Essays vs Creative Writing

Sunday has found us, yet again, with a cup of black caramel tea and an oncoming week of study. And with everything I study comes something to be learned.

That sounds like the most obvious statement in the world; I’m a student, of course I’m learning. But I don’t just mean the course work, I mean my thoughts regarding writing styles.

In my mind, essays and creative writing are completely different. I never thought of myself as being a fantastic essay writer and chose ‘English’ as my minor at university (my major is ‘Writing’) because a) I like books and b) knew I would benefit from dissecting them. Essay writing? That was part of the package, and a skill I wanted to have but wasn’t expecting to enjoy.

But after writing my first essay – yes, just the one so far – and on Wuthering Heights, no less – I can see myself enjoying them in the future. Well, maybe not enjoy, but I can see that there may be more to essays than I originally thought.

Essays always felt too academic, too formal, too factual. Whenever I wrote an essay in high school I had to actively delete personal statements (the kind that thrive on this blog).

After writing my Wuthering Heights essay and receiving feedback on it, I see now that essays don’t restrict your opinion; you just have to find the right sources that prove your opinion is legit.

And yes, they are more formal and I can’t write “YEAH BOI” in academic writing like I can on this blog, but that’s okay! I have this blog, my space to write YEAH BOI” and now I have university, my space to research all the classics and argue about why Wuthering Heights is a terrible book. How good is that!

Essays don’t take away your thinking, you just have to articulate your opinion in a formal manner. But that’s only in the finished product! Throughout my draft, when I was initially writing down my main arguments, I didn’t bother to make it sound good. I wrote sentences like “Catherine is an emotional wreck of a woman”. (Actually, that line may have ended up in the submitted essay.)

The point is: essays and creative writing both have their place in the world. I’m thankful that I’m not forced into writing just one way, and that I have the opportunity to explore different writing styles and expand my comfort zone.

I’m not going to say I love writing essays, but I am looking forward to writing more and improving and learning. I get to write about literature; how can I complain when I’m living my dream?

Sarah xx

*Illustration from Home: The Elements of Decorating, Emma Blomfield (2017), Hardie Grant Books.

7 thoughts on “Essays vs Creative Writing

  1. I like how you’ve hit on the importance of “genre” in writing. We often think of genre as things like fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc., but there are all sorts of writing genres with different goals and expectations. “Literary analysis” for example, is a genre of essay, as is the “persuasive research paper,” “memoir,” “creative nonfiction,” and so on. Then of course there are various genres of poetry and fiction as well.

    All have a purpose and are worthwhile, as you said, but as writers, it can be hard to succeed in all of them. The best we can sometimes do is study the rules of that genre, listen to our teachers’ suggestions, and do our best. But it sounds like you’re well on your way to doing well at your university!

    Liked by 1 person

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