How to Write: What Can Elephant Caregivers Teach You About Creative Writing?

“I really want to go to the Wild Animal Park right now. They have a lot of baby elephants and I want to photograph them before they get bigger. Then I will be able to draw them from my pictures,” my artist sister’s eyes danced and her voice filled with excitement in anticipation of gaining a treasured photo opportunity. So we packed a lunch and headed off for an adventurous day in the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. We timed our arrival at 11:30 a.m. when they let the elephants out to feed them.

Sure enough there were the mamas and babies in the enclosure. The crowd gathered and while my sister snapped away with her camera, the guide started to educate us about the elephants. He shared, “Elephants need to be happy or they won’t live. We do our best to enrich their environment with ponds, rocks, grass and sand.  We choose things to resemble what they would have in the wild. We also vary their food and the way we give them their food. We don’t just put it out there in the middle of their pen every day because that would be boring, kind of like having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day.

The keepers have the opportunity to think of creative ways to give them their food. They keep them entertained by creating puzzles for them to get their food. They will hide it in a hollow log or put it on top of the rocks. They’ll put it on a rope that the elephant has to step on and pull it to them.” The guide gestured over to the arena where the elephants stood.

He continued on, “We also vary what we give them like hay, alfalfa, or Bermuda grass. They’ll chop food and hide it in the hay. Sometimes they bring a watermelon or pumpkin and let them crush it and eat it for a treat.”

Suddenly my brain began to spin with the analogies to creative writing.

5 ideas to apply these techniques to creative writing:

  • Keep your readers intrigued by varying the kind of information you give them.
  • Change the way you give them the same information so they see and understand it in a new light.
  • Hide treats of word pictures, analogies and metaphors in your writing to reward your readers for digging a little into your writing.
  • Create puzzles. Walk them through a maze in a novel or story until they find the reward for reading what you wrote.
  • Surprise them with a new twist in the way you say something.

Try these writing tips. You will increase your writing skills and help you learn how to write well.

Learn from the elephant caregivers and make this a fun creative writing challenge. Use these ideas as writing prompts. You will have more fun and your readers will too!

What do you think? What ideas do you have to make things interesting for your readers?

12 Responses to “How to Write: What Can Elephant Caregivers Teach You About Creative Writing?”

  1. Columbia Jones

    Hi Sharon,

    Great post! Really something to think about and you gave it such a sparking and fun presentation. You are so right about all the possibilities you gave here for keeping your audience intrigued. You should do a course on it! I would be very interested in taking such a program if you decide to do it. And if you do please be sure I am on the list for early notification of the course.

  2. Sharon Gibson

    Thank you for the encouragement Colombia. I love that word, “sparkling.” Thanks. 🙂 You do have a way with words. Actually in the writing course I recently finished, “How to Write for Fun and Profit” I cover some of these. For example, the second lesson, 7 Ways to Grab Your Reader’s attention in the beginning gives you different ideas on how to begin your post. And there are lots of other ways to be creative that I cover in the course as well.

  3. Karen Jordan

    I love the elephant analogy! You said, “Elephants need to be happy or they won’t live.”

    So, true for writers, too. We’ve got to be creative thinkers to stay out of the boredom trap. I’ve also found that photography provides on of those outlets for me, too. Great to connect with you! Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement,

    Btw, I just read some articles by Columbia Jones, who also commented on this post. She’s got some great ideas about procrastination and organization that other writers might find helpful, too. Just saying …

  4. Sharon Gibson

    Karen, You are so welcome. Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. You are so right about the analogy to writers. I can remember at one point in my life when I said to a friend, “This bird has got to sing its song or it’s going to die.” You do photograph too? Awesome. I am glad we connected too.
    Yes, Columbia has some fabulous ideas so I’m glad you discovered her and checked them out.

  5. Patty Rose

    Thanks for sharing this, Sharon!

    I love how you were able to share with us how this personal experience and the life of the elephants could relate to writing. I’ve already learned so much from you about writing from the heart and being authentic in my writing. This is surely another example of how to do just that!

  6. Sharon Gibson

    Thank you Patty for your encouraging words. I’m glad you are learning alot about writing. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Sandra Angelo

    Good job Sharon.

    Creative problem solving is what keeps all creatures energized and growing. When you are green you are growing; when you are ripe, you rot. Creativity is such a vital part of everyday life.

  8. Sharon Gibson

    You are so right Sandra, creativity is essential regardless of your profession. Additionally, it adds the zest to life!
    Thank you for your comments

  9. Helen Raptoplous

    I am inspired, I really am! When I see how you write and really look at it from a few different angles, I get it!! I get what you mean about adding stories and I just LOVE it! You are very talented Sharon!!

    A while back, before we started to move around so much we had a dog and when we would leave him for the day I would leave treats all over the house in hidden places.. I called it leaving him a treasure hunt and I couldn’t wait to return home and see if he found all his special treats (he always did!). I was just reminded of that by reading about how they feed the elephants and I just love taking that idea and injecting it into the content and ideas I share with my community! How fun!! I am really excited to experiment with that!

    Thank you Sharon for being such an awesome and inspirational example of what great and ENGAGING writing looks like!


  10. Sharon Gibson

    Thank you so much Helen for your comments. I love that you shared about hiding treats around the house for your dog. How fun! It adds to the idea of how we can do the same for our readers. Now I am inspired all over again!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  11. Bonnie Burtraw

    Fun Fun Fun, Sharon. Love your insight and sense of humor. GOOD STUFF!!

  12. Dawnita

    Isn’t that just cool! I know someone who does that in HIS writing all the time! The gems and treats hidden throughout the Scriptures are so fun to dig for and the analogies and stories and parables help keep things fun… Great post!