The short answer: It’s both. But which is better? Creative writing or English?
For years, creative writing was seen as ‘less’ academic than other subjects. After all, it is widely accepted that no two creative writers are ever truly alike. But while this may be true, the skills that you learn as a creative writer will help you in your academic pursuit. In fact, creative writing can even be seen as an ‘accessory’ to your studies in English. So which should you learn first? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Creative Writing?
Creative writing is the art of writing creatively. This could mean that you are commissioned to write a brand new story or you are simply asked to write an article incorporating existing themes or ideas. In either case, you will be given some directions, but the opportunity to develop your own ideas is what makes this process special. It is also the route to both personal and professional growth. And what’s not to like?
As you might imagine, creative writing could incorporate a variety of forms. It might be a short story, an essay, or even a piece of non-fiction. It could be in rhyme or in rhythm, and might reflect your own experiences or the life stories of individuals you have encountered. There are many different approaches to creative writing, and the only limit is your imagination. Creative writing is often associated with literature, but this is not always the case. For example, journalism and advertising are also forms of creative writing, as is performing arts, such as poetry and theatre. It is also used in business, science, and even math, as pseudoscientific theories and mathematical models are both forms of creative writing.
Why Study Creative Writing at University?
In the English-speaking world, creative writing is considered part of the ‘creative arts’, alongside disciplines such as painting and sculpture. It is seen as a valuable skill that allows you to both express your thoughts and feelings in a creative manner, and also allows you to connect with and understand the stories, ideas, and themes of literature. Because of this, studying creative writing at university can even be seen as a form of English study. It also provides you with the opportunity to pursue your creative side, while also broadening your mind through exposure to different texts and ideas.
Should You Study English or Creative Writing at University?
While creative writing is a skill that can be highly valued both in and out of academia, it is not something that you necessarily need to study at university. English, on the other hand, is a subject that you will need to study at least until you graduate from college (or university). This is something that will be of great value to you, whether you decide to go on to graduate studies or enter the workplace. You should not underestimate the value of English at a later stage in your life, especially if you decide to follow a job in a technical field. An English literature degree will certainly be of value in your early career, but a degree in creative writing will not hurt your case either. What is more, many literature degrees incorporate significant study in other languages, such as French, Spanish, or Latin. So even if you decide that you would like to specialize in English literature, you will still need to do some homework in other languages.
How is Creative Writing Different from Other Forms of Writing?
Although creative writing is closely associated with literature, this form of writing differs from more traditional methods in a number of ways. First of all, in creative writing, you will not be teaching yourself how to write. Rather, you will be learning how to think and how to connect ideas and events in an artistic manner. Second, the texts that you will be studying are not necessarily literature. This also means that you will not necessarily be required to study a single text deeply. Third, in creative writing, you will not be following any particular formula, or writing a straight, factual account of events. This form of writing often incorporates elements of fiction, and it is up to you to decide how much of this you want to include.
These are just some of the differences between traditional and creative writing, but it is important to remember that they exist. Creative writing is not a one-way street to becoming a professional author. Many students decide that this is not the route that they want to take, and so end up becoming academic researchers or journalists. Like any other skill, creative writing can be learned and polished through practice. But at its core, it is about breaking out of the mould and being unique.