TNB hopes to inspire young writers with weekly writing prompts


A person writes with a fountain pen in this photo. (Aaron’s Burden/Unsplash)

Theater New Brunswick began posting weekly writing prompts on its social media pages on February 14 to engage and inspire writers young and old.

Jena Elizabeth McLean, artist-in-residence at TNB, is responsible for the weekly writing prompts which included phrases such as “today is the best day” and “in the impossible”.

“[It’s important to give] a writer has time to explore an idea in an unstructured, low-stakes way that keeps their writing muscle active,” she said.

McLean said the idea grew out of workshops TNB runs for young creatives.

The project began when McLean and other members of TNB realized that the COVID-19 situation was not going to stop for some time.

TNB organized several workshops to help young writers interested in theatre. When the group began having difficulty meeting frequently, McLean decided to move these workshops to a more succinct online format.

McLean uses theater as a form of self-expression and draws on her own personal experiences to inspire her work. She said that with the prompts, she wanted young writers to get a taste of how to share their own ideas.

“The workshops, for me, have been about giving people the tools to tell their own stories and these writing prompts are a way to let [young writers] taste what it can look like,” she said. “It’s really just a tool for students to explore their own creativity.”

McLean enjoys free-form creative writing, particularly because it has helped her develop as an artist.

When she was studying at the National Theater School of Canada, McLean’s teacher introduced her class with weekly writing prompts for students to write or speak.

“It was also so nice to leave behind all the other projects, all the other parts of my life for those three hours and have time to write,” McLean said. “The best part was that the writing didn’t have to mean anything beyond those three hours. I introduced myself wherever I was at the time and that’s where I wrote from.

Kathleen McConnell, professor of creative writing at St. Thomas University, also appreciates the importance not just of these creative writing prompts, but of writing in general.

McConnell said writing, especially creative writing, is often undervalued in mainstream society. She said there’s more to writing than people realize.

“It’s easy to read something that’s well written and people seem to think that if it’s that easy to read, it must be easy to write. But it’s kind of like watching a ballet dancer – what he does seems effortless,” she said.

McConnell said writing is important as a creative endeavor, but also as a force for self-expression.

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