What is creative writing anyway?

When many people think of the term ‘creative writing’ they automatically think of fiction writing: novels, short stories, and sometimes, poetry. But can’t non-fiction be creative too? And, if so, what constitutes creative non-fiction? For example, should this blog post be classified as merely my way of transmitting facts to my readers, about writing, etc? Or is it more than that? And what does the term ‘non-fiction’ mean anyway? If non-fiction is always meant to be factual, then shouldn’t the term reflect that?

Recently I’ve been reading a book called Writing Creative Non-Fiction: Determining the Form, edited by Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei (both graduates of University of Glasgow). The book is a collection of essays exploring what it means to write non-fiction. In their introduction they talk about the creativity which is necessarily inherent in all types of writing, even criticism. I have to say that I found this to be refreshing. Even though I predominantly write fiction, I also enjoy writing reflective (and yes, critical) essays sometimes, and think these can be just as creative and enjoyable to write as a short story (although perhaps they are more difficult to sell). In the past I have rarely done anything with the essays I’ve written, believing them to be ‘non-creative’ and therefore ‘just something I’ve written for myself.’

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One argument I’ve heard many fiction writers make, and indeed which I myself have made, is that by writing fiction we can explore the inherent truth of an event or a series of events in our lives in a way that non-fiction would not allow, because writing a non-fiction piece would necessarily require remaining true to the facts. By fictionalising something we can keep the emotional essence while changing the details around.

But is there any reason why this could not be done in non-fiction too?  As the back of the book jacket says: ‘Whether we tell stories and understand them as fiction or non-fiction, or whether we draw away from these classifications, writers craft and shape writing—all writing. No experience exists on a flat plane, and recounting or interpreting events will always involve some element of artistic manipulation: every instance, exchange, discussion, event is open to multiple interpretations and can be described in many ways, all of which are potentially truthful.’

Perhaps now that these writers have set the record straight about what constitutes creative writing, we can be free to explore further possibilities for ‘non-fiction’—whatever that means–in our writing.

If you’d like to read their book, you can get a copy from Amazon by following this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writing-Creative-Non-Fiction-Determining-Form/dp/1780240244

How about you? What do you think constitutes creative writing? What kind of writing do you mostly do, and why? If you are a fiction writer, have you ever tried writing non-fiction, and if so, what has been your experience of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do leave a comment.

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8 thoughts on “What is creative writing anyway?

  1. Thanks for this interesting post which is relevant to the work in progress I’m grappling with at the moment. I recently completed a degree in Literature with creative writing and one comment I often got from tutors when submitting a literature essay was. ” I can tell you’re one of the creative writers.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I guess ithe “voice ” slips through or we see things from a slightly different perspective whilst sticking to the facts. I will be checking out the book it looks like the guidance I need!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Trina, Your degree, and approach to it, sound interesting. I find it intriguing how the tone of an author’s ‘voice’ can change depending on what they’re writing. This is especially interesting to see when reading authors who write both fiction and ‘non-fiction’, such as Garrison Keillor or David Lodge. I hope you enjoy the book. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Marianne,
    Thanks! And thanks for your comment too. 🙂 I agree completely. I find it so interesting to discover the different ‘spins’ that writers put on their writing in order to engage with their readership, no matter if what they are writing is truthful, fictional or a mix of the two. You’re right too that it’s all about creativity. I hope you enjoy the book. Have a great weekend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Kendra, very interesting piece – and very creative ;o) I agree, I think all writers put a “spin” on their writing whether the writing is fiction or factual, to make it interesting to read. The more creative we are, the more ‘spin’ we can get away with.That sounds a tad cynical but its not meant to be. We writers want people to read our writing. For that to happen we have to fashion our words and sentences to make them engaging. The more creative we are, the greater the chance we will engage the reader. As for the truth, i think it can be explored and represented and misrepresented in many ways in writing. Great post! And thanks for book tip 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Kendra…

    I enjoyed your blog post,,, I think all writing is creative in some ways, even non-fiction. I’ve wrote short pieces of events that has happened truthful events,,, But when reading them back found that there was a lot of creatively in the way I told what happened,,, But mostly I write fiction because I enjoy following my characters and writing their truths…

    I hope you’re having an amazing Thursday,,,

    Take care..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Katie,
      I think you’re right in that it is the way something is told which determines whether or not it is creative, and not what type of writing it is.
      It is fun writing fiction too, and following where our characters–and their stories–lead us.
      Thanks for your comment. And I hope you’re having a wonderful Thursday too. 🙂


  5. Hi Kendra,
    Interesting post. I don’t know if you’ve read any
    David Foster Wallace but he wrote fiction, creative non fiction, essays, journalism pieces, and even a book on rapping as well as a mathematical book. After his death, and as details of his life have emerged you can see how he took elements he was grappling with such as depression, addiction and loneliness into all of his work
    Personally, I like writing articles that are 100% truthful, as they are such a contrast from everything else. It requires different skills, but I’m finding it a good way of keeping writing when I’m in between projects,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Ruth, I’ve read a little of his work, but not enough. He sounds like a very dynamic writer to have covered so many different genres and topics. I find it intriguing that he’s also written a book on mathematics as there tends to be a somewhat unnatural divide between math/science and the creative fields/humanities I think. I look forward to exploring his work further when I’ve finished my MA. Thanks for bringing him to my attention, and also for your comment! 🙂 Oh yes, and you’re right, truthful articles are such a contrast to what we normally read these days, so it’s important to hone those skills as well.
      Good luck with all of your writing, both fiction and non-fiction!

      Liked by 1 person

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