Fiction Isn’t the Only Form of Creative Writing

by limebirdvanessa

How often do you hear (or read) people say things like this:

“I enjoy writing my blog, but I worry that it takes time away from my creative writing.”

“I write non-fiction, I’m no good at creative writing.”

“I love creative writing. Writing articles or non-fiction pieces doesn’t appeal to me.”

People say things like that all the time right? And I’m afraid I don’t get it. I accept that the term ‘creative writing’ tends to mean fiction, but that doesn’t mean that non-fiction writing isn’t creative too. When you write your blog posts, or if you write articles for magazines or newsletters, are you just spouting out dry facts parrot-fashion? No, of course not. You are being creative because you are having to use your imagination as to how you present the information, what words you use, how you synthesise the facts, which of your own ideas and opinions you will include. You evoke feelings by giving it a humorous or a sad slant. Do you really not consider any of that to be creative?

While writing this piece, I looked up some definitions of ‘creative’ to see if the definitions supported what I’m saying. The first couple of definitions I found do an adequate job:

‘Relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas’.

‘Anything which you have thought up, or thought of in a different way to others’.

And then I came across something which had been written by Tanner Christensen on a site called ‘Creative Something‘, which I think says it all:

Β ‘Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective. Being creative means taking risks and ignoring doubt and facing fears. It means breaking with routine and doing something different for the sake of doing something different. It means mapping out a thousand different routes to reach one destination. It means challenging yourself every day. Being creative means searching for inspiration in even the most mundane places. It means you’re asking stupid questions. It means creating without critiquing. Being creative means you know how to find the similarities and differences between two completely random ideas. Being creative means you’re thinking.’

But does it really matter whether we classify non-fiction writing as creative or not? I say it does matter. I say it matters because those writers who feel they are neglecting their creative side if they spend time on their blogs, or on other non-fiction writing, may feel better about themselves if they realise that they are still feeding their creativity. And those non-fiction writers who say that they don’t have it in them to do creative writing might realise that they have been writing creatively all this time.

Of course that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

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47 Responses to “Fiction Isn’t the Only Form of Creative Writing”

  1. It made me think, do some people believe that their lives are not creative in themselves? So sitting down and writing in your journal, you’re not creating something, but writing a purely fiction work you are. It makes no sense. I agree with this post.

    • Thanks for your comment Mariella. Yes, and if we really think about it, aside from writing, we probably do a lot more creative things every day than we realise, from cooking, to fixing our hair, to choosing our outfits and accessories. It’s good to reflect on what we do in that way.

  2. I think of my blog posts as creative writing, they’re a sort of replacement for morning pages. I wake up thinking about all sorts of stuff then write it down. It may as well go on-line and have an audience than just stay unloved and unread in a notebook! Even Twitter exercises one’s creative writing muscles, I think

  3. Writing a daily post is part of my daily writing ritual. If I don’t write any poems for a spell, I feel okay and don’t panic because I’ve written SOMETHING.

    I consider my blog to be creative writing because I have to be funny every day and hyperbole is a large part of that.

  4. Great post Vanessa, really got me thinking. I’m definitely guilty of this, especially in my day to day life. I never think of my job as creative writing, but I guess it is! Happy New Year! πŸ™‚

  5. I hadn’t looked at it this way Vanessa, you’re right!

  6. I think creativity, when it comes to writing, is more of a spectrum than a box that any particular piece of writing is either inside or outside. You could claim that all writing is creative to an extent; it all means taking words, ideas, etc and putting them together. And putting them together is a creative action because it is making, creating, something that did not previously exist. But then you look at, say, a shopping list and think well, where is the creativity in that?
    At that point, perhaps, we begin to realise that we use the word ‘creative’ in more than one sense. Literally, writing the shopping list is creating a list from a collection of individual ideas – maybe even ‘ideas’ is too grand a term to use for the items? – but when we talk of creative writing we are actually being more metaphorical in our use and implying more than creating sentences and paragraphs from individual words. we are talking about creating ideas, dreams, concepts.
    So, yes, it is possible to write creatively in the second sense on non-fiction subjects but maybe fiction is an easier, more accessible way to express that sort of creativity?

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments here Rosalie. I agree, I personally wouldn’t think of a shopping list as being creative, even though it is effectively creating something, but I don’t think there’s a clear definite line (or box as you said) between what can be called creative and what can’t. With regard to your last sentence, I think it depends on the person, some people find fiction difficult to write and therefore might find non-fiction an easier and more accessible way to express the sort of creativity that we are talking about. It’s an interesting subject to think about isn’t it!

  7. Great post – I have to agree with you that when folks write their posts they are being creative – if they weren’t, we would probably all sound so similar that blogging would never have taken off in the way it has – so keeeeeeeep writing and enjoy!

  8. I think many aspiring writers – especially younger ones, but they’re not alone – can forget that any time you put pen to paper or start working on a blank page (speaking both literally and metaphorically), you’re being creative. I think working adults understand the concept a bit better, because a big part of many jobs is figuring out how to solve a problem, how to communicate with customers without blowing your stack, that sort of thing. But even we can forget just how creative we are in our daily lives! It’s doubly important for nonfiction writers to get this sort of confirmation, from both inside the writing community and out of it. Fiction writers can become a terribly self-possessed, snooty lot, otherwise! πŸ™‚

    I also appreciate that you’re not just patting us on the back for being “writers” here, either. You say “when you write blog posts” and “if you write articles” – you’re putting the responsibility back into the writer’s hand. Because the only time we’re not being creative is when we don’t pick up that pen.

    …Although, you might say coming up with excuses is being creative, too! πŸ˜‰

    Great post, Vanessa!

    • Thanks Mayumi. Yes, I think a lot of adults do realise that problem solving involves creativity, but maybe writers haven’t made that connection when it comes to blog/non-fiction writing that they are often doing a similar thing, talking through issues, coming up with suggested answers etc.

      What a creative bunch we are eh! πŸ™‚

  9. Valuable reflection Vanessa. For some time I have seen my writings on Learning from Dogs as competing for my creative resources with getting a book properly underway. But this post has caused me to realise something for the first time. It’s my age and outlook that cause this view.

    Blogging stands shoulder to shoulder with book writing. It is a new form of writing. Indeed, when one reflects on the huge number of just WordPress users we may be living in a period of the greatest expansion in writing since the quill pen!

    Blast! Just tipped my inkwell over!

    • Thank you Paul. You’re so right, a lot of time people knock technology and talk about the demise of handwriting and book reading etc, but actually there are probably a lot more people writing creatively now than there ever was before! Maybe we need to move on a bit from the nostalgia and recognise how great it is that so many people are now expressing themselves through words.

  10. This is very helpful for me, Vanessa. I admit I am guilty of blaming my blog as part of the reason I can’t get to my novel as often as I’d like. It’s not that I don’t think I’m being creative when I blog (or write anything, for that matter), but that I’m not specifically working on my novel. However, I do feel like I’m ‘wasting’ valuable time and energy on my blog when I could be spending that time and energy on my novels or short stories. And that’s a problem I need to fix.

    Perhaps it would help to switch my way of thinking and remember that any form of writing is valuable in the overall art of creative writing. Just like painters probably benefit from learning how to sculpt or use pastels, a fiction writer can learn a lot from non-fiction writing.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Yes, actually Kate, you were one of the people who inspired this post, because I’ve seen you say similar things to the examples I started this post with! Obviously if we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve, then we still need to make decisions about where we focus our creativity, but I don’t think we should think of those other writing outlets as time-wasting. If this post has helped you in some way, then I’m very glad!

  11. Good post–I definitely suffer from this one. While the blog and my freelance writing keeps my writing skills fresh, the time away from my WIP gets me off-track from that particular story… and it keeps it out of my mind. I guess that’s what I (and maybe Kate?) mean.

    Any writing is a creative, instructive, constructive process that can only make you a better writer. That, and I enjoy interacting through blogs. It’s been fun! ; )

    • Thanks Anne. Yes, it can be frustrating when we feel that blogging keeps us from our WIPs, but if we at least recognise that we are still being creative, maybe we can be a little less hard on ourselves!

  12. Good point. I guess there’s very little writing that can be truly called non-creative. Even historic accounts can be creative – someone famously said “History is written by the victor” (possibly Orwell?).

  13. Loved this post. I have included it amongs the recommended articles in my latest post titled Blogging and writing a book; a match made in Heaven or Purgatory?
    I started a blog because I was craving a creative space for myself. I found I had lost it just after having kids…strange isn’t it? My mind went blank for years. I tested myself every now and again by looking at the clouds in the sky and asking myself what they looked like. Nothing for years, clouds looked like…clouds. And then this year they didn’t! Ducks, elephants crocodiles, tigers, plates and pots were back in the sky and I knew it was time to be creative. Writing a blog is creative: it’s my own creative corner, and now writing a fiction book for tween boys is even more creative.
    Love your blog. Please keep up your good work!
    ofglassandbooks

    • Thank you so much for your comments, and for including it as a recommended article. I love how you used the clouds as a measure of whether you were able to be creative, that’s such a lovely story! It’s true, having kids can do that to you for a while because, quite rightly, everything becomes about them, but as they get older you can get back to being creative. Happy blogging!

  14. All fiction is creative writing, but not all creative writing is fiction. How’s that for a logical take on creativity? πŸ˜‰ I absolutely agree with you on this. Of course, writing for the blog takes time away from my novels, as Kate and Anne also noted. And I need to spend more time with the novels than I do. So something has to change!

  15. I definitely agree! When I write a movie review to podcast, or an article for Limebird, I do feel that I am being creative. It is different to fiction but I do feel that it has to have its own voice.

    Every now and then I will write a ‘Twitterlude’, a poem or story in 140 characters, and I feel a lot of satisfaction when I have managed to be particularly creative…

    There are so many ways to be creative; and, as they say, a change is as good as a rest!

    • Indeed. I would question how creative someone is being if they only create one type of thing! I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, but I do think creativity needs to be expressed in lots of different ways in order for it to be exercised properly.

  16. I am guilty of thinking this way as well, that writing my blog or in my personal journal isn’t “creative”, but you’re totally right with everything you’ve said here! Great first post of the new year πŸ˜€

  17. Thank you for cheering me up. I’ve just suffered through a downpour of fiction rejections, so my creative fiction self was feeling singularly uncreative. Clearly, I need to widen the diameter of my hat to include both my fiction and nonfiction selves so we can laud each others successes and dampen the pain of rejection.

  18. I hear a lot of those statements, too, and I find them inexplicable. Those who want a career in writing must be versatile in their skills and open-minded in their pursuit of work. Speaking in absolutes does little more than extinguish opportunity.

  19. Very empowering post, Vanessa. Yes, every time I write, I feel creative. I write mostly truth from my life, but I write it in a way no one else could ever write it and I see that “truth” in a way no one else would ever see it. If that isn’t creative, what is?

  20. Agree totally. Was thinking about this just the other day… last year, in fact! Everything we write (as opposed to plagiarising or photo copying) is creative to a certain extent. And I think it’s that extent people like us want to increase.

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