On Creative WritingNEW WRITING VIEWPOINTS
Series Editor: Graeme Harper, University of Wales, Bangor, Wales, Great Britain
The overall aim of this series is to publish books which will ultimately inform teach-
ing and research, but whose primary focus is on the analysis of Creative Writing
practice and theory. There will also be books which deal directly with aspects of
experience of creativity, and with the learning of Creative Writing. They will all have
in common a concern with excellence in application and in understanding, with
Creative Writing practitioners and their work, and with informed analysis of Creative
Writing as process as well as completed artefact.
on http://www.multilingual-matters.com, or by writing to Multilingual Matters,
St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW, UK.NEW WRITING VIEWPOINTS
Series Editor: Graeme Harper, University of Wales, Bangor, Wales
On Creative Writing
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On Creative Writing/Graeme Harper.
New Writing Viewpoints
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Creative writing. 2. Authorship. 3. English language–Rhetoric.
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Printed and bound in Great Britain by Short Run Press Ltd.Contents
Acknowledgements .................................... vii
Introduction .......................................... ix
Part I. Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
1 Creative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? ....... 2
2 Acts and Actions of Creative Writing Can Be Observed in
Finished Works? . . ................................. 14
3 No Unﬁnished Works are Created by Creative Writers?. . . . . . 23
4 All Works of Creative Writing are Disseminated? . . ........ 32
5 All Dissemination of Creative Writing Occurs, and Has
Occurred, Similarly? ................................ 41
6 There is Always a Direct Relationship Between Acts and
Actions of Creative Writing and Disseminated Works? . . . . . . 50
7 The Activities that are Creative Writing Can Always be
Grouped Under the Term ‘Process’? .................... 59
Part II. Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
8 All Works of Creative Writing Have Aesthetic Appeal?. . . . . . 68
9 All Works of Creative Writing Clearly Communicate?....... 74
10 Intentions in Creative Writing are Always Met?............ 81
11 Creative Writing is Solely an Act or Range of Acts?. ........ 88
12 Personal and Social Activities Relating to Creative Writing are
Always Connected? ................................. 94
13 The Personal and Social Activities of Creative Writing Have
Equal Status?...................................... 101
14 Communication and Art Hold Equal Status in Society? . . . . . . 108
vvi On Creative Writing
Conclusion . .......................................... 114
Index . .............................................. 124Acknowledgements
Warm thanks must go to all those around the world with whom I have
discussed Creative Writing. I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to
each and every one of you. Without you this book would not exist. The
long list of ﬁne folk includes many fellow creative writers, of all kinds:
novelists, poets, short story writers, the writers of screenplays, play
scripts, writers of computer games and writers of works for children, to
Bedford and Tom Keneally, who in different ways ensured being a
creative writer became my life. To Rob Pope. To the other wonderful
folk on the Peer Review Board of the journal New Writing, each in their
own right creatively and critically contributing to how we engage in,
and understand, Creative Writing: Lisa Appignanesi, Homi K. Bhabha,
Donna Lee Brien, Liam Browne (writer and Literature Director of the
Dublin and Brighton Festivals), Kate Coles, Jon Cook, Peter Ho Davies,
Chad Davidson, Greg Fraser, Richard Kerridge, Jeri Kroll (Onward,
Jeri!), Alma Lee, Nigel McLoughlin, Andrew Motion (thanks for the
gumption and the grace, Andrew), Stephen Muecke, Paul Muldoon,
Nessa O’Mahony, Robert Pinsky, Harriet Tarlo, Stephanie Vanderslice
Michelene Wandor, Joe Woods. To New Writing’s many international
guest reviewers, to whom the journal owes a great deal of its continued
success. To Maxim D. Shrayer of Boston College. And to Professor Drew
Faust, President of Harvard University, whose presidential tenure has
encapsulated the creation of the Report of the Task Force on the Arts,a
visionary example of a university embracing the creative arts. Simply
wonderful! To my students, sincere thanks. To the members of the
in universities and colleges has been unﬂinching. To colleagues at the
Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), with whom many
discussions have been shared, and those of the Australian Association of
Writing Programs (AAWP), likewise. Thank you. To the Peer Panellists
and Practice-Led Committee Members at the UK’s Arts and Humanities
To my ﬁction publisher, Parlor Press, and the wondrous editor, Dave
viiviii On Creative Writing
myﬁne,friendly colleaguesof theNationalInstitute forExcellence inthe
Creative Industries (NIECI) and School of Creative Studies and Media at
Bangor University. And a very warm thanks to the team at Multilingual
Matters; in particular, to Anna Roderick and Tommi Grover, who have
been the most wonderful, engaged, informed publishers with whom to
work on this book. Thank you, sincerely. And ﬁnally, and with much
love, to Louise, Myles and Tyler, who keep the rhyme in the reason and
help me celebrate the ﬁction in fact alongside the wonderful and ever
present facts of ﬁction.Introduction
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.
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
what human origin, comes Creative Writing?
case, to encourage, and quite often admire it? Why does this Creative
many people, appearing in so many types, roles and locations?
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,
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)
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,
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,
(6) There is always a direct relationship between acts and actions of
Creative Writing and disseminated works?
under the term ‘process’?
Proposition II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative
‘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?
(6) The personal and social activities of Creative Writing have equal
(7) Communication and art always hold equal status in society?Introduction xi
One thing informs these propositional questions: that is, the human-
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.
the cool drawing room of our country house, as I was running
downstairs with my butterﬂy net on a summer day half a century
always there with me; there’s the red sand, the white garden bench,
Duval-Smith and Christopher Burstall. Here there is memory, there is
writerly technique, there is action and thought and the presence of a
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
or poem or play, their daily lives, their loves. Other times they reference
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,
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
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
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
That is, we
distinctively human, a result of nature as well as nurture.
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
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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
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,
theology and other disciplines.
Here we can hear Morrison’s ambition – in the year she turned 50,
before she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. We can hear a creative
thenationaroundher,andaclearsenseoftheaudiencesheisaddressing.xiv On Creative Writing
but a writer with a desire to address themes of structural and functional
as part of an historical cycle. This is different in philosophy from the
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
Similarly we cannot, simply, discover the nature of Creative Writing in
in their choice of desk, or in the instrument or technology their use to
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
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,
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
very sorry I did not become a footballer.
Yevtushenko, a creative writer not without the ability to polarise
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
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,
shouldn’t be here.’ ‘Aw, don’t y’all worry,’ they replied. ‘They only
shootsfamily.’ Butalthoughthesetwoplaces provided,shallwesay,
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
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
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
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
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
we do is embedded in time, and time changes not only us, but our
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
so well in his work, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data
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
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
we can approach this very human activity.
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.In ThePsychology 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
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,
8. Yevtushenko, Y. (1963) A Precious Autobiography. London: Collins & Harvill,
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,
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
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
consumerist ideologies, supporting an economic system increasingly
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
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
Language, then, whether verbal or visual, whether denotative or
‘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
Rather, it carried with it symbolic and cultural intention, high culture,
low culture, ‘well-made’, ‘poorly-made’, ‘expensive’, ‘cheap’, signiﬁcant
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
of authorship. I take authorship here to be the activity of authoring; and,
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
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
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
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
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
this localizing of progress in space did not amount to asserting that,
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
when another part comes along.
philosophers, was the result of an artiﬁcial re-grouping of conscious
life. What would direct vision give – immediate vision, with no
And this from Time and Free Will:
The whole difﬁculty of the problem that occupies us comes from
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
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
how this might thus relate to the actual status of ‘completed’ works of
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
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
is – ever truly complete. To take the comments of one of Henri Bergson’s
near contemporaries, Ernest Hemingway:
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
hear about it. But you do, you read it in covers and you see it all the
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
prod it with my pen. I try to pin it down.
And this from Saturday 2 August 1924:
againinwriting.IfonlyIcouldgetintomyvein&workitthoroughly8 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
deeply easily, instead of hacking out this miserable 200 words a day.
And then, as the manuscript grows, I have the old fear of it. I shall
read it and ﬁnd it pale. I shall prove the truth of Murry’s saying, that
anything, it proves that I can only write along those lines, & shall
never desert them, but explore further & further, & shall, heaven be
praised, never bore myself an instant.
‘No way of going on.’ The fear of having no way of proceeding, of
continuing. To continue to be a creative writer someone must be writing,
creatively. Simple as this statement appears, might it be the core of why
completed works do not constitute Creative Writing? Not to emphasise
here any argument for Woolf having a fragile psyche, a notion that has
been too great a focus for some biographers and critics over the years.
And, inadvertently, have I picked up comments by two creative writers
who chose to depart the world in, dare I say it, broadly similar ways?
Then perhaps best to add an alternate. This from South African play-
wright and novelist Athol Fugard:
inmyworkonthethirdactof PeoplewhichIcan almostsayI‘enjoy’.
My line is sketched roughly on paper so there is no longer any of the
tension involved in movingfrom moment to moment, and ofﬁnding
those moments. But it isa roughline. NowIreﬁne– Somewhere else
in the notebooks I have spoken about this – likened it to passage of
time, a mechanism which once evolved can be wound up again and
again and allowed to run down.
An intriguing combination of analogical thoughts here: ‘evolution’,
the ‘winding up’ and ‘running down’, the ‘ﬁnding’ of ‘moments’, the
alerts us to the fact that there are combinations of the individual and
societal or cultural at work. Depending on the writer, these emerge more
or less obviously, appearing on the surface of the language of creating or
suggesting by more oblique reference that they are there beneath it. But
the focus remains activity, an undertaking without separations. It is not
in the diaries, letters or notebooks of Woolf and Hemingway and Fugard
but the sense that completeness, artefactual existence, does not equate to
the Creative Writing lives in which they are personally engaged.Creative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 9
highly valued if they have met certain criteria, and matched certain
communication, the cultural worth of particular forms and genre at
cultural conditions, the social position of a particular creative writer,
world wide web. This is no bad thing for any of us who believe Creative
as a producer of works.
However, to varying degrees, the evolution of the market for Creative
Writing. The ﬁnal product value remains today the most recognised
a capitalist, consumerist society – which is the primary economic and
political environment for the vast majority of Creative Writing produced
in the world.
With this in mind, ﬁnished works of Creative Writing represent
Creative Writing’s commodity value and such commodity value carries
not only the weight of industry but also the weight of governmental or
public worth because its contribution to society can be easily measured
and comparative analysis can yield functional results. By functional
results is meant the kinds of results that produce commercial policy
(for example, that determine a publisher’s investment in a new ﬁnished
work of Creative Writing, or in the contracting of a work to be written)
or, indeed, that determine a government’s investment in public under-
sector, the development cultural quarters within the remits of environ-
mental and town planning, and the archiving or display of cultural
products, libraries, museums, educational resources).
However, the commodity value of ﬁnished works of Creative Writing
is not one-dimensional. Two mechanisms of value are at play:
(1) ﬁnished works of Creative Writing as commercial commodities;
(2) ﬁnished works of Creative Writing as cultural commodities.
The value of ﬁnished Creative Writing as commercial creative com-
modity lies in its ability to capture a paying audience. With this in mind,10 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
ﬁnished works of Creative Writing that rely on their value commercially
display a range of often clearly highlighted characteristics. These are
works that can be readily recognised by the general consumer/reader –
conform to mainstream notions of Creative Writing and consumption/
reading. They may be works that, to take a well known consideration,
They may be works that, because of considerable commercial invest-
ment, require considerable marketing in order to meet their commercial
Finishedworks ofCreativeWriting whosevalueislocated primarilyin
focus ison analysing the quality of those ﬁnished works. That isto say, a
ﬁnishedworkofCreativeWritingthat ispopularwith a wide readership
or audience can also achieve critical acclaim. However, commercially
or, indeed, are dismissed entirely by critics and scholars – still can have
favoured by professional critics and scholars is not necessarily lesser
in terms of the activities of the creative writers who undertake such
However, Creative Writing also can have a different, or in some cases
additional, commodity value. That is, the commodity value created by
professionalised critical acclaim itself. It cannot have escaped anyone’s
became higher when critical opinion became professionalised – that is,
in the birth of the study of ‘Literature’ and in the evolution of the
professional and often academically informed literary press. This too
Andrew Delbanco pointed out at the very end of the 1990s:
Literature in English has been a respectable university subject for
barely a century. The scholar of Scottish and English ballads Francis
James Child was appointed to the ﬁrst chair in English at Harvard in
1876; the English honors degree was not established at Oxford until
1894.Creative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 11
So, indeed, the cultural commodiﬁcation of ﬁnal works of Creative
Writing – so that, to put it crudely, academic critics, whose profession
it has been to highlight and discuss literary cultural and cultural literary
worth, become simply another kind of consumer – such cultural com-
creative writers, rather than on the less graspable acts and actions
artefact, both tothedetriment ofdiscussionsabout creative practicesand
to the beneﬁt of those creative writers who have met the requirements of
such cultural commodiﬁcation. Much like commercial commodiﬁcation,
cultural commodiﬁcation has relied on instruments – copyright, in the
case of the commercial; the professionalisation of education and of a
subject within education in the case of cultural commodiﬁcation. And
something of an analogical condition to this described by Geoffrey
Turnovsky in relation to the Enlightenment literary market, Rousseau
and 18th-century France has prevailed:
But to the extent that the book trade was idealized as a transparent
their social neutrality, did not necessarily share, understand, or even
conceive of Rousseau’s literary–ethical project. The resulting contra-
dictory image of the book trade, as the ambiguous product of both a
deep desire for authorial self-expression and an inexorable doubt
realm of commerce, was the literary market conceptualized, con-
structed and depicted [...]
And so we see a separation between acts and actions of Creative
Writing and the ‘ﬁnished’ artefacts of Creative Writing, born on both
commercial and cultural commodiﬁcation, supported by instruments of
ownership and education, and perpetuated by the needs of a consumer
market which relied on centralised modes of exchange which did not
alter greatly before the very end of the 20th century when was witnessed
thebirth ofnew technologies in theform of theworld wide web(WWW)
and changed the dynamic of making and revealing creative practice. For
how we perceive what Creative Writing is, but that this has not been
because such an assumption is correct.12 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
1. Rose, M. (1994) Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge
(MA): Harvard University Press, p. 2.
2. Woodmansee, M. (1994) On the author effect: recovering collectivity. In
P. Jaszi and M. Woodmansee (eds) The Construction of Authorship: Textual
Appropriation in Law and Literature. Durham (NC): Duke University Press,
3. Jaszi, P. and Woodmansee, M. (eds) (1994) The Construction of Authorship:
Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature. Durham (NC): Duke University
Press, p. 11.
4. Bergson, H. (1998) Creative Evolution. New York: Dover, ﬁrst published in
English in 1911, p. 153.
5. Bergson, H. (2001) Time and Free Will, New York: Dover, ﬁrst published in
English in 1913, p. 112.
6. Bergson, H. (1994) The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. New
York: Citadel, p. 10.
7. Bergson, H. (1994) The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. New
York: Citadel, p. 12.
8. Bergson, H. (2001) Time and Free Will. New York: Dover, ﬁrst published in
English in 1913, p. 38.
9. Hemingway, E. (2004) By line: Ernest Hemingway. In Phillips, L. (ed.) Ernest
Hemingway on Writing. New York: Scribner, p. 139.
10. Woolf, V. (1981) In A. Olivier Bell (ed.) The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Vol. 2
1920–1924. London: Penguin, p. 158.
11. Woolf, V. (1981) In A. Olivier Bell (ed.) The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Vol. 2
1920–1924. London: Penguin, p. 308.
12. Fugard, A. (1983) In M. Benson (ed.) Notebooks of Athol Fugard: 1960–1977.
London: Faber, p. 116.
13. Delbanco, A. (1999) The decline and fall of literature. The New York Review of
Books 46(17), 4 November 1999.
14. J. Paul Hunter goes much further than this suggestion, and argues that
detrimental.Heoutlines this inhisbook Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of
intention, accounts of thedeath ofthe author, anxieties about textual stability
and its power to represent anything beyond itself, hostility toward any
of the critical over the creative faculty – all these conventions of mid- to late
twentieth century criticism (some formalist, some structuralist, some post-
structuralist) have a common tendency. They try to elevate the text itself
and to give the critic special proprietary (priestly) power than ordinary
readers (the laity) cannot achieve without going through rites of passage that
involve dextrous intraverbal acts and monuments determined by those who
own texts and determine how they are to be used. This privatising strategyCreative Writing Primarily Involves Finished Works? 13
for texts now seems, fortunately, to be on the wane, but whatever its present
‘‘professional’’ readers arrogant and amateur ones defensive’ (p. xii).
15. Turnovsky, G. (2003) The Enlightenment literary market: Rousseau, author-
ship, and the book trade. In Eighteenth-Century Studies, 36(3), 401–402.Chapter 2
In universities and colleges during the 20th century, ﬁnished works of
Creative Writing were most often the starting point for the examination
in which cultural commodities were part of a rigorous centralised trade,
commodity market of considerable reach and depth. Finished works of
Creative Writing were the starting point for a consideration of Creative
Writing but also of creative writers, sometimes by inference, sometimes
by direct association with works produced, sometimes in terms of con-
by cultural, chronological, aesthetic or personal association.
notions as copyright, attached to ownership of tradable commodities,
almost entirely of a completed kind) observation was drawn to one,
to suggest that the discovery of the acts and actions of creative writers
could be made through a consideration of these works. Not to suggest
this would have been tantamount to suggesting that Creative Writing
mysteriously just happened.
Of course, this was not the strategy and we perhaps see this most
actions of creative writers could be discovered in their ﬁnal works
provided substantial underpinning to such analyses – recalling that the
logic, intuition or fortuitous circumstance’ and the deﬁnition of act is
‘something done’. This from David Marr’s excellent biography of Nobel
Prize winner, Patrick White:
14Acts and Actions Observed in Finished Works? 15
The Tree of Man, begun on the kitchen table, was ﬁnished on the new
desk, its ‘endless red linoleum top’ usually hidden under a mess of
paper . In White’s house everything was bare, orderly and polished
except for the surface of the desk. Above it hung the new de Maistre
which had just arrived from London, one of Roy’s Descents from the
– because, of its genre, Marr’s book is certainly excellent, an extremely
good piece of biographical work. An award-winning biographer, Marr
also had a closeness to the subject, Patrick White, and the life of his
subject, to an extent all biographers could relate. So close was he that he
lover, Manoly Lascaris, some thirteen years after the death of White
I held the plastic box while the poetry reader worked away at the lid
with a knife. It popped open. We all looked in, as if we’d see some-
the edge and scattered a handful of ashes that fell straight to the
bottom. The water was only a foot or so deep. We all took a turn and
there was soon a carpet of white on the ﬂoor of the pool.
Considering the importance of Lascaris, and indeed Mobbs, to White,
there’s little doubt in this simple, yet poignant moment of Marr’s
intimacy with the writer. There’s little doubt either, in the tone and
approach, that Marr takes in his biography of White or in his editing of
White’s letters, that he has empathy with the life and the world he is
describing. Rightly or wrongly in terms of what might be called ‘critical
distance’, Marr is within the life of White, as much concerned with the
creative writer as with writings; in fact, because this is biography, we
human aspects of his subject, even if the reason his work on White has
been undertaken, can be undertaken, is because his subject is a famous
creative writer whose ﬁnished work won awards and was (not to gloss
the tensions of critical opinion) critically acclaimed.
So, ﬁnished works do occur in Marr’s analysis and they are, as the
earlier example exempliﬁes, tied more or less to the commentary that
surrounds a period, or place, or event in Patrick White’s life. In this
broadlybiographicalsenseMarrdoespresentscenesandattitudes,White’s16 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
discoveries and White’s opinions, as components of White’s ﬁnished
works. Sometimes he does this directly, noting a particular observation
that White made and later incorporated into one of his works of ﬁction,
poems or plays. Other times, Marr speaks more generally, using what
narratologically we might call ‘summary’ to build bridges in his story’s
chronology, to establish a general sense of cause and effect, and to main-
tain a trajectory to his White biography so that while the complexities
of decision-making and free personal choice are not ignored, a sense of
inter-relation of subject and theme is created. That is, Patrick White as
subject and the wider thematic context of the famous, successful creative
writer as the broad theme. And so:
After a break at Kangaroo Island with the Duttons, White began to
draft a long novel that had been working in his mind for years.
Perhaps he put off writing ‘The Binoculars and Helen Nell’ too long.
He might have begun before The Solid Mandala but felt he must ﬁrst
get Sarsaparilla out of his system. Then he put the novel off again to
write thenovellas forGeoffreyDutton.Now intheNew Yearof1966
he settled down to the task. He imagined that years of demanding
and satisfying work lay ahead.
The narrative structure of Marr’s story is thus grounded. And White’s
life, likewise. Of course, we see here the difﬁcultyof relating content and
form, and of biographical work in itself. In what might well be seen as
American Lives: Biography and Culture in Nineteenth Century America, talks
of the early 20th century’s ‘obsession with self’ and suggests that there
readers’ curiosity about famous people without engaging any public
purpose whatsoever’ . Is Marr’s focus also a psychological exploration?
Is it part of the century’s continued ‘obsession with self’? Or is it, in
opposition to Watson’s comment on the early 20th century, aiming to
about a creative writer whose work has risen to considerable heights?
Perhaps it is all these things. But what, then, do we make of ‘that had
been working in his mind for years’ and of ‘he imagined that years of
these are not analytical comments representing any deep psychological
investigation. Nor do they seem to be obsessively focused on the ‘self’
of White; in essence, drawing the reader not to White’s personality or toActs and Actions Observed in Finished Works? 17
that will now move White’s creative enterprise onward.
down to the task’ – but not the task, that is, of Creative Writing per se,
but the task of working in such a manner that will produce ﬁnal works.
Without this anchoring in certain kinds of activity, Marr’s narrative loses
its momentum. A skilled biographer, he needs his subject to have a
for the creative writer represented, has to be grounded in his works not
Let’s make no mistake, Marr is entirely aware of the complex relation-
ship between writing labour and writing output; or, to put it in earlier
terms, of the complexities of creating in light of the artefacts that have
valued after creation. He comments:
refused invitations. I left seminars to academics. The last stop of my
bookshop in 1994.
This is not a cynical turn, merely the honest recognition by Marr that
White is, regardless of any empathy or association Marr might feel, his
biographer’s subject. In being Marr’s subject, and in relating as subject
to the public outputs that have made him a likely success as a Marr’s
of largely unexpected White materials:
I didn’t rush down to look when White’s letters poured into the
National Library over the next decade, with little tributaries feeding
into Sydney’s Mitchell and Melbourne’s La Trobe. I’d seen most of
the material and a 644-page biography didn’t need any fresh detail.
But the Mobbs consignment to Canberra in 2006 broke my resolve.
I was down there in a ﬂash, working quietly with the librarians
that the old bastard had kept so much from me. Up to a point, I
understood what he was about [...].
The question of whether ﬁnal works of Creative Writing can reveal
the acts and actions of Creative Writing is not answered by a turn to the
biographers of creative writers, nor can it be answered by reference to
biographical versus say ‘textual’ or ‘cultural’ criticism. Creative writers’
acts and actions impact upon the results that emerge into the public18 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
sphere, and these ﬁnal works observe a relationship determined at least
how important are they in uncovering what Creative Writing is?
What this line of questioning is not trying to unearth is the dimen-
sions and depths of ‘literature’. Or, indeed, the nature of ‘drama’, the
or largely in existence, because of Creative Writing. It is not the aim here
to deﬁne, or even investigate, what criteria we might use to speak of the
ﬁnal artefactual results of Creative Writing. And, in fact, not all artefacts
Creative Writing. Aﬁlm can come into existence without a script, a stage
play likewise. A computer game, while certainly able to emerge from a
its artefacts butit isnot asubstituteforthem. Werethis thecase,then we
literature, drama, ﬁlm ... But we cannot. What we ﬁnd, alternatively, is
Creative Writing. What emerges into the world as artefacts of creating,
to value systems that relate to such things as:
out the world’s cultures and throughout the world’s history;
(2) the value placed on a particular creative writer’s works (e.g. due to
critical reception, or through other forms of notoriety, or because of
the strength, or changes, of cultural perception that asks for further
The ﬁnal works of creative writers, in this sense, take on the role
of material exchange – but not simply of the materiality of written
words themselves; rather the ﬁnal works carry forth an objectiﬁed version
of Creative Writing act and action, making human activity largely an
informer of materiality. Creative Writing, in other words, is presented
as object and in its very existence carries the matter of Creative Writing
reiﬁcation or concretism becausethis is not a case of an abstraction being
considered concrete or of nature or ‘divine will’ being seen as the force
behindcreating.Rather, thefallacyrelatestotheroleofideas,thehumanActs and Actions Observed in Finished Works? 19
mind, the imagination – which may best form the subject of further
For now, the acts and actions of Creative Writing, in the line of
works of a creative writer. Here, for example, in relation to the Creative
Writing of John Updike:
In looking through Rabbit’s [Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, the central
character of Updike’s ‘Rabbit novels’] eyes, Updike explores the
shifting boundaries of American identity during the postwar period.
Changes in the fortunes of his characters, and in how they see
themselves in relation to America, reﬂect Updike’s evolving sense of
And, in response to questions of Updike’s style:
In examining the later Rabbit novels from the perspective of an
increasing engagement with the outside world, however, it is
importanttoacknowledge theinﬂectionsorlimitations placedonthis
the thematic concerns of Updike’s novels that fails to include the
texture of his language as an object of critical inquiry risks over-
relationship between these two aspects of the Updike’s writing.
Two instances here, ﬁrstly in which character (not necessarily the
creating of character) take on the aspect of changes in cultural condition,
becoming iconic or physically representing ‘boundaries’, ‘identity’ in
employing or exploration of a style or styles) offers interpretative
well because what Updike has delivered in his ﬁnal works to the inter-
certainly carry metaphoric tones,but the author’s meaningisliteral.And
the approach, while validly contributing to an investigation of literature,
focusing strongly on ﬁnal works, offers very little for a consideration of
Creative Writing. Such approaches are common.
This on Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels:
One of the original illustrations of Gulliver’s Travels shows an
experimental word-processing machine (III.v.181). Swift guessed at
the two satellites of Mars, and this machine satirizing ‘speculative
learning’ appears to have anticipated the revolution that has come20 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
to shape the lives of most people on earth – information retrieval
technology, by which, in fact, this book was produced. Perhaps a
resonant local irony may be pointed out.
A wonderfully evocative piece of prose; but not joining Swift as
creating individual and the holistic conditions of societal or cultural
time by suggesting common thematic conditions. Rather, aiming to
initiate, or more accurately to ‘anticipate’, a dialogue between Swift
(as creative writer) and Knowles (as informed critic). Interestingly, in
this passage concentrating on the ‘original illustrations’ in the book.
The result, thus, is based in another kind of exchange in which the ﬁnal
‘book’ is the object of discussion and the subject is how books have also
represented and shaped points of view. Additionally interesting that the
discussion makes a direct link between ‘printing’ of books (the physical
manifestation of Knowles’ thoughts about the technological connections)
and the ‘ever-developing sophistication of computer technology’, which
at the time of Knowles’ writing (the early/mid-1990s) had yet to be fully
spread and strength of email use, the wider development of wireless
computing (Wi-Fi) and ubiquitous mobile telephony – all of which have
encouraged an almost global reconsideration of a chronology of creation
and reception, and impacted upon a centralised commodity and culture
And for further consideration – this from mid-century critic, Arnold
Kettle, in a book entitled An Introduction to the English Novel:
is achieved by the insistence on detail: the precise ﬁnancial calcula-
tions, the naming of the day of the week and the actual streets.
‘Method’ and ‘detail’ here are entwined, with the accumulation of
detail presented as an element of Defoe’s truth telling strategic method.
pattern in Defoe’s novels’. We can perhaps wonder whether pattern in
And this, further, in a lively journal article from Eugene O’Brien,
exploring the inﬂuence of Yeats ‘on Heaney’s work’:
monologicalnationalistnarrativeofhistoryandinsteadforegroundingActs and Actions Observed in Finished Works? 21
the aporias, antinomies and fault lines that have been glossed over
by the sweep of historical narrative.
Perhaps the most overt connection between these two poets is their
winning of the Nobel prize for literature. In terms of their respective
Nobel lectures, Yeats’s The Irish Dramatic Movement, and Heaney’s
Crediting Poetry, there is a symphysis of thought in connection with
the role that is played by the aesthetic in the realm of the political.
Both writers stress the political circumstances within which their art
A ﬁne piece of connective work, but the answer to the question of
whether the investigation of the ﬁnal works of creative writers embodies
an investigation of the acts and actions of creative writers is only made
more remote by the accumulating into suggestions of a shared ‘post-
modern project’, a bringing together under an umbrella of post-event
O’Brien’s fault; his interest is in the literary world of these two Irish
writers and, by extension, in literature within the national context of
Ireland itself. Umberto Eco reminds us what is involved here in his
discussion of ‘the empirical reader’.
Empirical readers can read in many ways, and there is no law that
tells them how to read, because they often use the text as a container
for their own passions, which may come from outside the text or
which the text may arouse by chance.
information they have accumulated, more or less over time, from experi-
the reading of ﬁnal works of literature (or, indeed, watching or listening,
or otherwise consuming) ﬁnal works produced by Creative Writing then
actions) of Creative Writing. They may, or may not, be effective critics of
literature, drama, ﬁlm... but their involvement as readers emphasises
that ﬁnal works in themselves do not offer observations of the acts and
actions of creative writers.22 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
1. Marr, D. (1992) Patrick White: A Life. Sydney: Vintage, p. 297.
2. Marr, D. (2008) Patrick White: The Final Chapter. The Monthly 33, April 2008.
3. Marr, D. (1996) Patrick White Letters. Chicago: University of Chicago.
4. Marr, D. (1992) Patrick White: A Life. Sydney: Vintage, p. 457.
5. Watson, H. (2000) Review: Lies and Times: the changing genre of biography.
In Reviews in American History 28(1), 48.
6. Marr, D. (2008) Patrick White: The Final Chapter. The Monthly 33, April 2008.
7. Marr, D. (2008) Patrick White: The Final Chapter. The Monthly 33, April 2008.
8. Colgan, J.P. (2002/2003) Going it alone but running out of gas: America’s
borders in John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ novels. Irish Journal of American Studies
9. Colgan, J.P. (2002/2003) Going it alone but running out of gas: America’s
borders in John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ novels. Irish Journal of American Studies
10. Knowles, R. (1996) Gulliver’s Travels: The Politics of Satire. New York: Twayne,
11. Kettle, A. (1962) An Introduction to the English Novel, Volume One: To George
Eliot. London: Arrow, p. 63.
12. Kettle, A. (1962) An Introduction to the English Novel, Volume One: To George
Eliot, London: Arrow, p. 63.
writing. Nordic Irish Studies 4, 119.
writing. Nordic Irish Studies 4, 126.
15. Eco, U. (1995) Six Walks in Fictional Woods. Cambridge (MA): Harvard
University Press, p. 8.Chapter 3
On ﬁrst sighting, plainly a ridiculous question! Are creative writers,
therefore, destined to be some of the few in the world who always ﬁnish
every single thing they have started? Probably a laudable life plan; but
in another way, could it be said no work of Creative Writing is ever
later adapted and adopted by others, that ‘art is never ﬁnished, only
If no work of Creative Writing is ever truly ‘ﬁnished’ do creative
writers have any sense of achievement at all – one abandonment after
another,eachhauntingthenextand,whereworks arecreated inparallel,
some sense that they, each one of them, has a half-life, seeking more
attention than the one beside it so that it might be given the full life of
ﬁnality? Again, this presents a picture of a purgatory, as if the creative
all. So while it is palatable to accept that Creative Writing is sometimes
are only offered up for dissemination because time or money or, quite
simply, the human energy to expend on their undertaking has run out it
is not so convincing that creative writers live their lives this way. A less
extreme version might thus be, in this sense, that no works begun by
creative writers are ever left ‘unﬁnished’? They are, in essence, ‘done
with’. Something linked to Lorrie Moore’s comment that ‘in discussing
writing one shouldn’t set the idea of inspiration aside and speak only of
hard work. Of course writing is hard work – or a very privileged kind
of hard work.’ This might be worth investigating.
2324 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
There is, however, a third alternative, and one that bears some clear
and more concerted consideration. That is, that creative writers do not
create only ﬁnished works. That, in an approach to exploring what
Creative Writing is, where the disseminated artefacts, the commodities
other cultural foundations – those of moments in the history of publish-
ing, or those in moments of the history of education, or those of cultural
or aesthetic movements, of politics, economics, fame or infamy – that in
such an approach a recognition of the range and, to the extent that a
macro-study is limited only by space, the purpose of the works creative
With me, though, the ambition to be a writer was for many years a
kind of a sham. I liked to be given a fountain pen and a bottle of
Waterman ink and new ruled exercise books (with margins), but I
had no wish or need to write anything; and didn’t write anything,
not even letters: there was no one to write them to. [...] And though
I liked new books as physical objects, I wasn’t much of a reader.
A recollection of his early writing or, perhaps as the writer suggests,
‘non-writing’ from the very highly regarded V.S. Naipaul. What con-
stitutes beginning Creative Writing – whether broadly or in terms of
speciﬁcprojects– and endingCreativeWriting isintriguing.Isak Dinesen
No, I really began writing before I went to Africa, but I never once
wanted to be a writer. I published a few short stories in literary
reviews in Denmark when I was twenty years old, and the reviews
encouraged me, but I didn’t go on – I don’t know, I think I had an
intuitive fear of being trapped.
And Umberto Eco:
I had started writing before the war, independently of the war.
As an adolescent I wrote comic books, because I read lots of them,
and fantasy novels set in Malaysia and Central Africa. I was a
perfectionist and wanted to make them look as though they had
been printed, so I wrote them in capital letters and made up title
pages, summaries, illustrations. It was so tiring that I never ﬁnished
any of them. I was at that time a great writer of unaccomplished
masterpieces [...]No Unﬁnished Works are Created by Creative Writers? 25
Nadine Gordimer recalls:
[...] between the ages of ﬁfteen and twenty, I was really teaching
myself how to write – I had been writing, without the ability of self-
criticism yet developed – since I was nine years old [...]
Nadine Gordimer’s comments here are in an edited collection of
comments by writers on the books they love. She talks in this section
about Marcel Proust, remarking that:
I have read and re-read A la recherche du temps perdu again and yet
other novel does.
place to consider how creative writers may begin to imagine themselves
as creative writers, if indeed they ever imagine themselves this way.
What kinds, what modes of reading and, most importantly, what reading
needs to inform that consideration?
How many interviewers have ever thought to ask a creative writer
if they read the faces of friends, relatives, perfect strangers? How many
creative writers read the weather, the tides, the temperature? How
many read an email, a postcard, a newspaper, a television show, a web-
site, a ﬁlm? How many read a situation? The word ‘reading’ means,
broadly, ‘examining meaning’. It relates to receiving and, sometimes,
often, with every good will, comprehending. It can mean to gain
knowledge from something, to examine and decide upon intention. It’s
about discerning, attempting to grasp, interpreting. Naturally, creative
they do seek out material evidenceof their own desired results, and they
and ideals – novelists and poets drawn to literature, for example; screen-
writers drawn to read ﬁlms; playwrights to plays. Flannery O’Connor
8 November ’58
I have never read any Japanese writers myself. Right now I am
reading the Pasternak. It really is something. Also a travel book on
book is very ﬁne. Also reading a book called The Eclipse of God by
Martin Buber that Dr Spivey sent me.26 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
And, on the same day, to Cecil Dawkins (a woman who was a fellow
you’ve sent me in every way.’ How many kinds of reading are there
receives, discerns, interprets – and the reading that occurs goes well
beyond the works with which she is interacting. She is also interpreting
how she should react in light of what kind of reading, and to what
It is fascinating, then, that anyone should ever consider that reading
might be a narrowly deﬁned activity or, indeed, that creative writers
(because they write) limit what they read to things that are written. If we
and a decision to undertake Creative Writing then we might also ponder
what kind of reading stimulates the urge to write creatively. Beginning
Creative Writing, undertaking Creative Writing and, as sometimes is the
case, ending Creative Writing.
On the relationship between reading and the ending of Creative
Writing, Christine Brooke-Rose approaches this in two works, one of
[...] Except once, when Barbara goes out for a walk and the
conversation turns to writing. This writing. Another ailment in fact.
or computer position is too cardo-vasco de Hamer, lacerating the
chest. But secretly taken up again after discovering the comfortable
way of using the armchair, for the joy of bristling up words again.
Just for fun. And perhaps therapy. Or here in bed, more precarious
with just the board and no chair-arms. The text is described, owned
doubts are mentioned, (a) and (b) the most visible themes: are they a
bore? Is the treatment light enough? He listens intently. Or does he?
Shyly the question is asked. There are only ﬁve chapters or sections,
would he read them down in the guest-room? Of course.
In Invisible Author: Last Essays, she begins:
over a long period, and found that nobody notices? That’s what I’ve
been doing for over thirty years [...]
By ‘very difﬁcult’ I don’t mean difﬁcult for the reader to read but
difﬁcultfortheauthortowrite.Intheory,atanyrate,theendresultofNo Unﬁnished Works are Created by Creative Writers? 27
the speciﬁc constraints I shall be discussing should be invisible as
such; in practice (otherwise the author wouldn’t do it) it does alter
the text read by the reader, who feels it as unfamiliar and for that
reason alone drops it, dismisses it, the pleasure of recognition being
generally stronger than the pleasure or puzzlement of discovery.
Brooke-Rose displaying some elements of sadness and some elements
begins but where it ends, not least her own. The question nevertheless
remains, once commenced, and before concluded, what actual works do
creative writers produce?
Creative Writing doesn’t begin at the end. Creative Writing doesn’t
begin where it stops. Let me state this less enigmatically. Creative Writing
doesn’t begin at the point at which a creative writer ceases to do it. This is the
case whether we are talking about a life of Creative Writing or about
ultimately result in one or more ﬁnal or completed works.
What occurs in the acts and actions of Creative Writing produces
That is not to say that creative writers spend their lives frustrated by the
fact they can never ﬁnish anything. Rather, creative writers spend their
lives perceiving and conceiving, and in that perceiving and conceiving,
creating evidence of their activities, only some of which is disseminated,
or even intended for dissemination. Much of this evidence consists of
unﬁnished materials – that is, materials that have no aim of completion
or, more accurately, works that relate in a complementary way to other
activities being undertaken by the creative writer which may or may not
have ﬁnality in mind.
We can thus say that Creative Writing consists of several levels of
‘unﬁnished’ activity, if indeed all of these activities were intended to be
ﬁnished in the sense of producing a ﬁnal artefact – which is highly
we can break this down into interconnected areas:
pre-working and pre-working evidence;
(1) complementary working – and complementary evidence;
(2) ﬁnal works – works that may or may not be disseminated;
(3) post-works and post-working – which may be the pre-working for
future Creative Writing.28 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
In general, deﬁnition of these interconnected activities suggests goals.
of honing or advancing the quality of an artefact, the goal of completion,
or the goal of speculation on a future Creative Writing activity or
Either way, these are not entirely random activities, nor are they entirely
structured or formed. The acts and actions that make them are ﬂuidly
representational of the psychological and physical variedness of the
activity of Creative Writing itself. And yet, without the operation of
perception and conception, much of the life of a creative writer would
consist of no Creative Writing at all. In other words, creative writers live
state of perceiving and conceiving of works that may, at some point,
things that have a symbiotic relationship with their Creative Writing,
and they also conceive pieces of writing that work in complementary,
supportive or obliquely connected ways with their core acts and actions.
Creative writers also, as an aspect of Creative Writing, engage in what
could rightly be located under the category of ‘memory’, not only
memory of past working and past works, but also of things they have
in the widest possible sense of what reading means.
With this in mind, deﬁnitions of Creative Writing can thus include
that cannot easily be talked about as conclusive, yet they can be decisive.
Note taking, for example. Scribbles, doodles, information gathering that
might form texts or simply form notions. Reading: all kinds. Gathering
evidence. Considering. Dreaming. Contemplating. Remembering. Visit-
ing. Some plan. Some take a holiday. Pre-working produces evidence
of many kinds, and is to be considered in terms of the acts and actions
it involves but also can found in the evidence it produces, sometimes
stated, sometimes recorded, sometimes observed, sometimes easy to
discover, sometimes incredibly difﬁcult.
occurs while a creative writer is working. This could be seen in a ‘life
story’ way – that is, the long term history of a creative writer’s working
a creative writer may consider their primary activities those connected
with works they (or others) will disseminate. Complementary workingNo Unﬁnished Works are Created by Creative Writers? 29
writer might be working on a long piece of writing but also complete
Writing and form part of the complementary evidence of the acts and
actions being undertaken. The relationship between complementary and
support for how Creative Writing is ﬂuid and interconnected, relating to
the indivisibility of activities that Henri Bergson talks about, and to the
inﬂuences of exertion and animation that he likewise propounds.
Ultimately, the creative writer may produce ﬁnal works (works that
creative writer, but not for other individuals receiving these works (for
example, an editor or a publisher). They may be ﬁnal, and yet feel to the
writer continuing. They may, in this sense, be ‘complete’ but not ‘ﬁnal’.
Whatever the case, these tend to be the works – whether in the study of
literature or other art forms suchas drama, ﬁlm, music –these tendto be
the artefacts and, as can be the case, sometimes includes in that inter-
pretation some consideration of the creative writer, the creative writer’s
actions and/or the environment and context of the creative writer’s
But neither Creative Writing nor the artefacts generated by Creative
Writing, paradoxically, stop at ‘ﬁnal’ works. Post-works and post-
working (which may be the pre-working for future Creative Writing)
include the creative writer’s own commentaries on theirwork – verbally,
textually, formally (e.g. readings, presentations, discussions, interviews)
or informally (e.g. casual emails, conversations with friends). Post-
engage with the creative writer in post-working so that post-event
analysis, criticism produced either by those seeking to review the work
for the literary press or those examining the work for longer-term
academic purposes may produce post-works which may or may not
impact on the creative writer. A creative writer’s post-working, also,
division between previous and new acts and actions – that is post-
working and pre-working – may be blurred by the relationship that any
act or action can have with any other act or action. In addition, the30 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
presence of an artefact (whether that artefact is, for example, notes
relating to a ﬁnal work or some information pertaining to a future work;
whether it isa completedpiece ofwork ora mere doodle of a notion that
might form the crux of another exploration) may impact on this relation-
the Creative Writing at hand. In some way, then, it might be said that all
Creative Writing involves complementary acts and actions rather than
pre-working and post-working, and yet this would be to downgrade the
status of ﬁnal works entirely, and we return to the notion that creative
writers live lives devoted to incompleteness. This suggestion deﬁes
commonsense. Rather, post-working and post-works can take structured
support of conception, perception and memory, and the relationship
That is, to return to earlier: once begun, Creative Writing continues until
it stops. It doesn’t begin when it ends; but, equally it must be happening
for it to be Creative Writing.
Many unﬁnished works are thus created by creative writers. And in
the acts and actions they create many works, of many kinds, many of
which necessarily have the status of being such things as incomplete,
fragmentary, momentary, ephemeral, personal, speculative, as well as
works that are (or sometimes only ‘seem’) ﬁnished. Creative Writing,
being an activity, is not deﬁned by ﬁnality – except in the sense that
creative writers can cease to undertake it.
1. Moore, L. (2001) Interviewed by E. Gaffney. The Paris Review 158, Spring-
Summer 2001, 57.
2. Naipaul, V.S. (2000) Reading and Writing: A Personal Account. New York: New
York Review of Books, p. 4.
3. Dinesen, I. (1956) Interviewed by E. Walker. The Paris Review 14, Autumn
4. Eco, U. (2008) Interviewed by L. A. Zanganeh. The Paris Review 185, Summer
5. Gordimer, N. (2000) In R. B. Schwarz (ed.) For the Love of Books: 115 Celebrated
Writers on the Books They Most Love. New York: Berkeley, p. 103.
6. Gordimer, N. (2000) In R. B. Schwarz (ed.) For the Love of Books: 115 Celebrated
Writers on the Books they Most Love. New York: Berkeley, p. 103.
7. O’Connor, F. (1979) In S. Fitzgerald (ed.) The Habit of Being: The Letters of
Flannery O’Connor. New York: Vintage, p. 302.No Unﬁnished Works are Created by Creative Writers? 31
8. O’Connor, F. (1979) In S. Fitzgerald (ed.) The Habit of Being: The Letters of
Flannery O’Connor. New York: Vintage, p. 302.
9. Brooke-Rose, C (2006) Life, End Of. Manchester: Carcanet, p. 59.
Press, p. 1.
11. We could even say that speculation on Creative Writing and what it might
produce is a constant dynamic, both mental and physical. Writing in the
Lev Grossman as saying:
A note about my writing desk. It is wobbly and made of wood, and came
into my life when my girlfriend dragged it in from the curb one day.
In short, it is a piece of crap. A few weeks ago, I bought a truly beautiful
table from a ﬂea market to replace it. It’s a huge metal-topped industrial
work bench that someone had salvaged from an abandoned factory in
Pennsylvania and ﬁxed up. But it turns out that it’s too heavy to carry up
the stairs, and if it weren’t too heavy it would still be too big to ﬁt through
if I could only get that workbench out of my landlord’s foyer. (28 August
Accessed 30.8.09.Chapter 4
No doubt we will each readily agree that the above question can be
produced by creative writers do not get disseminated, do not have any
purpose for the creative writer in being disseminated, are not seen by
those dealing in the sale of the outputs of creative writers as artefacts for
dissemination, and yet are crucial to Creative Writing.
All works of Creative Writing are simply not intended as public
documents. And yet, in certain circumstances connected with cultural
commodiﬁcation or, more broadly, because of a human appreciation
of Creative Writing or of a certain creative writer or writers, evidence of
Creative Writing which would not normally become public does become
public. The relationship between acts and actions and works is consider-
ably complicated here by the intersection of societal considerations as
of activities, or process that can be discovered by the investigation of
disseminated works of Creative Writing’, and not all works of Creative
Writing are disseminated, then how accurate can any discovery be that
relies on disseminated artefacts?
Firstly, then, the role of public cultural bodies becomes notable.
Written in a rollicking fashion by Leslie Hotson, and published in ELH:
The Journal of English Literary History, in 1942, the sense of the literary
detective is strong in the following piece, and the efforts to unearth
private communications to enhance the knowledge of the publicly dis-
seminated artefacts of Creative Writing, makes for a very ﬁne tale:
attempted the same sort of thing [as his investigations regarding
Christopher Marlowe] with the lost letters of Shelley to his wife
Harriet, I got a scare that will last me a long time. A pure chance led
me to the copies of these long-sought and priceless letters hidden
32All Works of Creative Writing are Disseminated? 33
was here that I ﬁrst ran into the commercial side of the Legal Room
that I mentioned. For the Shelley letters date from 1816. They are
cents, and got nine hitherto unknown letters of Shelley’s in return.
The commercial and cultural wonders of the ‘Records Ofﬁce’, ‘the
largest collection of national archives in the world,’ Chancery Lane,
Lincoln’s Inn, the ‘Legal Room’, the accoutres of nation and empire and
identity. Solid evidence at a time of instability – the date of Hotson’s
article no mere thing. Great import lives here:
The man who wishesto addto whatweknowabout thebackground
of Shakespeare would do better to devote his days to searching in
out of himselfto spin a web of fancy about FrancisBacon, or the Earl
of Oxford, or yet a literary committee of seven noblemen.
History and ideas about cultural worth relate closely in the valuing of
the private, or otherwise unlikely to be disseminated, outputs of creative
writers. Other words enter the discussion, the word and concept of
‘heritage’ being of considerable note. Jamie Andrews, Head of Modern
Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, offers some insight into
collecting policy – that is, the way in which a large public organisation
for outputs of Creative Writing that would otherwise be unseen.
ﬁnd those comparators. How do you compare a Beckett letter with a
Pinter letter? However, what we’re really concerned with is research
valuable for research. [...] some subjective knowledge and personal
taste come into it, though it is backed by assessments of the research
background in the UK and America, in terms of what’s being taught
in undergraduate and postgraduate study.
Honest, pragmatic stuff. What more could a public institution do,
given that the primary discussions of the past in relation to the study of
literature have not necessarily been discussions about Creative Writing?
And efforts have been made to preserve – certainly in more recent times
– all those items of pre-works, complementary works and post-works34 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
that might relate to an appreciation of the ﬁnal works of certain creative
writers and certain Creative Writing:
Almost everything that is unique is considered [...] when we look at
not anindividual iteminthewaythatprintedbooksareasuccession
the odd scrap of paper.
Again, there’s no pretence here, no cultural cover-up. The British
so in relation to literature the Library has policies that deﬁne its interests
and practices, as well as referring to the ‘personal tastes’ of its acknowl-
preference for Creative Writing deﬁned according to ﬁnal works and
to an extent, ﬁlm and so on)?
And yet, how accurate a reﬂection of Creative Writing is the British
Library’s archival collection? Has it ever purported to be? There is not
the world. Maybe, simply to recall, in passing, comments on the creation
of a ‘Catholic Library for Dublin’ that ‘the Irish title chosen for it,
Leabharlann an Chreidimh (Library of the Faith) epitomises its character.’
preserving, and presenting the worlds in which they operate. The British
Library has done much to raise the interest in Britain’s literary heritage
citizen who chose, or chooses, to write creatively. Its wider purpose as
a public institution is not to collect, disseminate, or provide support for
dissemination, of the evidence of Creative Writing left behind by those
who – for whatever reason – are not considered important to preserving
the holistic concept of a ‘picture of Britain’s literary heritage’.
This is not a criticism of the British Library, rather a simple statement
of the nature of the faith and intention of such a public institution. It is
‘not just preserving the works of the greatest writers in Britain’ but ‘an
used here is not individual but national, not centred on the personal butAll Works of Creative Writing are Disseminated? 35
most Creative Writing dwells, in the private world of creative writers,
only a small portion of who ﬁnd their ﬁnal works received in such way
that anyone would seek out any private evidence of creation that might
reveal something of the nature of the Creative Writing and the speciﬁc
The Director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at
Austin expresses similar ideals:
The Ransom Center is indeed a ﬁne institution, but I believe that the
most exciting years are yet to come. We continue to expand and
deepen our twentieth-century collections, acquiring the archives of
likely form the foundation of culture in the next century.
we deal with has economic value’: there is purpose and reason here but
the aim is not to ensure (and it does not ensure) that works of Creative
Writing, or evidence of Creative Writing, is made available for this
and future generations. Nor is the aim of these public institutions that
to public imperatives. Thus here, all works of Creative Writing are not
disseminated. Indeed, allworksofliterature,allworks of art,arenotdis-
seminated. But how does this then relate to discoveries about the art of
No, oddly enough I’ve written my last several novels in longhand
ﬁrst. I had an enormous, rather frightening stack of pages and notes
for The Assassins, probably eight hundred pages – or was it closer
to a thousand? It alarms me to remember. Childwold needed to be
written in longhand, of course. And now everything ﬁnds its initial
expression in longhand and the typewriter has become a rather alien
thing – a thing of formality and impersonality. My ﬁrst novels were
then ﬁnal draft. But I can’t do that any longer.
The thought of dictating into a machine doesn’t appeal to me
at all. Henry James’s later works would have been better had he36 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
resisted that curious sort of self-indulgence, dictating to a secretary.
into written prose.
Joyce Carol Oates, when asked whether she’d ever considered
composing her work by ‘dictating into a machine’. There’s so much in
her Creative Writing. The question she asks –asksherself mostly –about
the size of the stack of pages and notes for The Assassins. Does it matter?
It appears it does, in some way, to Oates. Or, alternatively, is this a way
of conveying some aspect of the labour she wishes acknowledged in her
choice of Creative Writing as a career? Is it that ‘expression’ for Oates is
something different, some other act, than say ‘organisation’ or ‘reﬁne-
ment’, to choose a few random ideals? The point she makes about
makes while engaging in Creative Writing and how does the action of
writing in longhand support those links while the typewriter does not?
works in academe, what might this mean? The sequential suggestion she
makes – ‘ﬁrst draft straight through, then revisions, then ﬁnal draft’. Is
this how she works, or how she ﬁnds it best to imagine her working, or
how she chooses to present her working? And the criticism of Henry
James? Is this in the vein of a post-event criticism – that James’s ﬁnal
works don’t appear to her to have the same quality that his earlier works
display? A personal opinion or a shared literary critical point-of-view?
Or is this an event-based criticism in which she is criticising the act of
dictating in Creative Writing and, not ignoring the consideration of the
ﬁnal works themselves, is this then a little more about how she views
the notion of ‘self-indulgence’ than about the ﬁnal works themselves?
James’s Creative Writing habits are not something that have gone un-
noticed by other creative writers, with Cynthia Ozick’s playful novella
Dictation (2008) envisaging a meeting between the stenographers of
Here’s how Theodora Bosanquet appears in James’s own pocket diary:
18 October 1912 Friday
Have beenupmore–dictating letters toMiss Bosanquetina.m.–till
1.30. The Protheros gone. Have signed lease of 21 Carlyle Mansions.
Better, but great pain very obstinate; very poor time.All Works of Creative Writing are Disseminated? 37
19 October 1912 Saturday
Miss Bosanquet ill and absent.
Called on her at Bradleys.
20 October 1912 Sunday
Miss B. ill and absent. Went again in afternoon to ask.
21 October 1912 Monday
Begins 4th week of illness. Continuance of great local pain and bad
25 October 1912 Friday
Miss Bosanquet left for 10 days.
James himself was also ill during this time (thus the entry on
21 October) with an attack of herpes zoster, shingles, that is said to have
Theodora Bosanquet and James revealed here, even if only in the clear
sense of James’s urgency and what might be called, perhaps, ‘employer-
employee’ relations; but, of course, Bosanquet was herself a writer and
editor, later literary editor of Time and Tide. Here is a 1937 review by
Theodora Bosanquet of Virginia Woolf’s The Years:
Did she, putting her ear to an acoustically curved shell, hear a voice,
your turn. You who have tossed time about like a shuttlecock, dis-
dained and deﬁed the tolling of the hours, come off that lofty cloud.
Let the years pass in the order of their chronological procession.
Bridge your abysses in something more like the ordinary manner’?
herself that any form can be sufﬁciently exploited by a sufﬁciently
intelligent and accomplished writer, there can be no doubt that Mrs
Woolf has brought off her trick.
collision with Henry James, to that which initiates a ‘meeting’ between
Theodora Bosanquet and Cynthia Ozick, to that which brings Virginia
Woolf into the daily life of Theodora Bosanquet there is an association of
event, the event of Creative Writing, in which various works emerge,
public. But the junctures themselves, while sometimes incorporating38 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
cornerstone materials borne out of a varied textual, material history, are
brought about because of a shared creativity which vitalises and informs
their responses to each other. It is this that generates junctures.
Creative Writing creates numerous works, most often remaining in
the hands of the creative writer without organisation or thought to
preservation, or commercial or cultural value, if indeed they are kept at
collection of artefactual evidence that is somehow accumulated or even
actively collected, sometimes in relation to speciﬁc works, sometimes in
relation to speciﬁc periods, or sometimes merely on the basis of entirely
or the virtual ﬁling away of materials left on an old computer, or the
or the speciﬁc need to recall information for further Creative Writing of
some kind). Occasionally these works are accumulated by others but still
not distributed to a wider readership. This might occur if the creative
or with friends, with an editor or editors, with publishers or with agents,
with other creative writers, with conﬁdantes. Sometimes the works of
ing to the public policies that impact on such institutions, and in line
with largely holistic concerns associated with words such as ‘heritage’.
Heritage, here a connective concept in which social or cultural wholes
are represented by the inclusion of individual and group outputs,
evidence valued according to integration into an agreed typology. The
relationship between creative writers’ works, how they are valued or not
exchanges, often relates to communication between an individual sense
of ownership and signiﬁcance and a cultural or societal sense of owner-
ship and signiﬁcance. ‘The Author’ in John Barth’s often very humorous
novel Letters, writes to a certain ‘A. B. Cook IV’:
Dear Mr Cook,
month ago and it even lengthier enclosures. Gratiﬁed of course by
your ready response to my inquiry concerning your ancestors;
by your providing me with copies of those remarkable letters from
Andrew Cook IV to his unborn child; by your diverting account ofAll Works of Creative Writing are Disseminated? 39
the subsequent genealogy down to yourself; by your supererogatory
offer – nay, resolve – to enrich me yet further with the materials
from abortive Marylandiad: the posthumous adventures, as it were,
of A.B.C. IV. But dismayed, sir, by your misconstruction of my letter
and by your breathtaking assertion that we collaborated on my Sot-
Weed Factor novel – indeed, that we have any prior connection
‘No prior connection whatsoever’: how often might it be that Creative
Writing is undertaken without prior connection? Rather, the Creative
Writing remains with the creative writer, in the gathering of materials
to inform a work or works, in the comparisons, the juxtapositions of
evidence, in the notes, the exploring of ideas in words, images, sounds.
The drafting, attempts to create, speculative investigation of form or
formal sense, without even very literate, let alone literary, companions,
yet to have made the things I made [...]. I don’t know why God or gods,
or whoever it was, selected me to be the vessel.’ ‘Working again on my
mss, which ran dry on me at home in August, which may have been
partly responsible for my [...] trouble. It’s going alright now though.’
The ‘gift’, the ‘vessel’ running dry, is not one of his books wedged on
a reef, to wildly extend this metaphor, but the Creative Writing that
he is undertaking, and the various works that he sees, entirely not
disseminated, right in front of him. He had, of course, been awarded the
Nobel Prize for Literature four years previously.
1. Hotson, L. (1942) Literary serendipity. In ELH 9(2), June 1942, 91.
2. Hotson, L. (1942) Literary serendipity. In ELH 9(2), June 1942, 81.
3. Hotson, L. (1942) Literary serendipity. In ELH 9(2), June 1942, 92.
4. Andrews, J. (2009) Interview with G. Harper. In C. Sullivan and G. Harper
(eds) Authors at Work: The Creative Environment. Cambridge: Brewer, p. 70.
5. Andrews, J. (2009) Interview with G. Harper. In C. Sullivan and G. Harper
(eds) Authors at Work: The Creative Environment. Cambridge: Brewer, p. 71.
6. Brown, S.J. (1922) A Catholic library for Dublin. In Studies: An Irish Quarterly
Review 11(42), June 1922, 307.
7. Andrews, J. (2009) Interview with G. Harper. In C. Sullivan and G. Harper
(eds) Authors at Work: The Creative Environment. Cambridge: Brewer, p. 76.40 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
9. Oates, J.C. (1978) Interviewed by R. Phillips. In The Paris Review, Fall-Winter
10. Ozick, C. (2008) Dictation. In Dictation: a Quartet. Boston: Houghton Mifﬂin
Harcourt, p. 1.
11. James, H. (1988) In L. Edel and L.H. Powers (eds) The Complete Notebooks of
Henry James. New York: OUP, p. 369.
12. Edel, L. and Powers, L.H. (eds) (1988) The Complete Notebooks of Henry James.
New York: OUP, p. 350.
13. Bosanquet, T. (1997) Review of The Years. In Time and Tide, reprinted in
R. Majumdar, A. McLaurin (eds) Virginia Woolf. London: Routledge, p. 367.
14. Barth, J. (1980) Letters: a Novel. London: Secker and Warburg, pp. 532–533.
15. Faulkner, W.(1977) To Joan Williams, Wednesday29 April 1953.In J.Blotner
(ed.) Selected Letters of William Faulkner. New York: Random House, p. 348.
16. Faulkner, W. (1977) To Malcolm A Franklin, Tuesday October 1953. In
J. Blotner (ed.) Selected Letters of William Faulkner. New York: Random House,
p. 354.Chapter 5
If not all ‘works’ of Creative Writing are disseminated – all ‘outputs’,
‘artefacts’, ‘evidence’, the inverted commas used here to suggest how
we view these items requires some further discussion – if these are not
all disseminated, but that some ﬁnal works are disseminated, how then
has this occurred? Books are perhaps the most obvious form widely
associated with Creative Writing as ﬁnal works, though the evolution
of ﬁlm, and then television, and then the new electronic media could
easily suggest to us that books are not the form in which most 20th and
21st century readers/audiences have acquired the ﬁnal works of creative
writers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Inequalities associated with Creative
Creative Writing itself, involving such things as personal circumstance,
‘group’ circumstance (for example, family or social group, regional or
of Creative Writing, so that works of a certain kind, type or form, works
with a certain cultural or contemporary perspective, ﬁnd themselves in
greater favour at a given time and place; (3) inequality of reception of
one orother form ofthese works, sothatin anyperiodthedissemination
of one or other ﬁnal form can raise questions of inequality of reader/
audience attention. To take the 20th century as a case study:
The evolution of media in the 20th century brought about a number
of reactions associated with such inequalities, not least those which
questioned the impact of new forms on ‘reading’, even if the deﬁnitions
of reading being adopted were in the ﬁrst instance relatively narrow. For
example, a 1951 study of the impact of television on school children,
offered the observation that:
4142 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
The child’s role in relation to the mass media is essentially a passive
one, whereas the other playtime behavior of children often involves
has been widely reported that adults do less reading, movie-going
and radio-listening after they acquire a TV than they did before, and
the same seems to be true of children.
The fear here that passivity separates the child from the ‘real’ is
intriguing, further associating this separation speciﬁcally with television,
while ‘movie-going’ and ‘radio-listening’ involve the activeness that is
associated with ‘reading’. The television is an object on two levels: the
appliance itself, ‘a TV’, and the programmes that it offers as texts, which
and radio is about the activity of ‘listening’.
Interestingly, all these forms remain objects to be interacted with –
or, in thecase oftelevision, passivelyseated before, it seems. Rather than
seeing the ﬁnal forms as some artefactual evidence of a more extensive
human creative activity they are considered as texts and the creative
and critical engagement that brought them about is not referred to in the
discussion of readership or audience. Surprisingly, that is, because this
1951 report is considering a clash between passivity and activity and a
ﬁxed sense of how these forms came about could never deal adequately
with the question of human exchange. Bring the discussion forward ﬁfty
years and this is what occurs:
We found that girls read more frequently than boys in their leisure
time; that reading scores are positively related to the frequency with
which children read in their leisure time; that boys spend more time
than girls watching TV and playing computer games; and that
the frequency with which children read is negatively related to the
time they spend watching TV and playing computer games [...].
Correlations between the time spent watching TV during the week
and reading achievement are not signiﬁcant. This ﬁnding may
the relationship between computer games and reading achievement
In 1951 the extent of the relationship with the ‘real’, the way this was
and passivity were the primary concerns. In the later study, published in
2000, amounts of time devoted to consuming each form is the focus, asAll Dissemination Occurs Similarly? 43
is the ways in which consuming one form impacts on time spent on
Allthismightseem peripheraltoadiscussionofCreativeWriting, but
it should not, given the huge amount of material produced by creative
games. Similarly, as these studies of reading habits locate reading in the
disseminated ﬁnal works of creative writers they highlight the question-
able notion that engagement with Creative Writing is fundamentally
an engagement with objects, even if these objects are then themselves
examined in relation to their presentation of words, images, sounds.
history of Creative Writing and changes in the way in which books have
been produced and distributed reﬂect on how Creative Writing has been
undertaken, received and considered more generally. John Brewer,
considering English Culture in the 18th century, remarks:
grew, it became easier to ﬁnd them. Books could be bought, hired or
borrowed either from commercial establishments and institutions
or from individuals. The humblest literature – chapbooks, cheap
abbreviated novels, almanacs and ballads – could be bought from
itinerant pedlars and chapmen who travelled the countryside selling
reading matter, trinkets, gifts, household goods and toys.
Add to this Mark Rose’s comment:
The point to be stressed is the difference between the system of
culturalproduction andregulationcharacteristic ofthesixteenthand
seventeenth centuries and the later system that developed based on
the idea of authorial property. For one thing, in the early modern
period it was usual to think of a text as an action, not a thing. [My
The signiﬁcance of the 18th century to changing views on Creative
Writing, therefore, becomes even more obvious. To think of a text ‘as a
thing’ most certainly allows for the kind of commodity cultures that
the object replaces response to the human involvement in its creation.
This is not to say that the object is not signiﬁcant – indeed, much can be
made of the evidence of Creative Writing and of the activities of creative
a material, then alreadymostof it goesunnoticed, unacknowledged and,
thus,unconsidered.Thisgoessomewaytowardsuggestingwaysinwhich44 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
theactsandactionsand theartefactsof CreativeWriting came tobeseen
as occupying different spatial and temporal positions and how creative
of them released to the world.
Ofcourse,thoseeven casuallyfamiliar with theoreticalexchanges that
took place in second half of the 20th century in such academic areas as
literary studies, cultural studies, semiotics, the analysis of language and
communication – broadly within what has been called ‘critical theory’ –
Philosopher and critic Roland Barthes writes:
Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it,
the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to
let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogant antiphrastical
ignores, smothers, or destroys; we know that to give writing its
future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader
must be at the cost of the death of the Author.
In some ways it didn’t matter what the full extent of Barthes’s
argument really was, because the title, and later general adoption of his
expression ‘The Death of the Author’, ﬁtted perfectly with the notion of
empowering consumers to treat writing as object, even if Barthes’s more
pressing intention was to promote the extension of how readership was
may contain many layers and many meanings. The creative writer, in
this context, becomes associated with a ‘tyranny’ in which authority is
located in the author and therefore a concentration on the author, most
particularly on a singular authorial ﬁgure, limits the dimensions that
might be explored in a text, and disempowers the audience whose
impressions actually deﬁne the meaning of the text.
the modern ‘author’ who is reduced to a combiner of pre-existing texts,
and comes into being at the same time as the text, rather than existing
less of the consciousness and minds working, in the physical object of
the text. In this conﬁguration, Creative Writing is not only validated as
textual inscription and the human acts and actions that occur to produce
of working. Nothing in Creative Writing could be further from the truth.All Dissemination Occurs Similarly? 45
Demonstrably, the discussion so far has been predicated on the idea
that the question ‘all dissemination of Creative Writing occurs, and has
occurred, similarly?’ relates to the dissemination of objects, whatever
varieties and types these objects occupy. And yet, the argument that has
and actions and that the artefacts created – of which there are many, a
emphases don’t support their dissemination – and the artefacts are
merely elements of the activities that are Creative Writing.
With this in mind, it could be said that very little Creative Writing is
disseminated at all; that Creative Writing lies in unrecorded action, the
unseen movement of a pen or the private tapping on computer keys, in
mindscapes of perception and conception, in the workings of a creative
writer’s memory, in the manifestations in physiological and psycho-
logical dispositions, of the individual creative writer or team of creative
writers. And that it is these we should be considering when considering
how the dissemination of Creative Writing has occurred.
Along this line of reasoning, what then can be considered relates to
societal economic and political conditions, physical environments – both
of creation, and the macro environments of history, culture, society,
geography, nation, for example; these, to list only a few possibilities.
Such considerations might broadly be labelled as ‘constructivist’. That
They could, in addition, give productive further voice (in opposition to
of individuals that is responsible for the acts and actions of Creative
Writing are not imposing a limit on the texts that emerge from their
activities; rather that the concentration on the text itself imposes such
limits and, along with this, dehumanises the nature of Creative Writing.
Individuals, or this group, is the focus here, generically labelled ‘creative
writer/s’, though frequently the deﬁnition of either individual or group
has found itself linked primarily to ﬁnal works – so, ‘the short story
writer’, ‘poets’, ‘a screenwriter’, ‘she’s a playwright’, ‘novelists’. Social
constructivistthinkinghasbeenusedtoexploretheactionsofindividuals46 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
and groups generally. In relation to the sciences, Karin Knorr-Cetina has
explored this in relation to the ‘manufacture of knowledge’ in science,
noting in her 1981 book:
Laws proposed by science are transfactual and rule-like, rather than
more upon the scientists ability to analyse a situation as a whole, to
think of several different levels at once, to recognise clues, and piece
together, than upon the laws themselves.
and highly selective expectation-based tinkering with the material
that guides them toward an innovative result.
Unrealized solutions are important to scientists as organizing
principles for subsequent actions and selections.
The laboratory response was composed of hurried ad hoc decisions.
[...] For every bit of published ‘method’ there seems to be a bit of
unpublished know-how [...]
Writing occurs, as well as in considering the sorts of actions, structures
and functions that impact upon the dissemination of works of Creative
Writing. Certainly the idea that there is equality, throughout history and
context, in the dissemination of Creative Writing is unhelpful, but so is
any suggestion that ﬁnal works, in whatever form, don’t in some way
compete against each other for the attention of readers/audiences. Of
course, difﬁculties arise if Creative Writing is considered as universally
socially orientated; or universally shared across time and space. A
creative writer such Hermann Hesse speaks individually when he says
‘the longer one works at it, the harder and more ambiguous the labour
of language becomes’ even if the sentiment is expressed by other
creative writers at other places and times. Likewise, to concentrate on
construction to the complete marginalisation of constructed works belies
good sense.All Dissemination Occurs Similarly? 47
A note on a relatively recent phenomenon: the world wide web
was received as a thing not an action, made, distributed and received,
then the arrival in the late 20th Century of the WWW introduced some-
thing at very least equally signiﬁcant. Much as the arrival of television
and, later, free-standing domestic computer technologies, opened new
avenues for the dissemination of ﬁnal works of Creative Writing, the
At ﬁrst, it added to the range of possibilities in a complementary
stores, books available in one country were, relatively soon, available in
another via the WWW, electronic games, disk-based reading, ‘discussion
lists’. The WWW arrived with complementary support but, when the
technologies supporting it, and the hardware and software linked to it,
advanced sufﬁciently then the WWW began to renovate the ways in
which we could consider Creative Writing.
If, at ﬁrst, the complementarity of the WWW seemed to suggest that it
by greater bandwidth, by wireless (Wi-FI) communications, by faster,
more robust and more cost-effective hardware and software, and by
greater take-up throughout communities, made it plain that the WWW
was not to take a support role but, rather, that it was taking a lead. It
is now possible to engage in Creative Writing and disseminate ﬁnal
works without the involvement of a publisher, producer or bookstore –
indeed, it is possible for anyone to create works and disseminate them
produce works that incorporate not only written words but images and
sound; that look something like traditional ‘books’ or that look nothing
like them at all. It is possible – in fact, now very common – for a creative
writer to gain an audience for their ﬁnal works via the WWW and to
extend that audience by ‘word-of-mouth’, that may involve ‘words’ but
whose ‘mouth’ may more likely be the collection of social networking
opportunities offered by the WWW.
ﬁnal works emerging from Creative Writing and being disseminated,
more or less, in some fashion. The observation that the ‘middle person
or persons’ between creative writer and reader was removed by the48 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
increasingly ubiquitous nature of the WWW deserves due recognition.
Writing acts and actions revealed in real time. Meaning, that email
initially, and personal, group, project websites later on, blogs, wikis and
other tools and platforms, opened the possibility for the acts and actions
less detached from any artefact that was the result of Creative Writing.
Additionally, with the notion of objectiﬁcation challenged by WWW
phenomena that produced ‘virtual’ rather than ‘physical’ artefacts, and
with the WWW generally projecting ideals of immediacy and creativity
(the number of creative activities and results of creative activities found
a cultural perspective that views Creative Writing as thing is strong.
Other technological advances have developed to add greater depth to
this WWW challenge: on-demand publishing, which reduces the need,
even if a physical ‘book’ is desired, for warehousing and, in combination
with digital printing, makes construction and distribution of a book both
ﬁnancially and technically possible; digital media making, in general,
which fuelled the growth of such paradigm shifting WWW entities as
YouTube, where scripted and unscripted media challenged notions of
traditional ﬁlm distribution andmedia broadcasting; open-source design
software that reduced the cost of creating hypertext or games orientated
incorporation of visual and aural materials; mobile phone technologies,
which further spread the reach of the WWW as well as the modes and
methods of Creative Writing dissemination, and added to the broader
sense of connectivity between things ‘in motion’ (for example, the phone
call ‘on the move’ being a very common activity by the last years of the
Though it would assist the argument, it would be disingenuous to
start suggesting here that the WWW returned us to the correct position
of recognising Creative Writing as human acts and actions. Similarly, to
suggest such a thing, while helpful in terms of grounding an argument
for thecomplexity oftherelationship betweenCreativeWritingactivities
and artefacts, would be difﬁcult to ground in that the WWW has also
been a phenomenal promoter of commodity exchange and a mode for
‘Creative Writing’. Finally, it would be wrong to say that the WWW has
increased equality of making and dissemination – this still relies on
personal access, avenues for the acquisition of skills and for increasing
the aptitude for applying them, technological infrastructure (both localAll Dissemination Occurs Similarly? 49
and global), cultural preferences. The great website, linked to a blog,
supported by a mainstream publisher’s technical team, managed by a
promotions company, designed by a professional designer – to take just
of the creative writer without access to one or all of these things. And
yet, the WWW very quickly introduced the possibility of widely avail-
able dissemination of the artefacts of Creative Writing and very quickly
empowered a sense of Creative Writing as activity. It has been, in that
way, a substantial challenge to the notions of Creative Writing brought
to occur between creative writer and reader/audience primarily on the
basis of a textual centrepiece.
1. Macoby, E.E. (1951) Television: its impact on school children. In The Public
Opinion Quarterly 15(3), Autumn 1951, 435.
2. Cosgrove, J. and Morgan, M. (2000) The leisure activities of ﬁfth grade pupils
and their relationships to pupils’ reading achievements. In The Irish Journal of
Education/Iris Eireannach an Oideachais 01, 58–59.
3. Brewer, J. (1997) The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteen
Century. London: Harper-Collins, p. 173.
4. Rose, M. (1994) Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge
(MA): Harvard, p. 13.
5. Barthes,R.(1984) Thedeathoftheauthor.InS.Heath(trans. anded.) Image –
Music – Text. London: Fontana.
6. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon, p. 3.
7. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon, p. 12.
8. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon, p. 58.
9. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
10. Hesse, H. (1973) Events in the Engadine: 1953. In Autobiographical Writings.
London: Picador, p. 220.Chapter 6
At what point does an act or action produce an artefact? By means of
local deﬁnition, reiterating here that the deﬁnition of ‘action’ being used
inthisbook is‘acollection ofacts, sometimesjoined bylogic, intuitionor
fortuitous circumstance’ and the deﬁnition of act is ‘something done’. At
what point, then, does either an act or an action produce an artefact,
the acts and actions that are Creative Writing a direct relationship? To
ensureclarity, thedeﬁnitionof‘direct’being usedhereis‘uninterrupted,
without intervention, straightforward’. It will thus already be obvious
that this statement only partially bears the weight of reality, and that it
quite naturally, having offered them! – perhaps now also is the time to
consider whether they need a little more untangling.
Anthropological investigations, because they explore the behaviour of
humans, and it is behaviours (along with meanings, reasons, feelings,
offer some assistance here – with the speciﬁc interest on the relationship
between artefacts and actions. Anthropologists undertaking research on
how behaviours and artefacts relate in various cultures may therefore
offer some directional assistance.
Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Michael O’Hanlon, exploring arte-
[The] issue [...] of the nature of the relationship between words
and images and the capacity (or otherwise) of words to express the
50Direct Relationship with Disseminated Works? 51
signiﬁcance of images, is a topic that has long been of concern to
of Melanesian artistic traditions – remarked upon by all – is that the
richness and evident signiﬁcance of arts ﬁnds no counterpart in
indigenous exegesis: people apparently have very little to say about
artistic productions which are central to their economic, cultural and
to break down the category of ‘‘verbalisation’’’ and that we might have
concluded ‘too swiftly that an absence of exegesis is the same thing as
an absence of verbalisation’. If exegesis is absent, creating no artefactual,
critical ‘works’ of its own, then the role of verbal communication, con-
interest in the creation and use of wigs worn during a particular festival
he suggests that:
For while the Highlanders in question do indeed offer very little
exegesis of the signiﬁcance of their wigs, they do talk about them,
and while this may not account for all we might like to explain, it
does have its own validity as being part of a wider local theory of
or analysis this is not talk without theoretical or critical validity; nor,
O’Hanlon suggests, does the fact that it is not formalised mean that the
‘verbalisation’ undertaken has less importance within the making of, or
the reception, of the artefacts. Further to this, the acts and actions of the
creating, the making, are subject to their own broad set of principles,
deﬁned by the individuals, the groups, the culture and the circumstance
so that while there may be personal activities going on these also ﬁnd
on the making itself. Thus:
In the West we are familiar with the notion that art may have moral
effects upon consumers; the Wahgi, in contrast, are interested in the
way that art may reﬂect the moral conditions of its producers. Any
Thus, a moral and ethical dimension enters the making, as well as
explanationsofthemaking;adimensionthatoweseverythingtohowthe52 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
makers are said to take responsibility for certain conditions of human
interaction and to have a role in imbuing their art-making with appro-
priate morality. That this is located in confession (not of the Western
religious kind but not far removed at all from the notion of the meta-
physical, given that its intention is to improve ‘harmony’) relates to the
has relevance to how consideration of the creative always involves
consideration of consciousness, and how consciousness works in such a
way as to need to be considered in its entirety. Henri Bergson offers
a useful analogical tool:
A rapid gesture, made with one’s eyes shut, will assume for con-
no thought of the space traversed. In a word, there are two elements
to be distinguished in motion, the space traversed and the act by
which we traverse it, the successive positions and the synthesis of
the second has no reality except in consciousness [...]. 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 an object but
this act itself into space, to applying it to the whole of the line which
the moving body traverses, in a word, to solidifying it: as if this a
localizing of progress in space did not amount to asserting that, even
outside of consciousness, the past co-exists with the present!
behind Roland Barthes’s opposition to the Author and declaration of the
here, and what O’Hanlon likewise realises in his anthropological study,
is that present acts and actions and past acts and actions leave ‘foot-
that this knowledge or understanding, while sometimes represented by
artefacts or objects can just as easily, and very readily, be represented
without intrusion of the holistic conditions under which individuals and
groups live. The creative writer, then, while free within the conﬁnes of
her or his room, at her or his desk, with her or his pencil or computer,
is not entirely ever removed from such conditions and the directness
of the association of acts and actions and the artefacts they produce –Direct Relationship with Disseminated Works? 53
pre-works/pre-working, complementary works/working, ﬁnal works,
or action, that changes this is that of dissemination and O’Hanlon
indicates this also in his study when he concludes:
This is not simply in the sense that wigs prompt assessments –
both within the limited community engaged in making the wig and
amongst the spectators who comment on it when the wig ﬁnally
‘comes outside’ – but more importantly in the sense that people feel
that they really do not know in any absolute sense what the true
state of relations, within groups or between wig-wearers and their
‘sources’ actually is. All activities take place against a background of
uncertain and contested knowledge.
referred to by Bergson, and the difﬁculties of talking holistically about
from cultural conditions. If Bergson and O’Hanlon point to one aspect of
dissemination, which the WWW has most recently also highlighted, it is
that reducing the distance between acts and actions and dissemination
past and present at least partially dwell. And yet, even if focusing on
the event of creation, the awareness that there is a post-event to any
individual act asks us to consider how direct dissemination can ever
accurately reveal acts and actions.
Where this current analysis and Bergson’s differs is in the ideals
of duration and suggestions of indivisibility, because while Bergson is
Writing it has to be that the activity is seen to be producing something,
some material evidence, some results of some kind. This can occur in a
complementary way, one act of Creative Writing ﬂuidly engaged with
another,oneworkofCreativeWriting emerging whileotherscontinueto
be subject to writerly creation, or one emerging in one way while other
work and some working comments onto the WWW while publishing
another work, a story say, in a print magazine) intersecting creative
and critical (verbalised or exegetical) working and works. And Creative54 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
Writing most often does work in this complementary way. But there is
still a commonsense recognition that points of ﬁnality occur.
For this reason, acts and the actions to which they collectively contri-
bute can be viewed as contributing to each event of Creative Writing –
event meaning an occurrence, something taking place – while analysis of
by release of a ‘ﬁnal’ artefact, or superseded by evolution of an alternate
occurrence, can be called post-event. The difference between creative
(ignoring, momentarily, that these works are subject a wide range of
disseminational conditions and circumstances) is that the creative writer
Creative Writing is combining event and post-event in the ﬂuid way
Bergson explores while the post-event critic, detached from the acts and
explanation or exegesis exist to explore it. A direct relationship between
acts and actions of Creative Writing and disseminated works could be
said to occur –for someworks,atleast –forthe creative writer but never
relief, and suggests that the knowledge and understanding contained
in the consciousness of the creative writer has a different aspect to that
contained in the consciousness of the post event critic in other areas of
computer games, television.
The establishment of an indirect association is further engrained by
intermediaries whose involvement is brought about by economic or
So, for example:
(1) publishing, producing, disseminating industries (in the case of the
artefacts of Creative Writing, usually broadly part of the ‘creative
industries’), their scope and style and ability to inﬂuence. This
can include conditions of public and private ﬁnancing, the role of
the relationship between focus on product (perhaps most seen in
commercially viable creative industries) and a focus on community
or personal arts (perhaps most seen in publicly subsidised arts
sectors). Historical notes here include such things as pre-industrial
conditions of Creative Writing (in the West, the importance of the
18th century has been noted); similarly, non-mainstream exchangesDirect Relationship with Disseminated Works? 55
(for example, community exchange in writers’ groups or the
exchanges that have occurred during periods of patronage);
(2) the structure and importance of cultural groups. The implementing
of more holistic than individualistic notions about disseminated
works (for example, cultural conditions under which the acts and
actions of a creative writer who produced a disseminated work
is distanced by inclusion in structural conditions or functional
approaches relating to the integrity or character of a established or
emerging cultural group. Individual acts and actions are therefore
distanced from group actions or group ideals);
(3) ‘human’ technologies, and the historical evolution of these. Seem-
ingly superﬂuous to note technologies as ‘human’, given that the
‘science’. However, technologies can also refer to techniques for
the manipulation of an environment and, in this sense, it is worth
the distance between Creative Writing and the disseminated works
emerging from Creative Writing have been introduced by humans
to change or manipulate the human environment in which they
(4) the role of other individuals – for example, editors, publishers,
designers, producers – in mediating the relationship between
Creative Writing and the disseminated works of Creative Writing.
In many cases, these individuals have been offering their own
creative input, either less or more devolved from the activities
public ideals,whetherthetasteandpreferencesoftheindividual or
the policies of cultural or commercial entities.
The establishment or maintenance of an indirect relationship between
the acts and actions of Creative Writing and disseminated works carries
with its behavioural characteristics which reﬂect historio cultural con-
texts. It’s useful to adopt that mode of thinking about History adopted
by Annales historians in which history can be considered in terms of
the longue dure´e (long term historical structures), a favoured approach
of Ferdinand Braudel and earlier Annalistes, cycles (patterns and re-
occurrences) and episodes (immediate or short term incidents). In this
way we can see moments when the acts and actions of Creative Writing
has been more distant (the introduction of copyright could be seen as56 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
one of those). We have seen cycles of creative writer behaviour – for
works have been relatively closely related. And we have seen the impact
of the longue dure´e where the activities, the event, of Creative Writing,
undertaken by a portion of the population, have been approached post-
disseminated artefactual evidence formed some kind of mortar between
two bricks, rather than elements of ﬂuid co-existence.
Finally, some consideration of fortuitousness and irrationality. If it’s
acknowledged that ‘the makingofa piece ofknowledgeinvolvesa series
of decisions and negotiations’ then it needs to be equally acknowledged
that any human exchange, in which a variety of understandings always
occur, involves decisions and negotiations that do not involve rational
negotiation or organised decision-making. The acts and actions that are
Creative Writing are not all the result of rationality or of clearly reﬁned
have within their realm of inﬂuence social norms to which individual
ness to exchange, and reveal, the dimensions of the acts and actions of
any particular creative writer can be inﬂuenced by the writer’s belief
system, by the feelings of whether their actions map onto social or,
indeed, artistic norms, by the immediate personal circumstances of the
creative writer’s relationships or, quite simply, by the creative writer’s
ability or inability to capture (in memory as well in some physical way)
the circumstances of creation.
A model of Creative Writing that made human agency the machine
for the manufacture of creative products – whether those products
were books, mobile phone texts, poems on the web, or anything else –
have long shown the ability, in even the most extreme of controlled
circumstances, to act with free will. Similarly, while intention might bear
considerable weight, unintended results occur and these unintended
results are as activating to the event of Creative Writing as those that
are premeditated. The role of ‘experience’ has inﬂuence here because it
could be said to conﬁrm for the creative writer that certain actions will
bring about certain results, only to show that unintentionality does not
entirely disappear over time and thus raises questions then about theDirect Relationship with Disseminated Works? 57
in Creative Writing. Alternatively, a tyro creative writer may produce
remarkable ﬁnal works, yet in their acts and actions reveal to themselves
(and to anyone who might observe these actions) that much of the event
here is not premeditated nor necessarily even understood and questions
then arise as to the actual relationship between technical, aesthetic,
communicative understanding and ﬁnal works of Creative Writing. The
social context of this might relate to forms of education, not necessarily
any of them being formal. Christopher Lloyd suggests in relation to
human agency that:
Action is partly motivated and structured by the actor’s experience
of the world and knowledge of it, and particularly by the actor’s
perception of his or her interests, whether personal, institutional, or
class interests. Action is therefore also structured by social context.
Hence agency is never completely free but always constrained and
enabled by its structural and ideological situation and by the
experience of the actor.
works and actual Creative Writing. Historically, this has made it more
likely that the shorthand reference to certain ﬁnal works, disseminated
under the inﬂuences of cultural and/or economic conditions, would
sufﬁce as representation of event-focused understanding even if com-
evidence and therefore did not relate to actual practices or experiences.
Similarly, as it has been in the personal interests of individual creative
writers, particularly in the context of patronage, commercial support,
creating value, or simply in encouraging greater reader/audience belief
in their abilities and thus allowing for wider dissemination of their
ideas and thoughts, to suggest a direct relationship between actions and
ﬁnal results (much as Knorr-Cetina reports that scientists engage in
‘opportunistic logic’ ) then direct relationships between actual acts and
able possibility that a creative writer’s self-awareness, much as anyone
and that this viewing, carrying only some portions of the true acts and
and importance, is inﬂuenced by their capability and knowledgeability
and the distance between disseminated works and event of Creative
Writing becomes considerable.58 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
1. O’Hanlon, M. (1992) Unstable images and second skins: artefacts, exegesis
2. O’Hanlon, M. (1992) Unstable images and second skins: artefacts, exegesis
3. O’Hanlon, M. (1992) Unstable images and second skins: artefacts, exegesis
4. Bergson, H. (2001) Time and Freewill. New York: Dover, p. 112.
5. O’Hanlon, M. (1992) Unstable images and second skins: artefacts, exegesis
science methods in writing history and the study of social and cultural
Annales school’’ – that is, to speak in more concrete terms, the historians
whose base is in the sixth section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in
Paris, whose books appear, in parallel series and steady ﬂow, under the
imprint of SEVPEN, Paris, and whose regular organ is that ample and ever-
expandingperiodicaloriginallyentitled Annalesd’histoiree’conomique etsociale
in origin, French in inspiration, these historians now form an international
Roper, H. (1972) Fernand Braudel, the Annales, and the Mediterranean. The
Journal of Modern History 44(4).
7. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Knowledge. Oxford: Pergamon, p. 40.
8. Lloyd, C. (1986) Explanation in Social History. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 281.
9. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1981) The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the
Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon, p. 47.
agent is therefore a being with individual and social power. ‘‘Knowledge-
ability’’ refers to the practical consciousness of ordinary actors about their
own society and the conditions of their own activities. It is notequitable with
knowing consciously in the sense of ‘‘held in mind’’ but is, rather, the modes
the ability to make decisions in the game-theoretic sense because it is less
History. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 309.Chapter 7
Crack goes the pistol and off starts this entry.
Sometimes he has caught it just right; more often he has jumped the
gun. On these occasions, if he is lucky, he runs only a dozen yards,
looks around and jogs sheepishly back to the starting place. But
too frequently he makes the entire circuit of the track under the
impression that he is leading the ﬁeld, and reaches the ﬁnish to ﬁnd
he has no following. The race must be run all over again ...
So runs an interview with one of the champion false starters of the
writing profession – myself. Opening a leather-bound waste-basket
which I fatuously refer to as my ‘notebook’, I pick out at random a
small, triangular piece of wrapping paper with a cancelled stamp on
one side. On the other is written:
Boopsie Dee was cute.
[...] There are hundreds of these hunches. Not all of them have
to do with literature. Some are hunches about importing a troupe
of Ouled Naı¨l dancers from Africa, about resuscitating football at
These little ﬂurries caused me no travail – they were opium eaters’
illusions, vanishing with the smoke of the pipe, or you know what I
mean. The pleasure of thinking about them was the exact equivalent
globs of paper that grieve me professionally, like unsuccessful oil
shafts; they represent my false starts.
F. Scott Fitzgerald writing about writing. There are an inﬁnite
number of similar examples: creative writers talking or writing about
5960 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
their experiences of Creative Writing. Edmund White, in a chapter
entitled ‘Writing Gay’: ‘[...] Though I was a fairly bright student I had
almost no skill as a writer. I wrote in a trance, almost unconsciously.’
Primo Levi, talking about writing on a computer: ‘I’m still a neophyte: I
still have to learn a lot of manoeuvres, but it would already cost me a
glue.’ Marianne Moore: ‘It never occurred to me that what I wrote was
something to deﬁne. I am governed by the pull of the sentence as the
Eudora Welty: ‘My ideal way to
pull of a fabric is governed by gravity.’
write a short story is to write the whole ﬁrst draft through in one sitting,
then work as long as it takes on revision, and then the ﬁnal version all in
one, so that in the end the whole thing amounts to one long sustained
There has been a concerted effort applied in this book, so far, to avoid
usingtheword‘process’ whenreferringto CreativeWriting,infavourof
talking about acts and actions and activities. ‘Process’, however, is quite
often touted as an overarching term for a creative writer’s activities and
it is common to read about such a process, particularly in books about
word to use for what Creative Writing involves, or it simply a word that
has been adopted when a better word simply hasn’t seemed available?
Process certainly suggests a journey and etymologically owes something
of its origins to exactly that notion: the sense of movement. However,
Britain from 1968–1972, remarked in a lecture given in 1956:
We are compelled to speak of poetic process in metaphor. At this
early stage, the poet has begun to build a house with only one small
blue-print, or with many alternative blue-prints at his disposal. If he
has to work in this hand-to-mouth way, it is because conception and
His activity during the initial stages of making a poem is equivalent
subject, the secondary subject-matter which is attracted into the ﬁeld
of the poem out of the poet’s wholelife-experience, and the formal
patterns into which he is beginning to arrange it. The questioning is,
for the poet as for the scientist, an arduous intellectual exertion.Constituted Activities can be Grouped as ‘Process’? 61
– the experience of Creative Writing, and speciﬁcally of the writing of
poetry – but is also aware that to talk of it as process doesn’t quite grasp
it. He reaches, thus, for ‘blue-print’, ‘organic’, ‘growing’. Introduces
‘stages’. Borrows ‘doubt’. And concludes with reference to ‘arranging’
and ‘questioning’, rounding off with an almost celebratory note on the
commonality of ‘arduous intellectual exertion’.
Again Day Lewis seems to offer ‘intellectual’ as a slightly awkward
shorthand for something to do with the operation of the mind, and the
compulsion he notes to use metaphor to try and talk about what goes
on in the writing of poetry is similarly signiﬁcant here in that the
word ‘intellectual’ seems to be equating with the concept of questioning.
Henri Bergson would replace ‘intellect’ with intelligence and include a
suggestion that instinct plays a substantial role, using both intelligence
and instinct in his speciﬁc deﬁnitions. That is: Bergson associates
intelligence with useful action, while what he calls ‘instinct’ is associated
with life itself, intelligence being an adaptation.
‘Instinct,’ he writes, ‘on the contrary, is molded on the very form of
life. While intelligence treats everything mechanically, instinct proceeds,
about by the application of intelligence, is a Bergsonian ideal, not least
because the intellect on its own cannot approach life.
[...] the intellect always behaves as if it were fascinated by the
outside itself, adopting the way of organized nature in principle, in
order to direct them in fact. Hence its bewilderment when it turns to
the living and is confronted with organization. It does what it can,
it resolves the organized into unorganized, for it cannot, without
reversing its natural direction and twisting about on itself, think true
continuity, real mobility, reciprocal penetration – in a word, that
creative evolution which is life.
Bergson sees intelligence as being ‘turned’ toward inert matter and
instinct being ‘turned’ toward life. So they look in alternate directions,
‘intuition’. For Bergson, intuition is instinct that is capable of reﬂecting,
around it. And it is telling that it is to art that Bergson refers in order to
talk about this intuition:62 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
in many of an aesthetic facility along with normal perception. Our
eye perceives the features of the living being, merely as assembled,
that runs through the lines, that binds them together and gives them
signiﬁcance, escapes it. The intention is just what the artist tries
to regain, in placing himself back within the object by a kind of
can conceive an inquiry turned in the same direction as art, which
would take life in general for its object, in following to the end the
facts into general laws.
Cecil Day Lewis’s metaphoric reach for ‘process’ also reﬂects what
Bergson is investigating here, and it is related to the communication that
both Day Lewis and Bergson perceive between individual and wider
(that is, our self-conscious sense of instinct and intelligence interacting
in some way) and the external world of what we perceive and conceive.
Thus, forDayLewisCreativeWriting, poetry writing,involves ‘akindof
groping in the dark’; poetry can be ‘a technique of knowledge’ and
‘the poet is, above all, a maker’. That this making, and this knowledge,
includes some elements drawn from a instinct, and some drawn from
intelligence, ﬂuidly exchanging these, that it is not merely about internal
self-consciousness but also about responding to the external world, and
that it occurs by breakingdownthebarrierbetweenthespaceof external
suggests that the term ‘process’ is not entirely adequate to describe what
‘Process’ is deﬁned as ‘progress, course’, ‘a series of actions or steps
towards achieving a particular end’ and a ‘continuous series of actions
meant to accomplish some result (the main modern sense)’. In what
ways might this have anything to do with Creative Writing? Certainly
there are actions, more or less there is progress (depending on how we
might deﬁne progress) and, broadly, the meaning attached to much of
this relates to accomplishing ‘a result’. However, it is doubtful the idea
of a ‘course’ features as large as the idea of a process suggests, mostConstituted Activities can be Grouped as ‘Process’? 63
deﬁnitely very little of this is ‘continuous’ and, even though one act may
follow another, and be linked in any number of ways, it is difﬁcult to
imagine the concept of a ‘series’ adequately copes with the movements
on Creative Writing.
It is important at this juncture not to confuse post-event analysis with
event analysis; in effect, not to draw to our picture of how Creative
Writing happens conceptual shorthand that undermines the ﬂuidity of
the interaction between instinct and intelligence (to use these terms as
they are used by Bergson) and replaces this with a textual target, located
as the conclusion, or promoted as both starting and end point.
To put it another way: if we begin with ﬁnal results, material objects,
and then think in reverse to their creation we quite naturally talk about
results and progress. Why wouldn’t we? We are, after all, in sight then
of Creative Writing as material, objectiﬁed thing. How close we are to
actual Creative Writing is questionable. But progress, a series, a course,
is in front of us. Ted Hughes, another former Poet Laureate of Great
Britain, and perhaps known by many as much for his life as his poetry,
says of his well-known poem The Thought-Fox:
craning of its ears, the slight tremor of its hanging tongue and its
breathing making little clouds, its teeth bared in the cold, the snow-
crumbs dropping from its pads as it lifts each one in turn, if I could
have got the words for all this, the fox would probably be even more
as it is.
‘It is there as it is’ for Hughes. But is it ended? Has the process been
completed, for him? Perhaps, then, it wasn’t a process at all.
We need to place textual or material evidence of Creative Writing
does not remove text from Creative Writing; nor does it suggest that
creative writers don’t have goals and, more pragmatically, it doesn’t
suggest that they are somehow devoid of the need to meet expectations
teachers, editors). But it does place textual evidence (which, as has been
indicated, has tended to be only some evidence and only some evidence
Toni Morrison, in a speech given when accepting the National Book64 Part I: Concerning the Nature of Creative Writing
Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters’
comments for the occasion: ‘I know now, more than I ever did (and I
always on some level knew it), that I need that intimate, sustained
surrender to the company of my own mind while it touches another’s –
– which is writing [...]’
There are indications here of similar concepts to those of ‘above all, a
maker’ offered by Day Lewis, and to Fitzgerald’s ‘hunches’ and to
Hughes’s ‘got the words for all this’. While Morrison is both reader and
writer when writing she is offering up ‘the fruits of my own imaginative
intelligence’, and in doing so she’s entering an aesthetic and communi-
Creative Writing is multi-dimensional. Even if we could metaphorically
considerthis asa processor asprocesses, we could onlyaccuratelydo so
if we were to imagine these occurring across a three-dimensional plane,
singular linearity (not least in the life of the creative writer and in the
holistic impact of cultural change, economic inﬂuence or individual and
group politics on working and on works).
When considering writing generally it might be said that it is ‘a visual
medium of communication which circumvents or transcends certain
limitations of speech’ and that it has ﬁve primary functions, as a
mnemonic (it allows for a greater amount storage of information, knowl-
over time and space (it allows for simple recording and transmitting
record (as opposed to the more ephemeral nature of speech); as a
standardisation by which utterances are offered up to interpretation of
meaning. Even here, with the incorporation of memory and physicality
(just to pick up two functions) the act of writing is not easily reduced to
process. Add to this the adjective ‘creative’ (if, indeed, Creative Writing
does involve an adjective and noun, which needs considering), with all
that the imaginative and expressive entails and performs, and the notion
of process becomes even less productive.
Creative Writing is not experiences alone, nor is Creative Writing
simply its resultant texts. It is not often singular in motion, output or
attitude. It is not always linear in direction, even if pieces are begun,
have a journey of working, and are completed, in some sense or another.
Its activities are not mechanical, even if they may draw on some of theConstituted Activities can be Grouped as ‘Process’? 65
mechanics of written language; its actions are not one dimensional, even
if they work in an identiﬁable time and space. It involves fortuitousness,
irrationality and emotionality, as well as planned action and rationality.
1. Fitzgerald,S.(1987)Afternoon ofanAuthor:ASelection ofUncollectedStories and
Essays. New York: Scribner, pp. 127–128.
2. White, E. (2004) Arts and Letters. San Francisco: Cleis, p. 5.
3. Levi, P. (1989) Conversations. Primo Levi with Tullio Regge (R. Rosethal, trans.).
London: Tauris, p. 65.
4. Moore, M. (1961) Interviewed by D. Hall. The Paris Review 26, Summer-Fall
5. Welty, E. (1972) Interviewed by L. Kuehl. In The Paris Review 55, Fall 1972,
6. Some examples might include: Pearl Hogrefe’s The Process of Creative Writing,
New York: Harper, 1956 and a number of other editions; Wendy Bishop’s
Barry Kaufman and James C. Kaufman, The Psychology of Creative Writing,
New York: CUP, 2009, which contains a whole section entitled ‘The Process’.
8. Bergson, H. (1998) Creative Evolution. New York: Dover, p. 165.
9. Bergson, H. (1998) Creative Evolution. New York: Dover, p. 162.
10. Bergson, H. (1998) Creative Evolution, New York: Dover, p. 177.
11. Day-Lewis, C. (1957) The Poet’s Way of Knowledge, Cambridge: CUP, p. 21.
12. Day-Lewis, C. (1957) The Poet’s Way of Knowledge, Cambridge: CUP, p. 32.
13. Day-Lewis, C. (1957) The Poet’s Way of Knowledge, Cambridge: CUP, p. 18.
14. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, London: OUP, 1976.
15. The Compact Oxford Dictionary, Oxford: OUP, 2009.
Accessed 23.8.09. This dictionary notes that the modern sense of the word
dates from 1627.
17. Hughes, T. (2008) Poetry in the Making: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching.
London: Faber. First published 1968, p. 20.
18. Morrison, T. (2008). In C.C. Denard (ed.) What Moves at the Margins: Selected
Nonﬁction. Jackson: University of Mississippi, p. 190.
19. Coulmas, F. (1999) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Oxford:
Blackwell, p. 158.
of Writing Systems, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999 – mostly to question whether
codiﬁcation equals quite the degree of social control suggested by Coulmas
and,similarly, to question theelements ofreiﬁcation Coulmas suggests,from
the point of view of Creative Writing as activities.PARTII
Not to overburden the 18th century with all things emerging in the
name of modernity – and, earlier and later periods do need some clear
consideration here – but in investigating aesthetic appeal, and beginning
with the notion of a work of art, the 18th century does strongly feature.
John Carey, in his book What Good Are the Arts?, says this:
[...] the question ‘What is a work of art? could not have been asked
before that date. Of course they did. But they were not regarded as
works of art in our sense. Most pre-industrial societies did not even
art’ as we use it would have been bafﬂing to all previous cultures,
in the medieval period. [...] in most previous societies, it seems, art
was not produced by a special caste of people, equivalent to our
‘aesthetics’ was unknown until 1750, when Alexander Baumgarten
coined it [...]
This has obvious connections with the earlier discussion of the com-
mercial commodiﬁcation of Creative Writing, copyright, ownership and
the cultural commodiﬁcation that draws on ideals that place particular
value, for particular (often holistic, culturally determined and heritage-
If the idea of a work of art did not exist prior to the later 18th century, of
course, then all this requires some contextual exploration.
We can ﬁnd some assistance in a comparison of ‘art for art’s sake’
versus ‘art as utilitarian’. While the 18th century brought deﬁnite com-
modity changes it also was the location of a shift in which art became,
68All Works of Creative Writing Have Aesthetic Appeal? 69
increasingly, ‘for art’s sake’ and the shift this brought about relates to
whether works of art have intrinsic internal value, rather than value
determined by their application. This then makes certain works more
signiﬁcant than others, in a way dissimilar to utilitarian analysis and
with the intention of then assigning value and ownership according to
that assessment of intrinsic worth. So when Jamie Andrews, in his role
as Head of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, says
‘compared to works of art [meaning visual art], the kind of money that
we’re talking about to acquire a literary archive is small fry’ he is
articulating a clear contemporary deﬁnition of the intrinsic value of ﬁnal
works and evidence of working. And he is differentiating, even if this is
of art’ and the physical manifestation of a ‘literary archive’. One is being
between these two aspects, but the priorities informing the assessment
are borne in this simple yet important statement.
Aesthetic appeal relates to a range of characteristics; ‘properties com-
monly identiﬁed as aesthetic include beauty, elegance, grace, daintiness,
sweetness of sound, balance, design, unity, harmony, expressiveness,
depth, movement, texture and atmosphere’. Degrees or dimensions of
these, and connected characteristics, within ﬁnal works produced by
Creative Writing can be discovered, drawn out, responded to, even if no
agreement is reached about whether a meaning can be applied to all, or
parts, of such ﬁnal works, or if there is debate as to the whether these
characteristics are more or less strongly present, or if changes in cultural
perception over time change how such characteristics are deﬁned, or
if one genre or another produced by Creative Writing gains, or loses,
reader/audience support. However, works of Creative Writing that are
not presented for critical examination – where do these stand in such
an appeal to aesthetics? Certainly they would form part of a utilitarian
consideration of Creative Writing; after all, they can be the frame on
which ﬁnal works are built or the origin of a style or form or structural
condition that is developed and exchanged at the point of completion, or
writer’s working. In all these casesa utilitarian approachto all the works
Creative Writing on the basis of its application, its ability to accomplish
the job that it was intended to accomplish.
However, a further element needs to be considered – that is, the
affectiveresponsethataworkofCreativeWritingmightinduce:emotional70 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
It ishard to maintain that this isprimarily utilitarian, though there could
be an argument about the importance of certain kinds of emotionality as
bonds within a societal context and, likewise, there might be a case to be
made about the contribution affective responses make to communication
component to Creative Writing and the works that emerge adds no
greater clarity to the question of whether all works of Creative Writing
responses, and not all produce affective responses of the same kind for
different individuals or groups. So, while it might be true that works of
Creative Writing can induce emotional states it is neither a challenge to
certain works having aesthetic appeal nor conﬁrmation that they do.
further back than the 18th century. Writing in The Construction of Author-
ship, Marlon B. Ross observes:
[...] we could say that print gradually seduced the mind into
thinking of mental experience in terms of individual possession. The
medieval monk or scholar tended to conceptualize knowledge as
that which was common to a culture [...] Authority, in this sense, is
which the individual mind has earned as a result of knowledge or
experience created by the individual as a private being.
If we view the aesthetic appeal of certain works of Creative Writing
beingheightenedbytheability ofothers toacquirethem–thatis,having
the authority of possession – then we can see how the creation of
conditions in which works of Creative Writing can be owned by others
of affective response.
If this is further enhanced by a selective mode of dissemination in
which mostly ﬁnal works of Creative Writing are privileged, and not all
ﬁnal works (for example, certain forms or styles or works by certain
creative writers) then we have conditions in which aesthetic appeal is
located only in internal characteristics but by the reference points
established externally and made possible by modes of dissemination.
Ross notes that we could ‘trace the emergence of possessive authority
as far back as the 12th century’, so this is no product solely of the
commercial andcultural worlds emerging inthe latter 18th century. AndAll Works of Creative Writing Have Aesthetic Appeal? 71
yet, any modern tension between utilitarianism and art for art’s sake,
which has relevance to a consideration of Creative Writing, undoubtedly
owes something to the heightening of possessive authority which the
developing ideal of a modern market for culture, initiated in the 18th
shared by writers and artists’. He continued:
Years before written words become pliant and expressive to their
young user, creative magic can be grasped through pen and ink,
brush and paint. The subtleties of form and color, the distinctions of
position – all these are good for a future writer to explore and will
help him to visualize his scenes, even to construct his personalities
and to shape the invisible contentions and branchings of plot.
Of course, this from Updike who, though known by readers, and
Oxford, and who had desired to be cartoonist before he became a known
creative writer. ‘One can continue to cartoon, in a way, with words,’ he
remarked. ‘For whatever crispness and animation my writing has, I give
some credit to the cartoonist manque´.’ No hiding at all here of Updike’s
I always wanted to draw or write for a living [...]I have been able to
support myself by and large with the more respectable forms –
poetry, short stores, novels – but what journalism I have done has
been useful. I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup
bottles if I had to. The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and
thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never
palls for me; the technical aspects of bookmaking, from type font to
binding glue, interest me.
At ﬁrst glance, this would seem a comment in the same vein (that
is, in relation to the attitude of the aesthete); but we see here a shift
away from the authority of possession (object ownership; the reiﬁcation
of Creative Writing) so that Updike’s could not rightly be called an ‘art
for art’s sake’ attitude, nor indeed is it purely utilitarian or driven by
an entirely affective response. The physical activities of Creative Writing72 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
are his aspect of physiological and psychological exchange, his sense
of connection; the representational nature of the book, not as object of
Creative Writing, but as representative of ‘turning’, placing the appeal
notions are artisanal, though like all of us he is, of course, drawn to the
physically appealing. If aesthetic appeal involves both the appeal of
the object and the appeal of the object’s ability to initiate some affective
response, even if it is not the only activity or object that might produce
this response, then to consider writing as an almost universal mode of
inscription is a good place to conclude this discussion.
For example, ‘pictures of concrete objects stood at the beginning of
Chinese writing. Linearization, reduction and conventionalization set
in early. Hard surfaces like bone and shell favoured angular rather than
rounded appearance of early characters, a design feature that was pre-
served in brush writing. Since early characters were pictographic, their
general, whatever culture in which it emerged and at whatever point
in history, has always included someelement of aesthetic appeal. It is, as
that is, has physical form.
But when talking about Creative Writing something else exists. We
have often devolved the physical attributes of the ﬁnal works from the
acts and actions that are Creative Writing (wrongly, but such has been
the case). To consider aesthetic appeal in works of Creative Writing we
have universal appeal: the tastes of the readers or audiences for Creative
Writing determine the extent and type of much of this attraction. Of
Writing. There is little doubt that manyof the works of Creative Writing,
those that are not ﬁnal, and are often not disseminated, have highly
varied levels of aesthetic appeal and that many of these would certainly
not beconsidered by thecreative writer asobjectspresentedforaesthetic
assessment, nor would their importance to Creative Writing be reduced
were they to be purely utilitarian. Works of Creative Writing can, thus,
have no aesthetic appeal, some aesthetic appeal (though it may not be
universally shared), or a wide aesthetic appeal. While these objects or
artefacts may form the basis of an exchange between maker and receiver
of these works, they may represent only a small portion of the CreativeAll Works of Creative Writing Have Aesthetic Appeal? 73
Writing that has been undertaken and their ability to bring about an
affective response may, indeed, be less than the actions undertaken to
produce them – meaning, that is, that while objects can solicit a human
response so can movements, sounds, human expressions, moments of
1. Carey, J. (2005) What Good Are the Arts? London: Faber, pp. 7–8.
2. Andrews, J. (2009) Interviewed by G. Harper, in C. Sullivan and G. Harper
(eds) Authors at Work: The Creative Environment. Cambridge: Brewer, p. 76.
3. Cooper, D. (ed.) (1995) A Companion to Aesthetics. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 7.
4. Sigmund Freud suggested laughter, and circumstances associated with it,
Writing. Whether it would relate to all works, however, is highly unlikely.
5. Ross, M.B. (1994) Authority and authenticity: scribbling authors and the
genius of print in the eighteenth century. In M. Woodmansee and P. Jaszi
Durham (NC): Duke, p. 235.
6. Ross, M.B. (1994) Authority and authenticity: scribbling authors and the
genius of print in the eighteenth century. In M. Woodmansee and P. Jaszi
Durham (NC): Duke, p. 236.
7. Updike, J. (2007) Writers and artists. In D. Friedman The Writer’s Brush:
Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture by Writers. Minneapolis: Mid-List, p. 429.
8. Updike, J. (2007) Writers and artists. In D. Friedman The Writer’s Brush:
Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture by Writers. Minneapolis: Mid-List, p. 430.
10. Updike, J. (1968) Interviewed by C.T. Samuels. The Paris Review 45, Winter
11. Coulmas, F. (1999) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Oxford:
Blackwell, p. 79.Chapter 9
the question of what kind of communication Creative Writing is in the
ﬁrst place. Obviously, it is not the same kind of communication as,
say, non-written communication. Or is that not so obvious? That is, does
Creative Writing share something in common with communication in
the visual arts or performance arts: for example, in painting, classical
or popular music, drawing, photography, drama? If so, on what basis
might this constitute communication and what kind of communication
might this be?
Obviously Creative Writing communication shares much with com-
munication in forms of writing? Or is that, also, not so obvious? That is,
does CreativeWriting sharerelativelylittle in common with professional
writing; for example, with what is often, in some academic systems,
discussed in the realm of rhetoric; with technical writing, the writing of
and briefs, the writing of advertising and marketing documents?
in the concept of the creative. Rob Pope, in his book Creativity: Theory,
History, Practice, notes the emergence of the word ‘creative’ as being as
recent as 1875. Decidedly, then, Creative Writing could not precede that
date by very much then. However, of course it did, but under different
labels. D.G. Myers locates some movement between doing and critically
to the poet Edward Rowland Sill who ‘would become one of the ﬁrst
poets to teach collegeEnglish,servingfrom 1874to 1882as aprofessorat
given that this represents the nascent sense of formal Creative Writing
classes on campus. Bergson’s Creative Evolution was ﬁrst published in
74All Works of Creative Writing Clearly Communicate? 75
English 1911, though it had appeared as L’Evolution cre´atrice in 1907.
Clearly, in translation, the word creative had by the early 20th century
found a home. All seemingly well, then. Or not ...
David Bohm, in On Creativity published in 1998, declares: ‘creativity
is, in my view, something that it is impossible to deﬁne in words.’ And
yet, though Bohm is wary of attempting a deﬁnition ‘in words’ he does
[...] originality and creativity begin to emerge, not as something
that is the result of an effort to achieve a planned and formulated
goal, but rather as a by-product of a mind that is coming to a more
nearly normal order of operation. And this is the only way in which
originality and creativity can possibly arise, since any effort to reach
them through some planned series of actions or exercises is a denial
of the very nature of what one hopes to achieve. For this reason,
originality and creativity can develop only if they are the essential
force behind the very ﬁrst step.
results from plans or formulations of goals, or from a ‘planned series
actions or exercises’. Rather, that both originality and creativity are a
‘by-product’. To apply this to the deﬁning of Creative Writing, then, we’d
a derivative. This would be disempowering, if not quite simply illogical,
suggesting that somehow the activity of writing, generally, becomes
writing, creatively, through a lack of attention to plans.
Not to advocate, or not advocate, planning in the realm of Creative
Writing; but, Bohm’s description seems to be more about the importance
of the fortuitous, which is not irrelevant but is not a deﬁnition. Similarly,
we might wonder what it is to alter from a discussion of creative to a
discussion of creativity. Creative as description of something occurring,
something adjectival – that is something specifying, qualifying – where
as creativity carries the weight of a deﬁnition of ability. The terms,
though quite obviously related, are thus entirely different in perspective.
Interestingly, the word creativeness, which is also a noun form relating to
create or creation, is less well-known, though its deﬁnition relates to a
quality, a characteristic, a trait.
Showing all the features that date it, but nevertheless perceptive,
the following by Eva Mary Grew, part of an article entitled ‘The Creative
something of the circumstance that it is investigating:76 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
Thus the artist of creative genius is compelled to utter himself.
Indifferent to social success or the taste of possible patrons [...] The
that irresistibly demand outlet and expression. Whether he creates
hastily for bread or leisurely for love, his labours are in this respect
like the operations of nature, which cannot be arrested [...] The
body upon the feet. It holds awareness of the proportions and
harmonies inherent in all natural phenomena – in the universe itself.
Technique is mental as well as material. It is of the mind as well as
of the hand; and in both directions it is, to a certain extent, self-
animating and self-conditioning, though it can never be mistaken for
the art itself.
The creative in this description is about awareness, about having a
relationship with the natural in having a similar temporal and spatial
imposed notions (such as whether this creative activity is undertaken for
personal satisfaction, for employment, or for a combination of both) but
about the self and, importantly, about ‘the mind as well as the hand’.
Such a deﬁnition might fall foul of close inspection if it was based
in objects. But if we correctly view Creative Writing as acts and actions,
then the adjectival recognition of something speciﬁc begins to make
sense. And that, as Eva Mary Grew observes, involves ways of thinking
as well as ways of acting. We can consider then if Creative Writing
involves the same kind of clarity that we might expect from other forms
of writing or, indeed, if in being creative (which is its specifying and
qualifying feature) it owes something to alternative modes of action
and communication which are shared, in some way, with other creative
forms. Oliver L. Reiser, whose philosophy extended well beyond that
connected with the creative, offers something of assistance here, in
questioning a duality of thought:
are the logical limiting notions of an ontological essence which, in
next ask ourselves, what is the analytical unit out of which the
creative and evolving universe is to be constructed?
Reiser is considering ontology (that is, the nature of being) and our
behaviour in attempting to engage with this nature of being. But if weAll Works of Creative Writing Clearly Communicate? 77
consider Creative – Writing (described, momentarily, in this split way)
as a duality, we can recognise something of the problem that he is
not as something speciﬁc, in its entirely, but falsely as a creative version
of writing that confuses our thinking. Creative Writing is not two sets of
Then we can address the question of what clarity might mean in that
instance, not least because such a sense of dynamic synthesis, bringing
together activities and artefacts, is supported already by how Creative
Writing actually occurs.
certain unalterable messages – a task that is well accomplished by even
It may be the case that some works of art are used for the limited
purpose of making social, political and religious propaganda. Com-
municability in such instances is extra-artistic and by no means an
essential feature of art. Art does not deal with mere information. It
aims at transforming and uplifting the sensibility.
Here Ghosh places, if not in opposition at least at different places on a
spectrum, information sharing and the ability to perceive and feel (that
is, sensibility). He may or may not be right to separate these ideals. After
all, both could be incorporated into a concept of awareness, with each
bringing to awareness a component, cognitive, emotive, psychological,
behavioural, for example.And yet, his aim isas signiﬁcant as it issimple
because what Ghosh is looking to oppose is any ‘theory of communi-
cation’ that claims ‘that art communicates ideas and feelings without
identifyingthedistinctive wayinwhichthismayhappen.’ Inlookingfor
something distinctive,therefore, Ghosh situates his analysisinterms of a
binary – that is, art versus not-art – and in doing so he quite naturally
seeks out difference, locating this in information distinguished from
sensibility. This is certainly grasping at something, but it’s not quite
In the case of Creative Writing, a relationship with a discussion of art
and communication needs to be undertaken with the monistic context
in mind. Adopting Ghosh’s approach, if this were not the case it would78 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
be simple enough to locate the elements of art in ‘creative’ (and thus,
sensibility would live here) and the elements of communication in
is not what Creative Writing is; rather, Creative Writing is an entirety, a
With this in mind, Creative Writing as art incorporates its identity as
inscription and its identity as physical as well as mental communication.
The notion of clear communication in Creative Writing, therefore,
incorporates communication of sensibility as well as information. And,
naturally,noting thatallworks ofCreativeWritingarenotﬁnalworks or
works intended for release to a readership or audience, and that works
of Creative Writing are only a small portion of Creative Writing itself.
Those things said, works of Creative Writing have appearances – not
simply in terms of the physical appearance of writing as notion but in
canvas, in the spoken words of character, avatar, or pop singer, to name
and, further, attention may be afforded certain things said, things said
in certain ways, ideas conveyed, images evoked. This constitution of
appearance will have an impact on how clear the communication might
be. So that one appearance or another of a work of Creative Writing,
depending on readership or audience, might combine differing levels of
clarity, whether that clarity relates to information and/or sensibility.
Creative Writing may display, more or less so, clarity in belief or
bias. It may involve, in effect, a combination of empathic and phatic
communication; that is, communication that is attempted with entirely
to establish a relationship, without necessarily grounding this in an
agreement of type or association or vision. Thus its ‘clarity’ may alter,
motivate a reader or audience to read or engage further, perhaps by
belonging, or by the stimulation of the senses. Or it may not motivate at
all, especially via such things as offering security or appealing to the
spiritual. It may, indeed, do both or neither.
Works of Creative Writing may appear to be acutely aware of inter-
personal communication, locating their communication in a situation
or context, or in a set of codes, that relate to the community experiencing
the works of Creative Writing. So, for example, a national arena, a con-
codiﬁed context of a consumer group (say, for example, the consumersAll Works of Creative Writing Clearly Communicate? 79
of popular music), or the interpersonal communicative modes adopted
by certain age groups. There may, or may not, be consensus on the
Works of Creative Writing are, by nature, carriers of the acts and
actions with which creative writers undertaking Creative Writing have
engaged. But they are not Creative Writing and, therefore, the extent to
which they are not distorted by conveyance or by the barriers of trans-
ferring from one site of activity (Creative Writing) to another (receiving
works) is varied. The clarity perceived in works of Creative Writing is
of representation, one physical object, be seen to incorporate Creative
any other object) then clarity of communication may also be determined
by how close a particular work of Creative Writing references this
convention. The same can be said in terms of commercial or cultural
value: both have notable effects on clarity as both impact on notions of
need and on the ways in which creative writers and readers/audiences
perceive the cultural environment.
Considered, as it should be, in accordance with its monistic nature,
in art and some associated with the forms of communications noted in
writing. The reality being, of course, that works of Creative Writing –
particularly those which are offered as documents of exchange between
creative writer and reader or audience – these works are indivisibly
vessels of information and sensibility.
1. Pope, R. (2005) Creativity: Theory, History, Practice. London: Routledge.
2. Myers,D.G.(1996)The ElephantsTeach: Creative Writing Since 1880.NewJersey:
Prentice Hall, p. 15.
3. Bohm, D. (1998) On Creativity, London: Routledge, p. 1.
4. Bohm, D. (1998) On Creativity, London: Routledge, p. 26.
5. Grew, E.M. (1946) The creative faculty. Music and Letters 27(2), April 1946,
21(18), 28 August 1924, 480.80 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
7. Ghosh, R.K. (1987) Artistic communication and symbol: some philosophical
reﬂections. British Journal of Aesthetics 27(4), Autumn 1987, 324.
8. Ghosh, R.K. (1987) Artistic communication and symbol: some philosophical
reﬂections. British Journal of Aesthetics 27(4), Autumn 1987, 319.Chapter 10
intention as they can with fortuitousness (that is, with the unintended
or unpredictable). This seemingly unassuming statement nevertheless
bears fruit when it is approached to determine the nature and extent of
the rapport between intentionality and Creative Writing. Approaching
this statement another way, and with an eye to avenues of education: if
Creative Writing does not involve some element of intention being met
then how is it that educationalists claim to be able to teach it (to varying
or learnt, then why do so many who undertake it complain of their
inability to match intention and action, action and result?
It needs little further unfolding to reveal the extent of the seeming
ing: ‘it ran dry after about two days, I was miserable, kept at it, the stuff
very bad two weeks [...].’ And Marge Piercy, revealing: ‘my urge to
write ﬁction comes from the same part of my psyche that cannot resist
eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations in airports, in restaurants, in
the supermarket.’ And E.L. Doctorow, recalling origins:
enormous national torment, the late ’60s, with the war in Vietnam
since the Civil War. Another private excitement of the writer is his
sudden awareness of the historically systematic unfairness of things.
This particular resolution into pain of an intellectual commonplace
can hardly be suggested by the word excitement. The writer writes
from an almost biblical anger, which is not much different from
despair. It is a dire, driven state of mind that professes and, at the
8182 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
pitiful, and as groups, inhuman. The Book of Daniel, a novel reﬂecting
on an espionage conspiracy trial in the ’50s, and its aftermath in the
’60s, was composed out of that unassuageable feeling.
belief,becausewhile itincorporatesthe sense of beingrelated to action,it
also includes the sense of relating to an aim or to aims. With aims and
referringwhatis intended (actsand actions) to what isdesired, required,
believed, and to what is done.
Logically, therefore, the intentions of an individual or group can be
be considered before, during, and after they are undertaken according to
the map that is developed. And yet, intention expressed does not always
result in intention realised. To take one instance: a creative writer may
say ‘I am visiting New York next week, Hell’s Kitchen mostly, to do
some research for an historical novel about the European discovery of
Manhattan Island’. Ultimately, while acting on this intention, the writer
may go on to produce, alternatively, a short story and two poems draw-
ing on discoveries about the crew of Henry Hudson’s yacht the Halve
Maen, connected with sightings of Manhattan but not ultimately about
Manhattan. A novel concerned directly with the history of Manhattan
Island might never emerge; but the intention to produce one may result,
incidentally, transmogriﬁes into a space craft and the USA into a planet
not unlike Jupiter in size and distance and colouring) but also in the
County, New York, where the central character, Ethan Kale, is born,
grows to young adulthood, discovers his Irish roots, ruins his chances
three times divorced and married to Grace’s one-time best friend Abbie,
ends up President of the Technisoft Corp.
The situation, above, that produced an aim and an action was con-
nected with reasoning which weighed up, in some fashion, alternative
decisions on what should be done. It might have been possible, for
example, to explore writing a novel about the history of Manhattan by
extensively about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ﬁre or by looking at
the global business of advertising and the role of Madison Avenue in
supporting it. Of course, the strength of intention, argued internally asIntentions in Creative Writing are Always Met? 83
well as revealed externally, creates reason which, when faced with alter-
natives, favours a visit to Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen mostly, above the
alternatives, which then fall by the way.
down from his hometown of Trigger, a ﬁne town in upstate New York,
mostly devoted to the manufacture of ﬁnely tufted mattresses and to
the memory of Colonel Mitchell, who saved the town from the ﬂood of
’48 and recovered the founding daughters from the raging torrent – the
creative writer has just made the turn onto I-81 and should, according to
intention, continue down the 81 for another one hundred and thirty one
miles until he reaches the I-84 when, on seeing a sign for Thomson’s
Bakery and favouring a creamed bun at lunchtime, he decides to pull off
and head instead into the city of Binghamton. There, unbeknown to him,
Arlene Ardella Thomson, whippet like doyenne of the Thomson family,
Blueberry Cream Cheese Buns she has ever baked, and placed them
proudly on her wire rack in the window.
There is no chance now that this creative writer will continue to
directly produce any works related to the visit to Manhattan, however
indirectly they may have been related. At least, he will not produce any
works that are physicallyconnected to the originalintention.Of course he
may, pondering on intentions that are not met, undertake some Creative
Writing that picks up on the theme of a loss of direction or that, in
investigating the subject of great bakeries, explores the ingredients
all becoming trite! But the meaning is sound: did the abandonment of
that it was not strong enough? Alternatively, could we view the decision
to change the journey, and ultimately conclude it, in Binghamton as a
new intention which therefore, containing more pressing desires and
more ﬁrm beliefs, overcamethe previous intention and created a new set
of acts and actions?
a sign of a lack of commitment, or of a weakness of mind generally,
to change acts and actions. This makes Doctorow’s declaration of ‘that
unassuageable feeling’ an interesting declaration because there is a plain
languageheusesindicates,there’slittleencouragementtobehadherefor84 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
divergence from thematic aims or subject. This suggests an almost
immovable moral imperative, with the comment that ‘the writer writes
from an almost biblical anger, which is not much different from despair’
leaving little doubt that Doctorow associates the desire in his intentions
with the desirable. Such is the broad context of his personal reasoning.
Reasoning in Doctorow’s case will not be the same as reasoning
in Piercy’s or reasoning in Faulkner’s. More so, a creative writer’s post-
their acts and actions but will also be inﬂuenced by how the creative
writer sees themselves and by their own deliberations, after the events
have been undertaken. Likewise, a creative writer’s post-event analysis
of their intentions will, frequently, reﬂect degrees of social exchange
and social interaction with which they are then engaged, and how they
wish to engage with these. Alternatively, intentions during the event of
Creative Writing (that is, consideration at the point of acts and actions),
while possible, will reveal the limitations that immediacy entails, with
tendencies, abilities and competencies only as discernible as their close
performance might suggest.
How far the statements and recollections of Faulkner, Piercy and
Doctorow qualify as ‘intentions’ is open to more consideration; after all,
Faulkner’s comments are perhaps intentions in the broadest sense only,
revealing his ideal situation of satisfactorily writing the work at hand;
Piercy talks about an ‘urge’, which may perhaps be substituted for
but may be not as related to the operations of belief or reasoning as is
intention; and Doctorow’s comments certainly reveal a strong and clear
set of Creative Writing acts.
To return, momentarily, to the question of the learning and teaching
of Creative Writing. Auden fearful of the impact teaching in a college or
university environment would have on the reasoning undertaken by a
creative writer, offers:
[...] artists should agree not to have anything to do with con-
temporary literature. If they take academic positions they should do
academicwork,andthe furthertheyget away from the kind ofthing
that directly affects their writing, the better.
Thefurther,that is,fromtheinterruption ofextrinsic inﬂuenceswhich
and, more obviously, intercede in creative activities by inserting super-
ﬂuous modes of acting or thinking. Of course, Auden was generallyIntentions in Creative Writing are Always Met? 85
in that sense, commenting that ‘so many people have jobs they don’t like
at all. I haven’t, and I’m grateful for that.’
Auden’s comments alert us to the consideration of intention and
causation – they may be practical connection between some acts and
intentions, and not others, some creative writers (and not others) may
have dispositions which encourage them to hold more tightly to their
own laws of composition, while others would ﬁnd even the notion of
a ‘law’ an affront; and reasoning may be presented as good or bad,
efﬁcient or inefﬁcient, well undertaken or poorly actualised, depending
on where the creative writer believes themselves to bein the actions they
are undertaken, depending on how their results are relating to their
perceived goals, and depending on how external factors are inﬂuencing
Cause and effect, states of mind (both conscious and unconscious),
perceived goals, experiential evidence, prior knowledge, learning and
discovery during the activities of Creative Writing, beliefs, personal
propositions: these all no doubt establish points of communication,some
drawn from intention (whether longer term reasoning and planning, or
short term) and some occurring unexpectedly. The role of consciousness
and the unconscious in forming intentions begs the question of how
and the movement between event and post-event analysis, pre-working,
complementary working and post-working all determine how intention
evolves, and adjusts. Combine this with the representational qualities
signs andsymbolswe dailyencounter, andintention becomesa personal
and public matrix, containing both intrinsic and extrinsic elements.
Plainly, then, intentions in Creative Writing can always be met if the
way in which intention is deﬁned incorporates a number of important
qualifying elements. If it doesn’t, intentions are only occasionally fully
met, and only very rarely would we talk in terms of purely intention-
elements is readily observable and frequently a component of Creative
Writing: that is, incorporating the possibility of unexpected change,
adjustment of direction according immediate circumstance, the impact
or actions brought about by others), the possibility of losing the will to86 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
continue (that is, the replacement of one intention with a stronger inten-
desire), the possibility of complementary effects so that one intention
these entirely unintentional.
Returning to Faulkner’s ‘very bad weeks’, his goal could broadly be
barely a month after his earlier letter: ‘Am so near the end of the big one
that I am frightened, that lightning might strike me before I can ﬁnish it.
It is either nothing and I am blind in my dotage, or it is the best of my
time.’ Bruce Aune would no doubt describe Faulkner’s lamenting as a
propensity ‘to premiss things under indeﬁnitely conceived conditions’.
That is, Aune argues that beliefs and intentions are best understood as
‘incompletely speciﬁed conditional properties,’ suggesting that as the
concepts of belief and intention are ‘nontechnical locutions’ they must
not be deﬁned in a determinist fashion or they will fail to ‘describe the
believing and intending’ we actually experience. Faulkner’s intentions,
while discernible, are incomplete – much as, not inconsequentially, isthe
contrasts a little with that of one of his fellow philosophers, Bertram
Morris, expressed half a century earlier. Says Morris:
In the keen perceptual fullness achieved both in creation and
thus established between the physical and the social, and culture
is safeguarded by reason of the physical becoming germane to
made concrete and shareable by all who have the requisite patience
and psychological disposition. In this accomplishment a purpose is
expressed in a sensuous medium.
Certainly we can acknowledge the role of disposition, of sensibility,
of the physical and of the psychological in the formation of intention.
Whether imagination can be made concrete or culture safeguarded is
questionable. However, what’s clear even in this assessment is that
continuity deﬁnes the way in which intention occurs in the arts, and in
be met they form a part of the network of intended and unintended
activities and results that are Creative Writing.Intentions in Creative Writing are Always Met? 87
1. Faulkner, W. (1977) Letter of Joan Williams, Friday night 3 July 1953. In
J. Blotner (ed.) Selected Letters of William Faulkner. New York: Random House,
2. Piercy, M. (2001) Life of prose and poetry: an inspiring combination. In
J. Darnton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, intro.
New York: Holt, pp. 180–181.
3. Doctorow, E.L. (2003) From will-o-the-wisp to full-blown novel. In Marie
Arana (ed.) The Writing Life: Writers on How they Think and Work. New York:
Public Affairs, p. 208.
4. Auden, W.H. (1974) Interviewed by M. Newman. The Paris Review 57, Spring
5. Auden, W.H. (1974) Interviewed by M. Newman. The Paris Review 57, Spring
6. Faulkner W. (1977) Letter of Joan Williams, Friday night 3 July 1953. In
J. Blotner (ed.) Selected Letters of William Faulkner. New York: Random House,
7. Aune, B. (1990) Action, inference, belief and intention in philosophical
perspectives. Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind 4, 268.
8. Aune, B. (1990) Action, inference, belief and intention in philosophical
perspectives. Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind 4, 268.
9. Morris, B. (1940) Intention and fulﬁlment. Art, Philosophy and Phenomenological
Research 1(2), Dec 1940, 153.Chapter 11
Acts, of course, are deﬁnedin this discussion as ‘something done’ and
very difﬁcult to maintain (and, indeed, illogical), given the existence of
works produced by activitiesofCreativeWriting.However,as much has
been made here of the need to consider Creative Writing as a human
activity, the statement does raise questions about the nature of acts
of Creative Writing, about how such acts are associated and how we
can determine, examine, consider a range of Creative Writing acts and
actions which are independent from, partially dependent on, or entirely
dependent on, each other. As Henri Bergson points out, it is quite
possible to dividean object, but not an act. And, indeed, Creative Writing
the ways in which considering it this way gets closest to how we might
come to understand it.
Creative Writing as acts and actions, grouped generically as activities,
produces physical evidence of various kinds, as well as evidence observ-
able and recordable as it emerges in and around the acts and actions
that constitute Creative Writing. The evidence in this case is in the realm
of the doing, behaviour, performing, movements and perhaps most
provocatively, it could also be said to be in the realm of function.
sidered in terms of their function, there’s equally a suggestion that those
acts and actions that are unplanned, fortuitous, seemingly unsystematic
Writing occurs. That is, in acknowledging that all elements of the doing
of Creative Writing might have a function we acknowledge what Karin
Knorr-Cetina refers to in her work in an alternative ﬁeld as ‘ad-hoc
88Creative Writing is Solely an Act or Range of Acts? 89
refers to as ‘questioning’. In addition, what Cynthia Ozick refers to as
‘breathing inside a blaze of words’ and what John Updike refers to
as ‘turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words’. All this
hasrelevancetothe undertakingof CreativeWritingandhow weunder-
This likewise suggests that to talk of a system by which Creative
Writing occurs would not be beyond reasonableness. A system that
initiates, encourages, causes or supports functions. Here then, a point of
potential controversy! A system of Creative Writing? Surely this goes
against a notion of art, as well as challenging the idea of real freedom,
true individuality, given that a system must be something that is in
some way identiﬁably organised, identiﬁably structured. Equally, such a
suggestion must represent a reductionist approach to Creative Writing
whereby acts and actions can be placed in some kind of conceptual grid,
connected as if wired together to create, indeed, the machine or device
that the word ‘system’ seems to point towards.
nologies, living alongside the living (the former the thing possessed, the
latter the action undertaken), are presented as if components in tangible
environments. The term ‘system’ is thus better considered in terms of its
adjectival form: the systemic. This is not to do with the well-known area
of systems art where discussions of systems also incorporate the system
as medium; rather, the term systemic here refers to concepts, ideas,
assumptions, tendencies which work together to bring about Creative
well as general evolution, so that while we might talk about the learn-
ing of particular compositional skills or even of singular conceptual or
concrete abilities the nature of Creative Writing as systemic means that
one element interacts with another. Changes, developments or increases
in one ability don’t occur without some likelihood of associative impact
additionally show systemic connections.
We can also consider the systemic nature of Creative Writing in terms
Writing. This is similar, if not identical, to the sense in which the term
system is frequently used in the ﬁeld of linguistics. In linguistics the90 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
meaning relates to ‘competing possibilities among the grammatical or
lexical elements of a language, often considered with a set of statements
for choosing among the possibities’.
So the systemic entails competing writerly choices and the question
of how, and when, and in what form those choices are made, with
what results. That is, whether the results are considered successful or
unsuccessful by the creative writer and in what ways these choices
creative writer establishes, within the context of their Creative Writing,
and assessments, of utility, achievement, aesthetic worth, progression,
communication and, indeed art. Their consideration of the nature of acts
and actions then becomes paramount.
Is Creative Writing something that happens to us, or is Creative
Writing something that we do? A question posed rhetorically. Yet, it is
easy enough to revisit this question with a slightly more investigative
thrust, and explore an intriguing phenomenon. Thus: is it possible that
whenCreativeWritingisundertaken thecreative writer isinaparticular
frame of mind, a particular mode of engagement (with the self, those
around her or him, with the world) and that this occurs according to a
focusonactandaction? Whileworks emergefromtheseactivities,might
there thus be a fundamental difference between works that emerge in
Creative Writing pre-working, working, complementary-working and
post-working and ‘ﬁnal’ or ‘completed’ works that are released in some
way by the creative writer?
Actions, by philosophic deﬁnition, are considered to be ‘what we do’.
The term is used slightly differently in this book; but just to pursue this
more general deﬁnition, momentarily: actions, as what we do, involve
active doing – in which we cause something to happen, or something
to be done. Of course, some things we do would not, by this deﬁnition,
be considered actions. That is, things that happen to us, where we are
passive receptors of activity. Perhaps the most commonly used example
are involved init; but we arenot intentionally undertaking itand, in that
respect, we most often didn’t act as agents of causation, merely as agents
we have viewed creating. As Rob Pope points out:Creative Writing is Solely an Act or Range of Acts? 91
Only gradually and ﬁtfully did a speciﬁcally human sense of agency
creep into the meaning of ‘create’. But even then human powers of
creation tended to be tinged – or tainted – with a divine aura.
clear causal power. The intention, the will, the desire, that brings about
numerous acts of Creative Writing involves personal choice. But it also
involves neurological activity that is sometimes independent of such
choice or paragraph placement in Creative Writing, to name just a little
of what we might think of as technical skills – though acting on them is
not necessarily brought about by our intentional doing. And that’s the
the divine (and thus abdicating responsibility) or even of suggesting that
Creative Writing is something that happens via a version of akrasia
(or weakness of will) , whereby we undertake Creative Writing because
somehow something against good judgement overcomes us! What is
more accurately acknowledged is that it is possible for us to not act
passively but still without attentional motivation. In other words, to
act through an element of automated understanding that is cognitively
‘deeper’ than conscious intention. Colloquially speaking it is therefore
That does not make it ‘not of us’. Nor does it make such action occur
without the possibility of self-deception: we may act without attention,
epistemologically privileged. However, this does alert to the fact that
attention and awareness, while part of the acts and actions of Creative
Writing, are not the sole deﬁning elements associated with it. In this
sense, we could indeed say that Creative Writing is something that we
do and that it is also something that happens to us. We can say that it
thus can be learnt, and therefore taught, but we need to acknowledge
that some of its elements involve long term neurological developments.
Less esoterically, we could point to its works to note that Creative
functions of writing as mnemonic, and as bridging spatial and temporal
distance. In doing so, and in doing this at several levels of release of
works, within our personal spaces or involving a wider readership or
audience, the existence of works of Creative Writing is never neutral in
aspect or in result. Lisa Maruca touches on this very well, even though92 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
she is not pursuing the same subject, in an article on 18th centurytextual
production, when she writes:
conveys and supports a speciﬁc ideological regime [...] a narrative
about the provenance of knowledge, a struggle between intellectuals
the mind. And despite the Romantic Author’s rejection of all things
commercial, the moral of this story illustrates that the rise of
authorship went hand in hand with the creation of the print text as
commodity. This idea turns our standard teleology on its head, as it
poses the Author as the creator of print, rather than vice-versa. The
ideology of authorship deployed for its own beneﬁt an enduring
vision of print as ﬁxed, standardized, and invisible. To adopt these
‘The Author as the creator of print’ – it’s a statement that has a
similar feel to ‘Creative Writing is something that we do’, and could just
as easily be brushed aside as truism. Any yet, as Maruca makes clears,
the reverse interpretation is very well known – the notion of print
creating author – and has had a considerable inﬂuence on how we
have viewed the relationship between creative writer and works of
Creative Writing. The provenance of knowledge in which knowledge
‘was disseminated only through sweat and labour and letter [...] three
terms [...] which cannot be separated’ [my italics] is not incongruous
with the idea of Creative Writing as divinely informed or unfathomably
delivered by some weakness of will to resist doing so; nor is it far
removed from questions about the role of readers and audiences in
making texts. However, such suggestions fail to understand the nature
of intentional and unintentional action in Creative Writing, action that
is brought about by conscious choice and action that occurs because we
have the neurological inclination and information to initiate it occurring.
Acts and actions thus manifest in works of Creative Writing and, though
the question of in whose provenance these works then reside might
be debated, there is little doubt that the works themselves represent
the creative writer as maker and that these are manifestations of that
fact.Creative Writing is Solely an Act or Range of Acts? 93
1. See, for example, Halsall, F. (2008) Systems of Art: Art, History and Systems
Theory. Oxford: Peter Lang, for a lively exploration of this systems art and
2. Trask, R.L. (1993) A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics. London:
Routledge, p. 274.
3. Pope, R. (2005) Creativity: Theory, History, Practice. London: Routledge, p. 38.
4. Akrasia is deﬁned as ‘weakness of will; acting in a way contrary to one’s
5. Maruca, L. (2003) Bodies of type: the work of textual production in English
printers’ manuals. Eighteenth-Century Studies 36(3), Spring 2003, 338.
6. Maruca, L. (2003) Bodies of type: the work of textual production in English
printers’ manuals. Eighteenth-Century Studies 36(3), Spring 2003, 328.Chapter 12
The writer [...] does depend on his environment, and it is important
to understand just where his own, personal, work begins. It is not in
the demonstration of a positive truth: even if he isinspired bysuch a
truth – as Stendhal in his dependence on the Ideologists, Zola on
Claude Bernard and Dr Lucas, Surrealism on psychoanalysis – he is
not their discoverer.
An impassioned call from its writer, Yvon Belaval, in this article
entitled The Author and Love, published in Yale French Studies in the mid-
‘own, personal, work begins’ but where it ends. In a Bergsonian sense,
there might be said to beno divisionat allbetween theactionsof a social
situation and the actions of a personal one. On the other hand, common-
sense tells us that social conditions vary with regard to creative writers
and Creative Writing, and the conditions pertaining to an individual
writer’s personal environment, individual circumstance, individual dis-
position and individual state of mind.
Society can be considered as an entity, in its own right; with its own
holistic set of rules, structures and functions. So while Bergson’s sense of
ﬂuidity of action is productive in differentiating between a sense of time
by treating time as compartmentalised ‘bits’ – it is not quite as useful in
dealing with actions that occur according to individualist or holistic
situations; that is, with contrasting what occurs within a personal sphere
and what happens within a societal one.
Society, considered as a holistic entity, involves collective agreements
Or ‘what is poetry?’ can come into this category). Again, commonsense
94Personal and Social Activities are Always Connected? 95
whatever society it might be would not survive; indeed, it would be
exist to make societies. Shared histories – however these might be inter-
pretedbysub-groups withinsociety orbyindividuals–formthebasisof
acollective conscious.The existenceof asociety generates structures that
legitimate the society’s existence . Societies encourage modes of action,
often support some modes over others, and encourage systems of their
This, above, is a version of holistic analysis. Were we to shift toward
an emphasis on individualism then, while it would not be denied that
that easily bears a concerted examination, reducing always to the actions
of individuals and groups, group and individual interpretations and
functions, and this portioning of society is what makes a macro societal
analysis neither really possible nor, more importantly, particularly
accurate. Neither the holist approach nor the individualist approach
called in the context of this analysis) always act in a way that matches
the requirements or rules or structures that society entails. Nor would
it be true to say that all agents always act in a way that is good,
most productive, or best undertaken, for themselves. Sometimes, that
is, individuals act irrationally, without much thought, or against their
own best judgement as result, for example, of emotion, feeling, ﬂawed
and Love, serves as a useful mnemonic. Talking of a ‘social act’ of love
carries a number of perhaps positive, perhaps negative, connotations;
but, regardless of how a social expression of love might occur, there’s
love. And, indeed, Belaval attempts to argue for such a separation with
his post-event analysis of the work of creative writers in contrast to that
of scientists, suggesting that the work of a scientist is ‘impersonal and
anonymous’ while the work of a creative writer is to surprise a positive
truth ‘as one surprises a personal secret’. At the same time he declares
that ‘love remains a social phenomenon because it takes place between
Notions of ‘two cultures’ aside, the struggle that Belaval is going
throughrelatestohowtodescribewhatisdistincttothepersonalactivitiesof96 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
Mike Sharples, in How We Write: Writing as Creative Design, travels over
connected territory, though his vista incorporates all kinds of writing
not solely Creative Writing. ‘An episode of writing starts not in a single
idea or intention, but with a set of external and internal constraints,’ he
says. And: ‘at the most general level, the differences between individual
writers can be described in terms of where the writer chooses to begin
the cycle of engagement and reﬂection [...].’ And prior to that: ‘how we
write is shaped by the world in which we live, with cultural differences
affecting not just the language we use but also the assumptions we have
about how the written text will be understood and used.’
Sharples is a lively, informed commentator but we are looking here –
as his last statement best proves – at the previously noted difference
between other forms of writing and Creative Writing, correctly under-
stood in a monistic way as art and mode of communication. And yet,
Sharples is right to note ‘constraints’ on writing and make a case for
cultural ‘shaping’ of works and working. These certainly relate to how
the personal and societies activities of Creative Writing might connect.
But how? How separate are the human activities he mentions in terms of
‘cycles of engagement and reﬂection’ and ‘the world in which we live’?
For the purposes of his design-focused analysis, Sharples is rightly
rather than to the macro entity ‘society’.
appears to be difﬁcult to resolve. On the one hand, it is easy to adopt an
individualist perspective and favour a Bergsonian sense of individualist
ﬂuidity, as if society does not exist as a holistic entity but only as a
collection of individuals. Commonsense tells us that this suggestion has
ﬂaws, not least because the structures and functions of society and,
indeed, culture don’t logically reduce to only the actions of one or other
individual, even if individuals retain their individuality within society.
On the other hand, a holist perspective merely reduces creative writers
to components and pays too little attention to free will and individual
taken; and how these activities relate to the identities of creative writers,
personally, and socially. In this way, discourse, collective identiﬁcation,
ideologies, symbolisation, social patterns of expectation and sense of selfPersonal and Social Activities are Always Connected? 97
and social activities relating to Creative Writing as a relational dynamic
system gets us to the ways in which Creative Writing as personal
endeavour and Creative Writing as societal or cultural activity, occurs.
can begroupedunderseveralheadings– notfor thisto suggestthat they
network, where priorities and hierarchies operate according to historical
and cultural context, individual personalities, economic and political
circumstance; and where these can be considered either at the point of a
singular event (that is, something occurring at a given moment) or in
terms of a cycle activity (such as the recurring elements of economic
individuals or groups may be inﬂuential and then, as they reach the end
of their lives, others emerge to replace them) or in relation to longer
(1) individual disposition and personality. The personal traits of a
individuals and groups; this relates to the results and extent of the
exchange between individual human nature and nurture;
(2) cultural and social environments. These might be considered as
ﬁxed intime,evolvingor cyclical,and thedegreeto which Creative
Writing activities will be connected will depend on the intersection
personal trait and cultural or social conditions;
(3) groups and networks. These can include such things as artistic
standing with each other or shared beliefs and inﬂuences); like-
wise ethnic or racial groups, networks deﬁned by shared political
nation; groups arising out of adversity; networks established as
‘virtual’ communities on the WWW or other speciﬁc technologies;
networks founded on sites of education. The list could go on;
(4) psychological and physiological attitudes to Creative Writing. The
individual nature of these limits their social exchange; and yet,98 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
one or other creative writer may relate a material condition with
another (creative writers who treat words as concrete or visual art,
for example, and whose physiological bond with Creative Writing
reﬂects this) or creative writers who, psychologically, favour public
presentationof their work. Iftheseform the basisof action, particu-
larly of post-writing or pre-writing, then connection could happen;
(5) therole ofintermediaries.Publishersor producers,whose intention
is to bring works of Creative Writing to a readership or audience,
notably as a commercial enterprise. Arts managers in venues or
at events whose role is either mostly commercial and/or mostly
who may be more or less inﬂuenced by cultural hegemonies. Who,
as the subject of Creative Writing has evolved in universities and
colleges, may have an interest in patterns of Creative Writing pre-
working, complementary-working and post-working, as well as in
(6) personal creative environments. Thiscan includethe daily working
conditions of the creative writer, their individual relationships, the
role of local or private states of existence and how these inﬂuence
feelings, reasons, emotions and behaviour patterns;
(7) the speed at which change enters the creative writer’s personal
world. This can be the product of geography, technology or dis-
position. It can relate to the degree of interdependence between
personal and social worlds that the creative writer requires to
survive (for example, change can be disruptive to behaviour or it
be integral to maintenance of these patterns);
including that connected with pre-works or complementary-works
– speciﬁcally relates to how the creative writer is seen (or not seen)
These are all relatively open suggestions, and no doubt foster even
more thought as towherethepersonal andthesocialinCreativeWriting
intoa singular entity orsingular engagementwiththeworld.And, while
it is possible to talk of Creative Writing as uniﬁed, it is dismissive of one
element or another to reduce the personal and social in and around the
activities of Creative Writing to a synthesis. A synthesis always involvesPersonal and Social Activities are Always Connected? 99
some dissolution of individual characteristics in preference for the syn-
and more productively, we can view the interactions
Writing entails both as internal and external to the creative writer and
can see these as happening according to personal as well as historical
and cultural patterns, sometimes with clear objectives and intent and
sometimes with irresolution.
1. Belaval, Y. (1953) The author and love. Yale French Studies 11, Eros, Variations
on an Old Theme,5.
2. I draw here, broadly, on the analysis in C. Lloyd’s excellent Explanation in
Social History. Oxford: Blackwell (1985), but also on K.A. Cerulo’s work on
culture and cognition.
3. Belaval, Y. (1953) The author and love. Yale French Studies 11, Eros, Variations
on an Old Theme,5.
4. Belaval, Y. (1953) The author and love. Yale French Studies 11, Eros, Variations
on an Old Theme,5.
5. Belaval, Y. (1953) The author and love. Yale French Studies 11, Eros, Variations
on an Old Theme.
6. Referring to C.P. Snow’s classic argument (1959) that the sciences and the
humanities had become increasingly polarised, and communication between
them had therefore suffered. Snow, C.P. (1959) The Two Cultures and the
Scientiﬁc Revolution. Cambridge: CUP.
7. Sharples, M. (1999) How We Write: Writing as Creative Design. London:
Routledge, p. 6.
8. Sharples, M. (1999) How We Write: Writing as Creative Design. London:
Routledge, p. 8.
9. Sharples, M. (1999) How We Write: Writing as Creative Design. London:
Routledge, p. 5.
10. Sharples, M. (1999) How We Write: Writing as Creative Design. London:
Routledge, p. 8.
11. Cerulo,K.A.(1997) Identityconstruction: Newissues, newdirections. Annual
Review of Sociology 23, 400.
12. Milton C. Albrecht offers a supporting argument when he says in an article
entitled Art as an Institution that ‘it is clear that some areas are primarily
cultural, others social; some involve psychological aspects, such as the
personalityofartists orofdealers;manyofthemaremixed. Theyinvolvenot
within and between areas, which need to be articulated in detail as part of
the total operation of the institution. Some of these relations are distinctly
dealers or publishers, imply conﬂicting aims and purposes. Some aspects,100 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
such as the selection and training of literary artists, are not yet formally
organized, as compared with schools of painting and of architecture. These
and other aspects need clearer description and analysis before there can be
greater certainty about the degree of integration art, in its various forms, has
achieved, and how art is sustained as a more or less independent institution
with distinct, if not unique, functions in society.’ Albrecht, M.C. (1968) Art as
an institution. American Sociological Review, 33(3), June 1968.Chapter 13
Milton Albrecht, editor of The Sociology of Art and Literature: A Reader
and former Dean of the University at Buffalo’s College of Arts and
Sciences, once introduced an article with the statement that he intended
[...] an examination of art as an institution, assuming ‘art’ as a
collective term for a wide variety of aesthetic products including
literature, the visual arts, and music, as well as the combined forms
of drama and opera. The aspects to be examined will include some
general classiﬁcations and their implications for the place of art in
the social structure, the question of the structure of art as a social
institution, the problem of ‘basic human need’ that art serves, and
areas of signiﬁcance for considering art as an institution, but they
also illustrate some major uncertainties and disagreements among
sociologists, as well as other social scientists and philosophers.
A dozen years earlier Albrecht had summarised his ﬁndings in a
essentially the same basic values and idealsof the American family.’ He
[...] our main hypothesis is largely upheld: short stories in wide-
circulation magazines, though representing distinct reading levels,
reﬂect cultural norms and values of the American family. In its
simpliﬁed form, however, this concept of reﬂection fails to account
for signiﬁcant differences in the frequency with which values occur
as main themes.
In both studies, beginning with completed works, Milton Albrecht
worked backwards into the text and, ﬁnding there recognisable themes
101102 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
and subjects, determined the correlation between completed works of
literature and the American society he saw around him. These are
laudable pieces of intellectual work, revealing of something about how
we use, or situate, ﬁnished works of Creative Writing, as well as some-
thing – or at least a portion of something – about the place or role of the
not too far removed from that adopted by Jacqueline Wood, some thirty
years later, in her interview of African American playwright and poet
Sonia Sanchez, when Wood introduces her interview with:
a path in her early drama that has contributed to a literary legacy for
today’s young, successful African American female playwrights. She
to the dynamics of patriarchal black male militant discourse.
in the social and cultural world in which she works and gives clear voice
to how Sanchez can be considered in light of signiﬁcant themes and
subjects that her work encapsulates. It’s perhaps not until considering
Sanchez’s answer to a question about experimentation that we begin to
involvecreative writers plottinga course, andhowthis course,while not
detached from that imagined or interpreted by post-event critics, can
involve differing forms of human cartography. Sanchez answers:
Well, I think what happened is that I just began to look at this thing
called playwriting, and because I thought if I’m going to bring
something that is different – I mean that’s different from just what
we were seeing at that time in the American theatre – that I should
experiment with not only the language, but experiment with the
Sanchez’s choice here is almost deferentially offered – ‘I just began
[...].’ And, beyond the event of Creative Writing, it is also offered with
declared speculation – ‘well, I think what happened is [...].’ For the
creative writer, Sanchez, could it be that the systemic personal elements
of creative practice can feel as if they bear little critical weight in an
external and post-event intellectual examination? Or could it be simply
that ‘form’ and ‘language’ are incomplete, or inefﬁcient, linguistic refer-
alternatively, that a question about experiment posed after the point ofPersonal and Social Activities Have Equal Status? 103
experimenting is devoid of a real example; rather, that it contains the
artefactual results of one? Not that Wood poses the question badly; quite
the opposite. In fact, she even opens it out by stating ‘you seem really
open to experimentation’ and concluding with ‘can you talk about [...]’;
thus giving Sanchez plenty of room to move. Still Sanchez searches for
ways of revealing action: ‘When I did Sister Sonji I had nothing to go on.
saying I don’t want a lot of scenery or props on that stage.’ Critically,
Wood concludes in her Afterword that:
Sanchez leaves us in a strikingly honest place. As demonstrated in
a situating via critical apparatus than one that gives strong voice to
Sanchez’s compositional acts and actions. Valid knowledge exploration,
in either case, of course; and, likewise, due recognition of Sanchez’s
personal contribution to debate on socially signiﬁcant issues. But it is
interesting to compare Sanchez’s searching with Wood’s investigating.
The two have a relationship, but they are not the same.
When novelist Julian Barnes makes comment on creative writers we
see again something of the same air that swirls around the relative status
of the personal and the social in Creative Writing:
Most writers spend most of their time being themselves – that’s to
say, living through the oscillating self-doubt and mild paranoia, the
rival temptations of vanity and self-pity (sometimes voluptuously
normally quite enough for us.
What, then, is the status of the comments by creative writers on their
own acts and actions? Undoubtedly, these comments have a reasonably
high status – if the creative writer is recognised within a commercial
or cultural commodity market. The personal Creative Writing acts of
Sanchez or Barnes, for example, have value not simply because of their
Creative Writing itself, but also because both are successful creative
writers in the context of the time in which they are writing. In that
context, they have status as cultural representatives, and the interest in
them as creative writers can be matched by some recognition – albeit the
post-event recognition of others – that their subjects or themes have
contemporary relevance. Return to a creative writer mentioned earlier –
Christine Brooke-Rose – and the status of her acts and actions, framed
according to other positions (for example the position: ‘experimental104 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
novelist’) is different again from that of Sanchez or Barnes – though
close connections with France might constitute a reason to talk about
to what purpose? Similarly, when Brooke-Rose announces that ‘I shall
now try to bealittle morespeciﬁcabout whatI’ve been doing’ towhom
than those of Sanchez or Barnes. But to whom and when?
So far, two aspects are revealed: ﬁrstly, that the status of completed
works of Creative Writing in representing and transporting cultural
norms and values is not diminished over time – even if this status is
relative to historical changes in norms and values. And, though lacking
circulation’ (that is, to ‘popular’ works) as they did at the time of his
study. Secondly, that the status of the personal activities of creative
writers, for whatever reason (relating to the period in which they are
living), varies to such an extent that even the ability to communicate
well as internal factors.
Some years before he died Kurt Vonnegut announced ‘if I die – and
God forbid – I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up
there, ‘‘Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?’’’
For creative writers the good news, perhaps, is that both personal and
social activities associated with Creative Writing have degrees of status.
That is, they havea positionrelative to other things inthe world and itis
discernible. This is universally the case anywhere that Creative Writing
occurs, and in whatever context. However, there are vast and important
The acts and actions of Willa Elphinstone (replace this unknown writer
with the name of any ‘unknown’ creative writer) have low status if they
circumstance, and brought about mostly according to human events orPersonal and Social Activities Have Equal Status? 105
the cycles of human history, is not ﬁxed in time or space and does not
relate necessarily (or, atleast, entirely) tothe ability of thecreative writer
to undertake these acts and actions in an informed or knowledgeable
way. What constitutes excellence in works of Creative Writing is not a
ﬁxed notion, anymore than what constitutes Creative Writing is ﬁxed.
Also, the unknown creativewriter can, and does, become part of a wider
declared that ‘given encouragement, unknown writers, formerly without
hope, materialize’. He was commenting on impact of the launch of the
magazine collaboration The Republic of Letters, founded by Bellow and
Keith Botsford. Of course, Bellow is talking here about completed works
being submitted to the magazine. ‘My friend Keith Botsford and I felt
strongly that if the woods were ﬁlled with readers gone astray, among
those readers there were probably some writers as well’. Likely so, but
unless these creative writers released works in some way to the world
they will not be known. The acts and actions of Creative Writing occur
regardless of their public presentation.
of the personal activities of Creative Writing. Creative Writing, like other
arts, conveys emotional and attitudinal connections between one human
being and another, in a convoy. Even if all works of Creative Writing are
not given equal recognition, creative writerswhose works are in a public
spherehavethepositional reference of:pleasure(thatis,statusconveyed
by how much pleasure one or other of their works of Creative Writing
offers one or other reader); the stimulation of emotion (as referred to by
Tolstoy: ‘if successful artists imbue their works with an emotion in such
a way as to stimulate the same emotion in their audience,’
can be conveyed on the actions that produced this bridge); the degree
of knowledge that a work is considered to offer the reader or audience
(with different forms of knowledge having different value, of course);
of a creative writer appear to represent or resemble current cultural or
societal values). Of course, it is true to say that the creative writer is
engaged in ‘a continuous process of self-creation’ and these reference
points, while reaching between the personal and public, are drawn from
the creative writer’s consideration and reconsideration of the self.
Returning to Vonnegut, it might be said that ‘the bad news’ (if that is
not often a perfect match. The social activities of Creative Writing,
within) society at large have a status substantially impacted upon by106 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
history, location and circumstance. Societies, much like individuals,
ability of resources; or the internal stimuli of the development of new
technologies). If the role and status of the personal activities of Creative
Writing – and, in particular, of the personal activities of the individual
creative writer – have equality with the social activities of the Creative
Writing it is primarily that a conﬂuence is occurring, which will have a
time we consider it.
1. Albrecht, M.C. (1968) Art as an institution. American Sociological Review 33(3),
June 1968, 383.
2. Albrecht, M.C. (1956) Does literature reﬂect common values? American
Sociological Review 21(6), December 1956, 722.
3. Albrecht, M.C. (1956) Does literature reﬂect common values? American
Sociological Review 21(6), December 1956, 729.
4. Wood, J. (2005) This thing called playwrighting: an interview with Sonia
Sanchez on the art of her drama. African American Review 39(½), Spring-
Summer 2005, 122.
5. Wood, J. (2005) This thing called playwrighting: an interview with Sonia
Sanchez on the art of her drama. African American Review 39(½), Spring-
Summer 2005, 123.
6. Wood, J. (2005) This thing called playwrighting: an interview with Sonia
Sanchez on the art of her drama. African American Review 39(½), Spring-
Summer 2005, 125.
7. Wood, J. (2005) This thing called playwrighting: an interview with Sonia
Sanchez on the art of her drama. African American Review 39(½), Spring-
Summer 2005, 130.
on How They Think And Work. New York: Public Affairs, p. 382
9. Brooke-Rose, C. (2002) Invisible Author. Columbus: Ohio State University
Press, p. 42.
10. Vonnegut, K. (2007) Here is a lesson in Creative Writing. In K. Vonnegut,
D. Simon (ed.) A Man Without a Country. New York: Random House, p. 37.
11. SeamusDeane refers to these questionsthis way:‘There is astrongargument
forsayingthatanartistwillbeacceptedto thedegreethats/he‘‘reﬂects’’ the
condition of a society, although it could be said, with equal force, that a
society’s condition of itself is reﬂected in the priority it gives to one writerPersonal and Social Activities Have Equal Status? 107
over another.’ Deane, S. (1990) Society in the artist. Studies: An Irish Quarterly
Review 79(315), Autumn 1990, 247.
12. Bellow, S. (2001) Hidden within technology’s empire, a republic of letters. In
J.Darton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays fromTheNewYorkTimes,intro.
New York: Holt, p. 22.
13. Bellow, S. (2001) Hidden within technology’s empire, a republic of letters. In
J.Darton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays fromTheNewYorkTimes,intro.
New York: Holt, p. 22.
14. Tolstoy, L.(1995) inA.Neill and A.Ridley(eds) The Philosophy of Art: Ancient
and Modern. New York: McGraw Hill, p. 511.
15. Kroll, J. (2006) Redrafting the self: the author as a work in progress. In
Post Pressed, p. 207.
organizationssuch aschurchor courthavedifferently deﬁned theposition of
the musician’. The same could be said of the position of the creative writer
and of Creative Writing. Carlton, R. (2006) Changes in status and role-play:
The musician at the end of the eighteenth century. International Review of the
Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 37(1), June 2006, 4.Chapter 14
It is not possible, not entirely, and not with absolute certainly, to not
as this planet allows (or, as space travellers have shown, as technology
the ‘invisible interior’ of the ‘creative imagination’ to remove Creative
Writing from some form of communication, whether with the outside
world or with a self that is at least partially formed by nurture as well as
nature, and a nurture that takes into itself the social and cultural
surroundings with which it engages. We are not always in control of this
– and whatever personal nature we possess must negotiate between
personal desire and need and communal embodiment. Quite simply,
of being social creatures.
Even were we to ignore the commonly touted moral imperative
that human beings should engage in ‘good communication’ with each
other, or the development of such vastly used terms as ‘communication
tecnology’, or the vast array of educational situations in which verbal
communication, written communication, visual communication, mass
communication are considered, we could not ignore the underlying
suggestion in all this that the ability to communicate is part of human
survival and human life. Whatever else can be said, the difference
between a wide consensus about the importance of communication and
art is, by its deﬁnition as one form of human expression, more limited.
Art is, therefore, dependent on its recognition as a signiﬁcant human
activity for reasons commonly associated with such things as the
humanising effect of engagement with it; or the emotional roundedness
108Communication and Art Hold Equal Status in Society? 109
that the arts (sometimes, at a juncture, contrasted with the sciences) can
bring about by approaching issues and problems of human existence,
or indeed celebrating achievements and wonders; or the elements of
in any given work of art.
Creative Writing, however, has often been faced with its supposedly
dual status as ‘writing’ that is ‘creative’; so assumptions that it carries
within it, in a glued-together fashion, the communication practices of an
other kind of writing – associated with increasing the range of human
to ephemeral spoken language) that can be approached in its own right;
and visually physical properties as text – these communication practices
are glued together with the ideal of the creative (the preponderance and
elevation of the imaginative, the expressive, the original).
As an art form, therefore, Creative Writing should have considerable
to convey its communicative strategies. And yet, this is not obviously
the case. There are simple reasons for this: Creative Writing as a term to
describe the acts and actions of creative writers encompasses a consider-
that emerge from these practices does not produce only one form of art
and communication but many.
We have dealt with this variety – certainly in a post-event way –
by deﬁning the form and function of completed works according to
their material appearances and attributes. So, of course, the novel, a
poem, a screenplay, all are deﬁned, and contrasted, by reference to their
municative and artistic offerings are often treated as functions so that
where the personal engagement of the creative writer with acts and
actions occurs this is seen as secondary to the functional nature of the
completed works within the context of our material deﬁnitions. This is
further enhanced by commercial and cultural commodiﬁcation.
So the purpose, function and physical nature of Creative Writing for
the creative writer might in this schema be referenced barely at all. As the
creative writer’s personal engagement with Creative Writing involves
elements of communication and art in a singular active relationship,
ratherthan two elements attimesactive or inactive accordingtomaterial
need, then the status of either communication or art is not diminished.110 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
Rather, for the creative writer both hold equal status and both are
involved in the monistic activity that is Creative Writing.
However, this is not the same as the status of works of Creative
Writing in society because these works are considered to be both a form
between other forms of communication – in terms of utility as well
the plain transference of ideas or instructions – which may have higher
general applicability, and they compete against other arts, which may be
thought to have greater value due to their uncommonness.
The last point needs a little unpacking. Simple, because Creative
Writing most often uses readily identiﬁable forms in its using of words,
even if these words are used in complex or uncommon ways, it is
what might be called a ‘domesticated’ art form. Its links with human
communication, more generally, is highly developed – as an aspect of
human evolution and therefore as a component of human advancement.
Nelson Goodman reminds us of this when he says in his book Ways of
Worldmaking, that ‘we can have words without a world but no world
without words or other symbols’.
Words are not alone in their ability to form, to ‘make’, but the
expectation of communication, plain and simple or associated with
instruction or information or declaration, is not directly related to the
status of written words themselves. Goodman offers some more of this
Fiction, then, whether written or painted or acted, applies truly
neither to nothing nor to diaphanous possible worlds but, albeit
metaphorically, to actual worlds. Somewhat as I have argued else-
the actual, so we might say here again, in a different context, that the
so-called possible worlds of ﬁction lie within actual worlds. Fiction
operates in actual worlds in much the same way as nonﬁction.
Ofcourse, thedifference notnoted inGoodman’s outline aboveisthat
open to interpretation, the written is, aiming to reduce the possibility
of misinterpretation and, while involving reiﬁcation, to nevertheless
standardise and prescribe language. Were works of Creative Writing
of course they are not, it would be the creative that was bringing tension
intoamediumthatwasmeanttoestablishandpromotecleardenotation.Communication and Art Hold Equal Status in Society? 111
According to Mathias Dewatripont and Jean Tirole, whose ﬁeld is
Political Economy, ‘effectiveness of communication [...] hinges on the
alignment of the parties’ objectives.’ In the case of Creative Writing, and
considering the range of works that emerge from Creative Writing, how
can discern that, given communication is generally seen as a principled
and demonstrable activity, and is widely promoted in society, that
completed works of Creative Writing that communicate norms or ideals
have high status within society, where as those that are less clearly
communicating would not. There’s an element of truth in this, historical
change notwithstanding, in that where elements of social and cultural
hegemony favour particular subjects, forms or attitudes at any one time
those completed works that clearly demonstrate their interest in these
subjects forms or attitudes are likely to be regarded as having higher
commercial or cultural value.
And yet, there are ﬂaws in this suggestion. If the ‘parties’ objectives’,
to use Dewatripont’s and Tirole’s term, are separated by market or
social group, or if there are not two parties but three – for example,
is it that is required to be aligned? Certainly an alignment of three
in this way changes not only communication but the relative status of
the works themselves (that is, offering societal or cultural branding or
recognition prior to release to the reader or audience). And what about
the personal world of the creative writer? Does it really always, as
Dewatripont and Tirole suggest, ‘take two to communicate.’
because their intention is not the same as the one here. However, only
one sense of ‘communicate’ or ‘communication’ involves interpersonal
exchange; the other senses include exchanges of thoughts or information
or plans, transference of observations or intentions, travailing of those
case, intrapersonal exchange may be as signiﬁcant as interpersonal, and
and maintained feelings.
Enter then the fact that Creative Writing is an art as well as a mode of
communication, each and the same, and intrapersonal importance of a112 Part II: Concerning Human Engagement with Creative Writing
creative writer’s self-concept, personality, memory, emotion, personal
perception becomes as important as the alignmentwith a external reader
or audience. It’s a reminder of Seamus Deane’s comment that:
If we adhere to naive reﬂection theory, whereby there is a corres-
made [...] All of these assumptions are founded on a theory of
representation whereby, politically or artistically, one person or one
action can be taken to represent the desires or wishes of a great
number of others who literally elect or choose that person or work
to stand in place of themselves. Reﬂection theory is founded on a
rhetoric of representation; the synecdoche by which a part stands for
the whole is legitimated bythe approval of the whole for that part as
a true representation of itself.
others, might well be not acting as a part of the societal whole, but as
is correspondence between personal and social activities of Creative
Writing they don’t at all timeshave equal status or maintain equal status
in all circumstances. The fact that Creative Writing is an art is at once its
communication is borne by it as not merely because it is writing but
because art can, and does communicate. Using tools of communication,
symbols and graphic depictions that remind even the creative writer
themselves of other non-artistic forms does not diminish its societal
been disassociated from art forms such as music or ﬁne art, as shorthand
for recognising its alignments with day-to-day inscription.
Creative Writing bears in its acts and actions, and in its works,
the inheritance of our graphical objectifying of language but, most
importantly, it bears in the activities of creative writers the inheritance of
our human desire to make art from communication, and communication
from art, to create worlds from the world we encounter externally, and
internally within ourselves, to make these worlds so that they satisfy
ourselves and give life to our association with others.
1. Derrida, J. (1978) Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago, p. 8.
2. Goodman, N. (1978) Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 6.Communication and Art Hold Equal Status in Society? 113
3. Goodman, N. (1978) Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 104.
4. Dewatripont, M. and Tirole, J. (2005) Modes of communication. Journal of
Political Economy 113(6), 1219.
5. Dewatripont, M. and Tirole, J. (2005) Modes of communication. Journal of
Political Economy 113(6), 1218.
6. Deane, S. (1990) Society in the artist. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 79(315),
Autumn 1990, 249.Conclusion
[...] So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a
practiced writer. She is worried about how the language she dreams in,
for certain nefarious purposes. Being a writer she thinks of language
partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control,
but mostly as agency – as an act with consequences.
Nobel Lecture, 7 December, 1993
Acts and actions have consequences. Indeed. These are not always
predictable. Nor are they always immediately obvious. Culturally or
has been the result of acts over which creative writers have sometimes
complicit. How rarely have creative writers challenged the idea that the
Creative Writing? How seldom has it been mentioned that these works
in a certain way and delivered and presented for certain reasons?
Equally, have we often enough celebrated the acts and actions of
Creative Writing in and of themselves? This art, this communication
offered as a shared, common language between human beings. Have we
yet done enough to articulate its real importance? An art that uses the
the most everyday medium. Rather, have we given more attention not
tothisfactbuttoparticular artefacts thatsometimesemergefromasetof
Creative Writing activities, not entirely ignoring those that remain out
of the public eye or that form the basis of the actions themselves, but not
commercial or cultural commodity thinking, historically speaking, then
human being who has experienced, and does experience, it? Creative
Writing, after all, is the most human of activities.
of Creative Writing in this human way, as individuals creative writers
have said so very much about their own belief in the acts and actions of
Creative Writing that this must surely draw all to realise just how this
‘living thing’ makes in the world and offers much to it. The knowledge
contained in all this is not only knowledge of the structures and forms
physical manifestations of writerly actions, but it is also that associated
with individual human intentions, with feelings, reasons and meanings.
Creative Writing involves behaviour patterns and human dispositions,
perceptions and memories. It is both working and works, not separated,
and not placed in a hierarchy determined by external forces but a
continuity derived from the simple equation: to be a creative writer
means undertaking Creative Writing. To compartmentalise the artefacts
in portions, in lumps, does little to explore Creative Writing.
The tendency to see Creative Writing as an informer of materiality,
in which works carry forth the matter of Creative Writing is worthy of
further investigation, hopefully in the not too distant future. Why does
taken are as valid a site of knowledge and understanding, of human
endeavour and human value as any object which might eventually ﬁnd
Creative Writing? Indeed, that informs the exchange of Creative Writing
working and works between human beings. Similarly worthy of further
thought is the notion that Creative Writing involves a privileged kind of
works as grow so weary, so overburdened by the activity itself, that
eventually they abandon a work to ‘completeness’, to ﬁnality, no longer
having the energy boosting rush of inspiration to maintain them. Why
should this be so? Could it be that we’ve not yet investigated closely
eventually into a belief that these activities are just slightly beyond our
Posing questions often raises further questions. But there’s always the
aim of ﬁnding answers. The answers to the question in this book should116 On Creative Writing
already be clear. Creative Writing primary involves ﬁnished works?
No, Creative Writing primarily involves a great deal more than ﬁnished
works, but ﬁnished works are a part of it. Acts and actions of Creative
Writing can beobserved in ﬁnished works? Not really. They have been
by so much beyond Creative Writing and often found by readers and
audiences because things well beyond Creative Writing do not provide
the clearest window to Creative Writing. Should they? Could they? Does
it matter if they do not? Again, it should be clear that the answer is
Far from it: unﬁnished works are the marrow in Creative Writing itself,
the essential part. Creative Writing does not begin when it ends. All
worksofCreativeWritingaredisseminated? Hardly! Whether for com-
mercial, cultural or personal reasons most works of Creative Writing
are not disseminated. Most works of Creative Writing circulate in the
small realms of a creative writer’s domestic space, or they pass through
the air of inconsequence where culture or commercial worth dispels
them. More works of Creative Writing are not disseminated and, in this,
might well lie one clue to the humanness of Creative Writing. There
is always a direct relationship between acts and actions of Creative
Writing anddisseminatedworks? No. How could there always be when
disseminated works most often come to be disseminated for holistically
The activities constituted as Creative Writing can always be grouped
under the term ‘process’? Process is not the best term. Certainly it is
a term trying to grasp something; but what it misses out is as telling as
what it includes. To better incorporate fortuitousness, irrationality and
emotionality, as well as planned action and rationality, talking of the
activities of Creative Writing is far better.
The human engagement with Creative Writing is considerable and
shows no signs of diminishing. And yet, questions arise. All works of
have such appeal when the works of Creative writing emerge for many
reasons, not all of them connected with art. All works of Creative
Writing clearly communicate? As a mode of communication, Creative
Writing comes in many forms and takes many approaches and, given
that, they cannot possibly all clearly communicate to all people, at all
times, in all circumstances. More important, however, is the realisation
that Creative Writing is a particular, individual form of communication.
Intentions in Creative Writing are always met? Intentions form a part
of the network of intended and unintended activities and results that areConclusion 117
Creative Writing. They are not always met, but neither are they in-
not: Creative Writing also produces physical evidence, artefacts, works.
are always connected? Not always; nor are they always disconnected.
Inﬂuences occur because of such things as: individual disposition and
personality; cultural and social environments; groups and networks;
psychological and physiological attitudes to Creative Writing; the role
of intermediaries; personal creative environments; the speed at which
change enters the creative writer’s personal world; the representational
or iconic condition that the creative writer’s ﬁnal works occupy. The
personal and social activities of Creative Writing have equal status?
History and context – reference points that are essential, though perhaps
generically over-used. But here they have a speciﬁc intention: societal
creation and self-creation do not match by deﬁnition, even if at points
ﬁnally: Communication and art always hold equal status in society?
communication, and communication from art. But communication and
art often occupy different statuses within societies and cultures and for
interests of societal cohesion, is often very strong. Yet art, the reason for
it, and the reason we celebrate it, carries its own human signiﬁcance,
its own strong interpersonal and intrapersonal engagements. Equality,
then, may not be the most useful way to approach this relationship;
but the relationship itself, between one and the other, is of considerable
Creative Writing is human acts and actions, producing more or less
a range of artefacts, some long recognised, some unnoticed, some only
simply to create material, commercial or cultural objects; nor does it
happen always without producing some kind of artefact or artefacts.
How these artefacts are valued is determined greatly by commercial,
societal and cultural conditions, but not by this only or solely. Creative
writers themselves have systems of value and understanding, based in
their activities, their analysis of the site of the event of Creative Writing.
Creative Writing investigates, explores, articulates and speculates. It is
amonistic,connectedwaythatcannotbedistilledintoconvenientpots,or118 On Creative Writing
object under a scalpel will reveal the true living thing. And yet, it can
certainly be considered, and it should be considered, in motion, in
signiﬁcant human activities.
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see alsoactivities;process;event; Doctorow,E.L.81-82
Barnes,Julian103 see alsoartefacts;objects;footprints
see alsoconsumption holismxi,34,38,94-95,96
creating3,9,17,18,20,36,43,51-52,108 see alsopersonal;self
Creeley,Robertix see alsopublishing
109,110,112,114 see alsoculture