Creative writing is like the big tree – majestic, influential, and elusive at the same time. It is both a necessary and sufficient part of American culture, yet it is difficult to define and even more difficult to teach. Creative writing is arguably the most identifiable “brand” within American university curricula, yet it is also the most difficult subject to pinpoint. The varied topics and complex requirements of creative writing make it similar to other seemingly amorphous academic fields such as linguistics and English literature. Creative writing is necessary for any writer to know, yet it is also sufficient in that a well-rounded understanding of the form is all that is required to be considered a writer.
Its Evolution In American Universities
The Study of American literature and linguistics has followed the lead of English literature and linguistics in various ways, beginning with the acceptance of American Studies as a distinct field within American academia. This paved the way for creative writing to evolve into a standalone major, as well as for the subject to gain in popularity among students. In fact, the MLA Handbook states that in 2005, creative writing was the second-most-taught subject in American universities, with over 250,000 students enrolled in classes geared toward this subject area. Unfortunately, this is also the subject area where American education has declined the most in terms of enrollments over time.
The Many Forms It Took
Creative writing is a broad term that refers to a variety of forms and contexts, including but not limited to literature, journalism, and blogging. It was initially offered as a course in English, but it has since expanded into other subjects and now finds its way into virtually all creative writing courses within American universities. In terms of content, creative writing courses focus on a variety of genres including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Students are often required to submit their work for peer review and class discussion. In addition to in-class writing assignments and traditional grading, creative writing courses often include other components such as reading assignments and formal oral presentations. These are just a few of the ways in which creative writing courses differ from traditional literature courses.
Although creative writing is a broad subject area, it nonetheless has an identifiable form that is akin to the tree example above – grand, influential, and elusive at the same time. Creative writing is necessary for any writer to know, yet it is also sufficient in that a well-rounded understanding of the form is all that is required to be considered a writer.
How Should A Traditional Writer\’s Mind Work?
If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a writer yourself or someone who knows one; you’re interested in this topic because it can be helpful to know how to approach creative writing as a traditional writer (a.k.a non-MFA). Let’s start by talking about how a traditional writer’s mind works. Generally, you have a topic you’re interested in and you begin to research it. Once you have enough material, you begin to construct a storyline and you start to write. You continue to add to the story as you go along, rewriting and polishing at every stage. When you’re finished, you read the thing from top-to-bottom and from side-to-side, considering both the story in its entirety and its individual lines. You then make some small changes and you’re ready to begin submission.
The main difference between a traditional writer and a creative writer is, the creative writer’s mind works in a fundamentally different manner. When you’re doing creative writing, you don’t necessarily have a topic you’re interested in – it comes much later, once you’ve amassed a sufficient amount of material. In the meantime, you simply collect ideas and you file them away for when the right topic presents itself. Once you do have a topic, you begin by brainstorming and you collect as many ideas as possible. You then narrow down the topic to a manageable size and you begin to research it. From there, you construct a storyline and you begin to write. It is very rare that a first draft of a creative writing piece is perfect, so you continue to add to it as you go along, rewriting and polishing at every stage. When you’re finished, you read the thing from top-to-bottom and from side-to-side, considering both the story in its entirety and its individual lines. You then make some small changes and you’re ready to begin submission.
If you’re interested in pursuing a creative writing career, the above should provide you with a good idea of how to go about it. While there are no guarantees in life, it would not be a stretch to say that a traditional writer’s approach to the craft typically results in more polished products that are more suitable for publication, as compared to pieces that are produced using a more free-wheeling approach. After all, creative writing is all about expressing yourself in the most authentic way possible, which means that there is no typical approach to this genre, otherwise it wouldn’t be considered creative writing.