What is Creative Writing?

1 08 2014

The past two weeks have been extremely busy around here, as I worked more 10 hour days than not; creating fresh copy for a variety of clients, while also working hard to develop a new product to sell to a fairly narrow niche client base. My point in explaining this is two-fold: to explain why I’ve posted next to nothing here, and to share an idea I had recently about “creative writing.”

First, I’ve posted next to nothing here because I’ve been very busy. (There, I said I’d explain that, right? DONE.)

Next, it occurred to me recently (as it has many times before) that the phrases “Creative Writing” and “Creative Writer” are applied by most, and almost exclusively, to fiction and writers of fiction. On one hand I can understand this, I suppose. Fiction writers and/or novelists are definitely creative, even going so far as to create whole worlds from nothing but their imaginations; peopled with characters we will never meet in the real world.

The “Harry Potter” series jumps most quickly to mind, though “The Sword of Truth” series and “A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones” are not far behind. These series’ of books were, and are, stunningly creative and exceedingly entertaining. I could name many others, but these will do for now. I find myself envious of the authors, JK Rowling, Terry Goodkind, and George RR Martin for the creativity and inventiveness they display, as well as the sheer talent for expressing themselves through the written word. Not to mention the perseverance required to create such massive works. BRAVO!

And yet, I find myself compelled to argue that what I now do for a living is also creative writing and, though the writing I do is most certainly not fiction, to defend it as such. Need proof? How about this for an example?

Non-fiction writing is creative writing too

Imagine yourself sitting down every week to write two pieces of about 500 words each on a single subject, say coping with stress, for a particular client – the same client and the same subject every week – for FOUR YEARS. That equates to 104 blog posts and articles per year, and 416 of them over four years. That is also some 52,000 words per year, and more than 200,000 words in four years – all devoted to a single subject – coping with stress – for a single client. This implies a regular audience who have seen most of what you’ve written over those four years, so your writing had better not be repetitive. You must find a new approach to the subject every week, every month, and every year.

Would this require creativity? If you did that, would you call yourself a Creative Writer?

Well, that is what I do nearly every day. I try to creatively describe what it is that my clients do, or value, or wish to promote, in clearly defined, well-written terms that allow their readers to appreciate more fully the things the client has to offer. I educate and illustrate; I explain and proclaim; I praise and promote – all in my clients’ name – and in my clients’ voice. Is this “Creative Writing”?

My clients include medical doctors; psychologists and psychiatrists; therapists and counselors; health coaches, nutrition coaches, fitness coaches and business coaches; attorneys and realtors; website designers, screen printers, and IT support companies. I write about coping with stress, anxiety, depression, suicide, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, and divorce. I write about feet: healthy and unhealthy feet, and about how to maintain healthy feet or how to repair damaged feet. I write about weight loss and dieting; about dieting fads and scams; about healthy nutrition and juicing for health, as well as exercise and healthy living. Can anyone deny that what I do qualifies me as a “Creative Writer”?

Hey, I even write about writing: website copywriting, sales copywriting, writing for SEO, article writing and blog writing, eBook writing and eBook ghostwriting. Do these fulfill the definition of “being creative”?

It may be simply a matter of semantics to most but, to a writer who must use all of his creative power to continue making a single subject interesting, informative, and original on a regular basis and over time, it is far more than a semantic argument. In fact, it’s the very essence of what that writer does, how he views himself, and how he values his work. I may not be a Creative Writer (with caps), but what I do is most definitely creative writing (lower case).

Word of the Day/Quote of the Day

10 07 2014

When I first saw this word, I thought it had something to do with swallowing one’s post-nasal drip.

The word: inspissate (in-SPIS-ayt)

verb: To thicken or condense.

Used in a sentence: “Due to my sedentary lifestyle, my body has begun to inspissate somewhat dramatically.”

Quotation of the Day…

“Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.” ~ Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)


Word of the Day

9 07 2014

Learned a new word this morning. When I first saw it, I thought it meant “a group of politicians speaking the same talking points for party advantage, or other self-serving reasons.”

The word: assonance

noun: The use of words with same or similar vowel sounds but with different end consonants. Example: The “o” sounds in Wordsworth’s “A host, of golden daffodils.”

My Sterling Rant

23 05 2014

For some reason, I feel compelled to offer an opinion on the Donald Sterling fracas (the definition for which is “noisy quarrel,” and this has been nothing if not that).

First, it must be said that Sterling is an ass. As a former personal injury and divorce attorney, he has little to recommend him to society in general and, as a sports franchise owner, he built one of the worst NBA franchises to ever come along, with his team at the bottom of the League for nearly 30 years.

Second, the man has committed countless acts of adultery, publicly flaunting his infidelity for all to see. He appears to possess no ethical standards whatever, but then, that may be redundant after saying he was an attorney. To me, he is a reprehensible human being who deserves no respect and little compassion. Put simply, Donald Sterling is a poor excuse for a human being.

Yet… I find myself obliged to defend him in this case, despite knowing that some will object strongly.

Reading the transcript of Sterling’s comments, rather than simply listening to the recording, is illuminating to me:

“Did you have to post them on Facebook, where my friends can see and comment about it to me? I don’t care what you do with them. Talk to them, be friends with them, go ahead and sleep with them if you want to. Just don’t post them to FB where my friends can see.”

To me, it appears as if he’s complaining more about how she is embarrassing him because of the way his friends, no doubt other “pink-faced privileged white men,” respond to her behavior, rather than that he actually dislikes the people she hangs with. I can just imagine how a bunch of old, rich, white guys might tease him about the way his latest strumpet flaunts her relationships with younger men. “Hey Don, can’t you control that floozy you’ve been telling us is your girlfriend?” or, “Hey old man, don’t you have a leash for your little bitch?” Even for a disgusting reprobate like Sterling, that could be embarrassing.

Here are the main points to make in Sterling’s defense:

  1. This was a private conversation and Sterling had every right to expect that it would remain private.
  2. The recording was illegally made. The law in California is very clear on this, that both parties must give consent to be recorded. This recording could never be used in a court of law.
  3. The fact that he mentions the skin color of her associates indicates the prejudices of the friends who tease him about her behavior, far more than it does his own.
  4. The woman who leaked the recording is as reprehensible and disgusting as Sterling. At best, she is a gold-digger, if not an outright prostitute, who used her intimate knowledge of the man against him for her own unethical purposes.

Finally, the freedom to express oneself, especially in private, as well as the right to property, should be sacrosanct. The very idea that Sterling has been removed as an active participant in the team he owns, and the possibility that he could lose his ownership of the team, makes me cringe. This is a very slippery slope upon which the NBA has embarked, and the owners of the other franchises should be careful about how they choose to act against him.

OK, go ahead and hammer me. I’m ready…

When a Sacrifice Is Not a Sacrifice

16 04 2014

Imagine a woman who chooses to spend her life climbing the corporate ladder. She is quite successful, eventually becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The company employs 15,000 people, all of whom make a good wage and are predominantly happy with their own careers. They produce useful products that have real value to their client base, all of whom are pleased to be doing business with her company. She is productive and well compensated. She is happy with her choice, and her life.

Now imagine a woman who chose not to pursue a career but, instead, to raise a family. Her three children get good grades in school and all participate in extra-curricular activities. Two excel in sports, while one joins the choir and stars in the annual musical. They eventually make it through college and begin to pursue their own careers, or raise their own families.  She is a good mother and wife, and feels well compensated by her children’s success. She is happy with her choice and her life.

Which of these women made a sacrifice?

Neither one, of course.

Words have meaning

Both women made a conscious choice to pursue and excel at something she valued more than another; a life choice that meant more to her than anything else. The business woman did not “sacrifice” having a family in favor of a career, just as the mother did not “sacrifice” her career to raise her children. Each of these women made a choice to pursue the type of life that had the greatest value to her. The CEO did not value raising a family, so pursuing her career was not a sacrifice. The mother did not value having a career, so raising her children involved no sacrifice at all.

By definition, the word sacrifice implies enduring a loss. What did the CEO lose? Nothing that was valuable to her, certainly. The mother gained immeasurably by not choosing a corporate career, by seeing her children grow up to be valuable members of society and happy adults. Where does her “loss” manifest? What did she forfeit by being a mom? Nothing that meant anything – to her, anyway.

The feminist culture teaches us that, by choosing a family over a career, a woman is sacrificing her full potential to some arbitrary standard devised by men to keep women “in their place.” On the other hand, right wing Bible thumpers tell women that they are sacrificing their nurturing role as a mother when they pursue a career instead, as if this is the only way a woman may define herself as a woman. Both are ridiculous, and morally bankrupt.

In truth, and in practice, a sacrifice involves giving up something we value for something we don’t. It is not a sacrifice to forfeit something we value less for something we value more. That is merely a reasonable choice based on a rational judgment. If you wish to pursue an Olympic medal over all other things you might choose in your life, it decidedly is not a sacrifice to rise at 4 AM every day to practice; to forego the latest kegger at the frat house; or to eat healthy, high energy food in place of cheeseburgers and fries.

On the other hand, if you believed that getting that medal was the most important thing you could do for yourself, yet choose to hit the local drive-thru every night for dinner, then you would be making a sacrifice – giving up on something that meant a great deal to you for a momentary, petty pleasure.

The popular meaning of “sacrifice” is nonsensical. It involves the giving up of anything, no matter how trivial, to achieve something, no matter how great. It is a perversion of the very concept of value, and of greatness. It denies the efficacy of human judgment and rational choice.

Accepting the popular definition of sacrifice can only turn you into a victim; can only make you the type of person who feels constantly taken advantage of by others – not to mention society at large.


Who is Ruining Our Language?

9 04 2014

Sports announcers have been ruining our language for years now. During the NFL season, I was forced to listen to some deplorable English as CBS was broadcasting the football game between the Chargers and the Broncos. Here are just two examples of the poor use of English by the announcers of the game. Remember, these men are paid a great deal of money to speak English for a living.


Is this a young Ward Cleaver?

Kevin Harlan: “There is a 36-year-old catch by Stokely.”

Solomon Wilcox: “Rivers never should have threw that pass.”

Yeah, my spellchecker tried repeatedly to fix these for me… Eventually, it simply gave up in frustration. I think it went to bed with a headache.

We are ruining our language

Of course, DJs have also butchering the language for decades. On the NBC singing competition The Voice, Carson Daly, who began his career in radio then moved to MTV, habitually says “This is…,” or “Here is…” when speaking of groups of two or more people: for example, “This is John and Sam.”

We also have to deal with this one, “There’s John and Sam down the street,” or even worse, “There’s three of them coming.” The contraction for “there is” should never be used for plural objects of course, but since intellectual laziness is the norm these days, I guess it should be expected. If you would like to sound like you actually have a brain, you should try using the contraction for “there are,” as in “There’re John and Sam coming our way now.” Hey, if you want to be a real rebel, you could even try using both words instead of the contraction. “There are John and Sam coming our way now.”

Even more pervasive is the use of the phrase “Me and him.” Also “Me and you.” This type of phrasing seems completely narcissistic to me, as the speaker constantly places self before subject. It is 6th grade English at best, elevated to common usage at the expense of intelligent conversation. Using this type of construction makes the speaker sound ignorant, whether they realize it or not.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous example of poor English usage is the phrase “Where’s it at?” instead of “Where is it?” or “Where’re you at?” instead of “Where are you?” This one is nearly unexplainable. All I can say is that using these two phrases makes the speaker sound foolish and, well, just plain stupid.

English is a beautiful language when used correctly. With estimates of the number of words available to choose from ranging from about 171,500 according to the Oxford dictionaries to 1,025,100 by the Google Language Monitor, we have more than enough words to express ourselves clearly, without sounding ridiculous. All we have to do is choose to use them properly.

There are many more examples of poor language choices being made on television, radio, and in print. The only way to stop it is to cease to accept it. If we refuse to use such ignorant phrasing when we speak, perhaps professional speakers and writers will cease to use it as well. Hey, we can always hope, can’t we?


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