Creative writing

Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. Both fictional and non-fictional works fall into this category, including such forms as novels, biographies, short stories, and poems. In the academic setting, creative writing is typically separated into fiction and poetry classes, with a focus on writing in an original style, as opposed to imitating pre-existing genres such as crime or horror. Writing for the screen and stage—screenwriting and playwriting—are often taught separately, but fit under the creative writing category as well.

Creative writing can technically be considered any writing of original composition. In this sense, creative writing is a more contemporary and process-oriented name for what has been traditionally called literature, including the variety of its genres. In her work, Foundations of Creativity, Mary Lee Marksberry references Paul Witty and Lou LaBrant’s Teaching the People's Language to define creative writing. Marksberry notes:

Witty and LaBrant…[say creative writing] is a composition of any type of writing at any time primarily in the service of such needs as
  1. the need for keeping records of significant experience,
  2. the need for sharing experience with an interested group, and
  3. the need for free individual expression which contributes to mental and physical health.[1]

In academia

Unlike its academic counterpart of writing classes that teach students to compose work based on the rules of the language, creative writing is believed to focus on students’ self-expression.[2] While creative writing as an educational subject is often available at some stages, if not throughout, K–12 education, perhaps the most refined form of creative writing as an educational focus is in universities. Following a reworking of university education in the post-war era, creative writing has progressively gained prominence in the university setting. In the UK, the first formal creative writing program was established as a Master of Arts degree at the University of East Anglia in 1970 [3] by the novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson. With the beginning of formal creative writing programs:

For the first time in the sad and enchanting history of literature, for the first time in the glorious and dreadful history of the world, the writer was welcome in the academic place. If the mind could be honored there, why not the imagination?[4]

Programs of study

Creative Writing programs are typically available to writers from the high school level all the way through graduate school/university and adult education. Traditionally these programs are associated with the English departments in the respective schools, but this notion has been challenged in recent time as more creative writing programs have spun off into their own department. Most Creative Writing degrees for undergraduates in college are Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees (BFA). Some continue to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, the terminal degree in the field. At one time rare, PhD. programs are becoming more prevalent in the field, as more writers attempt to bridge the gap between academic study and artistic pursuit.

Creative writers typically decide an emphasis in either fiction or poetry, and they usually start with short stories or simple poems. They then make a schedule based on this emphasis including literature classes, education classes and workshop classes to strengthen their skills and techniques. Though they have their own programs of study in the fields of film and theatre, screenwriting and playwriting have become more popular in creative writing programs, as creative writing programs attempt to work more closely with film and theatre programs as well as English programs. Creative writing students are encouraged to get involved in extracurricular writing-based activities, such as publishing clubs, school-based literary magazines or newspapers, writing contests, writing colonies or conventions, and extended education classes.

Job options

Jobs directly related to a degree in creative writing include:

  • Advertising copywriter
  • Arts administrator
  • Creative director
  • Digital copywriter
  • Editorial assistant
  • Lexicographer
  • Magazine journalist
  • Newspaper journalist
  • Web content manager
  • Writer

Jobs indirectly related include:

  • Academic librarian
  • Film director
  • Information officer
  • Marketing executive
  • Primary school teacher
  • Public librarian
  • Public relations officer
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Social media manager

In the classroom

Creative writing is usually taught in a workshop format rather than seminar style. In workshops students usually submit original work for peer critique. Students also format a writing method through the process of writing and re-writing. Some courses teach the means to exploit or access latent creativity or more technical issues such as editing, structural techniques, genres, random idea generating or unblocking writer's block . Some noted authors, such as Michael Chabon, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kevin Brockmeier, Ian McEwan, Karl Kirchwey,[5] Rose Tremain and reputed screenwriters, such as David Benioff, Darren Star and Peter Farrelly, have graduated from university creative writing programs.

Controversy in academia

Creative writing is considered by some academics (mostly in the USA) to be an extension of the English discipline, even though it is taught around the world in many languages. The English discipline is traditionally seen as the critical study of literary forms, not the creation of literary forms. Some academics see creative writing as a challenge to this tradition. In the UK and Australia, as well as increasingly in the USA and the rest of the world, creative writing is considered a discipline in its own right, not an offshoot of any other discipline.

To say that the creative has no part in education is to argue that a university is not universal.[6]

Those who support creative writing programs either as part or separate from the English discipline, argue for the academic worth of the creative writing experience. They argue that creative writing hones the students’ abilities to clearly express their thoughts and that creative writing entails an in-depth study of literary terms and mechanisms so they can be applied to the writer’s own work to foster improvement. These critical analysis skills are further used in other literary study outside the creative writing sphere. Indeed, the process of creative writing, the crafting of a thought-out and original piece, is considered by some to be experience in creative problem solving.

Despite the large number of academic creative writing programs throughout the world, many people argue that creative writing cannot be taught. Louis Menand explores the issue in an article for the New Yorker in which he quotes Kay Boyle, the director of creative writing program at San Francisco State for sixteen years, who said, “all creative-writing programs ought to be abolished by law.” [7] Contemporary discussions of creative writing at the university level vary widely; some people value MFA programs and regard them with great respect, whereas many MFA candidates and hopefuls lament their chosen programs' lack of both diversity and genre awareness.


Forms and genres of literature

See also

Further reading

  • Brewer, R.L. (ed.). 2014 Writer's Market. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2013.
  • Cox, M. "A Dictionary of Writers and Their Works." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Everett, Nick. 2005. "Creative Writing and English." The Cambridge Quarterly. 34 (3):231-242.
  • Fenza, D. "The AWP Official Guide To Writing Programs". Fairfax, Va: Association of Writers & Writing Programs, 2004.
  • Mark McGurl (2009), The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-67-403319-1
  • Myers, D. G. The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing since 1880. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Palmer, A.J. "Writing and Imagery - How to Deepen Your Creativity and Improve Your Writing." [Aber Books]2010. Republished as Writing and Imagery - How to Avoid Writer's Block (How to Become an Author). [Aber Books 2013]
  • Roy, Pinaki. “Reflections on the Art of Producing Travelogues”. Images of Life: Creative and Other Forms of Writing (ed. Mullick, S.), Kolkata: The Book World, 2014 (ISBN 978-93-81231-03-6), pp. 111–29.


  1. ^ Marksberry, Mary Lee. Foundation of Creativity. Harper's Series on Teaching. (New York ; London: Harper & Row, 1963), 39.
  2. ^ Johnson, Burges and Syracuse University. "Creative Writing", 3.
  3. ^ "Creative Writing - UEA". Archived from the original on 2014-05-22. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  4. ^ Engle, Paul. "The Writer and the Place." In A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, edited by Robert Dana, 2(Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999).
  5. ^ JOHN SWANSBURG (April 29, 2001). "At Yale, Lessons in Writing and in Life". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-03-31. Retrieved 2010-10-15. Karl Kirchwey, who graduated from Yale in 1979, recently became the director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, after having run the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y for over a decade.
  6. ^ Engle, Paul. "The Writer and the Place," 3.
  7. ^ "Show or Tell - Should Creative Writing be Taught?" by Louis Menand - The New Yorker, June 8, 2009, Archived 2009-08-30 at the Wayback Machine
Alan M. Kent

Alan M. Kent (born 1967, St Austell, Cornwall) is a Cornish poet, dramatist, novelist, editor, academic and teacher. He is the author of a number of works on Cornish and Anglo-Cornish literature.

Arvon Foundation

The Arvon Foundation is a charitable organisation in the United Kingdom that promotes creative writing. It is based in the Free Word Centre for literature, literacy and free expression in London.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are American screenwriters and producers. They are known for their work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having written the three Captain America films (The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier and Civil War), Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and created ABC's Agent Carter TV series. They are also the screenwriters of The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise.Markus grew up in Buffalo, New York. He earned a B.A. in creative writing from Rutgers University in 1991. McFeely grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1991. Both were aspiring novelists when they met in the graduate program for creative writing at the University of California, Davis in 1994. According to Andrew Clark of UC Davis Magazine, "they quickly came to the conclusion that their novelists' dreams were unrealistic. 'We couldn't see how we could make [book] writing our full-time day job,' McFeely said. Their new goal? Writing for Hollywood."After earning their master's degrees in 1996, "the friends drove to Los Angeles to begin working their way up the entertainment ladder. They each took jobs in the business, including answering phones at production companies. Through networking, they managed to get an agent and ultimately earned their first paying job in 1998, writing a script about a real-life Los Angeles murder. The movie was never made, but the job marked a turning point for Markus and McFeely's screenwriting careers." Buzz from the purchased script led HBO Films to commission them to write a biopic of Peter Sellers. For The Life and Death of Peter Sellers in 2004, they won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special. Subsequent work on The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise set them up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Clarion Workshop

Clarion is a six-week workshop for aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers. Originally an outgrowth of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm's Milford Writers' Conference, held at their home in Milford, Pennsylvania, United States, it was founded in 1968 by Robin Scott Wilson at Clarion State College in Pennsylvania. Knight and Wilhelm were among the first teachers at the workshop.In 1972, the workshop moved to Michigan State University. It moved again, in 2006, to the University of California, San Diego.

Fiction writing

Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose texts. Fictional writing often is produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types (though not the only types) of fictional writing styles. Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, radio dramatists and screenwriters.

Iowa Writers' Workshop

The Program in Creative Writing, more commonly known as the Iowa Writers' Workshop, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, is a celebrated graduate-level creative writing program in the United States. Writer Lan Samantha Chang is its director. Graduates earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing. It has been cited as the best graduate writing program in the nation.

Jack Kerouac School

Founded in 1974 by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman, as part of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s 100-year experiment, Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics is located in Boulder, Colorado, United States.

Its programs consist of a BA in Creative Writing and Literature, a residential MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, an MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate Core Writing Seminars and the Summer Writing Program.

The Kerouac School states that among its aims is to bring forward "new questions that both invigorate and challenge the current dialogue in writing today".

Master of Fine Arts

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA or M.F.A.)

is a creative degree in fine arts, including visual arts, creative writing, graphic design, photography, filmmaking, dance, theatre, other performing arts and in some cases, theatre management or arts administration.

It is a graduate degree that typically requires two to three years of postgraduate study after a bachelor's degree, though the term of study varies by country or university. The MFA is a terminal degree. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance.

Papua New Guinean literature

Papua New Guinean literature is diverse. The emergence of written literature (as distinct from oral literature) is comparatively recent in Papua New Guinea. It was given its first major stimulus with the setting up of creative writing courses by Ulli Beier at the University of Papua New Guinea (established in 1966). Beier also founded a Papua Pocket Poets series, as well as the literary magazine Kovave, the first of its kind in the country. Some of Papua New Guinea's first noted writers, including John Kasaipwalova, Kumalau Tawali, Apisai Enos and Kama Kerpi, were first published in Kovave.

In 1968, Albert Maori Kiki’s autobiography Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime was the first major work of Papua New Guinean literature published outside a magazine. In 1970, Vincent Eri published the first Papua New Guinean novel, The Crocodile.

Notable Papua New Guinean writers also include Ignatius Kilage, Nora Vagi Brash, Steven Edmund Winduo and Loujaya Kouza.

Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts

The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, commonly known as CAPA, is a magnet school in South Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is a part of the School District of Philadelphia. Students major in one of seven areas: Creative Writing, Instrumental Music, Visual Arts, Theater, Dance, Vocal Music and Media Design & Television (MDTV). Students may also minor after their freshman year as long as they meet the audition requirements. The school is located on South Broad Street, in the former Ridgway Library. Notable alumni include Boyz II Men, Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots and Leslie Odom Jr.

San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts

The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, known as SDSCPA, is an audition only public arts magnet school in southeastern San Diego, California, US. The San Diego SCPA is a non-tuition, public, dedicated magnet school in the San Diego Unified School District serving families throughout San Diego County. The San Diego SCPA provides pre-professional training in the arts alongside a college preparatory curriculum. All students audition and complete a required series of specialized arts training in Theater, Music, Dance, Visual and Cinematic Arts, or Creative Writing. Upon graduation, most SDSCPA students continue to universities or conservatories for further study in the arts and academics. Recent acceptances include the Juilliard School, Cornish, Art Institute of Chicago, Curtis, New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Boston Conservatory, Peabody Institute, and CalArts.

Stegner Fellowship

The Stegner Fellowship program is a two-year creative writing fellowship at Stanford University. The award is named after American Wallace Stegner (1909—1993), an historian, novelist, short story writer, environmentalist, and Stanford faculty member who founded the university's creative writing program.

Ten fellowships are awarded every year, five in fiction and five in poetry. The recipients do not need a degree to receive the fellowships, though many fellows already hold the terminal M.F.A. degree in creative writing. A workshop-based program, no degree is awarded after the two-year fellowship. Prior to 1990, many fellows also enrolled in Stanford's now-defunct M.A. program in creative writing.Fellows receive a stipend of $26,000 per year, as well as health insurance and their tuition charges to Stanford. Fellows are required to live close enough to Stanford to be able to attend all workshops, as well as other department-related readings and events.

Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing

The Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing is a graduate program in creative writing based at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine, United States. Stonecoast enrolls approximately 100 students in four major genres: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and popular fiction. Other areas of student interest, including literary translation, performance, writing for stage and screen, writing Nature, and cross-genre writing, are pursued as elective options. Students also choose one track that focuses an intensive research project in their third semester from among these categories: craft, creative collaboration, literary theory, publishing, social justice/community service, and teaching/pedagogy. Stonecoast is one of only two graduate creative writing programs in the country offering a degree in popular fiction. It is accredited through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

The Stonecoast MFA program is a low-residency program. Ten-day residencies for students, faculty, and visiting writers are held each January and June. Each semester, a group of ten students also goes to Ireland for a smaller residency. Residencies involve an intensive schedule of workshops, classes, readings, and gatherings. The rest of a student's academic work during the two-year program is pursued on a one-on-one basis under the leadership of a faculty mentor.

Founded in 2002 by Barbara Lee Hope, Ken Rosen, and Dianne Benedict, Stonecoast came to national prominence under the direction of poet Annie Finch who served as director from 2004 to 2013. Stonecoast is one of the oldest and best-known of the second wave of low-residency graduate programs in creative writing, following on the first wave of the Warren Wilson, Goddard, and Bennington graduate programs. Stonecoast departed from its predecessor programs in a number of significant ways including more flexibility in cross-genre work, more student input into mentor choice and curriculum, seminar-style classes as opposed to lectures, and more flexibility in third-semester projects. The program received coverage in The Atlantic Monthly feature on MFA programs focusing in particular on its Ireland residency and popular fiction component. Other innovative curricular features include a foundation workshop in poetic meter for incoming poets and student-initiated elective workshops on special topics in writing.

Stonecoast has been ranked consistently among the "Top Ten Low-Residency Programs" by Poets & Writers magazine since 2011.

The Loft Literary Center

The Loft Literary Center is a nonprofit literary organization located in Minneapolis, Minnesota incorporated in 1975. The Loft is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive independent literary centers, and offers a variety of writing classes, conferences, grants, readings, writers' studios and other services to both established and emerging writers.Each year the Loft hosts more than 400 writers and performers that draw more than 12,000 people, and collaborates with at least 30 local and national organizations. The Loft additionally claims to have more than 170,000 unique visitors through digital resources and online writing classes.

The Varsitarian

The Varsitarian (Varsi, The V, or V) is the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Founded in January 1928 by a group of students led by Jose Villa Panganiban, it is one of the first student newspapers in the Philippines. It is published fortnightly. The lampoon issue is called The Vuisitarian. Tomas U. Santos, the mascot of the Varsitarian, is a Thomasian who represents the students of the campus. He is usually seen accompanied by a talking, and quite cynical, T-square.

Aside from publishing the school paper, the Varsitarian holds the Inkblots national campus journalism fellowship, hosts the Cinevita Film Festival, and organizes the Pautakan, the longest-running campus-based quiz contest in the Philippines. It also organizes Ustetika, the country's longest-running university-based literary competition, and the Creative Writing Workshop, which celebrated its 10th year in 2014.

The Varsitarian also publishes other editorial supplements such as Montage, Tomasino, Breaktime, Amihan, and Botomasino.

UEA Creative Writing Course

The University of East Anglia's Creative Writing Course was founded by Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson in 1970. The M.A. is widely regarded as the most prestigious and successful in the country and competition for places is notoriously tough.The course is split into four strands: Prose, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry and Scriptwriting (which is Skillset accredited). All four result in an M.A. qualification upon successful completion of the course. The Course Directors are currently Andrew Cowan, Kathryn Hughes, Lavinia Greenlaw and Val Taylor respectively. Course tutors include Amit Chaudhuri, Trezza Azzopardi, Giles Foden, Tobias Jones, James Lasdun, Jean McNeil, Margaret Atwood and George Szirtes.

Writers such as Angela Carter, Rose Tremain, Andrew Motion, W. G. Sebald, Michèle Roberts and Patricia Duncker have also taught on the course.

Writers-in-residence have included Alan Burns and Margaret Attwood.

University of Adelaide

The University of Adelaide (informally Adelaide University) is a public university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third-oldest university in Australia. The university's main campus is located on North Terrace in the Adelaide city centre, adjacent to the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the State Library of South Australia.

The university has five campuses throughout the state; North Terrace; Roseworthy College at Roseworthy; The Waite Institute at Urrbrae; Thebarton; and the National Wine Centre in the Adelaide Park Lands. It has a sixth campus, the Ngee Ann – Adelaide Education Centre (NAAEC), in Singapore. The university operates several associated and independent research institutes and groups. These include the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, the Hanson Institute for Medical Research, and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

The University of Adelaide is composed of five faculties, with each containing constituent schools. These include the Faculty of Engineering, Computer, and Mathematical Sciences (ECMS), the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of the Professions, and the Faculty of Sciences. It is a member of the Group of Eight and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. The university is also a member of the Sandstone universities, which mostly consist of colonial-era universities within Australia.

The university is associated with five Nobel laureates, constituting one-third of Australia's total Nobel laureates, and 109 Rhodes scholars. The university has had a considerable impact on the public life of South Australia, having educated many of the state's leading businesspeople, lawyers, medical professionals and politicians. The university has been associated with many notable achievements and discoveries, such as the discovery and development of penicillin, the development of space exploration, sunscreen, the military tank, Wi-Fi, polymer banknotes and X-ray crystallography, and the study of viticulture and oenology.

University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a public research university in Norwich, England. Established in 1963 on a 320 acres (130 hectares) campus west of the city centre, the university has four faculties and 26 schools of study. The annual income of the institution for 2016–17 was £273.7 million of which £35.6 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £262.6 million.The university is ranked 13th in the UK by The Times and Sunday Times, 14th by The Complete University Guide and 18th by The Guardian.

Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College is the oldest low-residency creative writing Master of Fine Arts program in the United States. Prior to the founding of this program, an MFA in creative writing was earned via standard residential graduate programs that required students to be in residence at an academic institution for the majority of the academic year.

Students in the program earn an MFA degree in creative writing over 4-8 semesters. The low-residency model at Warren Wilson requires attendance twice a year (January and July) for ten days of lectures, classes, workshops and readings by both faculty and students. Students are paired with a faculty member who directs the creative and critical work for the student over the following semester. This model of short residencies followed by a semester of one-on-one work with a faculty member has been that adopted by most low-residency MFA programs.

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