is very similar to me so, when Aubrey and I met, I could feel her filming me with her eyes, trying to get a scope.” — J.A.R.

Hair and makeup: Laura Godwin

A group portrait.

Lakota-Lynch (bottom row, in a white T-shirt), photographed at Open Jar Studios in Manhattan on Feb. 26, 2024, along with (top row, from left) the “Outsiders” composer Zach Chance, the choreographers Rick and Jeff Kuperman and the writer and composer Justin Levine; (middle row, from left) the actors Brent Comer, Jason Schmidt, Joshua Boone, Kevin William Paul and Dan Berry; (bottom row, from left) the actors Emma Pittman and Brody Grant, the director Danya Taymor, the writer Adam Rapp and the actor Daryl Tofa.

Justin French

Name: Sky Lakota-Lynch Profession: Actor Age: 32

Debuting in: “The Outsiders,” a new musical that opened this month and is based on S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel about rival teen gangs. Lakota-Lynch plays Johnny Cade, a shy 16-year-old from an abusive home. He appeared in “Dear Evan Hansen” in 2018, but this is his first time originating a role on Broadway.

What he’s excited about: “I’ve been with the show for six years, and it finally feels fully baked. People are going to be expecting us to come out tap-dancing, but you have [the writer] Adam Rapp and [the director] Danya Taymor, and those people have never done a musical. It’s the ultimate place for an actor-singer. It’s truly a play with music [by Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay of the folk duo Jamestown Revival, and the songwriter Justin Levine], and I think it’s going to shock people.”

What he’s nervous about: “It’s going to be sad to eventually let Johnny go. I’m doing this on Broadway, but it’s like the period at the end of the sentence.”

The actor sings a snippet of James Taylor’s 1970 song “Fire and Rain.”

Video by Jordan Taylor Fuller

How he’s approaching playing a beloved character: “Johnny doesn’t have a lot of lines: He’s like an Edward Scissorhands [type] — I have to fill the space with energy. The cool thing about playing the character is that I got to imbue him with myself. I’m Native American and Black, and the story is set in Tulsa, Okla., where that’s [not uncommon]. My costume has Native American embroidery; my version of Johnny feels fully fleshed out. Of course, I stole things from Ralph [Macchio, who played the role in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film] and from the novel — it’s that fine line between tough and tender, but it’s tailored to me.” — J.A.R.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Photo assistant: Shen Williams-Cohen

Corrections: An earlier version of this article misquoted Ife Olujobi in a few instances. Olujobi said she worked at the Criterion Collection after she graduated from N.Y.U., not while she was in college. Separately, Olujobi said the play that she used to apply to the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Workshop was a work she wrote during college, not “Jordans.” An earlier version of a picture caption with this article also misstated the location where Maisy Stella was photographed; it was Fannie Mae Dees Park in Nashville, not Percy Priest Lake Park.

Becoming a Character

The comedian and actress Meg Stalter, photographed at Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles on Jan. 24, 2024, tests a few moods in front of the camera.

Photographs by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier

The comedian and actress Meg Stalter, 33, started gaining attention on social media during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns when she posted absurd short-form videos playing different personae, like a Disney World team leader conducting an employee orientation. The following year, she had her TV debut on HBO’s “Hacks” as Kayla, a less than helpful assistant to a talent agent. Now she’s filming her first lead role on the new Netflix series “Too Much,” written and directed by Lena Dunham (and loosely based on Dunham’s life), in which she plays the workaholic Jessica, who responds to a breakup by moving to London.

I took so many improv classes when I first [was] doing comedy. It’s the starting point for me when I develop characters. During the pandemic, I’d do improv on Instagram Live every night. The theme would be “We’re going to Paris” or “We’re doing a women’s exercise class.” It was just me doing improv online by myself for hours. When I take on a role, I study the script and imagine if I had to improv a scene. “What would I add or take away? How’s this person different from me? What could I give to the character of my own personality?”

When I read the part of Kayla, I’d already met Paul [W. Downs, a co-creator of “Hacks”] at a stand-up show. [I found out later that] he had me in mind when he wrote the script. That was almost more nerve-racking: It was strange to think, “What if I lose this part to someone else but they were thinking of me in the first place?”

Kayla started as the assistant who comes in and says a crazy line. But in the third season of “Hacks,” she has more emotional scenes, which add another layer: When a character experiences a range of emotions, it makes the crazy stuff even funnier.

The comedian and actress tells a knock-knock joke.

At first when you get a script, you picture yourself in it and think, “Oh, well, she probably looks like me.” That changes the more you get to know the character. Lena [Dunham]’s been so open to talking through Jessica. She’ll say, “Tell me what you think about the hair,” and, “Tell me if there’re any outfits you don’t like.” She even made a playlist Jessica would listen to. There’s Avril Lavigne, Girlpool, Sabrina Carpenter. When I’m studying the script, I’ll play that in the background. Jessica’s into the dreamy side of London and Jane Austen. She’s a little girlie and wears a lot of pink. She wears [nightgowns] as actual dresses and things that’re a little bit too cute for work. I sent [the costume designer] Arielle [Cooper-Lethem] some dresses from Fashion Brand Company. They look like [they could be in an Austen adaptation] but modern and sexier. Like shirts with ribbons all over or matching sets made of lace. Everything’s kind of funny but also hot. It’s stuff I would’ve worn when I thought I was straight. I feel like Jessica’s the straight version of me.

It’s interesting to be playing a version of someone whose work I’ve admired for so long. I’ve rewatched [Dunham’s 2012-17 HBO series] “Girls” so many times. To have everything she’s written in my head but be told, “Just do it the way that you would do,” or, “This is all yours now,” it feels freeing. There’re some directors and writers who want you to say exactly what’s on paper.

When you’re in character in front of a camera, there’re certain things you can’t prepare for. I can research so much for a part — create memories for the character, talk through costume — but if it comes out differently [than what I imagined], that’s OK. It’s important to be able to let go and let the scene be what it is. Some people torture themselves after performing. They’re like, “I should’ve said this or that.” I really don’t do that. Once it’s out there, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Stalter wears, from start: Versace dress, $1,990, versace.com ; and Alexander McQueen ring, $690, alexandermcqueen.com . Versace dress and headband, $325. Wray shirt, $185, wray.nyc ; Dolce & Gabbana dress, $2,095, dolcegabbana.com ; and Sophie Buhai earrings, $395, ssense.com .

Production: Resin Projects. Hair: Tiago Goya. Makeup: Holly Silius. Manicure: Pilar Lafargue

Making a Painting

The artist Roberto Gil de Montes, photographed at his studio in La Peñita, Mexico, on Feb. 13, 2024, painting “Man With Lizard Mask.”

Photographs by Nuria Lagarde

Since 2005, the painter Roberto Gil de Montes, 73, has lived and worked in the fishing village of La Peñita de Jaltemba north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico. He was born in Guadalajara but moved as a teenager to Los Angeles, where he was active in the Chicano art movement. It wasn’t until he took part in the 2020 show “Siembra” at the gallery Kurimanzutto in Mexico City, though, that the art world took notice of his dreamlike Surrealist works. Next year, Gil de Montes will be the subject of a career survey at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I live in a place where there’re no museums or galleries. I’m inspired by my surroundings — by the jungle, by the ocean. I often say there’s no better background than the ocean for painting. I have two studios: one at home, where I work on paper, and a painting studio in town near the ocean. Usually, I start at home on paper. I either sketch or use watercolor wash. If I’m going to do an oil painting, I go to the studio in town. Before I work, I might just sit around and look at books — I like [monographs about Henri] Matisse, [Paul] Cezanne, [Edouard] Manet. It’s sort of a meditation. A lot of times, an idea surges when I’m working on something already; other times, it might be a memory. Or a dream. The other day, I had a dream that I was taking a photo with my phone of a house on fire — but I was conscious that the house was a drawing. [When I woke up] I thought, “Well, I should do a painting of that.”

I’m very intrigued by how memory works and how the memory of something can trigger [a new idea]. [While putting together the career survey] I’ve revisited all of these old works of mine. Some I remember painting. Others I don’t remember at all. I’m 73 years old. I forget things, and then I start thinking, “Wow, this is interesting because if I’m working from memory and forgetting things, how’s that going to affect the work that I do? How can I explore that?” For instance, somebody sent me a painting they said was mine. I said, “No, I didn’t do that painting. I’m sorry,” only to find out that I’d signed the back. A lot of the ideas I’ve been working on come from the past. In the [2022] Venice Biennale, I had a painting [“Up,” 2021] of somebody hanging upside down or falling through the sky. That came [about] when I walked into the studio and noticed I had inadvertently put a painting upside down. I said, “Actually, that’ll make a good painting upside down.” I don’t know how other artists work. I’m very open to ideas.

Reimagining a Retrospective

The conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, photographed at her studio in upstate New York on Feb. 6, 2024, with LED text from her series “Survival” (1983-85), which will be on view at her exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from May through September.

In 1989, the conceptual artist Jenny Holzer installed an LED scroll of aphorisms — “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” is among the most famous — on three of the six internal ramps of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was part of her retrospective “Untitled (Selections From Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, the Living Series, the Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments and Child Text).” Next month, Holzer, 73, will restage the work there as part of her show “Jenny Holzer: Light Line” (which will also include other pieces from her 50-plus-year career). But this time, the LED installation — which will display the original “Truisms” and other text series — will go all the way to the top.

I’m a self-loathing, slow study so [ahead of the 1989 retrospective at the Guggenheim] I had to walk and walk around and around and around the museum. It finally occurred to me, “Oh, around and around is the answer [to how the piece should be displayed].” I’m relieved I attended to what Frank Lloyd Wright did: The building is magnificently, utterly self-sufficient. It doesn’t necessarily need art, and it’s inclined to shrug it off at times.

As I was developing the new exhibition, I started walking the museum again — and not just the ramps. I went up and down the stairs a few thousand times. I went in the elevator, in assorted bathrooms, in nooks and crannies. And in those places, I put everything from the first diagrams I made in the ’70s on up to icky paintings made by A.I.

The conceptual artist discusses a sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois.

Video by Joshua Charow

If I have a specialty, and I’m not certain that I do, it’s installation. I like hunting and seeing. The first step is to go blank, with no preconceptions. And then, since it is visual art, using my eyes to see. Then that mysterious thing happens: Ideas come — when you’re lucky. Otherwise, you try again.

When I’m just trying to make a new artwork for anywhere, it’s adequate to lie on the couch with my eyes closed and wait for that pizza to arrive — the “art” pizza. But when I’m [fortunate enough] to be in a building like Wright’s Guggenheim, it’s — surprise, surprise — necessary for the body to be in the space. Alert, alive, all tentacles reaching out, all senses going. And on some level, being hopeful.

Photo assistant: Ece Yavuz

Adapting an Ibsen Play

For the second time, the playwright Amy Herzog, 45, has adapted a work by Henrik Ibsen. The first was “A Doll’s House” (1879), starring Jessica Chastain. Herzog’s latest staging, “An Enemy of the People” (1882), stars Jeremy Strong as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a physician who is shunned for warning his town that its lucrative public baths are contaminated. Michael Imperioli plays his brother, Peter Stockmann, the mayor, who seeks to suppress Thomas’s findings.

When I begin an adaptation, I first read a few different translations of the play. Then I try to get those out of my head. For “A Doll’s House” and now “An Enemy of the People,” I’ve worked with a translator named Charlotte Barslund. She does a literal translation in English, which stays as close to the feeling and meaning of the original Norwegian as possible. I go through that line by line, translating it into my own words without making any big decisions. Once I have my first version, I start the bigger work of cutting. For “An Enemy of the People,” we cut three characters. I decided to cut the character of Katherine, Thomas Stockmann’s wife, after a lot of conversations with Sam [Gold, the play’s director and Herzog’s husband]. Her sections weren’t working; they were feeling really turgid. There’re sections that his daughter, Petra [played by Victoria Pedretti], could pick up if Katherine was gone.

What was remarkable about cutting Katherine was realizing how little had to change. The fact that you didn’t have to do major surgery on the play was one tell that cutting Katherine was a good idea. It gives Stockmann this recent terrible grief. It’s a particular grief when you’re a doctor, I think, to lose a spouse — to be the doctor who can’t save your loved ones. That spring loads the play as it begins: He’s reaching a place where he can have happiness again — [only] to be completely betrayed by his community and to lose everything he’s finally gained.

Ibsen wrote domestic psychological plays and social plays. “A Doll’s House” is the former and “An Enemy of the People” the latter. [When adapting “A Doll’s House”] I learned some pretty basic things about the mechanics of making it feel leaner and more modern. But other than that, it was shockingly different to translate them and humbling that he had plays that were so totally different inside of him. This play is bigger and rangier and even more relevant than “A Doll’s House.” It’s very timely — there’re a few headlines it brings up. One is climate change. I was reading a lot about scientists who weren’t listened to when they tried to sound the alarm years ago. I was also reading Naomi Klein’s [2023 memoir] “Doppelganger” and thinking about the way the body politic becomes sick. I try to do a lot of research before writing — I read a fair amount of Ibsen biographies — so there’s no single influence that’s too loud while I’m working. When I’m really doing the translation, I need quiet and cloistering. So there’d be gaps in my communication with [Jeremy] and everyone else. Then there’d be the moments, after reading a draft, when it was time to talk and become porous again.

Jeremy was the reason for the production. From the moment I began to work on “An Enemy of the People,” I knew who was playing Thomas Stockmann. I’ve known Jeremy since 1997, and I’ve seen a ton of his work, so his voice was influencing the way I adapted that character.

[Jeremy and Dr. Stockmann] are similar in that they both have a total commitment to what they believe in. Having someone in my life with that kind of devotion to his craft and to his storytelling means that I’m coming to [the character] with the texture of a real, contemporary person. Every few days, he sends me a poem or an article or something that’s meant something to him related to the play. He sent me the William Butler Yeats poem “A Coat.” The first three lines are “I made my song a coat / Covered with embroideries / Out of old mythologies.” There’s this incidental line in Ibsen’s original [script] that people often cut — but I didn’t, I love it — when Captain Horster [Dr. Stockmann’s loyal friend] makes his first entrance before you even see Dr. Stockmann, who says, “Hang your coat on that peg. Oh, you don’t wear an overcoat?” Captain Horster is this character who has no pretense and is an uncorrupted type of human. And Ibsen has him coatless at the beginning. So the idea of a coat and what it is to cover yourself has become an interesting thematic touch point for us.

Putting Up a Gallery Show

Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1999, the visual artist Joe Bradley, 49, has made a habit of reinvention. His style continuously shifts, from mixed-media sculptures to line drawings to highly saturated large-scale canvases. His most recent exhibition of paintings opens this month at David Zwirner gallery in New York.

I tend to arrive at my studio [in Long Island City, Queens] around nine, turn the lights on, make a pot of coffee. Then, depending on what sort of stage the paintings are at, I’ll just start working. If it’s early on [in the piece], I’m much more active. When the paintings [begin] to come together, it’s a lot more about just looking and making little decisions to resolve things. I don’t have a real ritual. I don’t even have to be in any particular state of mind. If I’m distracted or depressed or happy or whatever, I just come in and see what happens.

I do begin with some practical decisions. I know how big the painting is going to be and what sort of surface I’m going to be working on. I know what the contour of [a show] will look like. I don’t make any sort of preparatory sketches — the paintings reveal themselves to me through the process of working on them. But the deadline [for the show] ends up being this organizing force. It’s the day your entire year revolves around, the time [by which] you know the paintings will have to be presentable and cohesive. It’s helpful to have that because, otherwise, you could keep things up in the air indefinitely.

When I paint today, I might be responding to a mark on the canvas that I made six weeks or six months ago. What I’m doing early in the process isn’t going to be available visually by the end — most of it’ll be painted out or it’ll disappear in the process. I lay traps or create little problems for myself to encounter. It’s almost like the uglier it gets in the early stages, the better the painting will be.

Building an Installation

Suzanne Jackson sits on a bucket assembling a sculptural work involving paper or plastic and wire mesh.

The artist Suzanne Jackson, photographed at her Savannah, Ga., studio on Feb. 1, 2024, works on a piece that will eventually be installed on a terrace at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kendrick Brinson

The Savannah, Ga.-based artist Suzanne Jackson, 80, has worked as a dancer, a set and costume designer, a professor and a poet — but most notably as a painter. Jackson describes her ethereal compositions as “anti-canvases,” which she creates by building up layers of acrylic paint and at times found materials, including netting and produce bags. In 2025, she’ll display a selection of work from her six-decade career, along with a new site-specific installation, as part of a retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I’m working on a commission for the fourth-floor terrace of [SFMoMA]. It’s an installation that’ll climb the walls of the terrace and partially fill the open space. My approach is quite different than if I were working on a painting in my studio: I have to think of it in an architectural or sculptural sense. There’re technical aspects, so I’ve been doing a lot of research in airports and from airplane windows, looking at large-scale structures that don’t fall down — things on the rooftops of buildings like windsocks or poles. This piece will be built from the ground up, unlike my other work that hangs from the walls or ceiling.

I don’t go looking for ideas. I just go into the studio and start painting. Now that I’m older and not teaching, I don’t have to do anything except paint. In the morning, I roam around the house. I do the laundry. I feed the cats. I look out the window and stare at nature. I have a big window at the end of my kitchen and can see tall trees and birds and animals and insects. I go through the studio to get to the kitchen from my bedroom, so sometimes I end up stopping and looking at work I’ve already done. There’s a lot of sitting and thinking and looking. Sometimes, I’ll turn on music — Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy or Yo-Yo Ma. On Mondays and Fridays, it’s [the Savannah radio D.J. and jazz historian] Ike Carter’s show “Impressions.”

As the music flows, so does the paint — that’s a spiritual environment to be in. Other times, I’ll work in absolute silence. At the beginning, I explore. I’m never quite sure what’s going to happen. Usually, it comes spontaneously. One brushstroke leads to the next, and then it becomes another idea. I might think I have one idea when I start, but it often changes along the way to be something completely opposite. I’m just having a good time being a painter. That’s how I started, and it’s how I’m going to end.

Photo assistant: Dayna Anderson

Lorraine O’Grady,

89, new york city.

The multidisciplinary artist and critic, whose solo show at Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Chicago opens this month.

A suit of armor with a spiky helmet and a raised sword.

Lorraine O’Grady’s “Announcement Card 2 (Spike With Sword, Fighting)” (2020).

© Lorraine O’Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim, Chicago, Paris, Mexico City

I thought I was going to be a writer. My family tells me that I made my first poem when I was a year and a half old: “I like mice because they’re nice.” [In my early 30s, after working for five years] as an intelligence analyst, I went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for fiction. I hadn’t really been reading fiction, though, so I wasn’t very good at writing it. I spent most of my second year there translating short stories written by my instructor [the Chilean novelist] José Donoso.

Growing up, I had all these exposures to beauty. I’d gone to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as a child and seen [Paul] Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?,” a painting that continues to influence me. And my mother was a dress designer. She redid our house every six months. By the time I was 10, I basically had everything that I’m now working with in place, but I didn’t have the language. I didn’t get that language until the early 1970s, when I read [the critic and curator] Lucy Lippard’s “Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object From 1966 to 1972.” [Then] I was ready. The ideas for my visual art already existed within my experience. I just hadn’t known they were art before.

A few years later, when I was in my early 40s, I had to have a biopsy of my breast. After — thank God, it was negative for cancer — I was thinking about what I could give my doctor as a thank-you present. Reading my copy of the Sunday New York Times, I saw a line in the sports pages about Julius Erving that said, “The doctor is operating again.” I said, “OK, this could be the start of something,” and I made a really good poem for my doctor [out of words clipped from the newspaper]. But when I finished the poem, I said, “This is too good to give to him.” Then I immediately started making newspaper poems for a project called “Cutting Out The New York Times.” I made one every week for 26 weeks. When I finished, I realized that I’d become a visual artist — or revealed that I was a visual artist. — interview by J.C.

Toni Morrison,

The author of 11 novels, including “Beloved,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon.”

By the time Toni Morrison wrote “Beloved” (1987), her best-known novel, she’d worked for nearly two decades as a book editor. Her debut, “The Bluest Eye” (1970), was published when she was 39 and, while not a commercial success, was critically praised. She published three more books between 1973 and 1981 — including “Song of Solomon” — while still at her editing job.

Prior to going into publishing, Morrison — who had a master’s degree in American literature from Cornell University — spent nearly a decade teaching college English. After her divorce, she worked for a textbook division of Random House before joining Random House proper as its first Black female editor; there, she championed and published Black authors such as Angela Davis, June Jordan, Gayl Jones and Toni Cade Bambara. “I didn’t go to anything. I didn’t join anything,” she once said about the civil rights movement. “But I could make sure there was a published record of those who did march and did put themselves on the line.” All the while, Morrison was waking by dawn to write before heading into the office. She’d later describe those sessions as a form of liberation: “The writing was the real freedom because nobody told me what to do there. That was my world and my imagination. And all my life it’s been that way.”

For many years, Morrison considered her day job essential to her art. “I thrive on the urgency that doing more than one thing provides,” she once said. But the industry had its difficulties — the overwhelming whiteness, the increasing commercial demands — and she left her position in 1983. Four years later, at age 56, she published “Beloved.” In a preface to the 2004 edition of the book, she looks back on the rush of feelings she experienced following her last day at the job. “I was happy, free in a way I had never been, ever. It was the oddest sensation. Not ecstasy, not satisfaction, not a surfeit of pleasure or accomplishment. It was a purer delight, a rogue anticipation with certainty. Enter ‘Beloved.’”

65, New York City

The multidisciplinary artist and former drag performer, whose paintings are currently on view at the Dallas Contemporary art space and the MassArt Art Museum in Boston.

A floral painting with a purple background.

A 2023 acrylic on canvas by Tabboo! titled “Lavender Garden.”

My mother put me into an art class when I was 15 at the Worcester Art Museum, and then I went on to art school [at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design], where I majored in painting and fine art. I remember my first sale, to my aunt Julie. She wanted me to copy [Jean-François] Millet’s “The Gleaners.” I didn’t want to copy someone else’s stuff — I think one of the reasons I’m popular is that I’m very original — but I still did the painting, of course. It was a commission and I was being paid!

I started performing drag in nightclubs when I moved to New York in 1982, but I’ve always been painting, too. This isn’t something I just came up with, like, “Oh, I can’t get on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ I better start painting.” I had one-man shows and gallery exhibitions right after graduating from art school. Elton John and Gianni Versace bought my paintings. I don’t want anyone to have the impression — which certain people seem to — that I took up painting just because I stopped doing drag. I might be getting a bit more attention for it now, but I’ve always been doing it.

I usually get up at four in the morning. I feed my cat and then start painting. A lot of my paintings are sunrises. And I do sunsets and cityscapes. Or if it rains in a weird way, I’ll do a rain painting. It’s a very spiritual, meditative, private thing. There isn’t a day that goes by that I haven’t done something, and so my work gets better and better and better. And I must say, I’m a master of my craft now.

Sometimes a collector will ask, “Can we come over to the studio and watch you paint?” I tell them no. I usually do it naked. — interview by J.C.

Justin Vivian Bond,

60, new york city and the hudson valley, n.y..

The performer and multidisciplinary artist, whose work has been exhibited at Participant Inc. and the New Museum in New York City, and will be on view at Bill Arning Exhibitions in Kinderhook, N.Y., in May.

A watercolor of an eye.

Justin Vivian Bond’s watercolor “Witch Eyes, by Viv, to Protect You From Evil Chodes: Lois” (2024).

When I was in high school, I was interested in visual art as well as music and acting, but I decided to major in theater in college because I thought it was a career that could get me out of Maryland and allow me to move to New York. I became a performer, and I’ve been doing cabaret for many years. In 2008, when I broke up my cabaret act Kiki and Herb, my rent was so cheap that I didn’t have to work as much. I started painting again, and it flows very naturally for me.

My watercolors are primarily portraits of people I know. I’ll ask them to pose for a photograph and then paint from that. I also make pseudo fan art, like my “Witch Eyes” series, which is based on iconic photographs of celebrities’ eyes. The wonderful thing about painting is that you have total control over it, if you’re lucky. Onstage, there’re so many variables. And with painting, you don’t have to be there [when people see your work]. I love being in front of an audience, but I don’t really love being among people. The pleasure for me is singing but, when the show’s over, I have to talk to a lot of people. I like all of them, but there’re too many, so it can be a little overwhelming. You don’t ever get to connect on a deeper level. The most satisfying times in my life have been when my shows have been installed and it’s the night before the opening. All of it’s exactly how I want it — the room, the lighting — and I just sit there and look and have this sense of utter satisfaction. — interview by J.C.

Wallace Stevens,

The poet, whose best known works include “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” “The Snow Man” and “Anecdote of the Jar.”

Wallace Stevens never quit his day job. Though he had literary ambitions as a young man, serving as the editor of the Harvard Advocate as an undergraduate, he earned his degree from New York Law School and in 1916 joined the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he remained, specializing in surety and fidelity claims, until his death, in 1955. Yet he was writing all the time: on his daily walk to work, at home in the evenings and sometimes in the office.

It wasn’t until 1914, when Stevens was 34, that his first post-college poems appeared in literary journals. He went on to publish seven volumes of poetry over the course of his lifetime. The first, “Harmonium,” released in 1923, sold fewer than 100 copies; the last, 1954’s “The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens,” won the Pulitzer Prize.

The themes of Stevens’s work — the affirming power of art and beauty, the sublime contained within the mundane — suggest one reason why he stuck with insurance law even as his artistic acclaim grew. His steady paycheck would have allowed writing to remain a purely creative act. In his essay “Surety and Fidelity Claims,” Stevens says of his insurance work, “You sign a lot of drafts. You see surprisingly few people. ... You don’t even see the country; you see law offices and hotel rooms.” Poetry, on the other hand — as he characterizes it in 1923’s “Of Modern Poetry” — “must be the finding of a satisfaction.” It was his livelihood, in the most artistic sense of the word.

Theaster Gates,

50, chicago.

The University of Chicago professor and multidisciplinary artist, whose solo shows at the Gagosian gallery in Le Bourget, France, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo open this month.

A sculpture resembling a piano covered with white metal.

Theaster Gates’s sculptural work “Sweet Sanctuary, Your Embrace” (2023).

© Theaster Gates. Photo: © On White Wall for White Cube

In 2000, I took a job as the arts planner at the Chicago Transit Authority. There was so much new construction happening there, and my role was to appeal to the Federal Transit Administration for a portion of the transit money to be set aside for public art. In a way, it was like an M.B.A.: I managed $26 million over four or five years. My negotiating skills went through the roof.

I’d graduated from Iowa State [in 1995] with a degree in community and regional planning and then did a [post-baccalaureate] in religious studies and fine art at the University of Cape Town. After that, I spent time in Japan studying ceramics. So when I came to the C.T.A., my background incorporated both art and community and, every day, I was leaving there and going to my ceramics studio.

In 2005, I left the C.T.A. because I outgrew the position, and I stopped making pots because I couldn’t afford my studio. I started using more recycled materials in my work [such as wood pallets]. It was during this period that I was starting to combine my knowledge of minimalism and conceptual practices with my background in building and working with my dad, who was a roofer. Now buildings have kind of become my primary monuments, and the project management and team building that I learned at the C.T.A. are really evident in the way that I create.

I did a project at the New Museum [that opened in late 2022 and] was essentially an exhibition about mourning and loss. My father had died six months prior to the opening, and I didn’t have time to mourn his death or the deaths of dear friends like [the fashion designer] Virgil Abloh, my mentor [the Nigerian curator and art critic] Okwui Enwezor, [the author] bell hooks and [the film scholar] Robert Bird. The show grew out of a desire to grapple with my feelings and honor these people. The museum didn’t necessarily have the budget to do all of the things that I wanted to, so I had to figure out, “Are there poetic ways to articulate loss that don’t require substantial build-out, or big, fancy gestures or expensive audio equipment?”

Ultimately, I included Bird’s 9,500-volume library, and Virgil Abloh’s widow loaned me his yellow diamond-studded necklace. Those were moments when limitations built new friendships and more nuanced opportunities, and I feel like having been a planner’s what made me willing to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, would you be willing to collaborate with me?” — interview by J.C.

Remember That You’re Never Truly Equipped to Start Anything

As actors, we feel like we have to be ready, but I’d say you’re never ready. You’re not prepared for something you’ve never done before, so let go of that. This past year I did some symphony gigs for the first time, and it was incredible. It was better than being ready, because I just had to be new. — Ali Stroker, 36, actress and singer

Myha'la stands outside under a dim sky wearing a hoodie.

Myha’la in season one of “Industry,” 2020.

Amanda Searle/HBO

Embrace Fear — but Come Prepared

I have the curse of perfectionism, and there’ve been so many projects where I’ve said, “I’m not right for that, so I’m not going to audition.” But that’s kind of lazy, so I’ve rewired my thinking: If something’s targeting some insecurity in me, why not take the opportunity to work on that thing? I used to avoid anything with an accent but now, if I got the call for “Bridgerton,” I’d feel confident enough to go for it. Definitely do your homework, though. With almost every trading scene in “Industry,” I’ve thought, “Nope, I’m not going to be able to get the words out.” I don’t sleep the night before, and I’m wrecked the next morning. Then everything pours out because I’ve come in prepared. Filming the first season of “Industry” in 2019 was the first time I’d been on a job longer than five days, the first time I’d worked out of the country, the first everything, and I was so nervous. Go toward things that scare you. — Myha’la, 28, actor  

Make Yourself Start

Deciding what’s a good idea is an ongoing battle. But you can only think about something for so long before you just have to try it. Someone once told me that when he makes a painting he likes, he’ll make another one with the same idea to see if it holds up and then another, which I thought was pretty good advice. Sometimes I force myself to go to my studio and start painting [Gordon initially set out to be a visual artist and started focusing more on her art practice about 25 years ago], even if I don’t have an idea. I like conceptual thinking, but I also like the physicality of painting. Usually that leads me to something and, even if it doesn’t — what am I going to do, sit around and watch movies all day? — Kim Gordon, 70, musician and visual artist

Put Yourself in Your Body — and Your Past

Sometimes painting can feel like this dream I have where I’m in the back of a moving car and I’m reaching over to the front seat to try to get control. That’s a nervous system in panic. There’s a grounding exercise I like to do where I jump and really feel my feet smack the floor — trying to get yourself back into your body’s part of the trick. And then I go, “Well, who’s dreaming?” If you can get there, you’re lucid in the dream, and that’s a good place to be. Still, feelings will come up that you don’t want. When I was working on this satyr painting, suddenly the satyr was my old friend Chris, who betrayed me when I was 18 to a group of guys who beat me up. I thought, “Why am I painting Chris? I don’t want to paint Chris.” I was in flow for a while but, when I hit this painting, I experienced self-doubt and thought, “People are going to think these paintings are awful.” Then I went on Instagram and liked one of his pictures. It felt like a weird, brave task. And he wrote to me and asked if he could call me, 26 years after ghosting me, and he apologized for 20 minutes. I cried and I think he probably cried, and I felt it all melt away. And then I went back to the painting. — TM Davy, 43, artist

Kim Gordon, wearing a floral jumpsuit, poses in front of a red background and extends her left hand.

Kim Gordon in 1990.

Laura Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Psych Yourself Out

If things are too hard, something’s wrong, but you also have to embrace the awkward feelings. See if you can fool yourself — I used to get self-conscious about drawing when I was a teenager in an art class with a model, and the teacher said, “Don’t think of it as drawing. Think of it as designing the page.” That really loosened things up for me. It’s amazing what you can do if you pretend. — Kim Gordon

When people say they’re self-taught, it means they asked somebody else how they did it. When I began in folk music, I went to the clubs and I begged and borrowed and asked. [More recently, having taken up painting acrylics a little over a decade ago,] I was painting [Anthony] Fauci and couldn’t figure out how to do his glasses. I called an artist friend and she had all these tricks — “Don’t try to copy the photograph,” she told me, “just use dabs of paint here and there to give the impression of glass.” It didn’t take more than 45 minutes to learn how to put glasses on Fauci. Without her, I would’ve struggled for weeks trying to get it right. — Joan Baez, 83, singer-songwriter, activist, painter and author

Don’t Sweat the End — and Work on More Than One Thing at Once

Remember that the maker almost never knows exactly what they’re making in advance. The great works often appear when we’re aiming toward something completely different. Start as soon as you see a way in. I [also] find it helpful to work on multiple things at the same time. Not in the same moment but during the same general time period. The beauty is that different projects are at different stages, so you can avoid getting burned out on any one [thing]. We can step away, work on something else and come back with new eyes, as if we’re seeing it for the first time. Tunnel vision’s easy to fall into when working on a single project for a long period. We can end up getting lost in details nobody else will ever notice, while losing touch with the grand gesture of the work. — Rick Rubin, 61, music producer and author of “The Creative Act: A Way of Being”

what is creative writing in sentences

Murray Hill in 1996.

Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Treat Procrastination as Productivity

There were certain things I couldn’t do during the [SAG-AFTRA] strike, but I did get a book deal. It’s called “Showbiz! My Unexpected Life as a Middle-Aged Man,” and I’ve got to get that done — by June 1st! I’m used to being onstage. When I’m sitting at my desk in my studio apartment, I procrastinate quite a bit, and I’m always asking myself, “Is this part of the creative process for me, or am I just making my life harder?” But I also procrastinate in productive ways. I go for a walk — in rehab, they taught us, “Move a muscle, change a thought.” Then I come back and put on jazz music. Doing that removes the blocks, probably because jazz is so much about improvisation and I’m at my core an improviser. Another thing I’ll do to light the match is turn to others’ work. I’ll watch Dean Martin videos or a documentary or old game shows. For this memoir, I’ve been reading memoirs by other people — Gary Gulman, Viola Davis, Maria Bamford, Leslie Jones, Aparna Nancherla — and not only does that awaken my creative senses, it triggers memories. — Murray Hill, 52, comedian, actor and writer

Be Comfortable With Discomfort

There was a time when [my] body was always ready, and when I had so many axes to grind and windmills to chase [that] something would come out. Now I can’t just depend on my body being there — that I’m going to bust a move and seduce — so I have to be a little more strategic: “What’s the idea? Does it serve anyone other than you?” I’m trying to reaffirm for myself that what I have left in me to say is worth saying. Doubt is always with us, and it burns like fire. But if I refuse to give up the mantle of being a creative artist, I’ve got to do something. [You might say] “Well, why don’t you just love a child? Why don’t you go work at a soup kitchen down the street?” Because I’m a self-involved son of a bitch. Procrastination says, “I don’t dare,” but can you live with yourself if you don’t? So how do you start? Terror. Guilt. Fear. All negatives to this generation of young people who don’t ever want to be uncomfortable, but the generation that formed me and my own generation had that feeling that you’re being pushed against and you’ve got to push back, because you’re not like them. As Martha Graham said to Agnes de Mille, “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” I’ve got to believe that about myself, and the evidence is what I dare to do. — Bill T. Jones, 72, choreographer, director and dancer

If Your Work Goes Up in Flames, Don’t Fetishize the Ashes

One thing that eases the prospect of getting started is remembering that not everything you make needs to be for consumption or even to count as art. I recently spent nine months quietly making these works — mineral paint on cement slabs — and ended up throwing them all away because I decided they were too conventional. You’re not married to your old self, either. In 2013, there was an electrical fire at the studio I’d just moved into, and the building burned to the ground. I lost cartons of negatives and proof sheets that were over six feet tall, as well as photographs — stuff I’d made five, seven, 10, 15 years prior. Of course, it was traumatic and terrifying, but it was also freeing. Eventually I realized it was an opportunity for me to draw a line and stop making a certain kind of work. As artists, we think, “I got known for this type of thing,” or, “This is what everybody seems to like of mine.” A part of me felt, “I have to rebuild this person,” and then I thought, “Well, I don’t,” and I started something else. It was actually one of the most fruitful periods of my creative life. — Anthony Pearson, 55, painter, sculptor and photographer

Joan Baez holds a guitar and sings into a microphone.

Joan Baez in 1974.

David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images

Practice Some Denial

When I was working on “Diamonds & Rust” (1975), I was at a low point of my career and I made a decision that I was going to concentrate on music and quit globe-trotting for different issues. I realized that the music needed my time and attention if it was going to be any good. Learning to live with the state of the world’s a daily practice. Everything we do, we do against the backdrop of global warming and fascism. I never dreamed I’d live in a world this chaotic and discouraging, and I’m overwhelmed but I’m also a great believer in denial — I think that’s where you have to be in order to create, or have fun or dance — providing that we set aside a certain amount of time to come out of denial and actually do something to help. — Joan Baez

Reject Fear. And Put Your Ego to Bed.

Last year, I went through what medical professionals would call a flop era. I’d had three years of the kind of lovely, psychotic busyness that has you hopping from job to job, just following green lights, but then everything went poof — the show I was working on got canceled; the financing for the film adaptation of my novel fell through. I’d been working on such personal things regarding sex and disability and, when those things ended or weren’t [well] received, I began to doubt myself. But then, you’re combating panic, and I started thinking really awful thoughts like, “Do I need to write a pilot where there’s a dead body?” Fear is the most poisonous thing to creativity. You can’t force it, and you have to listen to the work — it’ll tell you what it needs to be. Look at me getting all woo-woo, but it’s true. When you make a living off of writing, not every single project’s going to be from the depths of your soul, but I think there should always be some level of enjoyment. Starting over is really humbling, by the way. Knowing when to stop and when to start over requires giving your ego an Ambien. Real failure is letting your ego drive the bus of your life right off the cliff. — Ryan O’Connell, 37, writer and actor

Alice McDermott, 70, writer

There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway.

Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author

I’m putting the final touches on a new album, “Flow Critical Lucidity.” But after my memoir, “Sonic Life” (2023), came out, I realized my next mission was a novella, the working title of which is “Boomerang and Parsnip.” It concerns two madly in love youths in the wilds of Lower Manhattan circa 1981, and it’s wholly irreal, bordering on fantasy.

A painting of a bearded man with long white hair flipping through a book with a large die inside. Stacks of books are on shelves behind him. A sheathed knife hangs on the wall. On the table in front, a goblet and a baguette.

Courtesy of Samuel Delany

Samuel R. Delany, 82, writer

I’m writing a guidebook for a set of tarot cards I designed with the artist Lissanne Lake.

Susan Cianciolo, 54, visual artist

I’m preparing a solo exhibition that will open at Bridget Donahue gallery next month, so I’m making new works and curating older ones. It’ll definitely feature a book of my watercolor tree paintings, “Tell Me When You Hear My Heart Stop.”

Jenny Offill, 55, writer

I’m planning to start a band called Spacecrone. (I’ve stolen the name from a book of Ursula K. Le Guin essays.) It’ll be all female and 55-plus. Our faces will be made up like Ziggy Stardust, but we’ll wear sensible clothes and shoes. What’s kept me from starting it is that I can’t sing or play any instruments.

Alex Eagle, 40, creative director

We’re finessing our bag collection, which we’re trying to make as luxurious, but also as practical, as possible. And I’m planning to write a cookbook with my son Jack.

Earl Sweatshirt, with his hair in long dreadlocks, wearing a gray T-shirt and a wristband, holds up a microphone.

Jim Bennett/Wire Image, via Getty Images

Earl Sweatshirt, 30, rapper and producer

Making more music — it’s the one thing I always find myself coming back to, though every time I do, I have to overcome intense feelings of self-doubt. I also want to try stand-up, but I’m scared because there’s no music to hide behind. I don’t want dogs-playing-poker laughs, either. You know the [paintings] of dogs playing cards? Like, “Oh, it’s a rapper doing stand-up.”

Alex Da Corte, 43, visual artist

I’ve been writing an opera for some years now based on Marisol Escobar’s [assemblage] “The Party” (1965-66). It’s set at a time when the sun only shines for one day a year, and the players at the party are all wondering how to move forward while holding on to their pasts.

Danny Kaplan, 40, designer

While clay has been my faithful medium for years, I’ve lately been fueled to broaden the scope of my craft by embracing — and learning how to push the boundaries of — new materials like wood, metal and glass.

Kengo Kuma, 69, architect

Getting out of [Tokyo]. I’m doing my best to reduce the burden on big cities — I think humankind has reached a limit when it comes to congestion — and I’ve recently opened five satellite offices in places like Hokkaido and Okinawa.

Raul Lopez, 39, fashion designer, Luar

The thing I’m always meaning to restart is my video blog “Rags to Riches: Dining With the Fabbest Bitches,” an exploration of how food, fashion, music and art all connect.

Charles Burnett, 80, filmmaker

Right now I’m involved in the development of two films. The first, “Edwin’s Wedding,” is the story of two cousins, separated by the Namibian armed struggle with South Africa, who are both planning their weddings. The second, “Dark City,” also set in Namibia, is more of an emotional roller coaster about betrayal and vengeance told in the Hitchcockian mold.

Ludovic Nkoth, 29, visual artist

I’m looking to experiment outside the confines of the canvas — sculpture and video have always been lingering in the back of my head.

Elena Velez, 29, fashion designer

I want to start a series of salons to bring together great minds across multiple disciplines, while feeding the subculture that my work draws from.

Daniel Clowes, 63, cartoonist

I’ve always had the desire to do fakes of artworks I admire — to figure out how they were done, and so I could have otherwise unaffordable artwork hanging in my living room. Painting [with oil] is as frustrating and exhilarating as I remember it being when I was in art school 43 years ago, and my paintings look alarmingly not unlike the ones I did at 19.

Piero Lissoni, 67, architect and designer

I’ve started the design for several new buildings that will become government offices in Budapest. I’d like to start designing chairs, lights, skyscrapers, spacecraft. In truth, I’d like to start doing everything again.

A painting of tangled bodies fighting with a man raising a baby into the air.

Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Massacre of the Innocents” (circa 1610), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Robert Longo, 71, visual artist

I’ve been struggling to figure out how best to make sense of the overwhelming images in the news, so I’m turning to the past. I’m working on two monumental charcoal drawings based on paintings [about war]: Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Massacre of the Innocents” (circa 1610) and Francisco de Goya’s “The Third of May 1808” (1814).

Gabriel Hendifar, 42, designer

I’m moving into a new apartment by myself after a series of long relationships. I’m excited to challenge my own ideas about how I want to live and to see how that affects the work of my design studio [Apparatus] as we begin our next collection.

Donna Huanca, 43, visual artist

I’m working on two solo exhibitions. One will be in a late 15th-century palazzo with underground vaulted rooms in Florence, Italy; the other in a modern white cube in Riga, Latvia. For years, I’ve tailored works to the architecture of their exhibition spaces, so I’m enjoying working within this duality.

Satoshi Kuwata, 40, fashion designer, Setchu

We’re about to start offering shoes. I’ve thought of the design. Now I just have to go to the factory and see them in real life.

Aaron Aujla, 38, and Ben Bloomstein, 36, designers, Green River Project

We’re starting a new collection of furniture based on offcuts from the studio that are finished with a modified piano lacquer. Hopefully, a suite of these pieces will be ready for exhibition by fall. We also have a commission we’re excited to start — a large sculptural fireplace made from three unique logs of rare wood.

Adrianne Lenker, 32, musician, Big Thief

I want to start learning how to paint. The few times I’ve tried it, I loved it but also felt daunted by all I needed to learn. I often think of my songs in terms of paintings. My grandmother Diane Lee’s an amazing watercolorist. Recently she gave me a lesson all about gray.

A textile artwork with patterns of green and purple bars and three circular patterns with a spider in the center.

Melissa Cody’s “Power Up” (2023), courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Melissa Cody, 41, textile artist

I’m starting to create wall tapestries that incorporate my pre-existing designs, which were handwoven on a traditional Navajo/Diné loom, but these new works are highly detailed sampler compositions made on a digital Jacquard loom.

Josh Kline, 44, multidisciplinary artist

I’m working toward shooting my first feature film — a movie, not a project for the art world.

Sally Breer, 36, interior decorator

My husband and I have started building some structures on a property we own in upstate New York — he has a construction company in Los Angeles. We’re using locally sourced wood and are 80 percent done with a studio-guesthouse, a simple 14-by-18-foot box set on foundation screws, tucked into a pine forest. This is the first time we’re really working together as a design-build team. He’s started referring to it as our “art project.”

Eddie Martinez, 47, visual artist

I’m restarting a group of large-scale paintings for an exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum [in Water Mill, N.Y.] this summer. They’re each 12 feet tall and based on a drawing of a butterfly. The series is called “Bufly” since that’s how my son, Arthur, mispronounced “butterfly” when he was younger. I’d put the paintings aside while I finished my work for the Venice Biennale. Now I’m locked in the studio, painting like a nut!

Karin Dreijer, a.k.a. Fever Ray, 49, singer-songwriter

I’ve been thinking about learning to play the drums. They’ve always felt like a bit of a mystery to me.

Eric N. Mack, 36, visual artist

I’m starting to recharge in order to begin my next body of work. I journal, read, explore the Criterion Channel and get deep-tissue massages. I keep wishing I’d organize the fabrics in my studio.

Jenni Kayne, 41, fashion designer

We’re starting the next iteration of the Jenni Kayne Ranch [the brand’s former property in Santa Ynez, Calif., where she’d invite guests for yoga, dining and spa experiences], only this time we’re heading to upstate New York. We’re calling it the Jenni Kayne Farmhouse, and it’ll include a self-care sanctuary where slow living is a genuine ritual.

Christine Sun Kim, 43, multidisciplinary artist

I have a bit of an adverse reaction to people doing American Sign Language interpretations of popular songs on social media — they’re usually based entirely on the lyrics in English, when rhyming works differently in ASL. So I’ve been wanting to make a fully native ASL “music” video. One day.

Ellia Park, 40, restaurateur

I’ve started collaborating with the in-house designer at Atomix, one of the restaurants I run with my husband, Junghyun Park, on custom welcome cards for the guests that feature bespoke artwork.

Awol Erizku, 35, visual artist

A portrait of Pharrell Williams in profile with a shaved head in front of an orange background.

Awol Erizku’s “Pharrell, SSENSE” (2021), from "Awol Erizku: Mystic Parallax" (Aperture, 2023), courtesy of the artist

I’m focused on my exhibition “Mystic Parallax,” opening in May in Bentonville, Ark. [which will include concerts and portraits of such people as Solange and Pharrell Williams]. What I never seem to get around to is archiving all of my negatives in the studio.

Jeremiah Brent, 39, interior designer

As I navigate the [effect of the] ever-so-saturated interior design algorithm, I’m challenging our team to expand the language we speak, diversifying design references by looking to the unexpected: playwrights, films, historians and science.

Vincent Van Duysen, 61, architect

I’m focusing on the 90th anniversary of [the Italian furniture company] Molteni & C. I’m also excited about our recent addition to the family — a black-and-tan dachshund called Vesta after the virgin goddess of the hearth and home.

Kwame Onwuachi, 34, chef

I’m working on launching a sparkling-water line — the proceeds of which will help bring clean water wells to African countries — and starting to write my third cookbook. I start everything I think of.

Larissa FastHorse, 52, playwright and choreographer

I’m adapting a beloved American musical — I can’t say which — into a TV series. Which is scary because, even though I just adapted “Peter Pan” for the stage, the TV process is the opposite: Instead of cutting down a three-hour musical, I have to add hours and hours of content. So it feels like beginning over and over again.

Peter Halley, 70, visual artist

I’ve started to paint watercolors. Now that I’ve reached 70, I thought it was about time. The images are arranged in a grid like on a comic book page, but the narrative’s asynchronous. They’re based on images of one of my cells exploding, an obsession I’ve had going all the way back to the ’80s.

Darren Bader, 46, conceptual artist

I want to start an art gallery called Post-Artist that regularly shows art but refuses to name who made it. No social media presence. I also want to do what Harmony Korine is doing, except with none of that content.

Jeff Tweedy, 56, musician, Wilco

I’m about to record an album of new music with my solo band, which isn’t really solo at all. I’m bringing my sons and the close friends and quasi family who’ve been playing with me live for the past 10 years or so into the studio. I’ve written songs that feel like they can be a vessel for all of our voices together: a miniature choir. There’s really no experience that compares to singing with other people. I think it tells us something about how to be in the world.

Charles Yu, 48, writer

I’m about to start promoting the “Interior Chinatown” series [based on Yu’s 2020 novel]. I’d like to get into music and service. My son’s a drummer, and he’s awakened some latent impulse in me. And my daughter and wife have been volunteering. I’m not exactly sure what’s been keeping me from either. I could say work, but I suspect the actual answer is nothing.

Elyanna, 22, singer-songwriter

I’d love to improve my Spanish. I visit my family in Chile at least once a year and, every time I fly back to L.A., I realize that I need to keep practicing.

Boots Riley, 53, filmmaker and musician

I’m getting ready to start filming a feature I wrote about a group of professional female shoplifters who find a device called a situational accelerator that heightens the conflict of anything they shoot it at. I also have a sci-fi adventure: a janky, lo-fi epic space funk opera. My dream is to use the same crew and shoot the two movies back to back in Oakland, Calif. [where I live]. That’s one thing about being 53 — I want to be able to spend more time with my kids.

Boots Riley, wearing a brown jumpsuit, sunglasses, and with low sideburns, a mustache and a soul patch sits on a swing set in a park.

Damien Maloney/The New York Times

Sable Elyse Smith, 37, visual artist

I’ve recently embarked on an operatic project. Yikes! MoMA invited me to make a sound piece that’ll open in July, and it’ll be a kind of prelude to a larger version. It’s titled “If You Unfolded Us.” It’s a queer love story and a coming-of-age story about two Black women.

Satoshi Kondo, 39, fashion designer, Issey Miyake

My latest experiment with washi , or traditional Japanese paper, is blending fibers extracted from the remaining fabrics of past clothing collections with the pulp mixture from which washi is made. It’s a way of playing with color and texture.

Laila Gohar, 35, chef and artist

Almost all of my work has used food as a medium and has therefore been ephemeral. Making work that isn’t — namely, sculptures — is an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, but I haven’t been able to jump into it yet. I once read something an artist said about how she thought male artists are more concerned with legacy than female artists, and that female artists are more comfortable creating ephemeral work. This rang true for me, but now I feel slightly more confident about making things that might outlive me.

Patricia Urquiola, 62, architect and designer

I was nominated [last year] as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, so now I’m writing the acceptance thesis, or discurso de ingreso . It’s an occasion to reflect on ideas — for example, I reread the philosopher Bruno Latour, who argues that design “is never a process that begins from scratch: To design is always to redesign.”

Luke Meier, 48, and Lucie Meier, 42, fashion designers, Jil Sander

We’ve started making some objects — glass and ceramics. We aren’t at all experienced in these fields, so it’s invigorating to play again.

Two women wearing baseball caps sit and talk. One, center, is holding a binder of papers with the label "The Salt Path Draft" on the front.

Kevin Baker/Courtesy of Number 9 Films.

Marianne Elliott, 57, director

I’ve always wanted to do a film, but it requires so much time and theater is a hungry beast, so it’s eluded me until now: “The Salt Path,” starring Gillian Anderson, is based on a true story about a remarkable English couple [who embark on a 630-mile hike].

Samuel D. Hunter, 42, playwright

Last year, I was approached by Joe Mantello and Laurie Metcalf, who wanted someone to write a play for Joe to direct and Laurie to star in. I’d never met either of them but, if I had to pick one actor on earth to write a role for, it would be Laurie. “Little Bear Ridge Road,” a dark comedy about an estranged aunt and nephew who are forcibly reunited after the passing of a troubled family member, will go into rehearsals in May.

Thebe Magugu, 30, fashion designer

When I was 16, I began writing a novel, taking place between the small South African towns of Kimberley and Kuruman, that I’ve contributed to every year since. It currently sits as a huge slab of a book — around 80,000 words — and I’ve been meaning to rewrite and polish the earlier chapters. I’ve given myself the next 10 years [to finish the project]. It’ll be a gift I give to myself when I turn 40.

Misha Kahn, 34, designer and sculptor

I have an idea for this toothpaste project called Zaaams that’s expanded, of its own volition, into an entire cinematic universe. Sometimes an idea can grow so big that it’s unmanageable and nearly unstartable. Sometimes I’ll really start working on it, but I get overwhelmed by the seismic rift in society it would cause and feel dizzy. Crest, if you’re reading this, call me.

Nell Irvin Painter, 81, visual artist and writer

I’m way too old to be a beginner. I’m 81 and have already written and published a million (OK, 10) books. But a very different kind of project’s been tugging at me: something like an autobiographical Photoshop document with layers from different phases of my life in the 1960s and ’70s — spent in France, Ghana, the American South. I’d have to be myself at different ages.

A black-and-white self-portrait of a smiling woman taken in a mirror.

Courtesy of Nell Irvin Painter

Sharon Van Etten, 43, singer-songwriter

In 2020, I became familiar with the work of Susan Burton, the founder of A New Way of Life, which provides formerly incarcerated women with the care and community they need to get their lives back on track, and was so moved by her story I asked my record label if it was OK to use money from my music video budget to produce a minidocumentary on the organization, “Home to Me.” I still have a lot to learn about filmmaking, but I think it’s the beginning of something beautiful.

Piet Oudolf, 79, garden designer

I’m starting the planting design for Calder Gardens, a new center dedicated to the work of the artist Alexander Calder in Philadelphia. I’m working on it with Herzog & de Meuron architects, and it’ll include a four-season garden that will evolve with the months. Early in the year, it’s about ephemerals (bulbs). Spring is when woodland flowers are important. Summer will be the high point of the prairie-inspired areas, and in fall and winter there’ll be seed heads and skeletons. I think a good, harmonious garden is like a piece of living art.

Rafael de Cárdenas, 49, designer

As a consummate shopper, I’ve always thought the best way to bring my interests together would be with a store — a lab for testing things out and creating a connoisseurship in the process. I’m thinking Over Our Heads (the second iteration of Edna’s Edibles in [the 1979-88 sitcom] “The Facts of Life”) meets Think Big! (a now-closed shop in SoHo) meets [the London gallery] Anthony d’Offay meets [the defunct clothing store] Charivari meets [the old nightclub] Palladium.

Gaetano Pesce, 84, architect and designer

I’m working on a possible collaboration with a jewelry company from Italy. I can’t say the name yet, but the pieces stand to be very innovative. Also, another collaboration with the perfume company Amouage inspired by time I spent in Oman’s Wadi Dawkah and the beautiful frankincense trees there.

John Cale, 82, musician and composer

Ever since I played viola in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, I’ve been hypnotized by the thought of the discipline needed to conduct. My attention soon wandered — from John Cage to rock music. Now, 60 years on, it’s finally time.

Nona Hendryx, 79, interdisciplinary artist and musician

I’m working on the Dream Machine Experience, a magical 3-D environment that’ll be filled with music, sound, images and gamelike features. It’ll premiere at Lincoln Center this June. [My idea was] to create an imaginative world inspired by Afro-Futurism that encourages a wide, multigenerational audience to share.

Faye Toogood, 47, designer and visual artist

I’d like to develop a jewelry collection, but I haven’t. Is it because no one’s asked — no phone call from Tiffany! — or because I’m struggling to understand how adornment fits into our current world?

Freddie Ross Jr., a.k.a. Big Freedia, 46, musician

I’m recording a kids’ album and publishing a picture book for early readers. Much of my art is about language and the unique colloquialisms that we have in bounce culture. Children respond to its snappy rhymes and phrases.

Danzy Senna, 53, writer

Every time I write a novel, I think, “This is the most masochistic experience I’ve ever had — I’m going to quit this racket.” But I feel incomplete without this depressive object to feel beholden to. I just finished editing one book [“Colored Television”] and have the sinking feeling I’m about to start another.

Jackie Sibblies Drury, 42, playwright

I’m starting, hopefully in earnest, to write a play in collaboration with the director Sarah Benson inspired by action movies. We were intrigued by the problem of trying to put chase scenes or action sequences onstage, where it’s difficult to build momentum or suspense because in theater we have less control over the viewer’s eye, among other things. But hopefully the play will be about what it means to see ourselves in these macho cis men who often get hurt pretending to almost die for our entertainment — or something like that?

Lindsey Adelman, 55, designer

I’m putting together a digital archive of my work and ephemera — about 30 years’ worth — revisiting everything from the sculpture I made as a student at RISD to the paper lights David Weeks and I sold for $25 to datebooks where I scribbled notes about things I wished would come true and then did. I hope it’ll encourage others to start something. I want them to understand, “Oh, this was the first step … this beautiful, finished thing was inspired by a piece of garbage dangling from a streetlamp.”

Elizabeth Diller, 69, architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

A shadowy image of a blurred figure in an illuminated doorway at the top of some stairs.

David Wall/Getty Images

Since 2012, when my studio was doing research for a contemporary staging of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” I’ve been meaning to start a book about ghosts. While ghosts are a well-trod literary device, their visual representation on stage and screen also has a rich history that can be told through the lens of an architect. Despite the fact that ghosts transcend the laws of physics, they’re stubbornly site-specific — they live in walls, closets, attics and other marginal domestic settings, and they rarely stray from home.

David Oyelowo, 48, actor

Something that three friends and I are in the process of building and developing is a streaming platform that we launched last year called Mansa. The idea — born out of growing frustration with making things that I love and then having to use some kind of distribution mechanism where the decision makers are almost always people who don’t share my demographic — is Black culture for a global audience. Essentially, we started a tech company that intersects with our love of story and our need to create [pipelines] for people of color and beyond to be seen.

Franklin Sirmans, 55, museum director, Pérez Art Museum Miami

There’s a recurring exhibition that I’ve worked on with [the curator] Trevor Schoonmaker since 2006 called “The Beautiful Game” that consists of art about soccer. We do it every four years because of the World Cup, and I’m starting to get into the 2026 iteration. I’ve also been trying to finish a book of poems since I graduated college more than 30 years ago. But it’s happening. It’s not like you don’t write a good sentence every now and then.

Jamie Nares, 70, multidisciplinary artist

I’ve always loved this line of poetry [from the Irish poet John Anster’s loose translation of Goethe’s “Faust”] that goes, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” One thing I’ve begun recently is a revisiting of my 1977 performance “Desirium Probe,” for which I hooked myself up to a TV that the audience couldn’t see, and relayed what was happening onscreen through re-enactment. Now I’m going to do it with YouTube videos chosen at random from the wealth of rubbish and interesting stuff on there. And as a video, because I’m not as agile as I once was.

Joseph Dirand, 50, architect and designer

A rendering of the interior of a hot air balloon, with a tufted carpet, a circular table and a curved upholstered bench. An oval window looks onto the top of clouds.

My firm has just started developing, with a French company called Zephalto, a prototype of the interiors for a hot-air balloon that will take travelers to the stratosphere, and the carbon footprint of the journey will be equivalent to that of the production of a pair of blue jeans. The balloon is transparent, so it’ll be almost as if you’re going up in a bubble of air — riders will see the curve of the earth. We’re designing three private cabins: sexy, organic cocoons that reference the ’60s and the dream of space, but are otherwise pretty minimal. The landscape is the star of the show.

Amaarae, 29, singer-songwriter

I’m working on the deluxe version of my 2023 album, “Fountain Baby.” The approach for the original album was very maximalist — I organized these camps all over the world and had a bunch of people come through to work on the music. Afterward, I felt underwhelmed — not by the project but by how I felt at the end of it all. [So] I stripped back everything so it’s just me and my home setup, trying ideas. Before, I was really lofty, but now my feet are touching grass a little bit.

Jennifer Egan, 61, writer

I’m starting a novel set in late 19th-century New York City. As always with my fiction, I have little idea of what will happen, which lends an element of peril to every project! Time and place are my portal into story, and I’m interested in a time when urban America was crowded and full of buildings we occupy today, yet the landscape beyond seemed almost infinite.

Carla Sozzani, 76, gallerist and retailer

Just as my partner, Kris Ruhs, and I revamped the then-unknown Corso Como area of Milan, we’re now putting our energy into the construction of a new studio for him, as well as the expansion of the Fondazione Sozzani [cultural center], both of which are in Bovisa, another old industrial neighborhood. I wanted to be an architect when I was young, but my father said, “No!”

Stephanie Goto, 47, architect

If my clients allow me to peel one eye away from their commissions, I’d like to dive deeper into the renovation of my own property in Connecticut, which includes the circa 1770 former home of Marilyn Monroe and a tobacco-and-milk barn that will house my studio.

Amalia Ulman, 35, visual artist and filmmaker

I’m beginning to write the script for my third feature film — probably my favorite part of the process, when I just need to close my eyes and see the film in my head. It’s the closest to a holiday because it feels like daydreaming.

Wim Wenders, 78, filmmaker

Several years ago, I started a project about the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, who, along with others, designed the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art that’s being built now. The working title of the film is “The Secret of Places,” and it’s done in 3-D. My dream is to make a comedy one day. [ Laughs .] Seriously. [ Laughs again .] I’m working on it.

A painting of a pattern of triangular shapes in red, blue and orange.

Wendy Red Star’s “Beaver That Stretches” (2023), © Wendy Red Star, courtesy of the artist and Sargents Daughters

Wendy Red Star, 43, visual artist

I’ve started highlighting Crow and Plateau women’s art history by making painted studies of parfleches, these 19th-century rawhide suitcases embellished with geometric designs. I’m learning so much about these women just by their mark making, but have only come across a few that have the name of the person who made it, so I’m titling my works by pulling women’s and girls’ names from the census records for the Crow tribe between 1885 and 1940.

Nick Ozemba, 32, and Felicia Hung, 33, designers, In Common With

Next month, we’re opening Quarters, a concept store and gathering space in TriBeCa that will feature our first furniture collection.

Bobbi Jene Smith, 40, dancer, choreographer and actress

My husband, Or Schraiber, and I are creating a work composed of solos for each dancer of L.A. Dance Project, where we’ve been residents for the past year and a half. We’ve had the unique opportunity to connect deeply with some of the dancers, and this — a gratitude poem for each of them — will be our culminating project. They’ll each be a few minutes long and characterized by physicality set against silence.

Editor’s note: The architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, whose comments are included in this piece, died on April 4 at age 84.

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Independence High School Student Wins Creative Writing Award

  • Updated: Apr. 27, 2024, 7:23 p.m. |
  • Published: Apr. 27, 2024, 7:15 p.m.

Independence High School Student Wins Creative Writing Award

Independence High School writer Callia Shumay Submitted by Independence Local Schools

  • Mark T. Baxter, special to cleveland.com

Independence, Ohio – Exceptional writing skills have scooped Independence High School student Callia Shumay top awards in a writing competition.

She was awarded both silver and gold keys in the Scholastic Writing and Art event and now her work will feature in an exhibit at Cleveland Museum of Art.

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Two UMass Undergraduates Awarded Five College Prose and Poetry Prize for Creative Writing

Livvy Krakower reading at a podium.

Previously published on UMass Amherst News .

UMass Amherst undergraduate students Andrea Peter ’25 and Livvy Krakower ’24 were among the 2024 Five College Prose and Poetry Prize recipients honored at a reading and reception April 18 in Hampshire College's Harold F. Johnson Library.

Celebrating creative writing of all genres, the Five College Prose and Poetry Prize, formerly PoetryFest, was reinstated in 2023 after a hiatus due to the pandemic. The contest received 150 total submissions from students representing UMass Amherst, Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, and The Care Center of Holyoke this year.

“For me the most amazing thing about the Five College Poetry and Prose competition is to meet fellow writers from other institutions,” says Krakower, a winner for prose who is an English major and who also won the prize in 2023. “Each college in the consortium is so unique and I am thankful that I have been able to hear pieces I would never hear if not for the competition.”

Peter, a comparative literature major, won a poetry prize in the competition.

“Thanks to Five Colleges, Inc., and our English departments for supporting this work,” says Donna LeCourt, chair of the UMass Amherst English department. “Prizes to undergraduates are important and help to build their reputations in literary and professional communities. The opportunity for our graduate students to judge and manage literary awards provides exceptional professional development and helps distinguish them as creative leaders. I’m happy to see this prize come back to the Five College community.”

“I had a wonderful time judging the prose prize,” says 2024 prose judge and UMass Amherst MFA candidate Danielle Bradley, who was joined on the judging panel by fellow UMass Amherst MFA candidate and poet Ide Thompson ’24. “All of the submissions were impressive, and it was so special to hear many of the winners read their submissions at the reception.”

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54 episodes

Award-winning dreampunk & fantasy author Anna Tizard plays the surrealist word game of Exquisite Corpse to create unique writing prompts, by mixing words you've posted at annatizard.com/play. Results are often hilarious at first, but after a little digging, they develop into wild, weird & unexpected stories. This is a creative, evolving show: Shows 1-37 usually have in-depth discussions on writing before game play. Shows 28-33 are Alice in Wonderland specials. Shows 37 & beyond focus on storytelling, and the story brainstorms are deeper & richer. Dip in wherever you fancy! A ton of fun.

Brainstoryum: Creative Writing Prompts & Story Craft Anna Tizard

  • APR 26, 2024

#53. Short Story Ideas: Weirdness, Wonder & Inventing Creatures

More zany, imagination-bending journeys into fantasy fiction using writing prompts generated by the surrealist word game of Exquisite Corpse. Get writing!   Today’s show features story ideas sent in by listeners based on “the boisterous rocking chair”, plus new short story ideas, impromptu storytelling and creative writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard.   Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get exclusive material from her series, The Book of Exquisite Corpse. All at www.annatizard.com.

  • APR 12, 2024

#52. More Story Writing Ideas; Uniqueness & Originality; Clowns, Creatures, Hauntings & Plunder

It’s time once more to be inspired (and amused) by zany, imagination-bending writing prompts using the surrealist word game of Exquisite Corpse. Today’s show features story ideas sent in by listeners based on “the susurrant plunder”, plus snippets of storytelling exploring a rich array of new short story ideas and writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard. Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get vol 1 in The Book of Exquisite Corpse plus exclusive material not published anywhere else. All at www.annatizard.com.   INTRO: Hello imaginative people! I’m Anna Tizard and this is episode 52 of Brainstoryum. Well, my personal life has been a bit manic lately, with major roof works going on. The noise has been like 3 or 4 ogres trying to smash their way in through the ceiling with truncheons; I was quite surprised to look out the window and see humans, mere humans on the scaffolding. So today I’m grateful that I can bask in one of my favourite distractions: the delicious escape of storytelling, brainstorming ideas and sharing them with you. So whatever you’ve been up to this week, I’m glad you’re able to enjoy this with me.   I have a packed show for you today with some new great story ideas suggested by listeners, plus there will of course be 3 new bizarre writing prompts today plucked from the depths of the socks of destiny.   First things first - let’s hear the story ideas sent in by my highly imaginative listeners. The "susurrant plunder": a curious phrase indeed. It sounds like murmuring treasure; stolen goods that whisper? The rabbit hole I dived into when this phrase came up was one of treasure hunting and a secret history of pirates. But this is only one rabbit hole among countless possibilities, since everyone’s imagination is unique...

  • MAR 29, 2024

#51. Creative Writing Ideas Galore: Enter the Transdimensional World of Your Imagination

Time to be inspired by zany, imagination-bending writing prompts using the word game of Exquisite Corpse. Includes story ideas sent in by listeners based on “the transdimensional witch”, plus storytelling with a rich array of new short story ideas and writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard. Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get vol 1 in The Book of Exquisite Corpse plus exclusive material not published anywhere else! "Hello imaginative people. I’m Anna Tizard and this is episode 51 of Brainstoryum. I hope life is treating you well, but whatever your state of mind is, I feel certain that today’s show can only improve your mood as I share the magic of storytelling – but not just mine.   In the last few episodes, I’ve been inviting you to share your story ideas based on writing prompts that have come up on the show, and today, there are some really good ones I can’t wait to read out.   But before I do, and before I reach once more into the socks of destiny for 3 new writing prompts, someone has written a poem about me and the show...  

  • MAR 15, 2024

#50. The 2nd Anniversary Special! A Celebration of Short Story Ideas & Writing Successes

In this 50th episode and 2nd anniversary of Brainstoryum, Anna Tizard shares some of the best (and weirdest) Exquisite Corpse writing prompts that have come up in the show; plus, successes from other authors who’ve used inspiration from the show to write and publish stories; listeners’ ideas based on the “pedantic staircase”; and 3 new rounds of the imagination-bending word game.   Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get vol 1 in The Book of Exquisite Corpse plus exclusive material not published anywhere else! https://annatizardsubscribe.ck.page/e631e9eb31

  • MAR 1, 2024

#49. A Sack-full of Short Story Ideas – Including Yours!

Time for some zany, imagination-bending writing prompts using the word game of Exquisite Corpse. Enjoy interactive storytelling and some great ideas for writing short stories, with writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard.   In today’s show, listeners and readers suggest their own story ideas based on a writing prompt from the last show: “the frozen chaise longue”. Next, Anna mixes listeners’ word suggestions into bizarre sentences and brainstorms new story ideas from the results. Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get vol 1 in The Book of Exquisite Corpse plus exclusive material not published anywhere else! annatizard.com

  • FEB 16, 2024

#48. A Creative, Collaborative Wonderland of Story Ideas

Time for some zany, imagination-bending writing prompts using the word game of Exquisite Corpse. Award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard, mixes listeners’ word suggestions into bizarre sentences and brainstorms story ideas from the results. In today’s show, listeners and readers of Anna’s fiction suggest their own story ideas based on a weird word combination that cropped up in the last show: “the fastidious spectre”. Enjoy interactive storytelling and some great ideas for writing short stories, with some writing advice from an experienced fantasy author.   Subscribe for free to Anna Tizard’s private email list and get vol 1 in The Book of Exquisite Corpse plus exclusive material not published anywhere else!

  • © Anna Tizard

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Middle, High School Students Invited to Participate in Summer Writing Camps Presented by UCM's Greater Kansas City Writing Project

By Janice Phelan, April 26, 2024


The Greater Kansas City Writing Project (GKCWP) and the University of Central Missouri (UCM) will present two four-day summer camps focusing on creative writing, sharing and friendship. Designed for students in middle and high school, the 2024 Young Writers Camps will be offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 9-12 at UCM’s Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 16-19 at the Anita Gorman Discovery Center in Kauffman Legacy Park in Kansas City. The unique camps, offered since 1983 by GKCWP and UCM, provide a creative and supportive environment for young people. Each session is developed and led by experienced teachers of writing. The camps are created for students who already love writing and want to enjoy writing more. At the end of each session, young writers will share their favorite pieces with friends and families at an open mic celebration. Summer Writing Camp participants include a diverse group of young people ranging from students working on their first novel to aspiring poets to writers seeking motivation and encouragement for a variety of projects. Students enrolling by May 1 will qualify for the $225 early-bird registration fee. Cost is $275 for registration after May 1. For more information and to register, visit this webpage . 




  1. 51 Great Sentence Starters for Creative Writing

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  2. How to write great sentences

    what is creative writing in sentences

  3. 21 Top Examples of Creative Writing

    what is creative writing in sentences

  4. 4 great tips for writing sentences

    what is creative writing in sentences

  5. Creative Writing For Beginners: Unlock Your Creativity

    what is creative writing in sentences

  6. 50 Creative One-sentence Writing Prompts That Make You Want To Write

    what is creative writing in sentences


  1. Show Don't Tell

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  1. What Is Creative Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 20 Examples)

    Creative writing is an art form that transcends traditional literature boundaries. It includes professional, journalistic, academic, and technical writing. This type of writing emphasizes narrative craft, character development, and literary tropes. It also explores poetry and poetics traditions.

  2. 101 Sentence Prompts To Spark Your Creative Writing

    Sentence Prompts. 1. The Beginning of Adventure: "The ice cream truck's jingle was suddenly drowned out by the roar of thunder, changing the course of the little girl's day." 2. A Mysterious Morning: "He woke up with icy fingers clutching his shoulder, only to find an empty room." 3.

  3. What is Creative Writing? A Key Piece of the Writer's Toolbox

    5 Key Characteristics of Creative Writing. Creative writing is marked by several defining characteristics, each working to create a distinct form of expression: 1. Imagination and Creativity:Creative writing is all about harnessing your creativity and imagination to create an engaging and compelling piece of work.

  4. What Is Creative Writing? Simple Definition and Tips

    What is creative writing? The answer can be simple, but breaking it down is far more useful. Learn more and gain some insightful tips for yourself, as well! ... If you're still not sure where to start, creative writing prompts give you a topic or opening sentence to get creative with. Start your own creative writing with one of these prompts:

  5. Creative Writing 101

    Creative writing is anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than to simply convey information. I'll be focusing on creative fiction in this post (mainly short stories and novels), but poetry, (auto)biography and creative non-fiction are all other forms of creative writing. Here's a couple of definitions:

  6. Creative Writing

    Creative writing is the art of using words to make things up. However, a good creative writer makes things up that people will want to read. To do this, you have to use your imagination and try to ...

  7. 10 Types of Creative Writing (with Examples You'll Love)

    A lot falls under the term 'creative writing': poetry, short fiction, plays, novels, personal essays, and songs, to name just a few. By virtue of the creativity that characterizes it, creative writing is an extremely versatile art. So instead of defining what creative writing is, it may be easier to understand what it does by looking at ...

  8. What Is Creative Writing? Types, Techniques, and Tips

    Types of Creative Writing. Examples of creative writing can be found pretty much everywhere. Some forms that you're probably familiar with and already enjoy include: • Fiction (of every genre, from sci-fi to historical dramas to romances) • Film and television scripts. • Songs. • Poetry.

  9. 27 Creative Writing Examples

    Read through the following examples to get ideas for your own writing. Make a note of anything that stands out for you. 1. Novels and Novellas. Inspiring novel-writing examples can come from the first paragraph of a well-loved novel (or novella), from the description on the back cover, or from anywhere in the story.

  10. Creative Writing Examples: Lessons in Writing Creative Fiction

    Creative writing can be immensely rewarding both personally and professionally. Good writers who can express their ideas creatively are always in demand, no matter where you live. ... Lesson: Short paragraphs are easier to read and write, but long paragraphs with complex sentences can be very rewarding in the hands of a skilled writer. As a ...

  11. 1.1: Intro to Creative Writing

    Start by writing a summary of your story in 1 paragraph. Use each sentence to explain the most important parts of your story. Then, take each sentence of your paragraph and expand it into greater detail. Keep working backward to add more detail to your story. This is known as the "snowflake method" of outlining.

  12. 8 Tips for Getting Started With Creative Writing

    Teaches the Art of the Short Story. Teaches Storytelling and Humor. Teaches Writing for Television. Teaches Screenwriting. Teaches Fiction and Storytelling. Teaches Storytelling and Writing. Teaches Creating Outside the Lines. Teaches Writing for Social Change. Teaches Fiction, Memory, and Imagination.

  13. Creative Writing: 10 Ways to Write Better Sentences

    Creative writing is a craft that takes time and effort to master. Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a screenwriter, or any other type of creative writer, your sentences are the building blocks of your work. ... Improving your sentence writing skills is a vital component of becoming a better writer. By using active voice, avoiding passive ...

  14. Creative writing

    Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics.Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to ...

  15. 114 Writing Prompt Sentences For More Creative Stories

    While one-sentence writing prompts demand a strong start, every creative writing piece also requires a satisying ending. Imagine every story's ending as a chance to echo resonances of the beginning. The last sentence should be reflective of the first sentence, giving a sense of closure or perhaps a teasing window into another world.

  16. How to Write Better: 6 Tips for Writing Good Sentences

    A great sentence verbalizes ideas clearly and efficiently, establishing effective communication through writing. The content of a sentence and how it's structured determines if it's good—but a complex sentence doesn't necessarily mean it's well-written, and a short sentence can say just as much as a long one. All writers vary their ...

  17. 150+ Story Starters: Creative Sentences To Start A Story

    When you start writing a story, you need to have a hook. A hook can be a character or a plot device. It can also be a setting, something like "A young man came into a bar with a horse." or a setting like "It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones." The first sentence of a story is often the hook.

  18. What is creative writing?

    Gaining confidence with structuring a story and with organising paragraphs. Sentence structure. Using sentences connected with more sophisticated connectives such as because,' 'however,' 'meanwhile' and 'although.'. Description. Using a range of adjectives, powerful verbs and adverbs. Some use of similes.

  19. Write Better Sentences: 9 Tips That Pro-Writers Swear By

    4. Evoke emotions with mental imagery. Your sentences need to drive the narrative forward. But that can only happen when you mix facts and emotions to create a powerful one that sticks with your reader. In addition, the sentence needs to be informative enough to convey everything the reader needs to know.

  20. 2.1 Sentence Writing

    Components of a Sentence. Clearly written, complete sentences require key information: a subject, a verb and a complete idea. A sentence needs to make sense on its own. Sometimes, complete sentences are also called independent clauses. A clause is a group of words that may make up a sentence.

  21. How to Vary Sentence Structure in Your Writing

    Level Up Your Team. See why leading organizations rely on MasterClass for learning & development. An important component of the writing process is the need to vary your syntax and written rhythms to keep your reader engaged. Such variation includes word choice, tone, vocabulary, and—perhaps more than anything else—sentence structure.

  22. What Is Tone and How to Use It in Creative Writing

    When it comes to sentence organization, many writers nod off or only care enough to be clear, but the kind of syntax you use has a tremendous impact on voice. A child is going to arrange their sentences differently than a psychologist. Your sentences will look different than another author's. Syntax is a key aspect of your story's voice.

  23. ‎Brainstoryum: Creative Writing Prompts & Story Craft on Apple Podcasts

    with writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard. In today's show, listeners and readers suggest their own story ideas based on a writing prompt from the last show: "the frozen chaise longue". Next, Anna mixes listeners' word suggestions into bizarre sentences and brainstorms new story ideas from the results.

  24. Introduction to Creative Writing

    Introduces the craft and practice of creative writing. Engages with both contemporary and classic authors within the primary genres of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. May also include exploration of other genres such as drama, screenwriting, digital storytelling, film, and performance genres. Develops use of craft elements discussed ...

  25. Clark Colleges hosts Creative Writing Festival May 6-11

    VANCOUVER, Wash. — The English department at Clark College hosts its annual Creative Writing Festival from May 6-11. The event, which is free and open to the public, features activities geared for writers at all levels. The festival allows writers to immerse themselves in workshops and readings by renowned authors.

  26. How to Begin a Creative Life

    Their collective perseverance — a mix of dogged determination and wild hope — is a reminder for all of us that a creative life, that alllife, takes nerve. It takes humility. It takes a kind of ...

  27. Independence High School Student Wins Creative Writing Award

    By. Mark T. Baxter, special to cleveland.com. Independence, Ohio - Exceptional writing skills have scooped Independence High School student Callia Shumay top awards in a writing competition. She ...

  28. Two UMass Undergraduates Awarded Five College Prose and Poetry Prize

    Celebrating creative writing of all genres, the Five College Prose and Poetry Prize, formerly PoetryFest, was reinstated in 2023 after a hiatus due to the pandemic. The contest received 150 total submissions from students representing UMass Amherst, Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, and The Care Center of Holyoke this year. ...

  29. Brainstoryum: Creative Writing Prompts & Story Craft

    with writing tips from award-winning fantasy and dreampunk author, Anna Tizard. In today's show, listeners and readers suggest their own story ideas based on a writing prompt from the last show: "the frozen chaise longue". Next, Anna mixes listeners' word suggestions into bizarre sentences and brainstorms new story ideas from the results.

  30. Middle and High School Students Invited to Participate in Creative

    By Janice Phelan, April 26, 2024. The Greater Kansas City Writing Project (GKCWP) and the University of Central Missouri (UCM) will present two four-day summer camps focusing on creative writing, sharing and friendship. Designed for students in middle and high school, the 2024 Young Writers Camps will be offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 9-12 ...