Can Creative Writers Succeed at Academic Writing?

Ink breathes life into characters and fills pages with vivid settings, conflict, and dialogue for the creative writer to push, move, bend, and shape. However, when presented with more rigid guidelines that call for analysis, rather than “creativity,” writers of fiction may find themselves at a loss for words and wonder, “Am I allowed to still be creative?” The answer is, “yes.” Academic writing should not be boring and it doesn’t have to be. Creative writers might have to limit introductions and clever phrases to a few lines sprinkled in here and there throughout an “academic” essay, but there are still plenty of options for using those creative skills in the academic world—especially when writing personal narratives, descriptions/observations, persuasive papers, and literary analysis.

The personal narrative essay and the descriptive/observation essay are great places for creative writers to weave in elements of conflict, setting, climax, and character. The personal narrative for instance, asks writers to focus on one major life event or moment and tell the story in a convincing way—the way a story teller or fiction writer would—with plenty of description, action, and dialogue. Similarly, a descriptive or observation essay asks writers to draw on their abilities to create detailed descriptions, weave in dialogue, and use sensory details to communicate an experience or the life of another person. These kinds of assignments are innovative places where creative writers can start pushing the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction.

The persuasive essay on the other hand, which could include rhetorical analysis, evaluation of a movie/book, argumentation, or literary analysis, may be somewhat more challenging for creative writers, but these writers have plenty of tools at their disposal to help them craft effective arguments and drive a point home in a unique way. While some writers might use a direct quote from a source to “hook” their readers in the first line, creative writers might be able to use sensory details or write a striking first sentence that leads directly into the topic at hand and the subsequent analysis. They may be able to subtly sustain an image or metaphor throughout the analysis and then end with one final image or snapshot that ties the piece together.

In other words, the examples of academic writing we often see can be dry and lifeless. While they may expertly and logically prove a point, they could do very little to stir the soul. These examples then, often leave creative writers feeling somewhat hopeless as they ask, “Is this what I must now become in order to pass my academic courses?” It’s not. There is room for creative writers in the academic world and, for those of us who read “boring” papers for a living, a thoughtfully crafted piece that blends analysis and art breathes life back into a practice that was never originally meant to be so incredibly colorless, drab, or uninspired.

If you are a creative/fiction writer who is struggling with academic writing, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to lend a hand:



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