What is creative writing?
What is creative writing?

What is creative writing?

Senior economist and creative writing enthusiast, it says on my LinkedIn profile. Economist I have had up there for over a decade; creative writing enthusiast I added a couple of weeks ago. After I published my first blog post last week, laying out some of the health benefits of expressive writing, my (economist) colleague wrote to ask: What is creative writing? Thanks for asking, Olivier. Here is my attempt at an answer.

Creative writing is so much fun!

„We are trained to self-doubt, to self-scrutiny in the place of self-expression.“ Does this quote resonate with you? Most people I know dread the process of writing. It brings up unwelcome memories from school or pulling hair trying to sound smart in your emails or reports.

First things first: creative writing is about having fun! Your imagination can run wild. The writing process, not the product, is the focus. Process not product – that is the biggest difference to academic writing or technical writing (as an economist, for example).

Long-held beliefs are hard to change with words. I suggest you try it out for yourself and experience the joy of writing, without any purpose in mind. I have created a mini-series of five writing prompts that only take 15 minutes a day. What makes your stomach flutter? Try it out from the comfort of your home!

Click here to get started with inspirational writing prompts 

„We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul.“

Creative writing means you can use the process of writing to access deeper insights into life

One of my favorite books on writing is The Right to Write, from Julia Cameron. I have already quoted her twice above. My other favorite is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. In her chapter „getting started“, she writes: „The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a writing workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.“

As I laid out in my previous blog, expressive writing (which puts more emphasis on feelings than events or memories) can lead to tangible health benefits. Through the writing process we bring emotions and memories to the fore that would not be accessible to us through rational thinking. This takes practice, and there are a number of techniques that can help getting into the writingflow.

Creative writing has many forms

I embarked on my creative writing experience when I was deeply exhausted from the demands of day-to-day life with a family and a demanding full-time job. I wasn’t intending on writing a fiction or non-fiction book (let alone poetry or a screenplay). I was simply drawn into the possibility of doing something fulfilling and relaxing. And I got what I paid for, big time!

I recall that moment during my third writing workshop, called memoir intro, when the amazing Ana Znidar at the writer’s studio in Vienna gave us a writing prompt that was as simple as „and then they met in the staircase“. I put pen to paper and my imagination ran wild. After 25 minutes I had written three quick pages about the first time my father and my (future) stepmother met – in the staircase, where else?

The moment I read my pages out loud for my fellow writers I knew that I wanted to write a memoir (a non-fiction narrative based on my personal memories and stories). It doesn’t matter that I was one year old when my father and my stepmother met, because I carry that story in me and I can put it on the page – my way.

Creative writing encompasses different genres and styles – I already mentioned fiction and non-fiction – for example memoir, but there is also poetry and (screen)play. All the fun stuff, outside the more formal scope of academic or technical writing. But creative writing is not void of technique, which you need for story and plot development, character development, etc. To me, creative writing is personal, it is based on experience and emotion. It makes me getting up at 5 am to write this blog. It is passion!


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Photo: Romana Maalouf Photography

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