In today’s world, everyone has a voice – and everyone is a potential author. Thanks to the internet and social media, it is now easier than ever for writers to achieve success. Even those with mild cases of anxiety or depression can put pen to paper and share their innermost thoughts and feelings with the world. All it takes is a bit of courage and a good sense of narrative structure.
What is creative writing?
Creative writing is the process of telling a story through written or spoken words. Writers who subscribe to a particular ideology often view their work as a form of political or social commentary, although this is not necessarily the case. For instance, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling is a children’s book about a boy named Harry who discovers he has extraordinary magical powers.
While the story itself is fiction, the author’s explicit intention was to expose readers to a range of social issues such as prejudice, identity, and witchcraft. Rowling even goes so far as to state that her work is her form of protest against the ‘tyranny’ of the English language – a sentiment common to all serious writers.
The Many Forms Of Creative Writing
Although creative writing can be considered a singular discipline, it actually encompasses a wide array of sub-genres. The specific area of expertise that you will acquire through a writing course will depend on your personal interests and strengths. A few of the most popular sub-genres within the field are listed below.
Fiction is probably the most recognizable form of creative writing. The story tends to be based on a series of events that the author re-invented or recreated through their imaginative powers. Think of the grandaddy of them all, William Shakespeare, and you will know what I mean. With fiction, you are free to explore any genre you please. It is very unlikely that anyone will ever know or care that much about your precise area of expertise – as long as you can bring life to your characters and sustain their interest, you will be able to claim success as a fiction writer.
Non-fiction is probably the most popular form of creative writing amongst academics. The story tends to revolve around an in-depth study of a particular subject, such as art, architecture, or fashion. You will learn a lot from a university perspective, and you will certainly acquire the tools to be able to write non-fiction. However, I wouldn’t recommend getting a degree in non-fiction if your ultimate goal is to be a creative writer – most university writing programs do not offer enough structure and guidance to enable you to make the transition successfully. A good alternative would be to become a freelance writer for a corporate or academic publication. You will find many such publications online, seeking original content for their articles.
Short stories are usually comedic in nature and can be extremely satirical or witty in nature. They are relatively simple narratives, usually with restricted vocabulary and a light narrative pace. The focus is typically on the characters and their interior monologues. An excellent example of a short story is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It is a darkly comic take on the Holocaust where the main character, Max, obsesses over the outcome of a lottery ticket. While the short story form has largely been used for comedic purposes in the past, it is now utilized much more frequently in sub-genres such as dark humor and speculative fiction, where it can serve as a vehicle for exploring serious issues in a humorous manner. While this approach may be effective when used by talented writers, it can also result in serious writers suffering from burnout, as they have to continually churn out high-quality work at a rapid pace.
Essays And Reportage
An essay is a formal piece of writing that usually serves as a commentary on a particular subject. An essayist will often cite sources and deliver a coherent argument, supported by facts and reason. The narrative will often be structured around a series of viewpoints that the author presents in a balanced manner. While it is not strictly speaking creative writing, the term “creative essay” is often used interchangeably with “creative writing”. Some of the most prominent essayists include;
- George Orwell
- Mark Twain
- Oscar Wilde
- William Makepeace Thackeray
- Joseph Conrad
- Henrik Ibsen
- William Shakespeare
- William Hazlitt
- John Stuart Mill
- Robert Louis Stevenson
- Henry David Thoreau
- Jane Austen
- Charlotte Brontë
- Emily Dickinson
- George Bernard Shaw
- Eduard von Spacka
- Franz Kafka
An essayist’s work can be highly structured, with clear arguments and a narrative arc that advances towards a definitive conclusion. While this approach may be effective in presenting a complex subject in a clear and concise manner, it can also become tiring and repetitive for the author. In a perfect world, an essayist would only have to write one essay and then go on to write another – but the world is rarely that simple. For instance, it is very unlikely that anyone will ever read “The Anatomy Of A Nudist Beach” by William Makepeace Thackeray, but it probably saved his life, as it presented him with the platform to build his reputation as a serious writer. He went on to write the classic “The Book of the Right” which is still considered one of the greatest pieces of sociological analysis in the English language.
With the exception of the short story, which I have already mentioned, all of these sub-genres can be found within the field of creative writing. The sky is the limit as to what you can do with creative writing, as long as you have a good storyteller’s instinct and the ability to bring characters to life via strong writing. If you have both of these qualities, then you are more than capable of carving out a niche for yourself in this flourishing industry.
The main thing to keep in mind is that there are many different paths to literary stardom. As long as you are able to tell a good story, with a bit of luck, you will be able to land yourself a six-figure salary very quickly.