What Does Creative Practice Really Mean?

By | January 3, 2024

Guest post by Marshall Moore & Sam Meekings

The world of creative writing is rapidly changing. An idea Stephanie Vanderslice explored in her book Rethinking Creative Writing and we extended in our collection Creative Writing Scholars on the Publishing Trade: Practice, Praxis, Print is that academic creative writing programs have begun to adopt a more pragmatic, industry-facing stance toward pedagogy: today, students of writing need and expect to complete their degrees at least somewhat prepared to monetise the skills they have learned. However, a paradox exists in this configuration: if the workshop teaches craft but the academy is at last beginning to embrace outcomes pertaining to the trade, and if the scholarship is still perhaps overly concerned with pedagogy, where does that leave examinations of creative practice itself? To put it another way:

How does the creative work actually get done? What are the conditions in which it takes place? What are the contexts that most affect it? What is its origin? What do practitioners then do with it?  

Reflection on some of these questions isn’t uncommon. Given that a creative commentary or exegesis is a required component of the PhD in creative writing, many practicing academics will have already done some degree of scholarly reflection on their own work. However, though this speaks to the development and importance of reflexive writing within the field, such reflection frequently prioritises the product of writing (by examining, for instance, the literary influences and the genre conventions of the text that has been created) rather than the process and practices that lead to its creation. This may be one reason why there seems to be so little about creative practice in the academic journals. Moreover, this leads to several other important questions over and above the ones already mentioned. How beholden are scholars of creative writing to myth and superstition, despite the best efforts of the academy to dispel these? How anxious are they about time management, workload and demands to spend more time marketing their work than actually producing it? How has social media influenced their practice, particularly in light of prevailing social movements such as #metoo, #publishingpaidme, and #BlackLivesMatter? We believe a focused, scholarly reflection on the topic of creative practice is both urgently necessary and long overdue, hence our new book.  

We believe a focused, scholarly reflection on the topic of creative practice is both urgently necessary and long overdue, hence our new book.  

In our volume, we’ve therefore asked creative writing scholars to reflect upon the practice of writing. We’ve also both written chapters for it: Marshall Moore on author platform and the boundaries of creative practice, and Sam Meekings on the connections between writing and anxiety.  As scholars, we both came to the academy via similar routes: first as published writers with experience in the publishing industry, then going on to do PhDs in Creative Writing (Moore at Aberystwyth, Meekings at Lancaster) before finding the positions we currently hold. Both have also adapted practice to changing environments (China, Hong Kong, Qatar, Greece, the UK) and to the changing nature of industry practices and institutional expectations. Among other effects, our diverse international experiences have provided us both with a critical distance from which to reflect on the different approaches to writing practices and approaches that we have witnessed in classes, communities and institutions around the world.  

If our earlier collection The Place and the Writer: International Intersections of Teacher Lore and Creative Writing Pedagogy (Bloomsbury, 2021) foregrounded how a diverse and localised approach to lore and pedagogy reinvigorates thinking about place and writing, then this collection extends our investigations of how we might conceptualise and discuss the fundamental issues of creative practice in changing environments. In our previous edited volume, Creative Writers on the Publishing Trade: Practice, Praxis, Print (Routledge, 2021), Peter Anderson reflected on portfolio practice: namely the modern reality of a writer having to build a diverse and wide-ranging portfolio of jobs, writing skills and marketing strategies in order to survive in the modern world. He marked the growth of this trend as a reflection of ‘the way that so much work within the creative fields requires an understanding not just of creative practice, the craft of writing, but also the infrastructural and operational conditions within which practice is embedded – the organisational and business side of creative work’ (2021: 94). The chapters in our book expand on this concept by examining the lived realities of these intersections of craft, practice, and the contexts in which they operate.  

In short, our volume maps the varied landscape of the ways that writers, scholars and instructors conceptualise creative practice. Despite the foundational reference to scholarship in the title and in the approach of our chapters, the consensus that emerges is clear: practice means thinking beyond the academy and interrogating the ways in which creative habits, researches, processes, careers and craft intersect and engage with the changing world in which we are writing. 

Marshall Moore is Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication at Falmouth University, UK. He is the author of several novels and collections of short fiction, the most recent being Inhospitable (2018). With Xu Xi, he is the co-editor of the anthology The Queen of Statue Square: New Short Fiction from Hong Kong (2015). He holds a PhD in creative writing from Aberystwyth University, UK, and his current research focuses on the disconnects between the publishing industry and the academy, and on the mythology and lore that surround creative practice and pedagogy.

Sam Meekings is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is the author of Under Fishbone Clouds (2011, called ‘a poetic evocation of the country and its people’ by the New York Times), The Book of Crows (2012), and The Afterlives of Dr Gachet (2018). He has a PhD in creative writing from Lancaster University, UK, and has taught writing at NYU (Global Campus) and the University of Chichester, UK. He researches issues of identity in grief narratives, and the practices and processes of digital storytelling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *