By David Willett, MEPRA Youth Board Member & Head of Digital at Weber Shandwick MENAT
As I’m sure is the case with many of you, my passion for writing started young. When I was a kid, I used to write made-up stories all the time, Crayola-carved and appallingly written tales of knights, wizards, and aliens exploring distant lands and expansive galaxies. This love for storytelling continued throughout high school and college (I took a few modules of creative writing as part of my degree). I believe this almost certainly led me to where I am now – writing and telling stories for a living.
Today, as a communications professional, I certainly write more than at any other point in my life, but the freedom of expression I enjoyed as a child or a student has been replaced by a more pragmatic style of composition. No matter how much I promise myself I’ll get back into writing for pleasure during my free time, my leisure hours inevitably get swallowed up by alternative pursuits. I’m sure my situation is not unique, though I’m not discounting that amongst my many talented industry peers, there are probably some budding authors with a tad more discipline.
That being said, I was having a chat with a friend in the industry just the other week, who was bemoaning the lack of truly creative writers he’d managed to identify to address a particularly tricky brief. His choices - all competent, intelligent, and accurate authors in his opinion - were missing something: the fickle, flickering ‘x-factor’ of imagination. In an industry all too frequently cited as one with serious burnout, it’s not hard to see why. The act of imaginative writing takes time and both conceptualizing and recognizing a good idea for a written piece requires a lot of practice. When briefs are flying in and clients are clamoring for content, attending to requests quickly and practically can sometimes necessarily be the default mode of delivery, perhaps to the detriment of creativity.
Educating many clients on quality - and the importance of writing persuasive, attention-grabbing copy over the quantity of content published - is always a fight worth having in order to drive better results, and to produce written work you can be proud of.
Aside from time, perhaps the larger elephant in the room we should consider when discussing the merits of creative writing is the move away from written content as a format. Understandably, video continues to grow in popularity as media publishers and social networks look to exploit the increasing preference from consumers for content that is both easier to digest and more ‘immersive’ – with the growth of VR an obvious evolution. But what do we lose in return? Video dictates experience, whereas the written word simply corrals the reader in the right direction. With writing, the experience is ultimately designed by the reader’s imagination – and that can be a hugely powerful tool for crafting a message that resonates because it allows the audience to add something of their own perspective to its interpretation. Good writing can be transportive. As a reader, writing that not only grabs your attention but also, I would argue, that puts your own imagination to good use, has a tendency to stay with you.
To this end, alongside my colleagues on the MEPRA Youth Board, I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new creative writing competition for young storytellers in the region which provides the chance to be published in Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. It’s our hope that the competition helps us all to take some time to reflect a little more on the work we do, as well as share the love for the written word which likely brought us to undertake a career in the sector in the first place. The original short story submission should be inspired by two words - ‘culture and community,’ expressed creatively, be a maximum of 750 words, and come accompanied with a 200-word cover letter explaining the inspiration behind the piece and how it connects with the competition’s theme. Submissions can be made in English or Arabic and come in any form (we’re keen to see how you want to express yourself!). They will be judged by a panel comprised of MEPRA board members, published authors, the editorial team at Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and members from The Emirates Literature Foundation team.
For a full list of entry requirements please visit mepra.org/creativewritingcomp.