• Our Mission

Inspire Thoughtful Creative Writing Through Art

A few years ago, I showed my sixth graders The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer. It's an epic painting of a young black sailor in a small broken boat, surrounded by flailing sharks, huge swells, and a massive storm in the distance. I asked my students the simple question, "What's happening?" The responses ranged from "He's a slave trying to escape" to "He's a fisherman lost at sea." The common theme with the responses, though, was the tone -- most students were very concerned for his welfare. "That boat looks rickety. I think he’s going to get eaten by the sharks," was a common refrain. Then a very quiet, shy girl raised her hand. "It's OK, he'll be fine," she said. "The ship will save him."

The room got quiet as everyone stared intently at the painting. I looked closely at it. "What ship?" I responded. The young girl walked up to the image and pointed to the top left corner. Sure enough, faded in the smoky distance was a ship.

This revelation changed the tone and content of the conversation that followed. Some thought it was the ship that would save him. Others thought it was the ship that cast him off to his death. Would the storm, sharks, or ship get him? The best part of this intense debate was hearing the divergent, creative responses. Some students even argued. The written story produced as a result of analyzing this image was powerful.

Since this experience, I have developed strategies that harness the power of observation, analysis, and writing through my art lessons.

Children naturally connect thoughts, words, and images long before they master the skill of writing. This act of capturing meaning in multiple symbol systems and then vacillating from one medium to another is called transmediation . While using art in the classroom, students transfer this visual content, and then add new ideas and information from their personal experiences to create newly invented narratives. Using this three-step process of observe, interpret, and create helps kids generate ideas, organize thoughts, and communicate effectively.

Step 1: Observe

Asking students to look carefully and observe the image is fundamental to deep, thoughtful writing. Keep this in mind when choosing art to use in class. Look for images with:

  • Many details: If it is a simple image, there's not much to analyze.
  • Characters: There should be people or animals in the image to write about.
  • Colors: Find colors that convey a mood.
  • Spatial relationships: How do the background and foreground relate?

Lead your students through the image. "I like it" is not the answer we are looking for. Ask questions that guide the conversation. Encourage divergent answers and challenge them. Try these questions:

  • What shapes do you see? Do they remind you of anything?
  • What colors do you see? How do those colors make you feel?
  • What patterns do you see? How are they made?
  • Do you see any unusual textures? What do they represent?
  • What is the focal point of the image? How did the artist bring your attention to the focal point?
  • How did the artist create the illusion of space in the image?
  • If you were living in the picture and could look all around you, what would you see?
  • If you were living in the picture, what would you smell? What would you hear?

Keep your questions open-ended, and record what students say so that they'll have a reference for later. Identify and challenge assumptions. At this point, we are not looking for inferences or judgments, just observations.

Step 2: Make Inferences by Analyzing Art

Once they have discussed what they see, students then answer the question, "What is happening?" They must infer their answers from the image and give specific reasons for their interpretations.

For example, while looking at The Gulf Stream , one student said, "The storm already passed and is on its way out. You can tell because the small boat the man is on has been ripped apart and the mast is broken." That is what we are looking for in their answers: rational thoughts based on inferences from data in the picture. No two responses will be exactly the same, but they can all be correct as long as the student can coherently defend his or her answer with details from the image. When children express their opinions based on logic and these details, they are analyzing art and using critical thinking skills.

Here are some tips to model a mature conversation about art:

  • Give adequate wait time. We are often so rushed that we don't give children time to think and reflect.
  • Ask students to listen to, think about, and react to the ideas of others.
  • Your questions should be short and to the point.
  • Highlight specific details to look at while analyzing art (characters, facial expressions, objects, time of day, weather, colors, etc.).
  • Explain literal vs. symbolic meaning (a spider's web can be just that, or it can symbolize a trap).

Step 3: Create

After thoughtful observation and discussion, students are abuzz with ideas. For all of the following writing activities, they must use details from the image to support their ideas. Here are just a few of the many ways we can react to art:

For Younger Students:

  • Locate and describe shapes and patterns.
  • Describe time of day and mood of scene.
  • Describe a character in detail with a character sketch. Characters may be people, animals, or inanimate objects.
  • Write a story based on this image including a brand new character.
  • Give students specific vocabulary that they must incorporate into their story.

For Older Students:

  • Write down the possible meaning of the image, trade with a partner, and persuade your partner to believe that your story is the correct one based on details in the image.
  • Identify characters and their motives. Who are they and what do they want? Explain how you know based on details.
  • Pretend that you are in the image, and describe what you see, smell, feel, and hear.
  • Describe the details that are just outside of the image, the ones we can’t see.
  • Introduce dialogue into your story. What are they saying?
  • Sequence the events of the story. What happened five minutes before this scene, what is happening now, and what happens five minutes later? How do you know?
  • Write from the perspective of one of the characters in the image.
  • Explain who is the protagonist and antagonist. What is their conflict?

Thinking and Communicating

We don’t know what the future holds for our students, but we do know that they will have to think critically, make connections, and communicate clearly. Art can help students do that. During this year's commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence College, Fareed Zakaria said, "It is the act of writing that forces me to think through them [ideas] and sort them out." Art can be that link to helping students organize their ideas and produce coherent, thoughtful writing.

As you consider teaching writing through art, I recommend reading In Pictures and in Words by Kate Wood Ray and Beth Olshansky's PictureWriting.org website.

How have you used the arts to inspire creative thinking in your students? Please tell us about it in the comments.

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Learning resources

Use art to inspire poetry and creative writing

KS3 (ENG) , KS4 (ENG) , KS3 (NI) , KS4 (NI) , CfE L4 (SCO) , CfE L3 (SCO) , KS3 (WAL) , KS4 (WAL) , KS5 (ENG) , KS5 (NI) , CfE Sen. (SCO) , KS5 (WAL)

Cubism , Pre‐Raphaelitism , Post‐Impressionism , Figurative art , Abstraction

Reading and writing , Literature , Self portraits

Cubist Head (Portrait of Fernande)

Cubist Head (Portrait of Fernande) c.1909/1910

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

About this resource

How can we use art for creative writing inspiration?

This resource suggests ideas for using artworks as the starting point or inspiration for a poetry or creative writing project. 

Use it to explore:

  • poets and poetry inspired by art
  • artworks on Art UK to use as a starting point for creative writing projects
  • suggestions for looking closely at an artwork
  • ideas for planning a creative written response to an artwork

The resource offers opportunities for cross-curricular study across English and Art & Design. The examples of artworks, related poems and activity ideas included in the resource can be used together as a lesson plan or as individual components to integrate into your own scheme of work. The resource is devised for KS 3/CfE Level 3 & Level 4 students but could also be suitable for Key Stage 4 and CfE senior phase students and 16+ learners.

See also our related resource: How can poetry be used to inspire art?

Curriculum links

Art and design

- Evaluate and analyse creative works - Actively engage in the creative process of art - Know about great artists and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms

Reading Pupils should be taught to:

read and appreciate the depth and power of the English literary heritage through:

- reading a wide range of high-quality, challenging, classic literature. The range should include works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries; poetry since 1789.

understand and critically evaluate texts through:

- reading in different ways for different purposes, summarising and synthesising ideas and information, and evaluating their usefulness for particular purposes - drawing on knowledge of the purpose, audience for and context of the writing, including its social, historical and cultural context and the literary tradition to which it belongs, to inform evaluation  - identifying and interpreting themes, ideas and information - seeking evidence in the text to support a point of view, including justifying inferences with evidence - distinguishing between statements that are supported by evidence and those that are not, and identifying bias and misuse of evidence - analysing a writer’s choice of vocabulary, form, grammatical and structural features, and evaluating their effectiveness and impact - make an informed personal response, recognising that other responses to a text are possible and evaluating these.

Pupils should be taught to:

write accurately, fluently, effectively and at length for pleasure and information through:

- adapting their writing for a wide range of purposes and audiences - selecting, and using judiciously, vocabulary, grammar, form, and structural and organisational features, including rhetorical devices, to reflect audience, purpose and context, and using Standard English where appropriate - make notes, draft and write, including using information provided by others [e.g. writing a letter from key points provided; drawing on and using information from a presentation]

Grammar and vocabulary

consolidate and build on their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary through:

- studying their effectiveness and impact in the texts they read - drawing on new vocabulary and grammatical constructions from their reading and listening, and using these consciously in their writing and speech to achieve particular effects - analysing some of the differences between spoken and written language, including differences associated with formal and informal registers, and between Standard English and other varieties of English - using linguistic and literary terminology accurately and confidently in discussing reading, writing and spoken language.

KS 4 - Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating a critical understanding of sources - Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses - Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates an understanding of visual language

English literature

Students should be able to:

- read and understand poetry - respond to poems critically and imaginatively - select and evaluate relevant textual material - use details from poems to illustrate interpretations - explain and evaluate the ways in which the poets express meaning and achieve effects - relate the poems to their social, cultural and historical contexts English Language Writing for purpose and audience Students should be able to: - write accurately and effectively - use an appropriate writing form - express ideas and/or information precisely and accurately - select vocabulary to persuade and/or inform the reader - use accurate grammar, spelling and punctuation Speaking and listening Students should be able to: - communicate clearly and effectively - present information and ideas - use standard English as appropriate - structure and sustain talk - choose and adapt language appropriate to an audience - respond appropriately to questions and views of others - interact with others - make a range of effective contributions - express ideas clearly, accurately and appropriately - listen and respond to others' ideas and perspectives - challenge what they hear where appropriate and shape meaning through asking questions and making comments and suggestions

Studying spoken and written language

Students should be able to: - understand the characteristics of spoken language - understand influences on spoken language choices - explore the impact of spoken language choices - understand how language varies in different contexts; - read and understand texts - understand how meaning is constructed - recognise the effect of language choices and patterns - evaluate how texts may be interpreted differently depending on the reader's perspective - explain and evaluate how writers use linguistic and presentational features to sustain the reader's interest Personal creative writing

Students should be able to: - write clearly and fluently (as well as imaginatively, if appropriate) - organise ideas to support coherence - use an appropriate writing form - select vocabulary appropriate to the task to engage the reader - use a range of sentence structures for effect - use accurate grammar, spelling and punctuation Reading Literary and Non-fiction Texts Students should be able to: - read and understand texts - understand how meaning is constructed - recognise the effect of language choices and patterns - select material appropriate to purpose - evaluate how texts may be interpreted differently depending on the reader's perspective - explain and evaluate how writers use linguistic and presentational features to sustain the reader's interest.

Level 4 - I can analyse art and design techniques, processes and concepts, make informed judgements and express considered opinions on my own and others' work (EXA 4-07a)

Literacy and English

Listening and talking

- When I engage with others I can make a relevant contribution, ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and encourage them to take account of others’ points of view or alternative solutions. I can respond in ways appropriate to my role, exploring and expanding on contributions to reflect on, clarify or adapt thinking (LIT 4-02a) - As I listen or watch, I can clearly state the purpose and main concerns of a text and make inferences from key statements; compare and contrast different types of text; gather, link and use information from different sources and use this for different purposes (LIT 4-04a) - As I listen or watch, I can make notes and organise these to develop thinking, help retain and recall information, explore issues and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate (LIT 3-05a / LIT 4-05a) - I can show my understanding of what I listen to or watch by giving detailed, evaluative comments, with evidence, about the content and form of short and extended texts (LIT 4-07a) - When listening and talking with others for different purposes, I can: communicate detailed information, ideas or opinions; explain processes, concepts or ideas with some relevant supporting detail; sum up ideas, issues, findings or conclusions (LIT 4-09a)

- Through developing my knowledge of context clues, punctuation, grammar and layout, I can read unfamiliar texts with increasing fluency, understanding and expression (ENG 2-12a / ENG 3-12a / ENG 4-12a) - I can make notes and organise them to develop my thinking, help retain and recall information, explore issues and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate (LIT 3-15a / LIT 4-15a) - To show my understanding, I can give detailed, evaluative comments, with evidence, on the content and form of short and extended texts, and respond to different kinds of questions and other types of close reading tasks (ENG 4-17a) - I can: discuss and evaluate the effectiveness of structure, characterisation and/or setting using some supporting evidence; identify how the writer’s main theme or central concerns are revealed and can recognise how they relate to my own and others’ experiences; identify and make a personal evaluation of the effect of aspects of the writer’s style and other features appropriate to genre using some relevant evidence and terminology (ENG 4-19a)

- I enjoy creating texts of my choice and I am developing my own style. I can regularly select subject, purpose, format and resources to suit the needs of my audience (LIT 3-20a / LIT 4-20a) - As appropriate to my purpose and type of text, I can punctuate and structure different types of sentences with sufficient accuracy, and arrange these to make meaning clear, showing straightforward relationships between paragraphs (LIT 3-22a / LIT 4-22a) - Throughout the writing process, I can review and edit my writing independently to ensure that it meets its purpose and communicates meaning clearly at first reading (LIT 4-23a) - I can justify my choice and use of layout and presentation in terms of the intended impact on my reader (LIT 4-24a) - I can use notes and other types of writing to generate and develop ideas, retain and recall information, explore problems, make decisions, or create original text. I can make appropriate and responsible use of sources and acknowledge these appropriately (LIT 4-25a) - By considering the type of text I am creating, I can independently select ideas and relevant information for different purposes, and organise essential information or ideas and any supporting detail in a logical order. I can use suitable vocabulary to communicate effectively with my audience (LIT 3-26a / LIT 4-26a) - I can engage and/or influence readers through my use of language, style and tone as appropriate to genre (ENG 3-27a / ENG 4-27a) - I can create a convincing impression of my personal experience and reflect on my response to the changing circumstances to engage my reader (ENG 4-30a) - Having explored and experimented with the narrative structures which writers use to create texts in different genres, I can: use the conventions of my chosen genre successfully and/or; create an appropriate mood or atmosphere and/or; create convincing relationships, actions and dialogue for my characters (ENG 4-31a)

Art and design - Students use their knowledge about the work of other artists to enrich and inform their work through analysis and evaluation - Students evaluate their work through discussion

Learners should be given opportunities to:

- respond orally to continuous and non-continuous texts - respond orally to a variety of stimuli and ideas, including written and dynamic texts, e.g. paintings, music, film, still and moving images  - communicate for a range of purposes, e.g. recount and present information, instruct, argue and explain a point of view, discuss an issue, persuade, question and explore interpretations, convey feelings - speak and listen individually, in pairs, in groups and as members of a class - present, talk and perform in formal and informal contexts and for a variety of audiences including teachers and peers - engage in activities that focus on words, their derivation, meanings, choice and impact - listen and view attentively, responding to a wide range of communication, e.g. written and dynamic texts, theatre and poetry performance, visiting speakers, explanations, instructions - speak clearly, using intonation and emphasis appropriately, e.g. recitation, oral storytelling - use appropriate vocabulary suitable for the situation or purpose - use appropriate vocabulary and terminology to discuss, consider and evaluate their own work and that of others, e.g. authors, peers

read a wide range of continuous and non-continuous texts, in printed and dynamic format, as a basis for oral and written responses. These should include:

– extracts and complete texts – traditional and contemporary poetry and prose – texts written by Welsh authors, texts with a Welsh dimension and texts from other cultures – texts that have challenging subject matter, which broaden perspectives and extend thinking – texts with a variety of structures, forms, purposes, intended audiences and presentational devices – texts that demonstrate quality and variety in language use – texts with a variety of social, historical and cultural contexts – texts that extend learners’ intellectual, moral and emotional understanding – texts with a variety of tone, e.g. irony, parody, word play, innuendo and satire

read individually and collaboratively, e.g. paired reading, guided group reading, shared reading

read for different purposes, e.g. for personal pleasure; to retrieve, summarise and synthesise key information; to interpret and integrate information; to verify information; to deepen understanding through re-reading; to identify language devices used by the writer to analyse purpose; to identify alternative readings of a text

develop appropriate vocabulary and terminology to discuss, consider and evaluate their own work and that of others, e.g. authors, poets, peers, in written and dynamic texts.

write for a variety of purposes, including to: – recount – inform – explain – argue/persuade – discuss/analyse – evaluate – narrate – describe – empathise

write in a range of continuous and non-continuous texts in a variety of forms

produce poetic writing, using imagery and poetic devices, e.g. rhyme and form

use a wide range of written and dynamic stimuli, e.g. stories, picture books, images, poems, experiences, film, paintings, music

use appropriate vocabulary and terminology to discuss, consider and evaluate their own work and that of others, e.g. authors, peers.

Expressive Arts

Exploring the expressive arts is essential to developing artistic skills and knowledge and it enables learners to become curious and creative individuals.

Progression step 5:

- I can investigate and analyse how creative work is used to represent and celebrate personal, social and cultural identities.

- I can independently research the purpose and meaning of a wide range of creative work and consider how they can impact on different audiences.

Responding and reflecting, both as artist and audience, is a fundamental part of learning in the expressive arts. 

- I can critically and thoughtfully respond to and analyse the opinion and creative influences of others in order to independently shape and develop my own creative work.

- I can purposefully apply knowledge and understanding of context when evaluating my own creative work and creative work by other people and from other places and times.

- I can critically evaluate the way artists use discipline-specific skills and techniques to create and communicate ideas. 


Languages, literacy and communication

Understanding languages is key to understanding the world around us

- I can listen empathetically, respecting different people’s perspectives and can critically evaluate them to arrive at my own considered conclusions.

- I can employ a range of strategies to recognise and predict the meaning across a wide range of texts and from this enhance my own expression and communication.

- I can use  inference  and  deduction  to gain in-depth understanding of complex texts, and can evaluate the reliability, validity and impact of what I read.

- I can use my knowledge of word construction,  grammar , including  syntax , and text organisation to support my understanding of what I hear and read.

- I can read empathetically to respect and critically evaluate different people’s perspectives, using them to arrive at my own considered conclusions.

- I can listen and read to build an extensive range of general and specific vocabulary, and I can use them with precision in different contexts.

Expressing ourselves through languages is key to communication

- I can convey meaning convincingly in a range of contexts so that the audience is fully engaged.

- I can make informed choices about vocabulary and grammar to enhance my communication skills

- I can reflect critically on my use of language and can consider the effects of my spoken, written and  visual communication  objectively.

- I can evaluate and respond critically to what I have heard, read or seen.

Literature fires imagination and inspires creativity

- I can engage with a wide range of literary  genres  in depth in order to explore and craft my own work.

- I can experiment with and craft my own literature.

- I can critically evaluate key concepts and the impact of language choices and techniques on the reader/viewer using an assured selection of relevant textual detail.

- I can appreciate literature, showing empathy when evaluating different interpretations of literature, including my own.

How to use this resource

1. Explore paintings and poetry

The first section of this resource introduces poems inspired by portraits, narrative paintings and abstract artworks.

Choose one or two of the paintings with accompanying poems to explore with your students. Look at the painting first, encouraging students to discuss what it shows and their response to it.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) 1853

William Holman Hunt (1827–1910)

You could think about:

  • what does the artwork look like?
  • is it an abstract arrangement of shapes and colours or has the artist represented something from the visible world?
  • is there a story, meaning or message in the work?
  • what is the mood of the work and how does this affect your response?
  • how has the artist used techniques such as brushstrokes or chisel marks? What colours have they used?

Then discuss how the poet has responded to the painting.

  • What aspects of the painting have they focused on?
  • What type of language have they used?
  • Have they used the painting as a starting point to discuss bigger ideas or themes or to reflect upon issues that are personal to them? 

2. Activity ideas and suggestions

The second section of the resource includes ideas and suggestions for responding through poetry or another form of creative writing to an artwork.

Did you know?

There is a dedicated term for poems inspired by artworks. Ekphrastic poetry is taken from the Greek word Ekphrasis , meaning to describe something in vivid detail.

Elizabeth Jennings and Rembrandt's late self-portraits

Rembrandt van Rijn was a seventeenth-century Dutch painter. During his long career, he painted over 90 self-portraits that record how he looked from youth to old age. (See additional self-portraits on the Rembrandt artist page on Art UK  and watch a video to find out more.)

Rembrandt's self-portraits from old age are brutally honest, showing melancholy eyes staring out from sagging features and dishevelled hair and clothing.

Self Portrait at the Age of 63

Self Portrait at the Age of 63 1669

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669)

Poet Elizabeth Jennings  responds to the self-portraits that Rembrandt painted in later life.

You are confronted with yourself. Each year The pouches fill, the skin is uglier. You give it all unflinchingly. You stare Into yourself, beyond. Your brush's care Runs with self-knowledge. Here

Is a humility at one with craft There is no arrogance. Pride is apart From this self-scrutiny.

Read the whole poem and listen to a recording of Elizabeth Jennings reading her poem

Explore an analysis of the poem

Raza Hussain and Holman Hunt's portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)

In 2017, we challenged five young poets to create an original piece inspired by a painting of their choice from Art UK.

Birmingham-based spoken word artist and rapper Raza Hussain chose an 1853 portrait of Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti by William Holman Hunt . 

Hussain sees the Pre-Raphaelites as rebels who wanted to implement change and Rossetti as 'an iconic and profound symbol of passionate creative madness – the kind to change perspectives – the kind to change the world'.

Find out more about the portrait and Raza Hussain's response to it .

Rowan MacCabe and Ethel Wright's 'Bonjour, Pierrot'

Rowan McCabe is another young poet commissioned to respond to a painting on Art UK as part of the Art Speaks challenge.

Bonjour, Pierrot is an imagined portrait, made in the early 1890s, of the character of Pierrot from French literature. Pierrot has held a fascination for many artists including Jean-Antoine Watteau and Pablo Picasso . The poet Rowan McCabe responds to this depiction of Pierrot by British portrait painter  Ethel Wright and sees Pierrot in the painting as a sad figure, despite his clownish appearance.

McCabe has been affected by mental health issues and, for him, the painting is a reminder that people might seem silly and fun on the surface but can, in fact, be hiding issues relating to their mental health.  

Find out more about the painting and Rowan McCabe's response to it

Explore more paintings by Ethel Wright

Narrative painting

A narrative painting  is a painting that tells a story. The story could be from religion, literature, myth and legend or history. Or it could be a story of everyday life (often referred to as genre painting .)

Poetic responses to Titian's Diana and Actaeon

In 2012, The National Gallery in London invited 13 leading poets to respond to three paintings by Titian (c.1488–1576): Diana and Actaeon   (1556–1559);  The Death of Actaeon  (about 1559–1575); and Diana and Callisto   (1556–1559).   The paintings depict stories from the epic poem Metamorphoses   by the Classical poet  Ovid , who lived   from 43 BC to 17/18 AD.

Diana and Actaeon

Diana and Actaeon 1556-1559

Titian (c.1488–1576)

The myth of Diana and Actaeon recounted in  Metamorphoses tells the sad story of the hunter Actaeon who comes across Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting, while she is bathing with her escort of nymphs. The nymphs try to cover the naked Diana who, in a state of shock and embarrassment, splashes Actaeon. This splash turns Actaeon into a deer and he flees the scene. Tragically, however, his own hunting dogs don't recognise their master and attack and kill Actaeon.

Find out more about the paintings in the HENI Talks video on this artwork page

Patience Agbabi on Titian's 'Diana and Actaeon'

In this video poet Patience Agbabi reads her poem About Face inspired by Titian's painting Diana and Actaeon  (1556–1559).

She imagines the thoughts and response of a Black nymph who is depicted standing beside Diana in the painting and helps to cover Diana from the gaze of Actaeon. 

Hear more poets' responses to Titian's paintings on The National Gallery website

Sabrina Mahfouz and Ludolf Backhuysen's 'Boats in a Storm'

Ludolf Backhuysen 's painting,  Boats in an Upcoming Storm with the Church of Zandvoort  (1696) depicts a large sailing vessel, being buffeted by strong winds as it enters a harbour. Men on shore are pulling on a rope to steady her stern while other smaller boats come to the assistance of the distressed passengers. 

British Egyptian poet Sabrina Mahfouz was drawn to the painting by its depiction of a storm, struck by the fact that something as still as a painting is able to capture such ferocious movement and activity.

Abstract art

E. E. Cummings and Cubism

American avant-garde poet E. E. Cummings  was profoundly influenced by early twentieth-century art movements and the experiments with abstract style that Cubists and other modern artists were conducting. In 1913 he visited the International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York  (also known as the Armory Show) where he saw work by artists including Pablo Picasso , Georges Braque , Henri Matisse , Paul Cézanne and Marcel Duchamp . 

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque's Cubist experiments revolutionised painting. In attempting to suggest the three-dimensionality of objects, landscapes and people by showing them simultaneously from different viewpoints they created fragmented, abstracted images. 

E. E. Cummings was inspired by these fractured artworks and began to explore similar experimentation in his poetry. His poems became visual as well as verbal as he experimented with the form and arrangement of his words. (His poem r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r  is a good example of this.)

Cummings begins his poem, Picasso , with the words:

'Picasso you give us Things which bulge: grunting lungs pumped full of thick sharp mind you make us shrill presents always shut in the sumptuous screech of simplicity'

The poem ends with:

'you hew form truly'

Read the full poem here

Anne Sexton and Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night

Artist Vincent van Gogh is best known for his powerful portraits, flowers and landscapes painted using bold colours and loose brushstrokes that seem to whirl around the surface of his canvases.

The Starry Night, painted in 1889, shows the view from Van Gogh's room in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum where he was placed after a breakdown (during which he self-mutilated his ear). The view was painted just before sunrise and as well as the trees and hills and starry sky that he could see, Van Gogh added an imaginary village to the landscape.

The Starry Night

The Starry Night

1889, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

In her response to The Starry Night,  poet Anne Sexton has managed to convey the powerful emotions as well as the loose abstracted style of Vincent van Gogh's painting.

'The town does not exist except where one black-haired tree slips up like a drowned woman into the hot sky The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars. Oh starry starry night!'

Ann Sexton researched Van Gogh and read his letters before writing the poem and includes, as an epigraph  to her poem, a line from a letter that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother.

'That does not keep me from having a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars.'

In creating her response to the painting she imagines Vincent van Gogh thinking about religion and mortality.

Read the full poem here

See an analysis of the poem

Activity: write a poem inspired by an artwork

Now that you have explored a range of poems inspired by paintings, have a go at writing a poem or piece of creative writing inspired by an artwork.

This activity includes tips and suggestions for finding, looking at and creating a written response to an artwork.

Step 1: find an artwork to inspire you

If you are a teacher, task students with finding an artwork that inspires them as a homework project in advance of the class. They could choose an artwork from a local collection or find one on Art UK.

Use the tips below to find artworks on Art UK.

Search by artist

Look for an artist on Art UK. Start typing the artist's name into the search box on the Art UK artworks search page .

A list of artists will appear. Select the artist that you are interested in.

Screenshot of Art UK's artwork search page

Screenshot of Art UK's artwork search page

You will be shown a list of artworks on Art UK by your selected artist. Browse these and choose an artwork to inspire your creative writing project.

Screenshot of Art UK's artworks search page, showing art by Sonia Boyce

Screenshot of Art UK's artworks search page, showing art by Sonia Boyce

  • Go to the artworks search page to search by artist

Search by theme

You can also type a subject or theme into the search box. This could be anything from 'holiday' to 'celebrity' to 'football'. Once you've typed your theme, click the search icon or press return.

You will be shown a list of artworks relating to the keyword.

  • Go to the artworks search page to search by theme

Another way to search by theme is to explore Topics on Art UK. We have gathered together a selection of artworks related to a wide range of themes from 'home and family' to the 'natural world'.

  • Browse Topics

Search by location

If you'd like to find artworks in museums or galleries near you, use our venue search.

This will allow you to search by UK country and region to find a local gallery or museum and see the artworks that they hold.

  • Search by country, region and venue

Be inspired using the artwork shuffle

If you are not sure what you're looking for (but will know when you see it!), use our artwork shuffle.

The artwork shuffle shows a random selection of artworks in different media from collections around the country.

If you don't see anything you like, shuffle again to see another selection.

  • Inspire me with the artwork shuffle

Step 2: look closely at your artwork

Once you have found an artwork to inspire you, look closely at it. Note down your thoughts about the work and your feelings in response to it.

  • What does the artwork look like?
  • Is it an abstract arrangement of shapes and colours or has the artist represented something from the visible world?
  • Is there a story, meaning or message in the work?
  • What is the mood of the work and how does it affect your response?
  • How has the artist used techniques such as brush strokes or chisel marks? What colours have they used?

In this video, created by The Grampian Hospitals Art Trust , writer Shane Strachan shares some useful ideas for looking closely at an artwork.

Step 3: plan and write your creative response

How are you going to respond to the artwork in your creative writing piece?

Your response could be a poem, a text, a memory or a form of your own invention. As well as what you see in the artwork (the imagery, colours and mark-making or use of materials) think about your own interpretation and your response to it.

  • What does the artwork make you feel?
  • Does it make you think of other things such as memories, places or people?
  • Does the artwork tell or suggest a narrative or story?
  • Are there any details or imagery within the artwork that draws you in?
  • What do the colours, shapes and marks remind you of?

Research and be inspired by others

You could also research the artwork to inform and inspire your approach. Find out more about the artist and their ideas and techniques or research the subject depicted.

Be inspired by the approach of other writers. Revisit the poetry included in the first part of this resource.

Or read creative responses to artworks written by young people for our  Write on Art competition.

  • Write on Art: Ruby Langan-Hughes on The Broken Mirror by Jean-Baptiste Greuze
  • Write on Art: Variaam Tratt on Preserve 'Beauty ' by Anya Gallaccio
  • Write on Art: Aoife Hogan on Childen and Chalk Wall 3 by Joan Eardley

Writing art: inspiration and tips

In this second video from Grampian Hospitals Art Trust , writer Shane Strachan shares ideas and tips for responding to an artwork creatively in writing. He also shares his own poems inspired by artworks.

Watch the video and then get started on your own creative writing project!

Find out more


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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)


What it Means to Sell to the T..

Inspire thoughtful creative writing through art, important factors to consider ...

  • by John McGill
  • Artists Featured Articles Galleries & Fairs Marketing Tips Tips

Klaudia Piaskowska, Unsplash

There are many ways to boost your creative writing performance However, the most effective and sophisticated of them is to inspire thoughtful, creative writing through art. The process listed below is a way to make any creative writing process thoughtful and make any creative text meaningful. Read on to find out how art could influence your writing in unexpected ways to make them brilliant and unlike others.

What is creative writing?

Before exploring the peculiarities of inspiring thoughtful creative writing through art, let’s take a closer look at the term creative writing. Here are some vital elements that define creative writing:

This element can be considered fuel for an entire plot. Usually, readers choose a character to sympathize with or anticipate him or her. And, generally, readers also identify themselves with a particular character subconsciously.

  • Scene and surroundings:

When you tell a particular story or describe something with creative writing, it requires specific settings and surroundings. Depending on the plot, there may be only one scene or several of them. It is always necessary to present to the reader at least one scene that is described very well so the reader can imagine it easily.

This is a core element of any creative writing, be it a novel, a play, a poem, or a book. The plot usually has an ark that sets the whole story from introduction to end. Plots are something you cannot ignore; without them, the entire story is not possible.

Readers must spectate something that is going on between several characters personally or between one character and circumstances. The conflict sharpens everything and makes the plot catching.

Everywhere you go, it’s all about style — and writing is no exception. It is ephemeral but an essential element of creative writing. For famous world-renown authors, their style is the same as their unique fingerprint or signature they leave on their books for fans. You cannot underestimate the meaning of style. For published authors, their style is a reason why people buy the books they create. Compare the writings of Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway, and see the style of creative writing of both those fantastic personalities. The styles are completely different, but you can read their style in each paragraph.  

  • Point-of-view:

In simple words, they, you, or I can tell a story. In other words, in the first, second, or third person. This can be a vital element for some creative writing pieces, and for others, it is not. However, in my opinion, the easiest way is to narrate from the first person, as the personal opinion of the author.

creative writing as an art

Photo by: Sixteen Miles Out, Unsplash

Core elements of creative writing

Assuming the list above, you need to be very open-minded in practicing thoughtful creative writing. It may be challenging at first, but as you progress, you will learn there are stages to creating a well-written piece. Any art masterpiece can be taken as a source of inspiration to activate your creativeness. There are four core elements, combine them and you will be able to achieve thoughtful, creative writing through art:

1. Observation

Art teaches people to observe patiently by slowing down their daily routine to find more profound meaning. Train yourself to compile your creative writing goals with the process of observation. Try to stop and think out-of-the-box when observing a particular piece of art. For example, if it is a painting, try to explore more of the details (if we are talking about paintings). Does the image contain people or mysterious characters, mythology elements, etc.? Depending on what kind of creative writing you are working on, choose pieces that create a particular mood.  

When observing a painting, you need to ask yourself various questions that will stimulate your writing afterward. For example, what are the first five words coming to your mind when you see this painting? How do the color combinations make you feel? How did the artist use a focal point of the painting to draw your attention? If there are some unusual elements, then what do they symbolize? Imagine yourself getting inside the painting, which you are observing. What do you feel about being there? Can you imagine yourself staying here forever? If there would be sounds or smells inside the world you see in the picture, how could you describe them? Write down all your assumptions and thoughts. Be as much open-minded as possible. Do not try to analyze your thoughts and feelings at this stage.

2. Interpreting

Thoughtful, creative writing through art will be impossible without interpreting your thoughts after your art exploration. A good question to ask yourself is “What is going on because of things I   observed?” and “Why do I feel the way I feel?” These two questions lie at the core of the creative writing process, and after you answer them, they will lead you to new plateaus in your creativity. Give yourself time to understand and interpret everything related to the artwork, don’t rush yourself, and be patient with your thoughts and feelings. Think over the reasons and variants of everything you understand as part of your creative writing process.

3. Communicating

Now you are ready to communicate your thoughts to others. It would help if you had a community of like-minded people who are willing to develop thoughtful, creative writing through art the same way that you are. Explain your ideas after completing the stages of observing and interpreting, be open, and share everything you want. Remember that the core of creativeness lies in an open mind and critical thinking. After the previous two stages, people are usually full of various thoughts and ideas, and you’ll likely feel the explosion of more ideas after sharing them. Communication is a key to success when it comes to creativeness. Trying to verbalize what you have achieved after diving into a particular piece of art in conversation can lift your interpretation to the next level.

Arash Asghari, Unsplash

Photo by: Arash Asghari, Unsplash

4. Creating

Now it is time to dedicate time to thoughtful, creative writing itself. Here are some practical   exercises that may be useful:

  • Explain characters from the perspective of the protagonist and antagonist’s ideas; define essential values of their personalities and behavior.
  • Pretend you are not a human, but a tree, a pattern, a piece of art, and describe your thoughts and feelings while playing this unexpected role.
  • Imagine telling the story by another person, not you; how will the narrative change in such a situation?
  • Create unexpected dialogues that could change the whole plot by making an unexpected twist.
  • Describe the behavior of characters through their motives and the prerequisites defined by their previous life experience.
  • Imagine that you have to persuade another person that your beliefs and thoughts are correct.

Using art to inspire thoughtful creative writing is an effective way to lift your writing performance to the next level. Before you start practicing creative writing, you need to understand what creative writing is and which core elements it contains. Among those elements are style, plot, character, scenery, conflict, and other vital parts that define this vast term.  

It can be very rewarding to widen your vision and influence the outcome of your creative writing by using art as inspiration. It is easy to start by simply observing a piece of art, for example, a painting. Recall all the feelings arising in your soul and remember them. Do not analyze anything at this stage. Allow the following stage for interpreting and understanding your feelings and thoughts on the art. Then try discussing and interacting with other people to refine your idea further. The final stage will be you putting it into practice in your creative writing.

About the author:

John McGill is a professional author of a lead paper writing service essayshark.com and creative writing tutor. My hobby is Antic philosophy and a favorite modern author is Stephen King.

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John McGill

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Creative Writing

"Creative writing offers the students an opportunity to explore life’s many landscapes, both outward and inward.”

— Yiyun Li

The Program in Creative Writing offers Princeton undergraduates the opportunity to craft original work under the guidance of some of today’s most respected practicing writers including Michael Dickman , Katie Farris , Aleksandar Hemon , A.M. Homes , Ilya Kaminsky , Christina Lazaridi , Yiyun Li , Paul Muldoon , Patricia Smith and Susan Wheeler .

Small workshop courses , averaging eight to ten students, provide intensive feedback and instruction for both beginners and advanced writers, and each year 25 to 30 seniors work individually with a member of the faculty on independent creative work: a novel, a screenplay, or a collection of short stories, poems or translations. Writers of national and international distinction visit campus throughout the year to participate in the Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series and to discuss their work. The Lewis Center presents the biennial Princeton Poetry Festival drawing poets from around the world. The C.K. Williams Reading Series puts Princeton seniors at the podium alongside a lineup of established guest writers curated by seniors in the program. The Leonard Milberg collections and Princeton’s unparalleled library and archives also provide world-class opportunities for the study of contemporary literature.

Learn more about Program in Creative writing faculty , news , events , & courses .

Upcoming Creative Writing Events

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Fri May 24, 2024 · 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

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Browse the events calendar to see all upcoming events from the Program in Creative Writing or arts partners across campus.

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May 7, 2024

2024 pulitzer prize finalists include yiyun li and ed park.

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Apr 17, 2024

Announcing the winners of the 2023-24 princeton university high school poetry contest.

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BFA Major in Creative Writing

Creative writing and poetry, writers = artists using words to create.

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  • Develop a working knowledge of traditional and experimental writing modes
  • Interpret the world with generosity, intelligence, recklessness, inclusiveness, and awe
  • Comprehend the history of literary innovation, including hybrid and non-Western forms
  • Understand language as a material artistic medium and the fundamental conceptual framework by which we make sense of the self, other people, experience, and the world
  • Embrace failure, risk, and experimentation as necessary to artistic growth
  • Create short collections of work, such as linked short stories, essays, or serial poems
  • Read widely, wildly, and actively to expand your horizons and influence your work
  • Give public readings, including commentary on your inspiration

And that’s just the beginning. By the time you graduate as a seasoned wordsmith, you’ll have sent work out for publication, applied for a writing fellowship, or an online portfolio ready to go. We’ll help make sure that you’re ready to go out and do great things with your craft!

Check out requirements, recommended courses, and more!

Change the world with your words.

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I did not understand the power and the presence behind the act of making poems until I came to the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Here, I am surrounded by people like Brett, Megan, and Matt who do not simply make poems. They create spaces, foreign feelings, and unimaginable sound using only language.

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The Art and Craft of Creative Writing

  • Establish a writing habit.
  • Develop a toolkit of writing exercises.
  • Explore various writing forms and styles.
  • Practice writing and revising.
  • Create a sense of yourself as a writer, including both your short and long-term writing goals.

Quarters Offered: Fall | Spring | Online Prerequisite: None Contact: For more information about this course, please email [email protected] . Note: Fulfills 3 units towards requirements for the Creative Writing Certificate. Non-certificate students may take this class.

Course Number:  WCWP-40107 Credit:  3.00 unit(s) Related Certificate Programs:   Creative Writing

There are no sections of this course currently scheduled. Please contact the Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts department at 858-534-5760 or [email protected] for information about when this course will be offered again.

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6 Amazing Art Projects That Incorporate Writing

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An 8th-grade student walks into a classroom and sits down at a desk. With a freshly-sharpened pencil, the student is preparing to take the state writing assessment. As part of this assessment, the student will be expected to complete a descriptive essay in 90 minutes. This is the writing prompt: “Describe one activity you enjoy.” If you’ve ever had a conversation with an 8th-grader, you know they’d be able to sum their answer up in one sentence! Yet, they are expected to compile a detailed, descriptive essay about a vague topic.

So what does art have to do with state writing assessments? Well, we often teach our students that art tells a story and contains meaning . Art can be viewed as its own visual language. Sometimes a student just needs a really good idea to have something worthwhile to write about. Art can be that good idea to inspire writing!

Today I am going to share 6 art projects that incorporate writing and turn your students’ imagery into a written story.

1. bleezer’s ice cream.

drawing of ice cream flavors

2. Smashing Faces

smashed portrait student example

3. Emotional Weaving

student weaving project

To start this project have your students select an emotion. Then, using the 5 senses, challenge your students to create a written description of that emotion. For example, what does anger look like? What does it feel like? What noises would you associate with anger?

Students will then use their written descriptions as a jumping off point for a piece of art as they depict their emotion through the use of color and line. Finally, students will use that piece of art to create a paper weaving.  To take the project even further, you might want to try weaving together two different emotions!

4. Abandoned Cars

car student example

5. Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry student examples

6. Fan Fiction

minion art

Writing and art can be used together to strengthen each other. Making it a practice to incorporate writing alongside art lessons will only benefit your students. If you’re new to incorporating writing in your art room, start simply. Try out one of the ideas presented here to get started!

What are your favorite projects that incorporate writing?

How often do your students write in your art room?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

creative writing as an art

Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 12 best creative writing colleges and programs.

College Info


Finding a dedicated creative writing program at a school you're excited about can be a real challenge, and that's even before you start worrying about getting in. Nonetheless, there are some great options. In order to help you find the best school for you, this list rounds up some of the best colleges for creative writing in the United States .

The Best Creative Writing Programs: Ranking Criteria

You should never take college rankings as absolute truth —not even the very official-seeming US News ones. Instead, use these kinds of lists as a jumping-off place for your own exploration of colleges. Pay attention not just to what the rankings are but to how the rankings are determined.

To help with that, I'll explain how I came up with this highly unscientific list of great creative writing colleges. I started by narrowing my search down to schools that offered a specific creative writing major. (If you don't see a school you were expecting, it's likely because they only have a minor.)

In ranking the schools, I considered five major criteria:

  • #1: MFA Ranking —If a school has a great graduate creative writing program, it means you'll be taught by those same professors and the excellent graduate students they attract. Schools with strong MFA programs are also more likely to have solid alumni networks and internship opportunities. However, many schools with great undergrad programs do not offer MFAs, in which case I simply focused on the other four options.
  • #2: General School Reputation —The vast majority of your classes won't be in creative writing, so it's important that other parts of the school, especially the English department, are great as well.
  • #3: Extracurricular Opportunities —One of the key advantages of majoring in creative writing is that it can provide access to writing opportunities outside the classroom, so I took what kind of internship programs, author readings, and literary magazines the school offers into consideration.
  • #4: Diversity of Class Options —I gave extra points to schools with a variety of genre options and specific, interesting classes.
  • #5: Alumni/Prestige —This last criterion is a bit more subjective: is the school known for turning out good writers? Certainly it's less important than what kind of education you'll actually get, but having a brand-name degree (so to speak) can be helpful.

The Best Creative Writing Schools

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of schools! The exact numbering is always arguable, so look at it as a general trend from absolutely amazing to still super great, rather than fixating on why one school is ranked #3 and another is ranked #4.

#1: Northwestern University

Northwestern's undergrad creative writing program boasts acclaimed professors and an unparalleled track record of turning out successful writers (including Divergent author Veronica Roth and short-story writer Karen Russell).

Outside the classroom, you can work on the student-run literary journal, intern at a publication in nearby Chicago, or submit to the Department of English's yearly writing competition . The university is also home to a top journalism program , so if you want to try your hand at nonfiction as well, you'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

#2: Columbia University

Like Northwestern, Columbia is home to both a world-class creative writing program and a top journalism school (plus one of the best English departments in the country), so you have a wide range of writing-related course options. Columbia also benefits from its location in New York City, which is bursting at the seams with publishing houses, literary journals, and talented authors.


#3: University of Iowa

The University of Iowa's big draw is the infrastructure of its graduate Writers' Workshop, which is often considered the best MFA program in the country.

As an English and Creative Writing major here, you'll take classes from great young writers and established professors alike, and get to choose from a wide range of topics. This major provides transferable skills important for a liberal arts major with a creative focus. You'll also have access to the university's impressive literary community, including frequent readings, writing prizes and scholarships, and the acclaimed literary journal The Iowa Review .

#4: Emory University

Emory is renowned for its dedicated undergrad creative writing program , which draws the very best visiting scholars and writers. Students here have the chance to attend intimate question-and-answer sessions with award-winning authors, study a range of genres, compete for writing awards and scholarships, and work closely with an adviser to complete an honors project.

#5: Oberlin College

A small liberal arts school in Ohio, Oberlin offers very different advantages than the schools above do. You'll have fewer opportunities to pursue writing in the surrounding city, but the quality of the teachers and the range of courses might make up for that. Moreover, it boasts just as impressive alumni, including actress and writer Lena Dunham.

#6: Hamilton College

Hamilton is another small college, located in upstate New York. It's known for giving students the freedom to pursue their interests and the support to help them explore topics in real depth, both inside and outside the classroom. Hamilton's creative writing program takes full advantage with small classes and lots of opportunities to intern and publish; it also has one of the best writing centers in the country.

#7: Brown University

Brown's Literary Arts program offers one of the top MFAs in the US as well as an undergraduate major . For the major, you must take four creative writing workshops and six reading-intensive courses, which span an array of departments and topics, from music and literature to Middle East studies and Egyptology.


#8: Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University has an excellent creative writing MFA program, lots of super specific class options, and a number of scholarships specifically earmarked for creative writing students. This school’s undergraduate English program also offers a concentration in creative writing that allows students to specialize in a specific genre: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. If you’re interested in exploring your potential in a specific writing genre, Washington University could be a great pick for you.

#9: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT might not be a school you generally associate with writing, but it actually has an excellent program that offers courses in digital media and science writing, as well as creative writing, and provides plenty of guidance on how graduates can navigate the tricky job market.

Not to mention the school is located in Cambridge, a haven for book lovers and writers of all kinds. Though it probably isn’t a good fit for students who hate science, MIT is a great place for aspiring writers who want to build writing skills that are marketable in a wide range of industries.

#10: University of Michigan

University of Michigan is one of the best state universities in the country and has a top-notch MFA program. This school’s undergrad creative writing sub-concentration requires students to submit applications for admittance to advanced creative writing courses. These applications give students crucial practice in both building a writing portfolio and articulating their interest in creative writing to an audience who will evaluate their work. If you're looking to attend a big school with a great creative writing major, this is a fantastic choice.

#11: Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins is another school that's known more for engineering than it is for writing, but, like MIT, it has a dedicated writing program. As a major here, you must take not only courses in prose, poetry, and literature, but also classes on topics such as philosophy and history.

#12: Colorado College

Colorado College is a small liberal arts school known for its block plan , which allows students to focus on one class per three-and-a-half-week block. The creative writing track of the English major includes a sequence of four writing workshops and also requires students to attend every reading of the Visiting Writers Series.

Bonus School: New York University

I didn't include NYU in the main list because it doesn't have a dedicated creative writing major, but it's a great school for aspiring writers nonetheless, offering one of the most impressive creative writing faculties in the country and all the benefits of a Manhattan location.


How To Pick the Best Creative Writing School for You

Just because Northwestern is a great school for creative writing doesn't mean you should set your heart on going there. (The football fans are completely terrifying, for one thing.) So where should you go then?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking at creative writing programs to help you determine the best school for you:

Does It Have Courses You're Interested In?

Look at the course offerings and see whether they interest you. While you can't predict exactly what classes you'll love, you want to avoid a mismatch where what you want to study and what the program offers are completely different. For example, if you want to write sonnets but the school focuses more on teaching fiction, it probably won't be a great fit for you.

Also, don't forget to look at the English courses and creative writing workshops! In most programs, you'll be taking a lot of these, too.

What Opportunities Are There To Pursue Writing Outside of Class?

I touched on this idea in the criteria section, but it's important enough that I want to reiterate it here. Some of the best writing experience you can get is found outside the classroom, so see what kind of writing-related extracurriculars a school has before committing to it.

Great options include getting involved with the campus newspaper, working on the school's literary journal, or interning at the university press.

Who Will Be Teaching You?

Who are the professors? What kind of work have they published? Check teacher ratings on Rate My Professors (but make sure to read the actual reviews—and always take them with a grain of salt).

If you're looking at a big school, there's a good chance that a lot of your teachers will be graduate students. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: a lot of the best teachers I had in college were graduate students. Just take into consideration what kind of graduate program the school has. If there's a great creative writing MFA program, then the graduate students are likely to be better writers and more engaged teachers.

What Are the Alumni Doing Now?

If you have a sense of what you want to do after you graduate, see if any alumni of the program are pursuing that type of career. The stronger the alumni network is, the more connections you'll have when it comes time to get a job.

What About the Rest of the School?

Don't pick a school for which you like the creative writing program but dread everything else about it. Most of your time will be spent doing other things, whether hanging out in the dorms, exploring off campus, or fulfilling general education requirements.

Many schools require you to apply to the creative writing major, so make doubly sure you'll be happy with your choice even if you aren't accepted to the program.

What's Next?

Are you sure a creative writing major is the right fit for you? Read our post on the pros and cons of the major to help you decide what path to take in college.

For more general advice about choosing a college, check out our complete guide to finding the right school for you. Some major factors to consider include deciding whether you're interested in a small college or a big university , an in-state or out-of-state institution , and a public or private school .

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Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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  1. Creative Writing

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  2. Writing as an Art Form

    creative writing as an art

  3. What is Creative Writing and How to Use it for Specific Academic Level

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  4. 21 Top Examples of Creative Writing

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  6. Should you do an MFA in creative writing?


  1. Inspire Thoughtful Creative Writing Through Art

    Step 1: Observe. Asking students to look carefully and observe the image is fundamental to deep, thoughtful writing. Keep this in mind when choosing art to use in class. Look for images with: Many details: If it is a simple image, there's not much to analyze. Characters: There should be people or animals in the image to write about.

  2. Use art to inspire poetry and creative writing

    Step 1: find an artwork to inspire you. If you are a teacher, task students with finding an artwork that inspires them as a homework project in advance of the class. They could choose an artwork from a local collection or find one on Art UK. Use the tips below to find artworks on Art UK. Search by artist.

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  4. Writing Prompts

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  5. PDF Rethinking the Significance of Creative Writing: a Neglected Art Form

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  7. Inspire Thoughtful Creative Writing Through Art

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  8. PDF Art & Creative Writing

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  15. 5 Quick Art Activities to Incorporate Writing in the Art Room

    These art and writing activities are appropriate for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, but you can adjust them for younger and older artists. The ideas allow students to use their imaginations and get creative with their writing and art. 1. Turn handwriting into art (Grades 3-6). Students can incorporate their handwriting into a final art piece.

  16. 6 Amazing Art Projects That Incorporate Writing

    Today I am going to share 6 art projects that incorporate writing and turn your students' imagery into a written story. 1. Bleezer's Ice Cream. This project is inspired by Jack Prelutsky's poem " Bleezer's Ice Cream. " Share the poem with your students and give them the task of inventing their own ice cream flavors.

  17. Creative Writing (BFA)

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  18. Learn Essential Creative Writing Skills

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  19. The Art of Creative Writing

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  21. The 12 Best Creative Writing Colleges and Programs

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