Monday, April 18, 2016

CR's Thoughts from the Oxford Creative Writing Masterclass

Recently I returned from a week in Oxford on a masterclass led by the inspiring Christian author Douglas Bond.

These points have lingered in my mind as a result of my time spent there.

Be inspired by what's around you

Elstowe Abbey 

This was John Bunyan’s church, and traces of Pilgrim’s Progress are to be found everywhere. We saw the field that inspired Vanity Fair, the tower that inspired the castle of Beelzebub, and the small door that was Christian’s escape from that castle's arrows. Then we climbed up the spiral stairs to the roof and saw the inspiration for the Slough of Despond, and peered through the sunlight to see that of the Land Beulah.

I started thinking about the places, people, and unique cultures we writers are surrounded by. It’s tempting to consider them too commonplace to be a source of inspiration, and think we have to go somewhere else or get into extraordinary situations to be able to write truly great works.

The Kilns

The Desk!

We visited the house where CS Lewis lived and saw a picture of his groundskeeper who inspired the character of Puddleglum, then walked to the pond that prompted Digory and Polly's jumping into puddles. A pond as inspiration? Well, why not? :)

Write on location

This links to the previous point. If you can write about a place you have physical access to, your imagination can be sharpened – you can feel the walls around you and the roof above, or the grass underfoot and the breeze on your cheek, and your senses are able to capture the details you might have generalized.

Where are you? Find ‘the special’ there. The most compelling literature doesn’t always happen on Mount Everest or the Sahara Desert or the Pacific Ocean … and if you ever get to travel to those places, your setting-writing-skills will be stronger if you’ve already learned to capture the dance of dust in sunbeams at the bottom of the garden.

Be brief

I'm working on this one! It's easy to be long-winded, but important to make every word count.

There was so much to glean from the trip that I couldn’t possibly condense it all into one post, but I can sum up with three points:

Write meaningfully with vigour,
have Christ as the foundation of your work, not an add-on,
and make the devil hate your pen because of the God-glorifying way you wield it.

(As an aside, I had the opportunity to play the organ in Elstowe Abbey ... and found music for the hymn that is pivotal in my WIP. I relished being able to hear the hymn live for the first time, in an old church, on an organ. Have you had any story experiences like that? Thoughts about the post or points from a masterclass you've attended? I'd love to hear them!)


Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more. 


  1. Thank you for sharing! Your adventure sounds amazing.

  2. You got to go to the Kilns??!! Thank you for encouraging us to see inspiration everywhere. ;)

  3. This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate hearing all the things you learned. I especially love this: "Make the devil hate your pen because of the God-glorifying way you wield it."

    What inspired these authors was very interesting! And how cool that you got your own inspirational experiences! Going to England myself, after writing about it, sounds similar to how you must have felt playing that organ. :)

    Great post!

  4. Thank you all for your lovely comments! My response is delayed as I've had trouble posting comments for a while. Blogger just wouldn't let me do it.
    I'm so glad you enjoyed my little snapshot of Oxford; thanks for coming along for the ride! :)


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