Ten Keys to Unlocking Your Creativity

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Below are ten key points regarding creativity and the writing of fiction.

We've included quotes from well known authors as well, our experience working with writers at the Writers' Studio and class participants feedback to illustrate the points we are trying to make.

1. Your Imagination - The True Source Of Your Creative Power

When it comes to writing, learning to tap into the power of your imagination makes all the difference.

It is the first step in anyone's creative process.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create."

Albert Einstein

One of the great things about being part of our live 4-Week Unlocking Creativity Course is that in the very first session you see people walk into the course feeling anxious about their writing and questioning their ability.

By the end of the session, when they and their classmates have learnt how to access their imagination, they are on a creative high from seeing just how talented they and everyone else in the room are.

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'And the growth in my writing… WOW. Just wow! I never realised how much the stories in my head would just FLOW, if only I would let them! I have always been so critical of myself that I never allowed the words to find their way easily onto the page. Now, I am writing things that are so much more interesting than anything I’ve ever put on paper before, because I am allowing myself freedom to create, rather than stagnate. Instead of editing a paragraph, I am writing another one. And that is how the story flows.'
Course Participant

2. If you want to write a powerful story, you need a step-by-step process


"Feelings tell you what to say. Technique gives you tools with which to say it. Faculty lies in knowing what to do next.

Feelings tell you what to say. Technique gives you tools with which to say it. Faculty lies in knowing what to do next.

To know what to do next, you must master process ... an ordered step-by-step presentation of materials that presses emotional buttons in your reader, so he feels the way you want him to feel."
Dwight Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer

Writing a novel or screenplay can be overwhelming. You need to break the process down into manageable chunks.

To write the best story you are capable of writing and to enjoy the experience, you need a process to guide you every step of the way.

Having a process helps you connect with the power of your imagination while writing fiction that takes you, your characters and ultimately your readers on a profound journey.

"Even if you want to write about climate change, start with a deeply flawed character."
Ian McEwan

Course Participants

"After two unsuccessful manuscripts I was searching for a creative writing course I could do to give me the confidence and tools needed to find a stronger voice and allow me to tap into my imagination. Unlocking creativity did all this and more.I walked away from this course feeling much more confident in my own abilities as well as full of motivation to start my next manuscript, which turned into my first fictional crime novel Sinister Intent, published this year."
Karen Davis - author of Sinister Intent published in 2013 by Simon & Schuster

'I don't know how anyone could possibly write a novel or a screenplay without this step-by-step process.' Catherine - Ten Month Novel and Script First Draft Course Participant

3. Writing is an art and a craft

'Writing is an art and a craft.

To write a compelling story requires a four part process - planning, writing, re-writing and editing.


"The art of writing is immensely more difficult than the beginning writer may at first believe but in the end can be mastered by anyone willing to do the work."
John Gardner

When you learn the tools and techniques of the craft you see a huge improvement in the work you and others produce. You don't have to re-invent the wheel.

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'Before I did the Unlocking Creativity course I knew I loved to write creatively but had no idea how I might start to channel that into something like a novel. The course teaches the basics of storytelling in a really accessible and inspiring way. Things like the importance of sensory detail in scene setting, writing a character’s emotion and conflict on every page. The techniques really worked for me and I’m still a little bit amazed I was able to write a book and have it published using them. I refer to the notes I took during Unlocking Creativity even while I’m working on my second book for Penguin.'
Vanessa Stubbs - author of Star Attraction - published in 2013 by Penquin

4. The act of writing has its own reward

“I encourage anyone, who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."
Anne Lamott

If you want to be a writer a novel or a screenplay, it is important that you learn to enjoy the journey rather than be obsessed with the end result.

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'I’ve just completed the most amazing course, one I set out to do not knowing what to expect or whether it would really benefit and nurture my dormant creative side. I never intended on even wanting to write fiction because I didn’t think I had the imagination to deliver a good story. I always felt creativity there but couldn’t find a way of awakening it. This has been quite a journey, a daunting one to begin but never one I felt I couldn’t do because the structure is so well prepared to gradually and gently increase my writing ability with a huge difference being evident between start to finish. I discovered that writing doesn’t need to be a scary experience but one to be embraced. It's irrelevant if you think you can or can't write because it’s deeper than what words can produce on paper, it’s a connection to something more within.'

5. Structure Frees Your Imagination


“When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.”
T.S. Elliot

To create a story you need to set up a dance between structure and imagination. T

Your imagination brings your stories, characters and words to life.

Structure creates the shape of your story, has your reader wanting to know what happens next and takes your main character, yourself and your reader on a profound of change

Course Participant

"The last four weeks have opened up a new door to a world of imagination I’m yet to discover. I am just standing in the middle of that door frame about to take the next step into unknown territory and this writing course has taken me there. Four weeks ago the thought of putting pen to paper and writing a story was uber intimidating and now through the discipline of this course and its structure along with the Writers' Board, it has allowed me to not see writing as a big scary monster I need to avoid but rather break things down into pieces and use the tools and techniques that have been developed over centuries to encourage and help me to write. I don’t know really know what I completely have to offer right now but all I know is that the course has ‘Unlocked’ something in me to find out what my potential may be.'"
Sam H

6. Writing is a mood changing activity

Most likely you will never feel like writing, but you have to just train yourself to sit down and do it, regardless.

Notice how you feel like after you have written.

Dorothy Parker was once asked if she enjoyed writing.

She replied, "No I hate it, but I love having written."

“One must be pitiless about this matter of mood. In a sense writing will create the mood. Generally I've found this to be true. I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
Joyce Carole Oates

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'I have just had the most amazing month of my life. From dreaming about being a writer, I now feel that I AM a writer. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that dreamers dream. Writers WRITE! And if this course has given me anything, it’s the realisation that writing (almost!) every day makes me feel happier, free, and more centered. Basically, more like how I always imagined I could feel, but never actually did.' Heather

7. Develop A Writing Habit


“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. The consistency, the monotony, the certainty, all vagaries and passions are covered by this daily occurrence. You don't go to a well once but daily. You don't skip a child's breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse… ’I know I have a novel in me,’ I often hear people say, ’But how can I get it out?’ The answer, always, is every day.”
Walter Mosely

When it comes to writing a novel or screenplay, it really helps if you can maintain momentum.

You story and characters remain alive in your imagination and your story starts to write itself.

Leave off for a week and it is very difficult to find your way back.

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'Initially I had planned to do the LIVE course and been disappointed that I couldn’t, I was concerned that the ONLINE course would be as boring and uninspiring as any other correspondence course I have ever attempted. But not so! The Writers' Board, that I at first found such a daunting concept, very soon became a place that I was very much looking forward to engaging with every day. Not only to post my own stories, but to read what others have written, to go through our comments to each other and learn from so many viewpoints, personalities (I feel a real attachment to people!) and wonderful expressions of creativity in story.'

The Art Is In The Doing


"I don't think that talent or gift, if such things exist, has anything to do with what the final receipts will be. My notion is that anyone who speaks, by reason of that speech, has prospects of achieving important imaginative writing. I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead old-fashioned notions of perseverance, application and industry...It comes down in every instance to this dualism between what one wants and what one may be afraid to have."
Gordon Lish

Unlocking Creativity Course Participants

'As you know, I was excited and nervous about the Unlocking Creativity Course. After 4 days, I suddenly started to bloom in creativity and imagination. In the past, I have lacked imagination for fiction, and suddenly it started spewing forth, and I believe, was triggered by the exercises in the first week. My excitement increased when I started reading the posts from fellow writer’s, and, giving and receiving feedback. This process made me excited, I can’t wait to sit down in the morning and write, write junk, just write. I wake up in the morning with another storyline, I’m driving my husband mad, and he’s losing weight, I’m not cooking, just writing, or, talking about plots and main characters.' Nicole

'I have come to realise that writing is a process, not just a whim that I can oblige whenever it suits me. If I am to realise my dream of being a writer, then I need to persevere, and dedicate my time to my goals. I can’t wait to get started on my next course. I don’t know what my first novel is going to be about, but I know that I have the basic habit of writing every day first and foremost in my mind. And from there, the rest will come.'

8. Don't judge yourself or compare yourself to anyone

Your judgement of yourself, cuts you off from the power of your imagination and stifles your creativity.

“The opponent in this game is inside us. It is that part of our psychological make up that creates imagined limitations, passes destructive judgments, and whittles away at our self confidence - sometimes with an axe.” Barry Green

Remember when writing a first draft to ignore your self critic. Once you have your story worked out, it is time to edit. That is the time to set about making every word count.

But if you do that during the act of writing, it is all over.

Unlocking Creativity Course Participant

'There is another reason that the online course has been magic for me at the very start of my tentative steps to explore writing; I have been able to be free in expressing myself because I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone or feeling intimidated. I don’t know how the writers studio came up with the format for the course, it is engaging and liberating within a carefully constructed framework. I have loved this learning style and process and I am going to miss it and I am really looking forward to the day I spot a familiar name on a bookshelf or in a store and can think back to having first read their work on the Writers' Board!!'

9. The power of positive feedback - the breakfast of champions


“Applaud every small victory, because every time you applaud a small victory, you create an environment in which a larger victory can grow.” Victoria Nelson

Unlocking Creativity Course Participants

'To give and receive. Both ways, makes my heart light and opens up my imagination because I have confidence.'

'I want to thank everyone who gave me feedback. At first I thought this feedback stuff was going to be intimidating, for me to give and receive. Instead, I found it to be uplifting and wonderful to read fellow writers comments, and, I have taken them on board. I have thoroughly enjoyed this course and look forward to the next one. I look forward to seeing your names in the bookstores in the future.

''The constructive feedback from Emma (course tutor) and my fellow writers has been incredibly uplifting and enlightening. The feedback gave me confidence to keep writing. I had never given any thought to process or structure, I just let my head and hand go berserk. Now, CJ, I can say that I know there is a process, I love the exercises before putting pen to paper, I also like the planning and clustering, great tools for me to keep me on track and motivated. I enjoyed reading the posts, and noted the remarkable improvement. I can see many future authors and I look forward to reading their novels.'

10. Writing is a journey


As Henry Miller said, "Writing, like life, is a journey of discovery."

Unlocking Creativity Course Participants

One. 'Wow what an awesome four weeks I've just had. I've just been on the most illuminating journey of self discovery with a bunch of incredibly talented writers. We have all spent the last month sharing some amazing stories together. Some really personal, some really funny, some really scary and some that would just break your heart. We've watched each other grow and develop our abilities to express ourselves not just tribally and from the gut but with beauty and eloquence and meaning and structure. We've learnt along the way what it means to be gracious, truthful and generous in our praise of each other.

Two. 'We've learnt that from little things BIG things grow and that with persistence and perseverance ANYTHING is possible.

And through it all we've had some amazing guides to share their wisdom and their experience. To hold a flame high for us to follow through the darkness and hold it low to shine the light of truth and honesty on our work in the hope to make us better. I feel I have now found my true north. Time to set sail.'


After working as a journalist and columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend and The Financial Review, Roland Fishman committed himself to the process of writing fiction, which he believes nourishes and expands the spirit of both the writer and the reader. He started The Writers' Studio in 1992 and since then, he has personally guided thousands of people through his unique step-by-step process. He has also published three books.


  • Guest
    Paula O'Reilly Friday, 08 November 2013

    Hi Roland,

    Apologies for the delay in me replying to your previous email and thanks for asking how my writing is going.

    I got married this year and have a baby on the way so have been busy!

    I am still writing, finished 3rd draft of the book i was working on at Writers studio and am writing something new. Just plodding on, one step at a time...

    I still get the emails and hope the studio is thriving and buzzing; the courses i did in 2009 and 2010 were great for kick-starting me onto the writing path.

    Best Wishes to Kathleen, Yourself, and Andrew,

    Paula O'Reilly (Formerly Hogan)

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Guest Wednesday, 29 July 2015