Traditionally, all writing has been classified into two clear-cut categories, non-creative writing and creative writing. Non-creative writing usually deals with hard, cold facts. Its purpose is to inform readers and enhance their knowledge about a specific happening, situation, product, or concept. For instance, a book on history, a news write-up on a recent event, and a technical article on the latest software are all examples of non-creative writing.
In contrast, creative writing is inspired writing or writing that comes from within. It may or may not be based on facts. Even when based on facts, the purpose of creative writing is to reveal these facts in a new light, as perceived by the author. A creative writer reflects on the people and things surrounding her, meditates on concepts like love and fidelity, and then puts her thoughts and feelings on paper. Novels, poems, and short stories are all examples of creative writing.
To understand the difference between non-creative and creative writing more clearly, let us consider a road accident. A simple report of what happened in the road accident—who was injured, who was driving, etc—is an example of non-creative writing. However, if the same accident is woven into a story about the injured man, perhaps portraying him as a victim of fate rather than the motor driver, the resulting work would be called creative writing.
As you’ve probably guessed, both these styles of writing require different skill sets. While a non-creative writer must focus on writing with an analytical and methodical approach, a successful creative writer must be imaginative, philosophical, and to a certain extent, visionary.
The good news is that the traditional dividing line between non-creative and creative writing is blurring. It is not uncommon to find a non-creative work written in a highly creative way so that the work not only informs but also inspires the reader. A good example of such a work is Sophie’s World, a New York Times Bestseller, by Jostein Gaarder. Although Sophie’s World is about the history of philosophy, something that most readers would consider a dull subject, Gaarder treats the subject as a wonderful mystery novel.