Does creative writing make you a better analytical essay or research writer, and vice versa?

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Joelle Renstrom, writer and writing professor

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I agreed with the other answers here. Writing is a broad and multifaceted discipline--there are so many different types! While most classes tend to require a particular type (a thesis-driven essay or a research paper or whatever), any and all writing you do will help your other writing. If you're a dancer, learning ballet would help you with tap; tap would help with hip-hop; hip-hop would help you salsa. Each dance focuses on rhythm, timing, and strength, and those skills would be improved regardless of which style of dance one practiced.

One major piece of writing that doesn't get enough attention is critical thinking. Before you put a word on the page, you have to have something insightful to say. Critical thinking doesn't come naturally to a lot of people, so it's yet another skill to learn and practice. All kinds of writing rely on critical thinking--analytical papers, certainly, but also poetry and fiction-writing. One has to think critically about how best to tell a story, which point of view to use, which details to highlight, how to make the dialogue work. The more you can hone your critical thinking skills, the better you'll be as a writer in any genre.

Creative writing allows you to tell a story, which in turn gives you greater insight into how others tell stories and why they use whatever techniques they do. That kind of insight is a tremendous help on research and analytical papers. It goes the other way, too--if you analyze a writer's approach to a topic, that likely would affect the way you would choose to approach a topic creatively.

Another benefit is that you'll develop style and voice regardless of what type of writing you do. Malcolm Gladwell famously said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Suffice it to say, it takes a lot of practice to get really good at writing--the good thing is, writing in any genre is practice.

Lisa Hiton, Professor of English and Arts, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer

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To echo the above answer, yes on both counts. Divergent thinking in general is a useful skill to maintain in all fields. Often knowing the rules, jargon, and ideal of one field can help thinkers implicate them in other fields. This imbracating (architecture term for the way certain roof shingles overlay each other) often helps advance a given field or causes a paradigm shift altogether. In the specific examples of creative writing and analytic or research writing, there is often a constant dialogue between the two. Knowing more precisely about the world can better help the creative writer articulate something about how we feel or think in that world more deftly than was said before. Likewise, knowing when to break from the rules in a mode like creative writing can help the analytic writer see different opportunities in thinking through a text.

Further, when these two kinds of writing work together, more can be translated to readers. Here is an amazing video which illuminates this discourse of hybrid thinking in many ways. It's Sir Ken Robinson talking about the failure of the American public school system from many different angles. It illuminates creative, analytic, and research writing, for the essay he makes in his lecture utilizes all of these to prove his argument. Further, this version of the lecture is an RSA Animated clip, which utilizes the skills of comics/graphic novels and new media to bring the viewer/reader a message. Around 7:43 in this short film, you'll see he explicitly talks about the role of divergent thinking in school and in the world. It is precisely because we devalue the arts (in which, creative writing is housed) that we stymie divergent thinking. If we practiced both creative, analytical, and research based work throughout our time in school and in the world, we'd probably be better off as far as learning, moral capacity, and advancing all fields of thinking with more equitable value.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Maryann Aita, Writer, expert tutor, and creative writing MFA candidate

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In short: yes, absolutely. A broad knowledge base and diversified skills generally improves most kinds of work. Coming at writing from more than one perspective will usually make writing more thought-out and compelling.

For one, creative writing will help academic writing by adding descriptive language, helping create relatable examples, and making it more readable. In my experience in psychology, reading academic research can be a real slog. Even the most erudite individuals appreciate research that isn’t painful to get through. The ability to clearly and succinctly articulate your ideas will lend you more credibility and people will want to read your academic essays.

Beyond that, creative writing promotes creative thinking, which is certainly beneficial in analytical writing. Thinking creatively is not only helpful for artistic endeavors but for problem solving, drawing connections between ideas, and working independently. A recent article in Quartz provides some interesting insight into “creative minds,” including that they tend to make more connections between ideas and are better able to draw order from chaos. These are essential skills for good research. The best analytical essays are able to build novel connections to form strong arguments.

On the other side, thinking analytically can also improve creative writing. Essays rely heavily on structure and flow, which are also important in creative writing. You can take the same approach to a creative story plot or memoir as you would when considering how to organize research examples and constructing an argument. A story should make logical sense (structure) and make you want to keep reading (flow).

It’s also helpful for editing. Often, you’ll have more research than really fits into your essay, just like you might have more story ideas or experiences than you can really fit into a story. In both kinds of writing, you want to make your argument as strong as possible. In an essay, that argument might be to support a thesis statement, while in a story, it could be the elements you most want to develop about a character. Not to mention, even fiction often requires research. Pulitzer Prize-winning books usually have some cultural context or significance that would have necessitated at least some research.

Writing creatively can allow students to develop independent thinking skills and approach questions from multiple angles. At the same time, analytical writing and research informs how you think about structure and logic in creative writing. It’s a great idea to pursue both.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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After I started to study and practice creative writing, I realized that I had changed quite a bit as an analytical writer. For one, I had a better grasp on how to eliminate passive voice, and how to highlight the placement of subjects and verbs in my writing. I also realized that I had become a different kind of reader because I had started reading more like a writer. This helped me to recognize dry, confusing syntax in my own work as well as in that of others.

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