Blogging versus writing

Last night’s creative writing class was mainly a workshop for our first assignment, and the general review of mine was basically what I’d expected it would be. It’s a pretty decent story – “really sweet,” some said – but the writing’s fairly plain and the characters are underdeveloped.

The one phrase I didn’t want to hear – and the one phrase I knew I would – was “show, don’t tell.” To “tell,” of course, is to describe the elements of a story in the factual and rather distant way I told this one – and to “show” is to write in a more immediate way, enabling the reader to experience the story through the action. You can say a woman’s funny, for example, or you can let her make the reader laugh. The latter makes for better, more livelier writing.

Getting there is going to take some work. I made a little progress in my second assignment, which I’ll post later, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

In my case especially, getting to “show, don’t tell” is going to mean breaking a lot of longstanding writing habits. I put some thought into it last night, and I realized that the bulk of the writing I do demands a lot more telling than showing.

Blogging, for example, is all about telling. It’s important to blog with a voice, sure, and there’s a lot of room to get creative – but you’re basically writing essays, and trying to make your point as directly as possible. Likewise, you’re probably not going to get too “poetic” with music reviews, unless you’re someone like Lester Bangs or Griel Marcus.

And hell, look at the web comic my brother and I have been writing. By the time he’s done all the showing, there’s literally nothing left for me to do but tell.

If I want to put the “creative” in “creative writing,” then clearly the first big challenge is going to be set aside the habits I’ve adopted through the writing I’ve been doing. It’s pretty great to have that sense of direction, and I’m looking forward to working on it.

Posted in Blogging