Creative writing was something I always enjoyed as a kid. I’d make up stories, “publish” my own little books, and keep journals for reflecting on ideas and dreams. As I’ve gotten older, writing has become less and less a hobby and more a necessity – papers in college, countless emails at work, letters for clients. Sitting down to a blank page was no longer exciting, it was something to complete as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Lately, though, I’ve had a few spare minutes to devote to writing just for fun… for no one but myself and for no reason in particular. And what I’ve noticed is that writing creatively again has helped me with my not-so-creative writing projects too. Reports are flowing from my fingertips a bit more smoothly, and the how-to guides I’ve been drafting for my fellow non-profit fundraisers are taking on a life of their own.
If you’re in a profession that involves writing – be it reports to stakeholders, persuasive emails to potential clients, or evaluations for people you supervise – consider creative writing as a great practice to help keep your written communication skills sharp. I’ve found that the process of carefully choosing just the right words to put onto paper for my “just for me” writing projects has had a positive impact on my ability to effectively communicate at work – both in writing and verbally.
If you’re interested in dabbling in creative writing but don’t know where to start, I’d recommend writing about a day or event that is really special to you. Drawing on your own experience – something you’ve lived – means you don’t have to worry about creating an artificial story line or drumming up compelling characters. All you have to do is have fun reliving your memory and getting it on paper (or screen). Plus, then you have it recorded so you can revisit it any time you want.
That’s exactly what I did recently, and I figured I’d share the results for those who are interested in what my creative writing looks like:
My honeymoon was the sort of unforgettable, once in a lifetime vacation any Mr. and Mrs. could hope for. And it’s a good thing it was unforgettable because we have zero photos to remember it by – but I’ll get to that later. First, let me tell you about our trip.
My husband and I are vegan, so as we weighed our options for destinations that would allow us to fully celebrate our marriage we also had to consider which accommodations would suit our herbivorous lifestyle. We hit the jackpot when we found an all inclusive eco resort that had – get this – a vegan honeymoon package! Six nights at a Bali-style villa with all meals included in Costa Rica. Their website looked liked it’d been created by a middle schooler with a penchant for Papyrus font, but it turned out to be as amazing as the sales pitch claimed.
We arrived our first night exhausted from the travel and drained from all the emotions that had accompanied our nuptials. Our cheeks still ached from the hours of smiling on our wedding night. But that all seemed to melt away as the concierge guided us to our cottage – our own little slice of heaven. It turns out that in heaven, each couple is issued a private hot tub on a balcony overlooking the jungle.
We drifted to sleep each night on the sound waves of a stream trickling past our room. That stream would make its way downhill, building power and speed, until it became a cascading waterfall – the crown jewel of the resort’s property. A privately-owned wonder of nature.
And the food! Fresh fruit juice was served with every meal in colorful goblets sticky with nectar, as if to underscore the indulgence of each course. The inventive dishes kept our taste buds guessing. At lunch, smooth, earthy peanut sauce tangoed with Indian spices. Come dinner, we feasted like Ottoman kings on stuffed eggplant overflowing with old world flavors and an abundance of toasted pine nuts which, based their per-ounce cost at Whole Foods, made us temporarily as rich as kings too. At least in kingdoms accepting pine nuts as currency, which is the only type of empire I’m interested in ruling.
Dessert would be a divine orange-infused chocolate mousse, or perhaps coconut milk ice cream studded with bits of ginger cookie, igniting zesty bursts of fire to be extinguished by the cool decadence of the slowly melting cream.
But we didn’t just sit around eating – the meals fueled our escapades. From zip-lining to snorkeling to (seemingly) never-ending hikes, we exhausted ourselves in new and increasingly adventurous ways each day.
But the most amazing thing we did in Costa Rica, without a doubt, was the sea kayaking.
On our second-to-last day, my husband and I jumped into a tandem kayak and, alongside our guide and his teenage daughter, paddled our way out to sea and down the sparkling emerald coastline.
Feeling the swell of the water as our tiny vessel made slow progress along its course was unnerving to me. With each rise and fall of the waves, the reality of my insignificance as one tiny human was hammered deeper. The enormity and power of the liquid life form below us – inhaling and exhaling in hypnotic rhythm – a continual reminder that I control nothing.
We worked our way south in existential silence until our destination appeared: a series of soaring stone arches jetting out from the mainland.
You see, when we’d signed up for “sea kayaking through caves” we’d done so from the snug comfort of our sofa. I’d envisioned us effortlessly gliding our way through quiet, reflective pools.
The reality, of course, was quite different.
My imaginary caves echoed only with the gentle drip of stalactite-forming droplets diving into the still water. The real caves roared like the gaping mouth of a lion. My imaginary sea caves were tucked neatly into a coastal crevice, inexplicably impenetrable by waves. The real caves provided a veritable punching bag for the ocean to thrash against, unleashing its fury in endless drunken jabs against the unwavering stone walls.
In broken English our guide explained this was the first day in a month the water was calm enough to pass through the caves. I found this hysterical. To mask my nervousness, I began cheering us on in with near Richard Simmons-levels of intensity. “We got this!” “Straight through the gap – no problem!” “Let’s do it!” This is utterly worthless as 1. my husband is sitting directly behind me, unable to hear a word I’m saying 2. my affirmations are doing nothing to soothe my anxiety-stricken state and 3. I am only further establishing myself as “possibly insane, definitely unstable American tourist” in the eyes of our wonderful guide.
Yet before I knew it we’d paddled through two enormous caves – the echoes of my hollers our cheerleaders (at least to me). Back in the sunlight once more, our guide pointed the third and final cave. The first two caves were more cathedralesque. This cave more closely resembled an attic crawl space: long, narrow, and dark. Emboldened by the “paddler’s high” I’d attained, I gave a vigorous nod of agreement. We should definitely do this! I glanced back just long enough to see a look of queasiness on my husband’s face as we lurched towards the final frontier.
Instead of getting larger as we approached, the opening to the cave seemed to shrink. It was barely wider than the reach of our paddles, and we practically needed to duck as we entered.
Inside the cave it sounded like we were listening to the crashing waves from inside a tin can, and it was about as roomy as one. But the outside world quickly became a distant memory here. And for a moment, I forgot about my fear and instead sensed that a tide of calmness had welled up inside me, filling me from my toes up.
That feeling of calm was so fleeting. It might have been the shortest-lived emotion I’ve ever experienced.
Just then, a huge wave entered the cave from behind us. I’d barely registered the sound of the water before the sensation of being picked up and launched forward made my stomach drop. I couldn’t believe how fast we were moving. We had no control of the boat. The walls of the cave became a blur. We careened towards our guide’s boat, and just as the bright yellow tip of our kayak was about to collide with the violent red of his, we gently drifted backwards.
As quickly as the wave came, it dropped us off and picked up our guide instead.
I had just caught my breath as the second wave grabbed hold of our boat and shot us once more like a bullet through the barrel of a rifle. The third time, the wave dropped us off just as we exited the cave. This was fortunate because as our eyes adjusted to the blinding sunlight we realized an enormous, jagged rock was directly in our path.
Back on the open water we all laughed – me at the fact that we made it out alive, my husband in disbelief, our guide (most likely) at our wimpiness, and his daughter out of delight.
Our journey back to the beach where our adventure started marked the final relaxing moments of our trip, and they could not have been more perfect. To feel so small, so insignificant, had gone from being scary to enlivening me. I felt so full.
And when I think of our honeymoon to Costa Rica, that fullness is exactly what I remember. Not the shock of returning to dry land only to discover our tour van had been robbed. Not the moment we realized that all of our credit cards and nearly all our cash were gone for good. Nor the sadness of losing my cell phone, which – unconnected to the cloud – held all the photos from our weeklong vacation in it’s little plastic clutches. Nope. I just remember the sunburned, shoulder-aching fullness.