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How to do a Creative Writing

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Published Date:04-07-2017
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Introduction Ithinkthatwheremyownconfusionlies,intryingtothinkof‘creative’ as an adjective, as some descriptive term, is in the fact that I cannot conceive of ‘creative’ as something available to an attitude of discreet choice, as though one were able to agree or not, as its interest quickened or wanted in one’s thought of it. 1 Robert Creeley Wecandiscovertheoriginsofspokenlanguageintheneedand,perhaps also, the desire for communication by human beings with other human beings. The origins of writing systems relate to the desire and, perhaps also, the need for a system of preservation and record, that continues beyondtheinitialverbalutterance.Butthen,wemightask,whyandfrom what human origin, comes Creative Writing? Whatformofcommunicationor,indeed,preservationandrecorddoes CreativeWritingoffer?What,indeed,isthissetofactions,anditsresults, thatweashumanbeingscametoundertakeitand,ascontinues tobethe 2 case, to encourage, and quite often admire it? Why does this Creative Writingpersist,sostrongly,acrosssomanycultures,undertakenbysome many people, appearing in so many types, roles and locations? Itisonethingtospeculateoncommunicationandanothertospeculate on art. Creative Writing offers an instance of both, almost exclusively built of the most common of human communicative tools – words – adopting and adapting these to a purpose that seems at once universal and selective, simultaneously. To consider the origins of this, what must surely be our most pervasive art – on whose undertaking so many other arts rely – and our most commonly undertaken form of creative communication, would seem a natural action; yet relatively few have speculated on it, and, indeed, most of these have considered Creative Writing entirely in relation to its products, not to its actions. Where it has been considered in terms of its actions, not its end results, the analysis has located itself in a notion of difference or strangeness – but not in the idea of Creative Writing actions as part of our wider human landscape, wherewemightengagewithitnotasstrangeorbecausewearedifferent but, indeed, because we are human. ixx On Creative Writing What, then, is Creative Writing? Let me put forward two propositions to situate this question – though not simply to situate it in terms of its material manifestations (i.e. the physical evidence that it leaves behind) butalsothemetaphysical(i.e.thememories,perceptions,ideals,responses, bywhichweunderstandit).Andthenposesomestatementsasquestions, to consider how (and if) these propositions offer useful insights. Proposition I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing ‘Creative Writing involves a set of activities, or process that can be discovered by the investigation of disseminatedworks.’Thisproposition can be considered by reference to: (1) Creative Writing primarily involves finished works? (2) Acts and actions of Creative Writing can be observed in finished works? (The definition of ‘action’ used here is ‘a collection of acts, sometimesjoinedbylogic,intuitionorfortuitouscircumstance’and the definition of act is ‘something done’.) (3) No unfinished works are created by creative writers? (4) All works of Creative Writing are disseminated? (5) All dissemination of Creative Writing occurs, and has occurred, similarly? (6) There is always a direct relationship between acts and actions of Creative Writing and disseminated works? (7) TheactivitiesconstitutedasCreativeWritingcanalwaysbegrouped under the term ‘process’? Proposition II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing ‘Creative Writing involves personal and social activities with the intention of producing art and communication.’ This proposition can be considered by reference to: (1) All works of Creative Writing have aesthetic appeal? (2) All works of Creative Writing clearly communicate? (3) Intentions in Creative Writing are always met? (4) Creative Writing is solely an act or range of acts? (5) PersonalandsocialactivitiesrelatingtoCreativeWritingarealways connected? (6) The personal and social activities of Creative Writing have equal status? (7) Communication and art always hold equal status in society?Introduction xi One thing informs these propositional questions: that is, the human- centrednatureofCreativeWriting.Notmerelythatitisbecauseofhuman action that CreativeWriting exists, but that it is in human understanding that Creative Writing has evolved and continues to evolve as both an art and communication. With this in mind, statements made by creative writers reveal much, if both the actions and results of Creative Writing are kept equally in mind. ...thefreshnessofflowersbeingarrangedbytheunder-gardenerin the cool drawing room of our country house, as I was running downstairs with my butterfly net on a summer day half a century ago:thatkindofthingisabsolutelypermanent,immortal,itcannever changenomatter howmanytimesIfarmitouttomycharacters,itis always there with me; there’s the red sand, the white garden bench, theblackfirtrees,everything,apermanentpossession.Ithinkitisall amatteroflove:themoreyouloveamemory,thestrongandstranger 3 it is. VladimirNabokov’swords,spokenhereina1962interviewwithPeter Duval-Smith and Christopher Burstall. Here there is memory, there is writerly technique, there is action and thought and the presence of a representationofacertainpersonalmateriality.Butthen,theword‘love’. Infact,notonlytheappearanceoftheword‘love’,butthedeclarationthat ‘itisallamatter’ofexactlythat.Loveandtheexaltation,use,transference of memory to the writer’s page. How, then, to incorporate love into the critical understanding of what Creative Writing might entail? Or, as is equally important, to consider the nature of love in an act, and a result, that is both art and communication? Creative writers regularly release ideals and ideas about Creative Writing. Sometimes these are incredibly individualistic,talkingabouttheirown,personalpractice,theirnextbook or poem or play, their daily lives, their loves. Other times they reference holisticentitieslike‘culture’or‘society’,‘literature’,‘readers’or‘writers’. The fact that they frequently move fluidly between the individual and holist, their personal experiences and the public ones that influence andimpact upon them, isindicative ofthefluidity ofCreativeWritingas a practice, while reminding us likewise that Creative Writing, as a range of results, rarely stays still for long. I was rescued by Paul Engle’s Writers’ Workshop in the mid-1960s, andhedidn’tknowme,andIdon’tthinkhehadeverheardofme.He didn’t read that kind of crap. But somebody else out here did, andxii On Creative Writing assured him that I was indeed a writer, but dead broke with a lot of kids,andcompletelyoutofprintandscaredtodeath.Sohethrewme a life preserver, which is to say a teaching job. That same autumn he threw another to the world-class writer Nelson Algren, and yet another to the Chilean novelist Jose Donoso. All three of us were 4 headed for Davy Jones’s locker for sure. The ability to read or, indeed, ‘hear’ the differences between this piece (written by Kurt Vonnegut) and the earlier piece, by Nabokov, is 5 That is, we distinctively human, a result of nature as well as nurture. read,aswehear,inwaysthatrelatetoourindividualdispositionsandcan beeducatedbycircumstance,ourownpersonalandfamilybackgrounds, our own educations, our cultures, and our physiological conditions (e.g. what can we hear, and what do we hear in the same way as some- one else?). But this piece also reveals additional, specific differences in understanding, in the way this creative writer engages with the world, in how he views his place among other creative writers, and in what he imagines words do, when placed in a certain order and situation. How deep can we delve, then? And what dwells within here? It is not merely the individual creative writer and the individual reader. It is not merely the individual and the group or, more specifically, Vonnegut and the culture around him. It is not even simply the present (of the Creative Writing) and the past (our reading of it here, one, ten, twenty, how ever many, years after Vonnegut’s death). The equality of the relationship–atleastaswemightimagineit–betweenthetextinfrontof us, and the acts and actions of the creative writer who undertook this Creative Writinghas varied, and will vary,over time and space. And the instances of engagement that this involves will draw on individual and social circumstance. Takethatword‘crap’,forinstance.Abrupt?Humorous?Vulgarslang? Commonplace? Colourful? Would Nabokov use it? In what way has Vonnegut used it? Of course, the sentence in which this word appears is filled with direct and indirect references to so many things. It contains a compliment to Paul Engle. It contains a reference to genre – that is, the genres that Vonnegut was working in, and around, at the time (science fiction, for example) – and it contains a comment on popular versus high culture. It also refers to the high quality of work (teaching as well as learning) being undertaken at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop during Engle’s time and to the nature of the experience of being a creative writer associated with that Workshop. The complexity of the experience Vonnegutisattemptingtoportrayisnolessthantheconceptof‘love’thatIntroduction xiii Nabokov describes, but it strikes Vonnegut differently, and this his portrayal reveals. There’s also cultural and societal baggage (though ‘baggage’ produces perhaps too negative a connotation). Both reveal as muchabouttheirplaceinaculturalrealmastheydoabouttheparticular creative writer’s place. To return, then, to the acts and actions, the human activity, that Creative Writing involves we hear (and sometimes read) all manner of clues to the nature of Creative Writing. Quite often, the mix of ‘personal’ and‘group’views(or,wecouldsay,‘individualist’and‘holist’views;or, even, ‘single’ and ‘collective’ views) is complex and highly developed. It is the result of interactions of circumstance, knowledge and under- standing, throughout time. Frequently, it contains both direct and indirect references to action and thought. Always it reveals some of the ideas and ideals of the creative writer as they involve themselves in Creative Writing. Take, for example, this from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, delivered to the American Writers Congress in October 1981. She is referring, initially, to a comment she’s made earlier (‘We are toys ...’), in relation to commercialism and a publishing obsession with financial success: That this notion of the writer as toy – manipulable toy, profitable toy – jeopardizes the literature of the future is abundantly clear. But not only is the literature of the future endangered; so is the literature of the recent past. This country has had an unsurpassed literary presenceintheworldforseveraldecadesnow.Butitwillbelucky,in the coming decade, if it can hold its own. What emerges as the best literature of the 1980s or even the 1990s may be writtenelsewhere by otherpeople.Not becauseofanabsenceofnative geniusbut because something is very wrong in the writer’s community. Writers are less andlesscentraltotheideaandsubjectofliterature.Wholeschoolsof criticism have disposessed the writer of any place whatever in the critical value of his work. Ideas, craft, vision, meaning – all of them are just so much baggage in these critical systems. The text itself is a mere point of departure for philology, philosophy, psychiatry, 6 theology and other disciplines. Here we can hear Morrison’s ambition – in the year she turned 50, sevenyearsbeforeshewonthePulitzerPrizeforFictionandtwelveyears before she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. We can hear a creative writerwithprideandenergy.Acreativewriter,also,withacriticaleyeon thenationaroundher,andaclearsenseoftheaudiencesheisaddressing.xiv On Creative Writing Wehear,also,inwordssuchas‘jeopardizes’and‘unsurpassed’notonlya creativewriterwithapassionforthepoliticalinferenceofwriterlyaction, but a writer with a desire to address themes of structural and functional conflict.Thatis,thekindofconflictthatarisesfromsomesystemicwrong, someunstableyetestablishedentity,whichmovesaslongtermhistoryor as part of an historical cycle. This is different in philosophy from the interpretationofourworldasconsistingofrandomeventsscatteredover a societal container made up of individuals. Historical structure matters here; individuals are not tied down entirely by materialities, but they’re not able to operate free of them either. In other words, speaking in shorthand, it is not difficult to imagine Morrison, the creative writer, writing a novel such as Paradise (1993), in which she portrays conflict between two relatively structured communities. Of course, Creative Writing isn’t as simple as that. Suffice it to say, human activity almost never can be reduced to a single plain of under- standing. So we cannot simply go through the pronouncements of creativewritersandreconstructthenatureofCreativeWritingfromtheir outpourings,eventhoseoutpouringsthatrelatetotheircreativepractices. Similarly we cannot, simply, discover the nature of Creative Writing in thescrawlsonthemarginsoftheirmanuscriptsorinthelettersoremails theysendtofriends,orinthepaintings,films,plays,sports,theiradmire, in their choice of desk, or in the instrument or technology their use to write.Wecannot,simply,takebiographicalfactand,onthebasisthatthe subject is a creative writer, make from these the very fact of Creative Writing. And yet, we cannot do without these either. The artefactual evidence of the act and actions of Creative Writing – whether notes and scribbles, complementary works (those pieces of writing, creative and otherwise, that are produced alongside primary Creative Writing activity), final works or ‘post-works’ (those responses thatfollowthe‘completion’and/ordisseminationofCreativeWriting)– this artefactual evidence adds to the things that creative writers say, verbally, some of which are quoted in writing, about what they do, why they do it, and how the relationship between the acts and actions of Creative Writing and its final, or even preliminary, results interrelate. These things are pointers, directional guides to what Creative Writing entails, what it is, as a human practice. Thus, Yevgeny Yevtushenko: A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else can only be a footnote. Apoet is only a poet when a readercan see himwhole as if he held him in the hollow of his hand with all his feelings, thoughts, 7 and actions.Introduction xv In general, in spite of all the intrigues and the dirt that go with it, sport is a cleaner businessthan literature. There are times when I am 8 very sorry I did not become a footballer. Yevtushenko, a creative writer not without the ability to polarise opinion,offersatleastsomeindicationofhowheandthosewhorespond to his work interact. Likewise, he grounds his writerly identity in his writerly action – suggesting, even if only briefly, that the relationship between his sense of self and his sense of the cultural community in which he works or worked (because these statements were published in1963)isthesiteofpersonalchoiceandpublictension,personalconcern and public distance. Compare that with these words from Margaret Atwood, talking about the writing of her The Handmaid’s Tale (1985): How did The Handmaid’s Tale get written? The answer could be, partly on a rented electric typewriter with a German keyboard in a walk-up flat in West Berlin, and partly in a house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama–which,itwasannouncedtomewithacertainpride,isthe percapitamurdercapitaloftheUnitedStates.‘Gosh,’Isaid.‘MaybeI shouldn’t be here.’ ‘Aw, don’t y’all worry,’ they replied. ‘They only shootsfamily.’ Butalthoughthesetwoplaces provided,shallwesay, 9 a certain atmosphere, there is more to the story than that. While I was writing it, and for some time after, I kept a scrapbook with clippings from newspapers referring to all sorts of material that fitted in with the premises on which the book is based – everything from articles on the high level of PCBs found in polar bears, to the biologicalmothersassignedtoSStroopsbyHitler,inadditiontotheir legal wives, for the purposes of child production, to conditions in prisons around the world, to computer technology, to underground polygamy in the state of Utah. There is, as I have said, nothing in the book without precedent. But this material in itself would not constitute a novel. A novel is always the story of an individual, or 10 several individuals; never the story of a generalized mass. Interesting, here, that Atwood should be drawn to talk about ‘precedent’. Equally interesting that she should focus on the content researchthatsheundertookinthewritingofthebook,andthatsherecalls so much of the physical circumstances of the writing, even down to the fine detail of the kind of typewriter used and the entries made in a scrapbook. These, previously unpublished comments were made in 1989 and eventually published in a book edited by Atwood, Writing with Intent,in2005.WecanconfidentlyassumethatAtwoodwashappytoseexvi On Creative Writing thecommentspublished,becauseshewastheeditorofthebookinwhich they appear. We cannot, perhaps, absolutely ascertain if she clarified, altered or in any way rewrote (however minutely) sections of this, described in her bibliography as an ‘unpublished speech’ – though she does suggest that she did not. In fact, we can reasonably safely conclude that Atwood recognised the changes in circumstances, in location in life, in personal Creative Writing history – all those evolutionary aspects – because she tells us she considered exactly that: Looking back at some of these essays – ‘essays’ in the sense of ‘attempt’ – I feel I might write them in another way if I were writing themtoday.Butthen,I’dbeunlikelytowritethemtoday.Everything we do is embedded in time, and time changes not only us, but our 11 point of view as well. Speaking crudely, then, Atwood is covered If what appears in her book of ‘essays, reviews, personal prose’ is not what she currently believesor,indeed,ischangedbyalapseinmemoryortheimpactoflater occurrences, then this fact can be assigned to changes in ‘point of view’. Not that any of this is necessarily orchestrated by the creative writer in order to dupe the reader. Atwood, like anyone else, is situated in time; and yet, she has the ability (via memory) to transcend linear chronology. The fact that she transcends linear chronology, in part, in the act and actions of Creative Writing is our focus here. Creative Writing occurs in motion. Creative writers experience Creative Writing this way. Cynthia Ozick, for example: To return to the matter of credentials. A bird can fly over any continent you choose; it’s the having the wings that counts. A writer can beat home in novel, story,essay or play; it’sthe breathing inside 12 a blaze of words that counts. Motion, movement, activity. Similarly, Creative Writing exists, for creative writers, as perception, memory and action first, and as object and result second. This needs emphasising. Creative Writing, for creative writers, is first and foremost perception, memory and action because it is in perception,memoryandactionthatcreativewritersbecome,andremain, creative writers. And it is in action that the Creative Writing becomes defined. That is: if the creative writer cannot act in order to pursue the writing of something, then they cease to be creative writers. They may have been creative writers, they may even have an existence ‘in memory’, as creative writers; but they are no longer such. For this reason – though notsolelythisreason–creativewritersliveequallyforthegreaterpartsofIntroduction xvii their daily lives in the worlds of perception, memory and/or action. Were they to live mostly in the worlds associated with specific physical results (e.g. a ‘final’ draft, a work completed) and physical objects (e.g. a ‘published’ novel, poem, shooting script) then they would cease to function as creative writers; and certainly, at points in their careers, this cessation would prevent them from evolving as creative writers. Muriel Spark: I must say that my rejection slips, if they fell out of the envelopes at a rate of more than two a day, depressed me greatly. However, I had a list of possible weeklies and little magazines to hand, and immediately I put the poem or article into a new envelope with a letter to the editor and S.A.S.E. If the work I was offering looked shopworn, Iwould typeit out again. Themoneyforthesestampsfor 13 outgoing mail was a pressing part of my budget in those days. Spark’s recollections here are those of a tyro artist; and they are certainly those of the determined apprentice seeking approval for what they are achieving or, in part, what their promise suggests they might achieve. But that is not all that is being said. There is a systemic sense to the way the which Spark acts and reacts. And there’s an emotional and dispositional aspect, which she reveals openly, seemingly without pretence. Behind this short story of struggle there is, also, intention and meaning (both personal and cultural meaning). There are feelings and reasons, which in themselves reveal much about Spark, but also much about the nature of Creative Writing and its place in the human world. Therearebehaviourpatterns,intricateones.Thereispersonalpsychology and the echo of group psychology. And there is a set of cultural and social rules and relationships that not only impact on action, but also on thought,andalsoonthewaysinwhichperceptionisformed,ormemory devolved, influenced or applied. Consider, in this vein, Spark’s very determined need to retype a manuscript that returned to her ‘shopworn’. We could consider this activity merely in terms of the niceties of the publishing industry at the timeor,additionally,considerthesenseofprideSparkfeltintheappear- anceofherwork.Butwhatelse?Whatliesbeneaththissimple,somewhat methodical, act? Could it be something to do with a wider interest in appearance? Could it be some physiological need, relating to feelings of rejection or the desire for acceptance? Could it be a form resistance? Or could Spark employ it as an act of bold declaration? Whatever interpretationweplaceonjustthatoneact(ofthemanydescribedineven the short quote, above) it is clear that this is an undertaking of somexviii On Creative Writing importance, that (in this case) it left some physical evidence, and that it carries evidence (both physical and metaphysical) about the nature of Creative Writing. Addtothistheconsiderationthattime–asHenriBergsonpointedout so well in his work, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data 14 15 of Consciousness and Matter and Memory, among others – real time is not subject to the linearisation or compartmentalisation; rather, it is durational, fluid, unable to be measured by the methods of science or considered as a series of moments AQ: Have changed ‘series’ from ‘serious’ OK?. Memory plays a role in a contemporaneous way, along- side that which exists physically around us, and in conjunction with perception. In addition, not all memory has immediate impact on action, or even has perceived relevance for the actions being undertaken. So, rather than seeing Creative Writing acts and actions as determined only by the observed elements of ‘now’, or by perception based entirely in direct and immediate links between memory and actions, it is important torecognisethatperception,memoryandactioninteractfluidly,thatthis interaction is complex and multifaceted and that notions of chronology determined by the emergence of objects (e.g. works of Creative Writing) is only part of this story. It is impossible to determine what Creative Writing is, how it exists, why human beings undertake it, or even to accurately interpret the evidence that Creative Writing produces with- out recognition of this fact. Creative writers are negotiating this area constantly.Thefollowingquestions,andtheirinvestigation,suggestways we can approach this very human activity. Notes 1. The Creative Robert Creeley, MLN 89(6), Comparative Literature, December 1974, 1029–1040, 138–139. 2. Daniel Nettle suggests that ‘When a cultural invention like Creative Writing comes along, it will flourish if it is successful at capturing the attention and motivation of a significant number of people, and it will wither if it does not’ (p. 102). Intriguingly, he also goes on to suggest there may be certain ‘evolutionary’ advantages associate with Creative Writing (p. 109). Nettle, D. (2009)TheevolutionofCreativeWriting.InThePsychology ofCreative Writing, Cambridge University Press, p. 101. 3. Nabokov, V. (1974) BBC Television 1962. In Strong Opinions. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 4. Vonnegut, K. (1999) New World Symphony. In A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, p. 115.Introduction xix 5. Not to say, of course, that this is not complex. Alberto Manguel writes: ‘Whether reading is independent from, for instance, listening, whether it is asingledistinctivesetofpsychologicalprocessesorconsistsofagreatvariety of such processes, researchers don’t yet know, but many believe that its complexity may be as great as thinking itself.’ Manguel drawing from Merlin C Whittrock’s work on reading comprehension. Manguel, A. (1996) A History of Reading. London: Harper Collins, p. 39. 6. Morrison, T. (2008) For a heroic writers’ movement. In Carolyn C. Denard (ed.) What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction. Jackson: University of Mississippi pp. 157–158. 7. Yevtushenko, Y. (1963) A Precious Autobiography. London: Collins & Harvill, p. 7 8. Yevtushenko, Y. (1963) A Precious Autobiography. London: Collins & Harvill, p. 58. 9. Atwood, M. (2005) Writing Utopia. In Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983–2005. New York: Carroll & Graf, p. 92. 10. Atwood, M. (2005) Writing Utopia. In Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983–2005. New York: Carroll & Graf, pp. 99–100. 11. Atwood, M. (2005) Writing Utopia. In Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983–2005. New York: Carroll & Graf, pp. xiii–xiv. 12. Ozick, C. (2003) On being a novice playwright. In Maria Arana (ed.) The Writing Life: Writers on How they Think and Work. New York: Public Affairs, p. 257. 13. Spark, M. (2003) Emerging from under your rejection slips. In Maria Arana (ed.) The Writing Life: Writers on How they Think and Work. New York: Public Affairs, p. 54. 14. Bergson, H. (1910) Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (F.L. Pogson, trans.). London: George Allen and Unwin. 15. Bergson,H.(1911)MatterandMemory (N.M.PaulandW.ScottPalmer,trans.). London: George Allen and Unwin.PARTI CONCERNINGTHENATUREOF CREATIVEWRITING CreativeWritinginvolvesasetofactivities, orprocess,thatcanbediscoveredbythe investigationofdisseminatedworks. Thispropositioncanbeconsideredwith referenceto:Chapter 1 CreativeWritingPrimarilyInvolves FinishedWorks? 1. When speaking about ‘Creative Writing’ it is sometimes the case that we are speaking about two things. That is: the activities of Creative Writing and the finished works that emerge from the activities of Creative Writing. However, most often the term ‘Creative Writing’ is used to refer to the activities we engage in. The results of these activities, alternatively, are most often referred to by their specific ‘artefactual’ names – for example, the ‘poem’, ‘script’, ‘story’ or ‘novel’ that emerges from the acts and actions of Creative Writing. This separation in language also represents a separation in attitude, a separation that was extended by the strength of the focus during the 20thcenturyontheobjects,the‘finished’artefacts,ofcreativeproduction. Thiswasparticularlythecaseinthesecondhalfofthe20thcenturywhen consumerist ideologies, supporting an economic system increasingly dependentontheexchangeofgoodsandservices,madematerialgoodsa primarymodeofhumanexchange,andtheprovisionofserviceslikewise became highly commodified. In a metropolitan rather than rural focused production system, no longer trading in a relatively leisurely fashion in hand-crafted objects or in a close community of labour exchange, consumerism involved productandpurchaser,theroleof theproducer– at least as it pertained to the recognition of the individual, or to place of the personal – grew less significant. That is not to pass judgement on the impactofconsumercultureinthelatterhalfofthe20thcentury.Rather,it issimplytonotethattheriseofconsumerismreliedonthesignificanceof goods and services for consumption and on the desire, and ability, of the consumer to purchase these goods and services. If there was a producer referenced at all the role of producer ‘branding’ was more notable than the actual activities of that producer. Of course, the word ‘production’ is being used instead of the words ‘Creative Writing’ or ‘creating’, to indicate this was a consumption and 2Creative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 3 production cycle of a distinct kind and that it impacted upon how we viewed Creative Writing. In the case of Creative Writing, the words ‘creative writer’, or ‘creator’ or ‘maker’ might seem more appropriate to indicate the often individual nature of the acts and actions of Creative Writing and to highlight the fact that not every piece of Creative Writing was destined to a commercial exchange. Indeed, this is part of a point worth developing later. Here, however, the important aspect of the historical profile is that it was product-consumption related, even while culturally the latter 20th century saw the rise of individualism and the declarations of the importance of individual voices. In the case of economics, it was not the individual human ‘maker’ who held sway but the individual human ‘receiver’. This was a cycle dependent on the willingness of individuals to purchase, to receive according to trade focused on artefactual brand (even in the case of services where commodificationusedalmostidenticalrhetoricortheimageryofoffering ‘satisfaction’). Language, then, whether verbal or visual, whether denotative or connotative,borethesignificanceoffinality,theimportanceofcompleted ‘works’, and demoted the relevance of ‘working’ or ‘undertaking’ to a secondary rank in which efficiency, delivery to the market, adherence to a promoted brand, and clarity of what was on sale, far outweighed the accuracy of production information. Indeed, while later in the century evidence of some Western concern with ‘fair trading’ or ‘exploitation’ of non-Western producers became evident, for the greater part of the 20th century the West, where consumerism most strongly flourished, devoted itself far more to delivery of goods and services than it did to the question of how – physically or, indeed, ethically – these goods and services were delivered. This focus on end commodity result even bore an alternate moral standing by which the product, in the broadest sense of the term, was expected to be available when and where the consumer required it. The moral imperative of satisfying the consumer came in manyguises,notmerelyintermsofquantityorquality,andcertainlynot onlyrelatingtotheinitiallyobservableappearanceofthegoodorservice. Rather, it carried with it symbolic and cultural intention, high culture, low culture, ‘well-made’, ‘poorly-made’, ‘expensive’, ‘cheap’, significant orinsignificantforoneculturalgrouporanother,whetherthedominating or dominated. Categories and ideals that transgressed the boundaries of the material, but were always entirely tied to it. We could take this historical perspective back further for Creative Writing andnotethatsuchaseparationofthe‘finished’artefactfromthe acts and actions of creative writers owed much to the commodification4 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing borne on the back of the ideal of copyright. Copyright, founded as it was on the ‘concept of the unique individual who creates something original 1 Andyetalreadycanbe andisentitledtoreapaprofitfromthoselabors’. observed the deductive shift, because in this definition the conflating of ‘something’ with ‘labours’ locates copyright in end, indeed final, result rather than in the labour, or creating itself. From this perspective, we can extend such analysis to show how we have seen considerable importance placed on ‘works’ rather than on the human‘work’ofcreation.So,forexample,MarthaWoodmansee,writing in her chapter in The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature, asks: Will the author in the modern sense prove to have been only a brief episode in the history of writing? By ‘author’ we mean an individual who is the sole creator of unique ‘works’ the originality of which warrants their protection under laws of intellectual property known 2 as ‘copyright’ or ‘authors’ rights. This is a reasonable question to ponder, if we begin with ‘works’ rather than ‘working’, because if authorship is located in the ownership of completed artefacts then of course the authors of The Construction of Authorship are right to ask whether such a concept has any permanency. Ownership of artefacts has to be seen as fragile because artefacts can be exchanged, can be traded, can be sold, valued and re-valued, placed on the market, or stored for future exploitation. But what about actions? What about the acts and actions that a creative writer, or group of creative writers, undertake? Once undertaken – even while being under- taken – who owns these? If they are not contracted to someone else – say in the case of a film script or novel produced according to a pre-writing contract – if they are not contracted to someone else, can anyone other than the creative writer or writers ever own them? Indeed, to be entirely accurate, what actually is it that is contracted if the writing of a work is contracted? It is not the act or actions of the creative writer that, say, the film company of publisher has contracted; rather it is the work or works they produce. They have, most definitely, contracted the labour, but if the labour produces only labour and no result, would the contract be seen to have been met? This question, too, we might visit later. But, for now,sufficetosayitwouldbeanunusualcircumstancethatwould seea creative writer contracted simply to write but never to be expected to deliver some work or works to those who had contracted them. The subject of Jaszi and Woodmansee’s book is copyright and ‘appropriation’ and it would be churlish to criticise their conclusions.Creative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 5 They place their focus on artefacts and their contributors produce clear analysesofcopyrightvestedinobjectsandproducts.Butshiftthepointat which the analysis begins away from artefacts and towards the acts and actions of creative writers and Woodmansee’s consideration of whether authors will continue to exist becomeserroneous. Of course, authors will continuetoexistaslongaswecontinuetoundertaketheactsandactions of authorship. I take authorship here to be the activity of authoring; and, ofcourse,Iamspeakingofthepracticaland,indeed,physiologicalaswell as psychological act of creating, not about whether interpretation of the works of others is a form of authoring, or about whether authorship is as much a wider cultural activity as well as an individual one, or about whethertheword‘author’maymeansomethingotherthanthe‘physical’ commonsense concept of the ‘maker’. Naturally, this approach brings together the idea of the ‘creative writer’ with the idea of the ‘author’ and that, in itself, raises many questions. But because this conflation has also been generically, colloquially and even critically undertaken by many others, it would seem simplest to let it remain, at least for now. Jaszi and Woodmansee are not unaware of the problems in all this, explaining in their Introduction that: To merit copyright an ‘expression’ must be ‘fixed,’ leading to the exclusion of a wide range of improvised works and works of oral 3 tradition. Again,entirelyaccurate.Andyet,howmanyactsoractionsofcreative writers are fixed and how many are in motion, part of a continuum of action, inseparable from the action beside them, before them, or after them? Naturally, a ridiculous question because human actions are only abletobeseparatedfromeachotherifwestopthem.Ifwestopthemthey are,bysimpledefinition,nolongeractsandactionsbutpastactivitiesthat mightbereflectedupon,evenifthentheyarealteredbytheirrelationship withfixity,andnowalsoalteredbytheirrelationshipwithanycurrentor future acts and actions that may be undertaken. To recall some related comments by Henri Bergson briefly: From Creative Evolution: Let us start, then, from action, and lay down that the intellect aims, first of all, at constructing. This fabrication is exercised exclusively on inert matter, in this sense, that even if it makes use of organised material it treats it as inert, without troubling about which animated it. And of insert matter, fabrication deals only with the solid; the rest 4 escapes by its very fluidity.6 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing From Time and Free Will: On the one hand we attribute to the motion the divisibility of the space which it traverses, forgetting that it is quite possible to divide anobject,butnotanact:andontheotherhandweaccustomourselves toprojectingthisactitselfintospace,toapplyingittothewholeofthe linewhichthemovingbodytraverses,inawordtosolidifyingit:asif this localizing of progress in space did not amount to asserting that, 5 evenoutsideconsciousness,thepastcoexistsalongwiththepresent From the Creative Mind: I was indeed very much struck to see how real time, which plays the leading part in any philosophy of evolution, eludes mathematical treatment. Its essence being to flow, not one of its parts is still there 6 when another part comes along. And later: Iveryquicklyspottedtheinadequacyoftheassociationistconception ofthemind;thisconception,thencommontomostpsychologistsand philosophers, was the result of an artificial re-grouping of conscious life. What would direct vision give – immediate vision, with no 7 interposed prejudices? And this from Time and Free Will: The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from thefactthatweimagineperceptiontobeakindofphotographicview of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception – a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some chemical or psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space? No metaphysics, no physics even, can escape this conclusion. Build up the universe with atoms: each of them is subject to the action, variable in quantity and quality according to the distance, exerted on it by all materials 8 atoms. That is probably enough of a selection from Bergson’s philosophical writings to give a flavour of them to those unfamiliar with his work, and enough to suggest equally how a concentration on fixity, and a failure to deal adequately with the active aspects of human activity, humanCreative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 7 creativity,relatestorecognisingCreativeWritingasactsandactions,and how this might thus relate to the actual status of ‘completed’ works of Creative Writing. If, on first thought, the sense in which a work of Creative Writing is ‘complete’ when released to a readership or audience suggests we might use these ‘completed’ works as focal points for a consideration oftheactsandactionsthatproducedthem,thenBergson’sworkcertainly asks us to think again about how we co-locate such discussions with those about Creative Writing itself. Equally, the statements of creative writers about their activities frequently undermines the suggestion that completedworksareever–inthesenseofwhatCreativeWritingactually is – ever truly complete. To take the comments of one of Henri Bergson’s near contemporaries, Ernest Hemingway: Whenyouareexcitedaboutsomethingiswhenthefirstdraftisdone. Butno-onecanseeituntilyouhavegoneoveritagainandagainuntil you have communicated your emotion, the sights and sounds to the reader, and by the time you have completed this the words, some- times, will not make sense to you as you read them, so many times haveyoure-readthem.Bythetimethebookcomesoutyouwillhave startedsomethingelseanditisallbehindyouandyoudonotwantto hear about it. But you do, you read it in covers and you see it all the 9 places that now you can do nothing about it. Hemingway expressing here the creative writer’s desire to ‘do some- thing about it’, to take action to correct some element of their writing that notions of the object, of finality, of completeness, denies them easy access to correct. To stay in broadly the same period, add to this these observations from the diaries of Virginia Woolf: This from Sunday 22 January 1922: ... The birds wake us with their jangling about 7 o’clock; which I take to be a sign of spring, but then I am always optimistic. A thick mist, steam coloured, obscures even twigs, let alone Towers Place. Why do I trouble to be so particular with facts? I think it is my sense oftheflightoftime:sosoonTowersPlacewillbenomore;&twigs,& Ithatwrite.IfeeltimeracinglikeafilmattheCinema.Itrytostopit.I 10 prod it with my pen. I try to pin it down. And this from Saturday 2 August 1924: ...honestlyIdon’tfeelold;&it’saquestionofgettingupmysteam againinwriting.IfonlyIcouldgetintomyvein&workitthoroughly