Writing has been a favourite subject of writers ever since people started to write. As a literary scholar, I’ve had to deal with a lot of meta-writing (writing about writing) and I always found the topic quite fascinating.
In short, there is no consensus about how to be a good writer or about how to write well. It changes throughout the periods, the centuries, the authors. There’s also been a plethora of people who believed poetry (and creative writing in general) to be worthless. Plato wrote that poetry was the worst thing to exist in a good city-state (yet Greek culture is mostly known for its epic poetry); Sir Philip Sidney (the author of the very long and rather boring The Faerie Queene) found himself having to defend poetry
to all them that, professing learning, inveigh against poetry, may justly be objected that they go very near to ungratefulness, to seek to deface that which, in the noblest nations and languages that are known, hath been the first light-giver to ignorance, and first nurse, whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges. (The Defense of Poesy);
Percy Bysshe Shelley, a Romantic poet and husband to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (author of Frankenstein) wrote “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”.
This is only a small sample of authors who talk about poetry (and creative writing in general) which every English student probably knows about.
What I find interesting is that throughout the ages, creatives have always had to defend their craft. Today is not the first time that art has had problems justifying itself. In Greek antiquity it was against truth, in Elizabethan times it was against soldiery, and in Victorian times it was against productivity.
I am not (at least not yet, if I will ever be) a creative writer. Working in Web content, it sometimes feels like writing has also fallen victim to commodification, formulas and general dullness. I like what I do, but sometimes it feels like a good old poem might express some ideas so much better than a 500-word blog post. For a long time even letters, pamphlets and essays were lauded as creative writing; today we have content farms, throwaway writing that no one will ever look at or refer to past the first five seconds.
For people like me, even uninteresting Victorian mill-novels (stuff written quickly by unknown authors, often simply published to fill the shelves of train stations) have a socio-cultural interest. I doubt that farmed content ever will.
I keep this blog because I don’t want to lose my own voice because, as my friend @Said_In_7 tweeted: “writing isn’t just words on a page; it’s life & love, laughter & loss. It’s the human condition from your perspective”.
Why do you write, especially creatively?