Your topic dictates the creative skills required

As a writer, your topic should dictate the creative skills required. If you have an original or interesting idea or story, you should let it speak for itself rather than over-embellishing it with bells and whistles. On the other hand, if your topic is something very familiar to your audience, you will have to rely more heavily on your creative skills to keep the audience enthralled.

Consider the example of a piece on evolution versus a piece about a guy who just lost his wife. Evolution is a very heated topic, so writing a simple, coherent dialogue about the two major viewpoints will already draw some audience members. But to get people to read about the guy who lost his wife, you’ll have to flesh his character, the circumstances, his feelings, etc.

There seems to be a widely held belief that the amount of creative skill used in a work is a good indication of the writer’s “quality.” Thus literary fiction writers are held in higher esteem on average than writers of other genres such as sci-fi and nonfiction. This is nonsense. To clearly and concisely explain a complex theory or story in an compelling manner is a skill on par with any creative skill.

Writers are not merely entertainers; they are artists. A good writer uses whatever skills are necessary to effectively reach his or her audience: to evoke a certain emotion or to communicate a certain message. No more, no less. Writers get into trouble when they start over-embellishing in order to win acclaim from their peers and critics. Sadly, I hear too many writers these days accused of stretching the truth in memoirs and news pieces. If these allegations are truth, they have lost their integrity as artists and have become con men out to make a quick buck.

2 thoughts on “Your topic dictates the creative skills required

  1. Excellent point, which I completely agree with. One of the biggest examples I can think of is novel The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. It’s the ideas (which are not original to Dan Brown) that generated the great commercial success of the novel, not Dan Brown’s writing. In fact, I would venture to say that the novel’s success was in the ideas presented, DESPITE Dan Brown’s skills as a writer.

    This (your article) is one of those things where when you first hear it you have that sort of “Well, duh” feeling because it seems so obvious once you hear it, but most people (including myself) haven’t taken the time to think about their or other’s art in such terms. It is an excellent guiding principal.

    And it does not suggest to merely take the easy route. It helps someone to evaluate their own work. If they are honest with themselves and realize that the general premise of their work is not particularly original or “clever” then they know they must add something somewhere in order to make the piece more compelling and, if it’s their goal, more commercially successful or “popular”.

    In my own area of primary interest, I cannot listen to yet another love song unless the music stands out (to me) in some way – I don’t care how “heartfelt” the lyrics might be.


  2. I am the master of pointing out the obvious! Seriously though, it’s often difficult to remember such insights when you are in the thick of things. By clearly articulating them, I hope that some creators can better understand what needs to be done in order to be successful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s