TNB hopes to inspire young writers through weekly writing prompts

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

Theatre New Brunswick began posting weekly writing prompts on their social media pages on Feb. 14 to entice and inspire young and old writers alike.

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

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

McLean said the idea originated from workshops TNB puts on for young creatives.

The project initially started when McLean and other members of TNB realized that the COVID-19 situation would not let up for quite some time.

TNB used to hold several workshops to help young writers interested in theatre. When the group began having difficulties meeting frequently, McLean decided to move these workshops into a more bite-sized, online format.

McLean uses theatre as a form of self-expression and harnesses her own personal experiences to inspire her work. She said that with the prompts, she wants 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] get a taste for what that can feel like,” she said. “It’s really just a tool for students to explore their own creativity.”

McLean values free-form creative writing especially because it helped her develop as an artist.

When she was studying at the National Theatre School of Canada, McLean’s teacher would present their class with weekly writing prompts for the students to either write or talk about.

“It was also just so nice to leave behind every other project, every other part of my life for those three hours and get time to write,” said McLean. “The best part was that the writing didn’t have to mean anything beyond those three hours. I showed up wherever I was in that moment and that’s where I wrote from.”

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

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

“It’s easy to read something that’s written well and people seem to think that if it’s so easy to read, it must be easy to write. But it’s a little bit like watching a ballet dancer — what they do looks effortless,” she said.

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