The Wiki and Creative Writing

For the purposes of teaching and learning, we differentiate creative writing genres of poetry, etc from technical and professional writing, which deal with a different set of genres: documentation, reports, instructions, marketing on one end and memos, email, letters of recommendation on the other. The aim of creative writing is to produce an artifact or art object that stands free of the author; the aim of technical or professional writing tends to be to create a communicative artifact, without the appearance of authorship. While Creative Writing as a pedagogy aims to develop the insights, sensibilities and skills necessary for the creation and refinement of expressive and imaginative writing, ProfessionalWriting does the same for communicative writing. The cognitive acts behind the two ends are not distinguishable.

But the main distinction when it comes to wikis and other social media may be this: creative writing as practiced and taught currently carries with it a privileging of the solitary writer and a unique vision on the way to making an original, unchanging aesthetic artifact. The more recent arguments are that creative artifacts are never really original but are always created from existing artifacts, and that authorship is social but the social is often overlooked or ignored.

So, how do wikis, with their social, collaborative, malleable, network nature fit?


Feeding into this, here's an article by Esposito who argues that the monolith of Creativity is the primal book, which he distinguishes from The Processed Book.

Other ways in would be by searches on authorship and death of the author.

I'll give it a shot KevinMcColley
I'd offer this (adapted from Jonathan below) as feed point.
: Creative Writing is a refactoring of realities in writing in a way that's both meaningful and intriguing to others.

It's like wiki writing where the writing is constantly going through a metamorphis and renewing the meaning. It's always in a form of continual change where new ideas are being developed.

Of course, that's really just a quick definition. To make this topic worthwhile, we'll need an explanation.

It seems to me that wiki-style Creative Writing extends far beyond the confines of the web. For example, look at most big-budget movie productions. Rather than one, or maybe two writers, many of those films have three, four, and occasionally even more people authoring the script.

But is that truly wiki-style writing?

My experience in collaborative writing is that one of the writers naturally takes charge of most of the ideas, just as leaders naturally arise in any situation, and the other writers dutifully follow. Thus, though there may be many writers credited to a film, it seems that one writer in particular has the strongest voice.

Not so in a wiki. Initially, it might seem that way. The first to write certainly has the strongest voice, because it's the only voice. And even after other writers add on, it's usually based off of what the original writer posted. But as the wiki grows with time, those distinctions become more blurred. People change the original writing. The direction of the piece might shift--not by one writer's inititive alone, but rather by the group's UnwrittenConsensus.

- Aaron

Having done some work on screenplays, I have to disagree with Aaron on the point he makes here where he differentiates between voices and leadership in collaborative, non-wiki creative writing and collaborative, wiki creative writing. Very rarely does the original vision of a screenplay, for example, remain true to the original when it becomes a collaborative project. I know of a screenplay that began as a story about a poor white guy in northern Minnesota training a sled dog team for the Iditarod. It then went through seven different screenwriters and ended up being about a successful black dentist in Miami who finds he has inherited a sled dog team already in Alaska, and the Iditarod plays no part. This is by no means atypical. So while wikis make the mechanics of collaboration easier, they don't really change the nature of collaboration. Wikis are not a new kind of collaboration, but a new method to collaborate.

- Kevin

Traditionally, CreativeWriting is cast and taught as an act of IndividualCreativity. Traditionally, professional and technical writing is cast as and taught as a collaborative or communal activity. Technical writers are often anonymous.

CreativeWriting is myth. The act of creation is little more than the synthesis of perceptions gained by experiencing the world around us. We are constantly "refactoring" our realities and writing is, literally, doing just that - but in a way that's both meaningful and intriguing to others.

Or then again, maybe it isn't. I'm sure someone on here has something to say about that, something about the genius and their transcendance of the greatest paradigm? I bet I'd be able to see Dr. Morgan clenching his teeth if he was reading this nonsense in front of me. -Jonathan

If creativity is defined using both "refactored realities" and "new realities," ' then ' CreativeWriting wouldn't be a myth. Can't creativity encompass both the fleshing out of new ideas, new methods, etc. and their refactoring? So if we ever suddenly "run out" of new ideas (is this possible -- another question to consider) creativity doesn't die (?) but still exists because of re-do possiblities. Wouldn't it include, then, a fiction piece that essentially tells an "old story" in a new way -- with new characters, style, setting? Isn't that a big part of CreativeWriting?

Or does the "refactoring" in writing not count as refactoring, but as a new idea altogether? If I tell the "same old" love story with new characters and set it in a made-up galaxy, is that a "new" idea or a "refactored" one?

If we argue that it's not new, does that mean there are never truly new ideas? Just refactored ones?

This depends, too, on what we know. If something is "refactored" to one person, it may be "new" to another, right? Maybe creativity is dependent solely on the experiencer -- the only person who can really determine whether the idea, poem, whatever -- is something new to him/her. Lindsay

A couple of points to make on what Lindsay has written here. The first is that Jonathan did not write that creative writing is a myth; he write that it is myth. There is a huge distinction. If creative writing is a myth, then it is not real; if creative writing is myth, it is a creative process that uses character and symbolism to produce meaning.

The second point has to do with her proposition that "creativity is depended solely on the 'experiencer'--the only person who can really determine whether the idea, poem, whatever--is something new to him/her." While the experience of a creative work is a collaborate effort between the "experiencer" and the creator of the work, the actual creation of the work is independent of the "experiencer". If I have never viewed the Mona Lisa, that does not mean the Mona Lisa does not exist. If it is new to me, that does not make it new, and I think there's some confusion on the use of that word.

It's odd to jump into a discussion that's six years old. It's like discussing something with ghosts.


What is CreativeWriting? To me, it's just writing something down on paper. It can be a form of therapy like my diary, a form to inform about something or someone. It's like the Author Henry James said about writing a novel. A novel is writing down something and enlightening people as to what it is, what it says or what it does. CreativeWriting is a tool that enlightens others about subjects they didn't know about before. Creative writing is a host of ideas, thoughts, symbols and other communicative efforts to inform. It's a mismash of words that creates ideas and statements. Knowledge. Your CreativeWriting may represent the words and ideas of other writers, too.

Sigmund Freud has an interesting thought on CreativeWriting with an essay called, "Creative Writers and Daydreaming."

It seems like there is a fairly strong tension between creating and editing material on a wiki. Sometimes people bleed newsprint because every word is life's blood to them. When one takes a word out or does what they consider to be a "hachet job" ir hurts I think when someone does do a strong editing job, it makes everything healthier and stronger. it's like cutting out the infection from a toe. When it's done, the toe comes back to life. Or, the pruning of a plant. It grows stronger and more fully when it's pruned. So goes the way of CreativeWriting on the wiki. I know people are probably happy sometime, or would be if they could edit every word I say. Or make every thought disappreatr. But they can't. So, when they offer suggestions to help make my thoughts more precise and my writing or thoughts seem a little more articulate, I appreciate it. I can understand wanting to make off the cuff remarks that don't become permanent part of the conversation, but that are seen by most of the participants in a given thread, but that's not how wiki works. It's well worth it to take your time and choose your words. Also, archive writing you like, wiki is deliberately insecure,it's like writing on the sand, and that may be its secret strength. It's like a wave that washes upon the shore and takes your sand castle out to sea.

: There's an assumption we can work with: that CreativeWriting is the product of an individual, not a collaborative. M C Morgan

What exactly is "Creative Writing?" Isn't ALL writing somewhat creative? But, indeed there is some distinction if there are splits between our academic writing and creative writing.

I do not believe that Creative Writing is a myth, because we are all writing creatively sometimes. But if we are assuming that creative writing is a product of an individual and not a collective, then I guess this wiki is not Creative Writing. -BerneChristiansen

Again, he never wrote that creative writing is a myth, but that it is myth. See above. KevinMcColley

I've posted some of my creative writing to my blog (mostly poems), and the one thing that I really like about it more than anything is the ability to get immediate feedback. It's the same way, I would guess, in a wiki. If someone thinks that your writing is terrible, they can tell you or, in a wiki, at least, go in and change it to suit their tastes. Or if they think it's good, they can tell you so. It's definitely risky for the ego, but rewarding. Having a random stranger see a poem that I wrote on my blog and tell the that they like it really justifies my putting it there in the first place.

And since Aaron brought it up... I also really really like the idea of editing work on a wiki. If you can't do an editing job face to face on a paper copy, I'm tempted to say that this is the next best thing. Not even just for spelling/grammatical/punctuation errors, either. Being able to go into a document and write what amounts to margin notes into the body of the page is pretty darn cool.


I see wikis as being very much three dimensional. You can be looking at a single panel of thoughts that are separated by lines and double lines, but it is the links to further ideas that really put it on another plane. With CreativeWriting, I would like to see something like this done in a wiki. Rather than ThreadMode being drawn out into a discussion on what should happen, allow readers to add their own thoughts in such a way as to create BackStory through use of the text. Creating a world where the characters are at any given moment thinking other things or dreaming. There's something there. Feeling what a character or many characters feel seems to draw more into what the person in the story is and will do. It lays with it ImportantClues necessary to really read into a given character.

Imagine it: reading a text and running into the wiki link that would take you into a diary that the character is writing at the time the action in the story is occurring. Reading through the work and an explanation of a place is readily available for the user/reader to view or a picture. This would at some point take away the spirit of thought in reading, but not if the participants in the story were able to write what they see rather than depending on the picture to tell the tale. ~JustinLillich

I just had a thought. Let's start one of these stories and see where it will go. Follow this: [ TheCollective]: A Storywiki

I'm in agreement here. Writing creatively on a wiki lends itself to group novels. Very easily written in this instance, as whenever someone writes a new chapter or section, if they introduce a new wrinkle, they can go back and edit the older entries themselves to make it fit in with the story.

I think that the primary lesson that would be learned from a project like this is how horrible collaborative creative writing seems to always turn out to be. I've read thousands of novels, and not one that was written collaboratively was worth the time it took to tear out the first page and blow my nose with it. What a project like this would most underscore is that creative writing, in its act of creation if not in its act of revision and editing, is an individual process. KevinMcColley

This is something that a wiki, in my mind, is best used for, and what would make it truly unique vs other ways of writing on the web. Anything else that the wiki might be used for is already being done on the internet without near the generalization of options that the wiki represents. Message Boards, blogs, personal websites, those all do in detail something more than the wiki can do in general.

However, truly collaborative CREATIVE writing is what the wiki is probably best used for. You can't have a completely objective site, much as some people claim the wikipedia to be. Sure its a great idea, but it will never have the glowing reputation that Brittannica does for intelligence and good source material. Creative writing on the wiki doesn't need that, and in my opinion, that is where the wiki best excels over any other form out there.

People editing their own characters into a cooperative novel writing process is, in a word, brilliant. I like the idea. SeanFroyd

I'm gonna have to go ahead and agree with Froyd on this one. I think a story wiki would be great, as long as all of us could put away our superiority/inferiority complexes and read through someone else's chapter without going absolutely ape when it doesn't turn out the way WE would have done it.

- JonathanHatch

I can't see how something like this could possibly work. Even if all of the collaborators agreed on content, it would be impossible to produce a homogeneous style. But if people wanted to try, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Of course, I'm referring here, for all intents and purposes in terms of this class, to dead people, or at least so far, so, outside of a seance, I don't know how a collaborative project could be started. KevinMcColley

As a creative writer, I can't agree that a Wiki is supportive to the idea. I only see this format as a way of discussing facts. Creative = idea and when you go and change everything all the time there is no sustenance, no grounding force for your mind to grasp. If a story is always changing then it is not a story, but rather life. No one likes stories that are just like life, otherwise we wouldn't "create" make-believe situations. A human mind can't accept infinity and when a group of people write one creative piece that is what it becomes. Of course, I tend to be a leader not a follower and it seems that a Wiki is more supportive of followers who wish to lead as a group - eliminating responsibility.
Not that it's a bad thing overall, I just believe that too many chefs can be in the kitchen.


"Is anybody out there?" - Pink Floyd

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