Singularly, writing is defined as the act of someone who writes utilizing symbols to represent a sound. The content of which said writing is composed of isn’t a part of this distinction; neither is the shape of the symbols. Instead, writing is understood simply as a form of communication, a platform to express and exchange. In Mastery, Robert Greene calls it the Conventional Mind. He writes, “It consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms.” In this context, there is no invention of an original thought but, instead, the acceptance of what was already there.
As we navigate through a world that survives on the Internet, writing (and how it is defined) is up for debate. Today’s writer is forced to conform in order to produce content rapidly. They are bombarded with information from the same perspective, in the same voice; and they, too, must rush to release the same thing. There is no time given to analysis. Two weeks after an event, it’s irrelevant and not newsworthy. Is a newspaper writer one with a Conventional Mind, as Greene calls it? After all, the journalist has a set word count in which to furnish details. It has to be easy to read, released immediately following the event and one has to grasp the significant material quickly. Greene dives further into this concept: “The Dimensional Mind can explore more dimensions of the world. [It] is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.”
Creative writing is complex. It is precisely because of these complexities that it is creative. In Wounds of Passion: a writing life, bell hooks said that she writes “to know that I am not a disembodied voice chained to a computer.” The act of creative writing appears to be attached to the notion of saying something different versus just saying something. In expressing her necessity to write, bell hooks titled her person as a “disembodied voice” rather than just a human being.
As we navigate through a world that survives on the Internet, writing (and how it is defined) is up for debate. Today’s writer is forced to conform in order to produce content rapidly. They are bombarded with information from the same perspective, in the same voice; and they, too, must rush to release the same thing. There is no time given to analysis.
In Hanya Yanagihara’s debut novel, The People in the Trees, she wrote with a fluid elegance in all things that were dismissive of the cliché. Let me show you: “Sometimes I would have to take my glasses off simply so the world would smudge and recede for a moment and cease to seem so relentlessly present tense.” This is the epitome of creative writing that lives and breathes! Here’s more: “Language had no native intelligence of its own – it was created by man and was given meaning by man, and therefore clever writing often seemed to me little more than a Chinese puzzle box of contrivances. Writers are praised for having a facility with something man-made, something that can be changed or manipulated at will; but why is augmenting a man-made construction an act of brilliance? But perhaps I am not making sense here, so let me put it another way: language has no inherent secrets.” Even her insults are with grace.
The main character in her novel, Dr. Norton A. Perina, is a young doctor who finds himself on a voyage to a remote island. He is introduced to the tribe that inhabits it and learns of their ways. Because he arrived there for work, he conducts tests on the people. What he discovers is shocking, and it is in those moments of slow discovery that the story begins to pick up momentum. The foundation, however, is solidified through the motive behind the dissemination of the story. Norton is on trial for child molestation and was convinced to write his memoir – to tell the whole truth and nothing but.
After reading, I experienced my first Paralyzed Book Disorder. That is when a reader remains in a story long after it ends. I have a vivid memory of my final moments with it: I stood from my couch and paced in front of the window, shaking my head and curling the book in my hand. I read the back flap again. I read Yanagihara’s biography again (which told me nothing). Then I shuffled the pages, feeling a sense of freedom in its vintage smell as it fanned my face. I was appalled at how real the story felt. Soon enough, I started to recognize advertising for her second novel, A Little Life. I avoided it, afraid of discovering what she’d make me feel. Because I’m a loyal fan, I purchased it and cushioned it in my bookshelf; its spine stood out every time I glanced over. Until one night, I picked up her heavy story and took a dive. For 427 pages, I laughed and cried until I could no longer stand to witness my investment in a fiction story about people who did not exist in my life. Every page I read contracted my heart, solidifying my connection and ruining my quintessence. I couldn’t finish it. It is back cushioned on my shelf, closed.
Creative writing is movement that can’t be defined by mixing potions or involving the experiments of the periodic table. Instead, it is the work of one’s soul, exploiting its own inner jewels through a platform that utilizes symbols to represent a sound. In creative writing, the actual content is the conviction of the work, providing ammunition in waves. It is because of this very reason that political and religious leaders in the 13th century until the 18th century, required by law for the surrender of all disruptive books. If anyone were said to be caught, they’d be burned at the stake. Creative writing is humanity’s best kept secret because of its inevitable ability to transplant ideas. This perspective, of course, is mine.
In Barbara Ehrenreich’s memoir, Living with a Wild God, she explained that since a very young age, she knew writing to be a powerful aid to thinking. She had a curiosity for the world and looked at all things differently. Ehrenreich is candid in her attempts to share the start of a youthful hunger towards finding the truth about everything. She writes, “If you can condense today’s thought into a few symbols preserved on a surface of some kind – paper or silicon – you don’t have to rethink tomorrow.”
Kamira Maharaj is a graduate research assistant at the University of South Florida with an emphasis in exploring cancer cells. She thinks creative writing is “not for the purpose of publishing new science research.” Her angle is associating it with narratives, stories or opinion letters. This point of view feels limiting; as if a scientist is reduced to one who discovers without passion. Here is my theory: an ascertainment that is proclaimed with supporting details but is, also, infused with a personal theory should, too, be considered creative.
Dr. Michio Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York. His undergraduate degree is from Harvard University where he concentrated on physics and graduated at the top of his class. He received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California; and he held a lectureship at Princeton University in 1973. In his 2014 book, The Future of the Mind, we are privileged with the ability to see inside the psyche of a scientist who discovers with passion. He writes simply, “To fathom the greatest secrets in the universe, one did not need telepathic or superhuman abilities. One just had to have an open, determined and curious mind.” The questions he chooses to explore are audacious: “Our bodies may eventually decay and die, but can our consciousness live forever?”
Creative writing is movement that can’t be defined by mixing potions or involving the experiments of the periodic table. Instead, it is the work of one’s soul, exploiting its own inner jewels through a platform that utilizes symbols to represent a sound.
For the everyday reader, Kaku breaks down the many different facilities in our brain. Utilizing visuals, he informed me that the frontal lobe, is where most rational thought is processed. Then he explores what makes us unique animals: we have the capacity to simulate the future.
He is precisely the type of scientist I assume author Marilynne Robinson would like. In her collection of essays titled The Givenness of Things, she writes, “Science of the kind I criticize tends to assert that everything is explicable, that whatever has not been explained will be explained – and, furthermore, by their methods.” I agree with her. I do not believe documenting a discovery makes for creative writing but, instead, the style in which the discovery is perceived and declared.
My sister, an accountant, believes creative writing is that which “bares emotion.” For Mitchelle Ray-Williams, another writer, it is what allows her to “venture beyond the realm of journalistic or academic writing.” It is, for her, “writing with no restrictions.” And there is Fei Daniel, who is studying pre-law with aspirations to be in high fashion, who believes that creative writing is “short, not a book” with “small shots of emotion”.
The craft is so well versed that it doesn’t reach anyone the same way. This intrigued me, instigating a deeper dig. What was it about “creative writing” that made it touch everyone differently? In Webster’s handheld New Compact Office Dictionary of 2003, ‘creator’ is defined as one who creates – the creator God. If exploring the word utilizing the given frame, a creator being one who creates and that person being the creator God, our world is filled with individual Lords. Expanding the novelty far beyond artistic creations, each being bares their own unique powers and abilities. The most common, universal and accepted superpower is that of propagating (although it is not viewed as such). The society in which we live has adopted the notion that God must be a singular higher being that sits in the clouds, observing our every move while, also, providing blessings and punishments. Similar to Robert Greene’s idea of a Conventional Mind, here we have the elimination of the self that denounces ones ability to create something new and fresh while, also, removing the necessary self-confidence to fulfill God-like duties.
Enrenreich writes, “We have vastly underrated the cosmos that gave us birth. We have understated her achievements, her capacities, and her creativity. We’ve set aside will, purpose, and persistence in a magic enclosure and have claimed that … [they] do not belong to nature, they belong solely to us human beings. We have, in other words, made ourselves far lonelier than we have any reason to be.”
Is creative writing something that was created by a creator who is, ultimately, the creator God? ♦
Feature image by Michael Badger