Think about the phrase creative writing. What images come to mind? A billboard ad? A newspaper column? A college term paper?
There’s the on-the-books definition of creative writing, and then there’s the true, evolving definition. The one you won’t find in a college catalog. The one you won’t find in dictionaries or encyclopedias. The one you won’t even find on the Internet.
Never thought I’d ever say that.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines creative writing:
“Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics.”
This definition of creative writing limits creative writing. News story? Not creative writing. Academic paper? Not creative writing. Furniture assembly instructions? Not creative writing.
But that’s not true. I’ve seen strong narrative craft in a news article. I’ve read academic papers with a fresh approach to the genre. I’ve even laughed at the witty humor of board game instructions.
Often, I’m asked how I feel as a creative writer working in marketing, as if the profession doesn’t allow creative writing.
My answer: Satisfying.
In marketing, I am pushed to use both left brain and right brain. My writing must meet certain expectations for the client as well as reach defined goals for the company (that’s the left brain part). My writing also requires creative conveyance in order to reach those objectives (where the right brain come in).
Because that’s what creative writing really is—being creative.
But what is creativity? The root of the word is “create,” meaning to bring something new into being. Creativity, then, is the process of bringing something new into reality.
That makes creative writing any writing that brings something new to writing. That can be a new story, a new approach, even a new solution to the genre.
So, if any form of writing can be creative writing, what should we call, well, creative writing?
How about narrative writing? The traditional form of creative writing is bestowed upon stories, poems, lyrics, plays and screenplays—genres that use the written word to convey a narrative.
Then again, why limit storytelling to only one label?
What are your thoughts on the definition of creative writing? Share your insights below.