Creative intent or creative intention is the statement or idea that guides how we express ourselves creatively. Knowing what our intentions are as storytellers and writers, allows us to embody our stories, our careers, and our purpose in a way that moves past simply writing. It also helps us stay grounded in the world of publishing and writing.
Your intentions, your writing process, and your stories are your own. If originality and passion are things that you want to achieve in your writing, turn to your intentions.
Who are you for? Who are your stories for? Why do you write? Why are you writing whatever piece you’re sinking time into? Not just who you write for, but who are you as a storyteller? What are your stories to you? What do you want them to be for your readers?
It’s a nebulous topic and can be intimidating, but figuring out what your intentions are and getting into the practice of checking in with yourself about them will make writing seem less scary, unapproachable, and help you find your way.
Exercise and Discussion/Notes
Explore what your intentions are as writers by spending time answering some of the questions above while exploring what the questions bring up in you as writers. Below are some resources on how to find your creative intents. Pick one and use it to dig deeper into your intentions. During the discussion portion of the workshop, you can share what you noticed, discovered, and talk through your process.
Pull a story from your bank that you’ve finished, and explore what intentions you had for the story. If you’re doing this by yourself, write your notes along your draft. If you’re doing this in a group, discuss your intentions with your fellow writers. The writers in your group will also answer whether or not they feel like you wrote to your intentions, what stylistic choices you made to play into your intentions, and why.
Use these if you’re unsure of where to start with figuring out what creative intent is or how to go about finding it.
Intentional journaling was how I found my intention behind why I write. Like regular journaling, intentional journaling asks the writer to reflect. The difference comes in how the writer reflects and the purpose behind the reflection.
For me, intentional journaling is all about the questions and visualizations. Where am I now as a writer and where would I like to see myself? If people could say anything about me as a writer, what would I want it to be? What do I want to be known for as a writer? I think about the now, the past, and the future, digging with the question in my mind of what type of storyteller I want to be.
If you’ve written a lot of pieces and have them available, read through them, paying attention to reoccurring themes. Are you trying repeatedly to tell vaguely similar stories? This is totally okay! Lots of creators tend to have one specific theme or topic that keeps coming up in their work and often times it’s connected to their intention behind why they tell stories.
This always makes me think about the training montage in Bring it On where the cheerleaders go through various forms of dance and cheer to find their distinct style. Doing a creative overload calls for the writer to dig into various stories and styles from comics to mangas and fairytales and folklores and myths and fictions and nonfictions. Essentially the writer goes on a search for their intention by consuming as much story as possible.
The opposite of creative overload, creative draught is all about stepping away from creating any stories or consuming any stories. Simply live life with your mind and self open to the stories all around. Which ones are you gravitating toward during your draught? Which ones feed you?
A lot of inspiration can be found by reading creators’ autobiographies from outside of writing. I particularly love reading or learning about the journey that many top chefs have taken to get where they are. The added space of not having it be a writer’s biography allows for me to realize that my creating is no different from other creators. My go-to when it comes to learning about chefs’ journies is Chef’s Table on Netflix. Sooo goood.
I read or watch for the creator’s passion, intention, and calling. The things every creator shares even if they aren’t storytellers. I’ve also found creative breakthroughs and techniques from learning about how chefs have gone about discovering their unique styles and flavors.
Experiment with Story
Like the creative overload, experimenting with story requires the writer to experience different forms of storytelling. Instead of consuming, however, this method is all about actually trying out different forms. While you’re attempting to write your stories in different styles, do you notice that you tend to try and write particular types of stories?
What stands out to you through your experimentation? What sticks and what leaves your writing process?
Change the Form
Instead of writing all-new stories in different forms, transform an older piece or a current W.I.P into a different form. If you’re writing a thriller, what would it be like as a coming-of-age tale? By changing the form of your story, you’re forcing yourself to keep what is important about the story. Showing you what you’re trying to accomplish with the story. Do this with multiple stories, and pay attention to the similarities that come up.
Return to Your Origins
Why did you first start writing? Think back on those moments and reflect on what drew you to tell your first stories. What made you return to them again and again? You can do this through old journal entries, school reports, emails, or whatever you have at your disposal that allows you to look back on those moments. Use it to connect with your original intentions behind wanting to tell stories.
There are a lot of creative writing workbooks out there that take the stress of coming up with a journaling routine away and provide the writer with a clear, guided path that’s usually led by someone who has already been where the writer wants to go. Some workbooks aren’t as helpful as others, so dig around until you find one that resonates with you.
Analyze Your Favorite Stories
Take a look at the stories that excite you, that make you want to be a storyteller, and try to understand what it is about these stories that touch you. Are there common themes or feelings that come up? Do you see yourself trying to recreate the same moments and feelings in your own work?
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