How creative is content marketing, really?

When you say “creative writing”, you probably think of fiction, poetry and the like.  If all you ever write is largely factual content for your business, can you consider yourself a creative writer?  Is content marketing a creative process?Creative process

I think so.

Yet Chambers Dictionary defines create as (among other things) to “bring into being by force of imagination” and creative as “showing or relating to imagination or originality”, and most content marketing doesn’t appear to rely on the imagination.  It presents facts, relates true stories, comments on events.

On the face of it, that’s really not a very imaginative procedure.

But think about it for a moment…

  • You have to decide what’s worth writing about, which means you have to understand what your readers will find interesting.
  • You have to decide how you’re going to frame it: will you tell it straight, as a story, as an allegory, penny plain or tuppence coloured?
  • If you’re using research, you have to include it in a way that’s new and relevant to the rest of the matter in hand.
  • You have to write so you fire your readers’ imagination, or at least inform them in a not-too-dry fashion, and keep them gripped ‘til the end.

That all requires you to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see your business with their eyes, which means you have to exercise your imagination.

They say “everyone has a book in them” but I learnt a long time ago that if and when I write a book, it will not be fiction.  I can’t do plots.  Dialogue, yes; description, yes, as long as my prose doesn’t have to be too purple.  But plots -?  Nope.  Nothing longer than a short story.

I just don’t have that sort of imagination.  And for years I thought that meant I didn’t have any.  Then I realised there are many different types of creativity.  Just as you can be a musician without ever writing a note, or a dancer without wanting to choreograph, you can be a creative writer without needing to write a novel or poem.

Even a good academic essay is creative: if you’ve got anything worth saying, the thought behind it has to come from your own thought processes, and that’s a work of imagination.  You make the leap from what everyone already knows to something new (at least, you do once you progress beyond the undergraduate phase).

Thinking of something fresh and interesting to say about your service, process or product every day/week/fortnight/month is a stretch when you first start.  Like developing any other skill, it requires effort and application to get your imagination working for you.

The funny thing is, the more you do it – so the more you’ve already written about your subject – the easier it becomes.  You’d think you’d run out of ideas after a bit, but they actually come more easily.  It’s like learning a piece of music: the more technically adept you become, the more you find in it and the more you can give it by way of interpretation.  It’s the creative process in action.

Some very well-known novelists honed their skills in advertising agencies (Dorothy L. Sayers, Faye Weldon and Salman Rushdie, among others); nobody told them it wasn’t creative.  So never let anyone tell you that producing content isn’t creative writing.  It requires just as much imagination as any other writing, just a different form of it.

Want to learn more about the creative process? Join the Content Confidence Club – just email me for details!


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