One kind of writing—academic writing—is rigid and procedural.
It’s purposed purely to convey knowledge, data, and information. It’s orderly,
organized, and follows a formula. It’s necessary. It can be dull. Anyone can
master it. Everyone should master it.
The other kind of writing—creative writing—is inspired and artistic. It
entertains with word pictures, concepts, and deep meaning. It’s enjoyable to
read and touches us while teaching us. It’s an art form. It’s not necessary to
learn, but a joy to those who do.
Academic writing will earn you A’s; creative writing may get you published.
Academic writing must be taught, but rarely is; creative writing is optional,
but is almost always the focus of writing curricula.
Creative writing focuses on story telling and recounting personal experiences.
Its students author fiction and poetry—using style, voice, and technique to
make their writing entertaining, smart, and packed with panache. Most curricula
on the market encourages this kind of creativity and style, drawing out the
reluctant writer and cultivating a future author, columnist, reporter, or
novelist—someone who is confident and comfortable with the pen. The truth? We
really do want to produce fabulous writers in our homeschool. Thus, the kind of
writing we value and encourage is creative, expressive writing. We even endorse
the use of creative writing with the all-important essay. Herein lies the
problem. College professors just want the facts, not the flair.
Thinking back on my own college experience, I’m embarrassed by my impudence.
How pompous I must have been to think my college professor would enjoy reading
my extraneous ideas and insights. I used my college essays as a platform to
express my opinions and deeper philosophies in lengthy poetic prose. I was a
creative writer: an artistic, loquacious, verbose wordsmith. How dull it must
have been for my professors, laboring through more than 300 papers, seeking to
find out which students learned the material and which didn’t. My stylistic
passages were not joy, but drudgery. Because of the volume of papers that must
be read, professors prefer clear, concise compositions that convey the material
has been understood—academic writing.
Creative writing may indeed get you published. But it’s truly not the kind of
writing we must learn. In academia, it is superfluous. To do well in school, we
must learn academic writing. This is the kind of writing upon which we should
focus our children’s writing instruction.
Although all writing should be concise and clearly communicate an idea or
point, academic writing must eliminate all literary lavishness. Style is
eliminated, voice is barely noticeable, and structure prevails. Sadly, words
like “sadly” must go. Academic writing adheres to a rigorous code that leaves
no room for extraneous or entertaining ideas. Academic writing is what your
college professor wants when he asks you to write an essay. Academic writing is
what the SAT requires. If you teach no other form of writing, academic writing—which
is far easier than creative writing—should be taught.
So if academic writing is more important than creative writing for scholastic
success, why is everyone teaching creative writing? I believe it’s because we
want our children to acquire skill and confidence in writing, and enjoy it.
That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. We want to grow writers! There is
not one thing wrong with that. However, we must remember that in addition to
teaching the fundamentals of style, eloquence, and technique that give boldness
to writing, we should also teach the separate subject of academic writing. This
kind of writing will enable our children to get through college with ease and
success. Sure, they can write for the college magazine or start their own
newsletter, filling up pages with their thoughts, opinions, and feelings, however,
if you only have time to teach one kind of writing—academic writing will
ultimately give the child more confidence. There’s no better feeling than
checking the board for your grade and seeing an A.
There is actually a formula for academic writing. It’s uncomplicated, and once
learned, can be used in every essay whether it’s for art history or economics.
When I struggled through the college essay, I didn’t even know there was a
formula! My husband, on the other hand, was taught the formula in high school
and sailed through college and law school, graduating with honors with
virtually no creative writing skills of which to speak. He recently revealed
this secret formula to me. I call it The Composition Code. It’s my plan to
circulate this secret in the homeschool community so we can take the world by
storm—or at least help our children improve their college essays. I will unveil
the formula for successful essays in academic writing. Stay tuned!