Making the Transition from Career Writing to Creative Writing: Part 2 - Blogs - Writing Forums


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Megan Pearson

Making the Transition from Career Writing to Creative Writing: Part 2

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It’s All in Our Approach

I want to to start with how we approach our task. I am not emphasizing the audience here, but rather seeking to examine how the writer is influenced by his training as he sets out to write. It is my contention that the career professional gets ‘locked’ into how he sees the world, because of his training. This may make it more difficult for him to connect with his intended audience. So, let’s take a look at two approaches, a business article and an example from prose, where each communicates facts about the human condition. As we do so, notice that while they are similar to the other in some respects, each does so from its own, particular standpoint.

In business, we want our writing to be short and to the point. A lengthy or unclear email can cause undue misunderstanding, aside from wasting time (and our employers’ profit margin) as we untangle the confusion! If my friend from Post 1 were to write about poverty and education in South Africa, her article would be filled with statistical information and interviews as she made her case. Her approach, we might say, would be very business-like. She would want to get to the bottom dollar while optimistically seeking the greatest good for the people in her report.

Yet, prose seeks a higher aesthetic. We don’t just communicate facts about what we write, we communicate truths. Sometimes these truths go beyond the facts. I read an excellent example of this last night in a thread begun by SueC, entitled “Ideals of the Past.” (Ironically, the discussion that followed also dealt with questions of education and poverty.) Should you have the opportunity, please read the post and notice how the beautifully written complaint ultimately reveals the dustbowl farmer’s awareness that his way of life is dying. While his approach does reveal observed facts, those facts describe a turning point in the human condition. However, it is the wound in his soul with which we connect.

To conclude this segment, the aspiring creative writer who has had a professional career may need some help in connecting with the audience in his intended genre. One of these hurdles is in how he approaches writing: is it by way of head knowledge, or is it through the heart?


My humble suggestion in overcoming this is to keep a journal as you begin reading the classics. The purpose of journaling observations about how an author handled a scene is not to capture any secret formula, but to reinforce the observations you make. Is there a pattern to your observations? If so, setting yourself a handful of writing exercises around that theme may help you to break through your head training into the heart of what you want to write.

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Comments

  1. Smith's Avatar
    Good to know I was on the right path. I've been reading the classics but haven't really been taking notes. I think I'll finish reading A Farewell to Arms without taking notes, and then go back and re-read through it while taking notes. This way I can still just enjoy the read on the first time through, you know?

    I believe a good novel is a combination of head and heart. It's a dance. Still, I found value in your advice. I need to trust myself to listen to my heart more when writing fiction. Easier said than done: there's no instruction manual.
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