What makes a piece of writing creative? Why do certain genres–novels, short stories, poetry, journalism, even copywriting–get the additional word “creative” attached to them?
Is it because they require the execution of certain forms? Perhaps the manipulation of form, such as the rising and falling action of a story or the line pattern of poems, and a careful choice of words constitutes creativity. But all writing adheres to form; the alphabet, the rules of grammar, etc. Creativity must go deeper than just that.
Let’s consider what the word itself actually means. I turn to the little Merriam Webster dictionary which sits on my desk and watches me write every day. It defines “create” as, “To bring into being: cause to exist.”
Creative writing brings something into being. It causes something to exist.
In his famous essay “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien called this “sub-creation,” the idea that humans make worlds of their own through imagination. We’ve all experienced the effects of this. Novels, short stories and poetry invent worlds and people which become as real to us as our friends and family. I, for one, catch myself thinking of Atticus Finch as a real person, and I swear Hobbiton must be out there somewhere if only I could find it!
Even journalism and copywriting have a sense of creation about them. Journalism takes factual and often mundane events and weaves a world of interest and relevance around them. Reporters don’t just report layoff statistics for the factory down the road; they make the story personal through interviews, and explain the relevance for the community. (For more on journalism and its often-fantastic means of creation, visit Journalism Found Dead Under Mysterious Circumstances.)
And copywriting doesn’t just give information about a product; it creates a need you didn’t know you had, and then creates the idea that this product will fill it.
How about you? What books and stories feel real to you? What characters or worlds come alive? What product advertisement made up the biggest problem you never knew you had?