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The Magic and Mystery of Creative Writing

by Michelle Tea
featured, money & life

What is Creative Writing? Michelle Tea responds.

Creative Writing is writing that comes from the heart. It’s opposite, I suppose, would be technical writing, where you’re writing to sell a product or provide instruction. The only thing you sell with creative writing is your vision, whether it’s a vision of a crazy outer space planet in another dimension or a vision of your childhood, recreated, all the smells and scrapes intact.

Creative Writing has few, if any rules. There are best practices, I suppose, and you can learn these in workshops and instruction, but this is an intuitive art, one that remains mysterious even to those who have cranked out a pile of books. I often pick up something I’ve written and am baffled at my inability to recall writing it. What is this fugue state, this trance, this bewitching that is creative writing?


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It’s not all hocus-pocus, of course. Practice makes perfect, instruction provides templates, guideposts for getting lost in this forest of your own making. Reading those who make it seem easy. But over and over I marvel at the way an accumulation of published works does not make the next endeavor feel any easier. It’s never a sure thing, this kind of writing. You sit down with your psyche, your mind and all it’s reference points, the influences you knowingly and unknowingly sucked up. You give yourself an hour, a weekend, a day. Something in your brain clicks, go, and you’re off. Who knows where you’ll end up? Certainly not you, outlines be damned.

Creative Writing dares your brain to trick itself. You lie a perfect path for resolution without knowing it, or it all blows up in your face and, well, back to the drawing board. It’s a solace to know that it’s the same, more or less, for every one of us. Creative Writing is a practice and a vocation, it’s a temperament and a mental illness, a blessing a curse, a life. We set up our little space and grab our perfect pen, our special notebook, the great god coffee, and off we go. Godspeed.


No matter what your writing goals are, CreativeLive’s Writing Week will give you the energy, instruction, and focus to achieve them. Learn more.


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Michelle Tea

Michelle Tea is the author of over ten works of fiction, memoir, hybrid genre, spirituality, personal essay and poetry. She has edited anthologies on working class experience, personal narrative, queer fiction and fashion. Her writing has appeared in Harpers, Cosmopolitan, The Believer, Marie Claire, n+1, xoJane.com and many other print and web publications.