By Sanjana Rajagopal
Generally, creative writing isn’t considered a truly important skill.
Creative writing is usually an elective class in middle school or high school. Unfortunately, what a lot of teachers or students don’t realize is that writing for fun vastly improves writing for a grade. I can personally attest to this–I’ve been writing in some way or the other since third grade. I have stacks and stacks of journals in my cupboard. I write fan-fiction (horror of horrors), and I’ve maintained a writing blog for years where I share my poetry.
This kind of practice with writing has seriously refined my eye for grammar and style. It’s also given me the opportunity to find my own voice– which now shines through even in my academic papers. Case in point– I took a class on political communication during the spring semester. While I maintain an interest in politics– I’m certainly no Alexander Hamilton. Which is why I was so surprised when my professor left a comment on my final essay that she was impressed by the beauty of my prose despite the fact I consider myself pretty out of depth when it comes to political analysis. (Needless to say, that comment made me want to run through the halls singing “There’s a million things I haven’t done…but JUST YOU WAIT!”)
It may seem, upon first glance, that aptitude in creative writing is hardly a prerequisite to writing term papers. After all, aren’t most papers written for high school or college pretty formulaic? Well, yes, they can be. But only if you allow them to be!
I look at all writing assignments as creative writing assignments. Not only does this increase my own enthusiasm, but it also encourages work that is much more imaginative. Of course, there are certain conventions that must be followed, but usually, there is a degree of freedom even within those conventions. You may have been forced to write a ten page paper on the Cuban economy, but how you arrange your ideas and present your findings is entirely up to you.
Similarly, when writing a new story, you start out with an image in your head or even a message you want to get across. From there, you will have a plan of action as to how to lay out your thoughts. What ideas you choose to include or leave out, what words you decide to describe a character with, what details you focus on– these are all very telling of the kind of writer and person you are.
Looking beyond the realm of academia, creative writing serves various other purposes. Writing for pleasure is an act that is inherently personal. It is very rare that you walk away from a well-written piece without seeing something of the author in it. This isn’t to say that a novel or a poem necessarily reflects the life story or even the feelings of the author– but that an author’s work has a piece of them in it by merit of their having written it.