We live in a world that is increasingly seeking to sort and organize children at younger and younger ages. I’m always surprised to hear parents tell me that their child is “more of a math kid” or “more of a “reading” kid. They look at me a little suspiciously when I tell them that “math kids” make great writers or that “reading kids” are great at problem solving. The biggest problem with this way of thinking is that it deprives kids of the opportunity to develop into well rounded thinkers. The future engineer is going to need to express himself or herself, and is also going to need the ability to come up with creative and innovative solutions. The future artist is going to need to run a business, complete with Excel spreadsheets. Kids need to be exposed to activities that demand they use every part of their developing brains.
In our complicated world, the most important skill might just be the ability of the left brain and the right brain to work together. There are many benefits to creative writing, but the biggest one might be that it demands synchronicity between the left brain and the right brain. It encourages children to use their imaginations, but it also demands that they use logic and reasoning.
Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist describes the real differences between the left and right halves of the human brain. It’s not simply “emotion on the right, reason on the left,” but something far more complex and interesting. If you’re interested, here’s a link to his Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain
I’m not exactly sure how they determined that birds also have left and right hemispheres, but the illustrations are a great way to visualize the coordination that takes place even while doing relatively simple things like eating seeds. This might make a fun anthropomorphism writing prompt!
The writer, Daniel Pink, talks about the transformation from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. In A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, Pink says, ““Engineers and programmers will have to master different aptitudes, relying more on creativity than competence, more on trait knowledge than technical manuals, and more on fashioning the big picture than sweating the details.”
We can teach a computer to write code, but we can’t teach it to decide what the code should do. We can’t teach it what problems it needs to solve. That takes human involvement, creativity and ingenuity.
When you craft a story, you use your imagination to dream up characters, setting and plot, but then you use your logic, or executive planning functions, to craft a storyline that makes sense. Writing involves far more analytical thinking and logic than most people realize. It also involves empathy and expression, two skills that are absolutely imperative to function in the world.
The word “playwright” perfectly blends the left brain and right brain. We start with “play” which is really just having fun with our imaginations. We end with the “wright,” not “write.” The word “wright” means craft. We have cartwrights, boatwrights, and yes, playwrights. It’s actually just a coincidence that wright and write are homophones. (homophones are word that sound alike but have different meanings.
Creative writing is like crossfit for the brain. It’s the perfect combination between craft and creativity, freedom and structure, instinct and logic. Of course I’m biased, but I can’t think of a more empowering activity.
The modern elementary school teacher never has enough time. There is way too much too teach and way too little time in which to teach it. Most of the elementary school teachers I know try to get in as much writing as possible, but it’s difficult. Some of them even set aside time for writer’s workshops, and if your child is in one of those classes, consider yourself lucky.
The good news is that encouraging kids to write can be as simple as buying them a journal, with the only instruction being to have fun. For a little more structure and instruction, there are many online creative writing classes. You can choose one that’s flexible or one that requires your child to be online at a specific time. Click here to join my creative writing class on Outschool!