Magoosh GRE

In what ways, basically, are writing at home and at university similar and different?

| March 24, 2015

The art of writing takes on many forms and has done so since the beginning of time. There are differing things to consider for me when I begin to write, all depending on whether I am writing an academic essay, a poem, a shopping list or a novel. Each one has its own differentiated range of registers and conventions. Also, it could be argued that creativity plays an important part within the writing process. The aim of this particular essay is to determine how big a role creativity has in both academic and non-academic writing and to find out the nature of the relationship between academic and non-academic writing using examples from poetry and prose.

However, before this is done it would be necessary to define exactly what creativity is. As a concept, creativity is hard to define and to analyse. Weisberg (2010) suggests a working definition which suggests that:
Creative thinking occurs when a person intentionally produces a novel product while working on some task. Sometimes those intentional novel products are valued highly by society, and sometimes they are not, but all of them are creative products. A novel product intentionally produced by a person is a creative product, and the person who produces such a product is a creative person (Weisberg: 2010: 76)

This definition seems to me to encompass what creativity means. However, at first glance, Weisberg’s (2010) use of the word ‘product’ seemed to me to entail something that is tangible. However, upon closer scrutiny, I realized that a creative product is anything that is produced either by an artist or a writer (academic and non-academic).
Creativity within writing has to be used with differing emphasis depending on the audience, the subject matter and the form that it comes in. The register (the style of writing and the words used) within an essay has to be tailored to who I am writing the piece for as well as the subject matter. Each subject has its own terminology and ‘its own ground rules’ as Rose (2009) states:

If you are studying history, there will be great emphasis on evidence, on when this evidence originated, and on various accounts by later commentators……if your subject is English Literature, you will have found that you need to analyze language very closely and to consider looking at a text from different angles. If you are studying a science subject, you will be aware that you need to focus on data. (Rose: 2007: 23)

So if I am needing to write an essay upon the character of Nancy or Bill in ‘Oliver Twist’ from differing points of view my register, or use of words, and essay structure would need to reflect this. Similarly, if my essay needed to ascertain historical accuracies within ‘Oliver Twist’ then the register used would also need to reflect this.

Creative writing, such as poetry or novels, the principle of register would still need to be used because the target audience needs to be thought of. For instance, poets and writers who write specifically for children constantly bear this in mind when they write their stories or poems. Brown (2007) suggests that when writing for children writers know that:
The right voice will vary according to age and format, but is likely to be younger than the one you use with other adults……..You really do have to know how children speak and be able to adopt a young voice for your written words. (Brown: 2007: 164)

Of course, when writing a novel the register you use does not just reflect the audience that it is for but also the genre or type of novel or poem that is being written. Adventure stories, science fiction, chick-lit and horror stories all have a register of some kind. It could be argued however that this register is not always so clear-cut. For instance, it could be argued that there is a duality contained within the Harry Potter books which enables them to have equal appeal for both children and adults. This is arguably shown within a novelist’s choice of phrase as well as the world they create.

However, it has also been argued by Honeyman (2005) that these fictional worlds (like Hogwarts), which are meant to be ‘protective spaces’ for children, are more likely to be ‘an adult’s refuge’ (Honeyman: 2005: 52). This ‘adult refuge’ is arguably constructed by the words used within the text. In the case of ‘Harry Potter’, these worlds are made by such words as ‘Horcrux’, ‘Hogwarts’ and ‘wand’. Such is the case also with other fictional worlds both fantastic and with elements of realism. The words used would reflect the genre that is used. It could be ascertained that I would still need to show an understanding of my audience in terms of how I write a novel in the same way that I would think of how my academic essay would be written.

It is also known within the fields of academic essay writing and of creative writing such as novel-writing and poetry that there are conventions that are also heeded to. However much I would need to heed to those conventions if I wrote a poem or novel is dependent upon the context.

In terms of academic writing, conventions are dependent upon the rules of the institution, the individual departments and even the lecturer supervising the course. These conventions are found in all aspects of academic writing from writing style to referencing and are essential for any student to learn. Murray (2004) as cited in Murray and Moore (2005) suggests that there is ‘a need to recognize genres and conventions of your discipline in academic writing’ (Murray and Moore: 2005: 9). The same scholars also suggested that within the realms of academic writing there is an ‘originality vs convention paradox’ that needs to be mastered which is explained as follows:
The originality versus convention paradox reflects the differences and tensions between taking in information and putting forward or articulating ideas of your own. When writing you need to find your own individual voice in the midst of other voices, many of which seem more expert and more knowledgeable than your own.’ (Murray and Moore: 9)

Thus, in essay writing a balance needs to be reached between establishing my own ‘voice’ while acknowledging others. Hence, there is a need for me to develop my own point of view regarding ‘Oliver Twist’ while acknowledging the point of view that quoted experts hold. It could be said that being able to do this would take both creativity and adherence to convention.

At first these two concepts seem to be diametrically opposed to each other. However, it is possible to enable a convergence of these ideas to happen, even with the humanities and arts such as English Literature and Art which are both subjective in their approach as long as your ideas are backed up with evidence. One example of a convention within academic writing is the non-use of ‘I’ in essays and dissertations. Griffith (2011) states:
Should you use ‘I’ in essays about literature? Some teachers insist that students not use ‘I’. One reason is that teachers want students to avoid stating their opinions without supporting them with facts and reasoning……Another reason is that if you fill your essays with phrases like ‘I feel’, ‘I think’, ‘I believe’, it seems…your essay will sound overly opinionated (Griffiths: 2011: 263).

As it is vital for me as an academic student to be objective in my essay writing I believe it would be important for me to express myself in such a way that would be both rooted in evidence as well as creative. However, it is also known as noted in Griffiths (2011) that ‘essays about literature are inevitably “subjective”’ and that:
Nearly all works of literature are open to interpretation. That is why we write about them. Your interpretations are likely to be different from other people’s. For this reason, it is standard for critics to use ‘I’ when writing interpretations of literature, even in the most scholarly writing. (Griffiths: 263)

Seeing as though English Literature is seen as having a subjective paradigm it is arguably not the only time that ‘I’ is used in an essay. There have been instances when I have constructed essays where I have had to be reflective upon experiences that I have had in schools as well as on good teaching practice that I both observed and took part in while I was there. The practice of composing a ‘reflective essay’ is to render ‘a personal account of a learning activity’ and is therefore focused upon your ‘feelings and opinions’ which should be backed up with ‘evidence and theories’ (Shields: 2005: 57).

Nevertheless, despite these exceptions to the rule, the rule of thumb should be that the essay should be objective in its approach to the subject matter, particularly in the sciences as well as the humanities subjects. By doing this any prospective student would at least be able to adhere to this particular academic convention.

Conventions also figure a lot within creative writing. At the start of the twentieth century, a new form of writing had emerged as a result of Modernism. This movement, which influenced many individuals across the arts spectrum, had an impact on the way that a novel was written or how a poem was constructed. With regards to the latter, there have always been ‘conventions’ of some kind laid down at some point in time.

One example of this ‘conventionalising’ was in the eighteenth century when poets like Pope and Dryden maintained that poetry should both emulate and imitate Classical poets such as Horace and Ovid by arranging their poems as ‘rhyming couplets’ and they should be about noble and heroic ideas. They helped establish the concept of form.
However, the Modernist era brought about a change in the way that the form of poetry was conceived. The poet, Ezra Pound, issued a famous phrase that summed up the Modernist concept which was to ‘make it new’, a view that was also endorsed by TS Eliot in 1921, as cited in Beasley (2007), who stated that:
It appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization requires great variety and complexity…..The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning. (Beasley: 2007: 15)

Thus, the Modernists saw their poetry as a break with a tradition that had lasted for centuries along with its associated conventions because they saw that their particular ‘dislocated’ style was more in keeping with the chaotic times they were living in.
Nowadays, poets are not restricted by conventions such as this although there are still different forms of poetry that poets are aware of. However, these rules are heeded but are then experimented with for the poet’s creative ends.
Moreover, both the poet and the novelist are aware that they have tools at their disposal which would enable them to write in a way which would grab the attention of the reader and add artistic appeal to their writing. Among these tools is the use of metaphor, symbolism and simile which project a particular image upon the reader’s mind. For instance, in the poem ‘Ode to A Nightingale’, the poet John Keats describes a scene where:

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But in sweet embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows. (‘Ode To a Nightingale: lines 43-46)

The words ‘embalmed’ (line 45) and ‘incense’ (line 44) are both metaphorical because they connote to me both the idea of a warm summer evening as well as that of death and religion. To me these are the images that these metaphors conjure up in my mind. However, as has been said before, English literature (especially poetry) is subjective in nature. So, these particular lines may not have the same effect on somebody else.

Reference List

Beasley, R, (2011), ‘Theorists of Modern Poetry: TS Eliot, TE Hulme, Ezra Pound’, Routledge Critical Thinkers, Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge Publishing

Griffith, K (2011), ‘Writing about Literature: A Style Sheet’, Boston USA, Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Honeyman, S, (2005), ‘Elusive Childhood: Impossible Representations in Modern Fiction’, Ohio State University Accessed from’s+literature+for+adults+harry+potter&hl=en#v=snippet&q=harry%20potter%20%20adults&f=false on Tuesday 13th September 2011

Keats, J, (1819), ‘Ode to A Nightingale’,

Murray, R and Moore, S (2007), ‘The handbook of academic writing: A fresh approach’, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, McGraw Hill Education

Shields, M-L (2010), ‘Essay Writing: A Student’s Guide, London, SAGE Publishing

Weisberg, RW (2006), ‘Creativity: Understanding innovation in problem solving, science, invention and the arts’, Hoboken, New Jersey USA, John Wiley and Sons

Category: Education Essay Examples, Essay & Dissertation Samples