How would you describe 'creative writing'?

Creative writing classes are full of people who think they must write like a hand-painted china tea set, if they want to be thought of as properly ‘creative’. 

I know this because I’ve attended my fair share of creative writing classes over the years, and I’ve also written my fair share of billowing descriptions that didn’t suit me or my work.

As a writer, using plain, unvarnished language can be a risk, because some readers see that as cheating (hang on a minute… you’ve written normal words I’d use myself!)  Others use it as evidence that you aren’t a creative writer.

A potential client, who is also a budding novelist, mentioned this to me only last week.  “I could never do what you do,” he said.  I grinned self-indulgently, in response to what was surely a compliment!

Then he wrinkled his nose and continued, “I’m a creative person, so I wouldn’t write business copy.  It’d be way too restrictive for me.”

I think that’s a common misconception about creative writing.  It only applies to fiction, and it must scale unparalleled heights of imagination that mere mortals could never hope to reach.

The problem with this misconception is that it can make genuinely creative people feel like impostors.  It also stops talented people from doing anything creative at all, because they don’t feel capable of reaching those soaring standards.

But for me at least, good creative writing is less about flowery descriptions and elaborate feats of imagination.  It’s more about making original connections between different ideas, then expressing them in a way that sparks the reader’s own imagination. 

Stand-up comedy material is a good example of this, such as Jerry Seinfeld’s way of describing the age-old fear of public speaking:

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Rather than just applying to fiction, creative writing comes in many forms… yes, including copy-and-content writing for businesses.  

For example, I’d challenge anyone to compose a light-hearted poem about mortgages or compare the brand values of a tech company with the characteristics of its logo – a furry mammal – without adding generous dollops of creativity.

(I didn’t make either of those examples up.)

It’s also possible to write creative non-fiction.  For example, The Economist is often thought of as a dry, businessy magazine, but it’s full of engaging human stories that describe snippets of life in colourful ways, like this article about virtual travel tips from medieval nuns.

In short, creative writing is much more democratic than people often believe.  

All you need is an open and curious mind, and a willingness to describe ideas that seem obvious to you… 

…because they won’t always be so obvious to others, and that’s how you introduce people to whole new ways of seeing the world.

If you want to test out some creative writing ideas of your own in a safe space, some and join my free Facebook group, The Writing Gym.

I’ll also be running a new Wondrous Writing Hub, my guided six-week course, in September.  If you’d like to be added to the waiting list, let me know.

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