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What Is Creative Writing?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

All writing is creative to a degree. Writers must think of words to use, how to organize their thoughts and how to appeal to an audience. However, creative writing tends to refer to writing specific types of things that include poetry, drama, short stories, personal essays, long and short fiction, and some non-fiction. It goes beyond writing in certain formats like journalism or technical work, and there are sometimes grey areas where writing is both creative and professional.

In many colleges and in some vocational schools people can study creative writing, and they may also study it at the high school level. Those who want to major in this art should expect to do a lot of reading. They’ll read example material from some of the best writers in the world, past or present, and they’ll also read books, texts and guidelines on how to begin or enhance their writing skills. It almost goes without saying that someone studying creative writing will need to spend a lot of time practicing the art form too.

In college settings, students may earn a BFA, or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree by studying creative writing. Some people earn a BA in English literature instead, but have had a primary focus on creative works in their college studies. Students can also progress to the graduate level and there are many programs that offer an MFA or Master of Fine Arts degree in the area of creative writing. Some doctoral programs exist that may offer this study too, though these are still relatively rare.

When people want to write primarily plays or screenplays, they may study for this separately. They’re still likely to earn a fine arts degree but it might be in screenwriting or in drama instead. This can depend on the school, but many people who choose to specialize in one of these areas look for a school that offers this specific focus.

It isn’t always necessary to major in creative writing or in fields like English to choose this as a career. People may come to it from a variety of directions or disciplines. John Grisham was a lawyer before he penned works like The Firm, and J. K. Rowling did her university studies in French. Other writers like Laurie R. King, have studied in diverse fields like religious studies.

There are many potential paths to having a writing career. While some people will go to school to study, others learn by doing, and might take the occasional creative writing workshop. There are many of these located online and in numerous local communities.

It should be stated that some of the most successful writers in the world never took a class on creative writing, but it can certainly help. It is important to have good writing skills, which means at minimum most creative writers need to understand grammatical conventions and the art forms in which they work. They must possess, in general, very strong language skills.

A degree in this field is certainly not a requirement, but persistence is, in addition to being able to take criticism. Most writers are used to having their work rejected, repeatedly. The field is also not one where most will hit the jackpot and make tons of money. Yet many may make a living at least, if they continue to work and submit work, and there are now many ezines and Internet sites that pay a little bit for creative works, in addition to the more traditional publications like magazines and books.

If you are serious about improving your creative writing, consider hiring a private writing tutor that specializes in the subject. A writing tutor can be a great second pair of eyes, source of advice, and person to bounce ideas around with.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon332160 — On Apr 27, 2013

Facility at creative writing demands, first and foremost, a fanatic love of words. There are music, poetry, philosophy, insight, and wisdom in words. The language isn't simply a creation of a great writer; it is a creation of a vast user base. That is why few other things or institutions in the world are as democratic as language. Creative writing is back-breaking hard work, but if you love it well enough, it comes to you naturally. --Nikhil K.

By sneakers41 — On Dec 25, 2010

Suntan12-I think some people prefer formal training and seek a creative writing degree.

Many schools offer an MFA in creative writing. A Master of Fine Art in creative writing will allow the would be writer an opportunity to create a writing portfolio in various writing formats.

This allows the graduate of such a program to seek out writing opportunities and even teach creative writing courses.

The MFA is a terminal degree which means that there is no doctorate. Graduates holding this degree are eligible to teach college courses and many do to supplement their income.

Creative writing is difficult because you have to stay focused and develop tight journalistic standards while developing your creative voice.

They say that children’s literature is by far the most difficult because developing the appropriate voice that will appeal to children is challenging because children can be fickle.

By suntan12 — On Dec 24, 2010

Creative writing ideas really allow the writer to display their creative story or poem in various formats.

For example, if a creative writing course calls for the study of different poetry formats creative writing activities might call for the student to create their own simile poem or an alliteration poem following the standard format.

These creative writing lessons allow the student to understand poetic verse my studying the mechanics and creating their own ideas that are built on that foundation.

There are many online creative writing courses. Even Barnes and Nobles offers creative writing courses for free. Many of these courses are geared toward children’s literature and character development.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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