I had a rough childhood and adolescence (but hey, who hadn’t?), and often times found consolation in making up stories. I would write short, gothic stories with monsters and witches that helped me cope with my everyday issues. Later on, when I became more serious about my writing, I realized that creative writing is so different from writing to soothe your soul, because you have a responsibility towards your readers (and towards yourself) to deliver something a bit more concise than fumbling notes about how your dad doesn’t love you and all the other kids are stupid. Here are some of the main differences between creative writing and therapeutic writing:
1. Your audience: While therapeutic writing is usually intended for your eyes only, creative writing should aim a little higher than that. There are many things that a writer should take into consideration when writing, and his target audience is crucial. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Editing: The best way to show your readers you care for them is to edit and proofread your text. As I’ve already mentioned, having an audience means you will have to cut out some of the things which are perfectly fine if you’re writing just for yourself, such as unnecessary adjectives/adverb, cliches, etc. Your readers are not interested in the “truth”, if it’s badly written: they expect good storytelling and prose which is more than a sob story (sorry, I am being brutally honest here). Remember, it’s not all about you. It’s about you, and your readers.
3. Consistency: Also, if you are writing a piece of prose you are looking forward to publishing one day, it is important to get organized and to keep a working schedule. While writing for therapy does not require keeping up with the deadlines, in creative writing, consistency is key. Building up a habit of writing regularly, and not only when you feel like it, is what distinguishes professionals from amateurs (mea colpa).
4. Art for Art’s Sake: When you are a professional writer, who wants his writing to improve with each written piece, you are looking forward to acquiring new skills and making your prose as good as it can be. Not because of money (let’s be real, nobody takes up creative writing in order to get rich), but because of the art itself. And this is something that is absolutely irrelevant when you are writing only for yourself, because you couldn’t care less about the form or style of your writing as long as you are succeeding in whatever your specific therapy goal is.
The reason why I have decided to dedicate today’s post to the difference between writing as therapy and writing as art form is because I have seen several other young writers struggle with this issue (separating the two worlds, that is), and I want you to know that you’re not alone in this. It took me quite some time to progress from writing down my (then) teenage thoughts to the more polished prose I am striving to write today. But that’s for my readers to judge.
This guest post was contributed by Sara Kopeczky. Sara is an English and Italian teacher living in Croatia. She is the editor of The Split Mind, a magazine dedicated to literature and culture. She is an aspiring author and has published poetry and short fiction in magazines, collections and online. She has won several literary competitions in Croatia and Germany.