([Photograph describing piles of opened books], 2021)
Creative Writing 101 articles serve as one of the academic courses in the field of Literary Theory and Literature. The course, which is a fundamental guide within the scope of general knowledge compared to the technical knowledge of Literary Theory and Literature, also addresses students and the general readership alike. With this goal in mind, the author has opted to write the article in very plain and basic English to convey just the necessary understanding of Creative Writing by making the article merely an introduction.
Creative Writing 101 is mainly divided into five chapters including:
The creation of written content is a process, a state of brainstorming ideas, and a version of reality that the writer would present, fabricate, distort, or even reshape to invite the readership into a world where there are multiple versions of truth. The representation of truth is pieces of writings, regardless of their literary genre, inscribed on white papers or typed electronically to describe the dynamics of a writer’s mind—his ideas, his ideology, and his vision of the world—all combined to reflect the complexity of writing itself.
The quest for framing writing, if ever applicable to be framed, undergoes through a demystification of its process and principles, for which the act of writing is, undeniably, an act of creation. In other words, any attempt of shaping a literary written content is powered by the writer’s imagination and creative mind. Thus, the written output produced out of the mind is qualified as creative. The introductory concern in this first article will be to grasp writing shaped into a space proper to writing itself, before undergoing through instances of the dynamics of the writer’s creative mind.
The Space-Time Dimension in Writing
Creative Writing is an art that is performed through language. Unlike painting that reflects a visual description of the world no matter how it is portrayed on canvas, the act of writing comes to shape art in written and non-visual form, emphasizing the power of words. David Morley (2007), the Associate Professor in English at the University of Warwick, explains the rapport of the writer to the blank page as a space to map through words, for the emptiness of space delineated in an empty page is considered as “an open space” (p.1), inviting the writer to make the language exists through the use of words and imagination.
Moreover, Morley (2007) states, “by writing on that page, we are creating another version of time; We are playing out of new version of existence, of life even.” (p.1). The page becomes thus a space itself, designed by language and breaks through time and space to constitute what Morley (2007) names as “an entirely fresh piece of space-time, and another version of your self.” (p.1). Not only did Morley conceptualize the page as a space-time entity, but he also thinks that writing is framed through four dimensions: Three dimensions of space along with the dimension of time.
The piece of “space-time” writing that any writer fabricates all along a process of creative endeavor is presented to a reader, who becomes partially a reader-writer as well, participating in a way or another to the comprehension of the literary writing. That is to say, a well-experienced writer is considered to be a well-experienced reader as well. Writing and reading are entwined together because once the writer reads, the mind becomes stimulated by the linguistic and the thematic input that reading provides, and thus it makes the reader, who partly may become a writer afterwards, conceptualize what the eye reads into what the eye sees. Once the reader pictures the text, he/she travels through, what Morley (2007) describes as, “psychological fifth dimension.” (p.2).
The Dynamics of the Creative Mind
Controversy over the mechanisms used by creative writers to produce good creative outputs is centered on establishing writing as an asset, inherited as a talent or as a craftmanship, and which is further enhanced through practice and time as the French writer Anatole France states, “You become a good writer just as you become a good carpenter: by planning down your sentences.” (Morley, 2007). For many thinkers, such as Morley, the only way for creative writing to be taught as a discipline is that it has to be first of all a talent because it lies in the writer’s imagination to create worlds of literature. It would have never been possible for anyone to learn about writing, and being able to produce any creative writing content if it had not been about the power of the writer to conceive a literary world out of a system of language and lexis.
As a matter of fact, neuroscientists advocate that creative writers are endowed with a potential of imagination higher than other people willing to become writers because they have brain predispositions to that. The instance of parable, “a short and simple story, related to allegory and fable, which points a moral.” (Penguin Books, 1999), was referred by the neuroscientist Mark Turner in his book The Literary Mind (1996), whereby his approach to grasp the concept of the parable or the story, in general, is advocated and characterized as being the origin of the human reflection, knowledge, performance, creation, and language.
The parable in the creative writer’s mind is used not only to project a moral of a story into a reader’s mind but to invite also the reader to be a part of the writer’s world and the storyline space. Turner (1996) explains that, “in the space of the story narrated, the narrator does not exist and necessarily has no special powers there. In the space of narration, the narrator does exist. He has no special powers with respect to most of that space, but he does have special powers with respect to the story he is telling: He can shift the focus of time and place in the narration. In the blend, the narrator, the readers, and the characters can inhabit one world.” (p. 75). Presumably, this is where the power of the creative writer resides in transgressing the boundaries of narration by making the readership have a role to play in that space.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story entitled Leaf by Niggle (1945), the story is centered on the value of the artwork in human life in parallel with a reflection on the dualist themes of life/death and purgatory/heaven. Niggle, the main character in the story is portrayed as a humble painter, whose ambition in life is to make art. Tolkien’s fictional character Niggle started his project magnum opus, whereby his project was to paint a leaf which turned, afterwards, into a tree in spite of all the constraints the main character faced on his journey.
Leaf by Niggle. Leaf by Niggle, J.R.R Tolkien, HarperCollins Publishers, 2016. Front cover.
Many critics identify the short story Leaf by Niggle as an allegory to Tolkien’s life, depicting many similarities between the character of Niggle and the author himself. Tolkien’s short story is acknowledged as “one of the most important works for understanding the author's mind and creative process. It is a vivid embodiment of the principles of Creation and Sub-creation.” (Leaf by Niggle Background, n.d.).
The creative mind of the writer goes far beyond the limits of the four-dimensional space-time piece of writing, whereby a novel technique to approach the interpretation and reading of the literary writings is commonly experienced by the Russian Formalist, Viktor Shklovsky’s literary concept known as defamiliarization, inciting the writer to alter “the reader’s habitual perceptions by drawing attention to the artifice of the text.” (p. 214). In 1917, defamiliarizing or making the familiar look unfamiliar to the reader came to revolutionize the traditionalist method of reading itself towards more focus on “the form of the text and not just its content or meaning.” (newworldencyclopedia.org, n.d.).
Coupled with the literary concept of defamiliarization, David Morley (2007) perceives the essence of creative writing as being derived from defamiliarization itself; For any artistic endeavors to flourish, they “often go through four stages of cognitive and creative process–attention to detail (of a problem) translation to metaphor→defamiliarization→receiving something at a different angle–in effect, perceiving it anew, as a child does.” (p.9).
Aristotle’s Poetics came to revolutionize the human mind at that period, upholding the efficiency of learning through imitation as a means of intellectual and societal upgrowth and prioritizing reason and logic over emotion to make that process of learning achievable through time; the work in itself is considered as a significantly literary creation at that era.
Aristotle’s Poetics. Aristotle’s Poetics: literally translated, with explanatory notes and an analysis, Aristotle., Golden, L., & Hardison, O.B., G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1819. Front cover.
In parallel, the idea of approaching art, in this case, the literary art, by using Shklovsky’s defamiliarization to enhance the experience of the reader rendering the familiar unfamiliar, strange to the mind for better re-interpretations of the work itself, is suggested by the writer Bourne (2018), to be an extension of the thematic aspect of Aristotle’s Poetics in re-experiencing life through art itself.
On the whole, the creation of any artistic work, precisely any literary genre, is a complex yet organized process through which creative writers thrive to present their own perception of the world through various four-dimensional spaces, inviting the reader to be part of perceiving the truth those writers claim through imagination and creativity. In Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle, the readership travels in a world of fantasy, depicting a human journey of a painter, driven by perseverance, creativity, and ambition, whereas in Aristotle’s Poetics the core of the subject is different as it highlights the importance of art as a creative and instructive means of communication and learning through mimesis.
G. & W.B. Whittaker. Aristotle’s Poetics. Aristotle’s Poetics: literally translated, with explanatory notes and an analysis, Aristotle., Golden, L., & Hardison, O.B., G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1819. Front cover.
HarperCollins. Leaf by Niggle. Leaf by Niggle, J.R.R Tolkien, HarperCollins Publishers, 2016. Front cover.
[Photograph describing piles of opened books]. (2021). https://evernote.com/blog/12-creative-writing-templates/
Bourne, A. (2018, August 20). An Evening with Aristotle and Victor Shlovsky; How “Poetics” and “Art as Technique” Speak to One Another. Owlcation. https://owlcation.com/humanities/An-Evening-With-Aristotle-and-Victor-Shlovsky-How-Poetics-and-Art-as-Technique-Speak-to-One-Another
Defamiliarization (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Defamiliarization
GradeSaver. (n.d.). Leaf by Niggle Background. https://www.gradesaver.com/leaf-by-niggle
Morley, David. (2007). Introducing Creative Writing. The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing (pp. 1-35). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Penguin Books. (1999). Defamiliarization. In Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (4th ed., p. 214).
Penguin Books. (1999). Parable. In Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (4th ed., p. 634).
Turner, Mark. (1996). Creative Blends. The Literary Mind (pp. 57-84). New York: Oxford University Press.