THE BLOG

Why Creative Writing Belongs in Business Writing

01/15/2013 02:55 pm ET | Updated Mar 17, 2013

When I decided to pursue a degree in creative writing -- with an emphasis in poetry, no less -- I did so because I wanted to be a better poet. I knew the degree wouldn't be of much use to a career. Who, after all, makes a living as a full-time poet? I don't know of any full-time poets. Even the successful poets make their livings through speaking engagements or stints as directors of creative writing programs. Their poetry is not a career.

Neither is my poetry, but I have come to believe it's foolish to divide writing into the categories of "creative" and "professional." My professional writing is what it is because of my creative writing. The same is true of my creative writing. My professional writing affects it. When I allow the two to interact with each other, interesting things start to happen. I'm no longer tied to the rules that somebody instituted eons ago. I'm free to test the boundaries.

Doing so can be a little alarming to clients or employers; it's frightening to try something new. It might be strange to focus on specific elements of language or grammar in a business setting. People may balk at having to review some of the writing rules or marvel at the passion aroused in some writers by the use or lack thereof of semicolons or the "ubiquitousness" of words like "ubiquitous" and "very."

It's an understandable response. It perhaps even is a rightful one. It's a response, though, that can be addressed. It's one to which answers exist.

If I'm asked why grammar and punctuation and spelling matter, my answer rarely has anything to do with the rules. At least, it has nothing to do with following the rules to the letter. My concern is with the spirit of such things. My answer is that one only can break the rules, i.e., be creative, if he or she knows the rules. Creativity begins at the point of curiosity. It asks "what if," then proceeds to see what happens when the "what if" is tried. Sometimes, the result isn't pretty. Sometimes, it is. Both results provide lessons, and, if the former isn't harped upon as a "failure," it can result in more creativity and pushing toward a new level in one's writing be it creative, professional, or creative professional.

Another part of the answer lies in creating memorable content. What content is remembered? Is it dry facts? It usually isn't. It's the content that uses creative means and gives context to the facts. It's content that falls upon the elements of storytelling, the buzzword of 2012, and creative writing. It's content that isn't content with generalities or cliches. It is specific and concrete. It seeks ways of speaking that are relevant and -- even though everything really is a remix -- original in some way. It's content that uses metaphor and simile, comparison and contrast, and rhythm. It's the sort of content that creates an ebb and flow through long, winding sentences, then strikes with a short, terse statement. It's content that isn't afraid of fragments or punctuation marks. It may even be content that employs other means, such as images or videos or podcasts.

That wealth, that perspective, is what happens when creative writing is brought to the world of business writing. Business writing seeks to share information; creative writing seeks the best way to share it. It ponders what words, style, and means are the best vehicles. It asks how the message can be sharpened. It acts as a catalyst, and neither business writing nor creative writing are left the same.