All Writing Is Creative Writing
Cooking shows are quite popular these days. Apparently, audiences love to watch skilled chefs create appetizing works of art before their eyes. My favorite is a game-show style program that pits renowned chefs against each other in a dramatic, televised cook-off. Both are given a core ingredient, which is revealed at the start of the competition. The challenge is to create as many delicious dishes out of that food item as possible within the time limit. Sometimes the ingredients are wild, like eel or alligator. Recently, though, I caught an episode where the main ingredient was potatoes. I was disappointed. Is there a less interesting food item in the universe? But these culinary wizards worked their typical wonders, and by the show’s end, my mouth was watering as usual. It was amazing how those chefs created such a variety of delicacies out of regular old potatoes.
Sometimes students are assigned a writing project that seems as plain and dull as a potato. Just like those TV chefs, their challenge is to turn that potato into an imaginative and delectable work of art.
Probably the most potato-like assignment of all is an expository paper. Expository means that the purpose of the paper is to inform or explain something. Examples of expository writing include encyclopedia entries, most news reports, histories, and business documents.
Understandably, most students dislike expository writing. It is typically a practical kind of writing and unappealing to the imagination — like potatoes. Most of us would rather write a fantastic adventure tale or a description of an interesting or unusual place. Normally, narrative and descriptive writing, along with poetry, are distinguished from the duller academic kinds of writing and categorized as “creative writing.” Expository and persuasive writing is too mundane, too rooted in the real world to be considered “creative.”
But the truth is, expository writing requires nearly as much creativity as narrative and descriptive writing. In fact, making an informative project interesting and readable requires quite a bit of creativity. Everything you write is a unique creation of your brain. Good writing, whether the purpose is to tell a story or explain the structure of a molecule, captures the interest of the reader and communicates with originality and style.
That means you can’t write anything well without some creativity. If your subject is boring, you must find some angle, some illustration, some hook to draw your reader in and grab his attention. The less interesting the topic, the more creative skill the task requires. The chefs on the show didn’t settle for mashed potatoes and french fries. Any two-bit cook could make something original out of cow tongue or monkey brains. It takes a creative genius to amaze food connoisseurs with a simple potato.
Don’t make the mistake of viewing some kinds of writing as inherently more creative than others. Writing well is an intrinsically creative act. If you find your subject uninteresting, find some way to inject life into it. Don’t settle for mashed potatoes and gravy.
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