By: Joshua Blattenberger
There is no single ideal way to write in all circumstances. The structure and content of a work are defined by context, audience, and purpose. A twenty-page story based on the death of a loved one will not replace the research-oriented personal history assignment your professor asked for and vice versa. Today we will dissect the differences between two such forms, creative and academic writing, and reveal their differences so that you can avoid obvious overlap.
Structure (Creative Forms Vs. Essay Form)
The goal of creative writing is to act creatively. There is no one set structure for all creative writing, but a variety of structures between different creative forms. A fictional story will follow a structure meant to contain a narrative (exposition, problem, rising action, climax, and resolution). An English sonnet must contain three stanzas of four lines and conclude with one of two. Writers can still do as they please, so long as the final product adheres to the necessary structure.
However, academic writing is a more restrictive art. You, as have all students, received explicit instruction on what academic writing includes. All papers must contain an introduction which contains a thesis, then body paragraphs which argue in favor of said thesis, and a conclusion which reflects on and concludes the discussion of the paper’s topic. Variation is largely present in formatting; MLA and APA, for example, require different methods of citation. But beyond this, you will rarely break from the structure you have learned. Even experienced academic writers still use the base structure. Where they differ is in their ability to naturally transition between information and integrate research into their arguments.
Content (Narrative Vs. Information)
Content in creative writing, due to its range of potential forms, can contain many different things. Essentially, anything is possible. My personal focus is on the creation of a narrative. While I follow the guidelines of narrative structure, I can discuss whatever, however, I choose. I can discuss a tragedy through a series of non-linear events, a mystery through a frame narrative or an adventure told in reverse, where questions are answered that grant new meaning to its ending, in this case, the beginning. Creative writing is, after all, creative. Experimentation is the key to success.
The content of academic writing is driven by research. You will present facts and arguments which justify your thesis, using essay form to organize this information into a coherent work. Each argument will build upon your thesis to convince the reader that your idea is correct. Much like creative writing, you have unlimited freedom in the selection of your topic. However, you must be able to explain your reasoning; you cannot claim that something is possible without informing your reader of the information that supports your claim.
Send Off (Never Restrict Yourself)
Writing, regardless of type or form, is a daunting task. Established structures and intent for each form aid you, and everyone, to success, just as they inform you of what is appropriate when and where.
But, above all, remember that you should never restrict yourself to just one form. Research a topic and outline potential essays; write out the draft of the story you have been dying to tell. Both can open the door to continued education, valuable experiences, and/or new interests.