Creative vs. “Creative”

Here’s the thing….I write (almost) all day, (almost) every day.  How much of my writing is creative?  I don’t really know. 

Here is what I write: policies, procedures, process documentation, manuals, etc.  Some of that is purely changing format because the text either can’t be changed or is actually pretty good.  Those days are good because I like being able to play with format in Word (plus I am pretty picky about how things look – that’s why God created Styles in Word people!).  Is that creative?  Somewhat.

People would argue that writing policies, procedures, etc. just can’t be creative in the sense that writing a novel, a poem, a play, or even a blog post is creative.  Why can’t it be?  Why should business documentation not be held to the same standard?  Sure, there’s no character development or point of view, but there is voice.  I try really hard to keep my voice out of the documents that I write and make them be in the voice of the person for whom I am writing.   I understand that the language in business documentation needs to be clear, concise, and have flow….but doesn’t all writing need to have the same things?

I caught myself today changing the following sentence: “[Company] is located on the banks of the Mississippi in a town that is home to approximately 20,000 people” to “[Company] is located in a community of approximately 20,000 people”.  A little part of me died when I changed that sentence.  (ok, not really, but it sounded good, right?)  Why did I change it?  I changed it because it didn’t fit the document.  Sure, it draws the reader a picture, but it’s not really necessary in the long run (plus, someone would have just taken it out later). 

So how am I creative?  I get to create words every day.  I take things that are difficult and make them easy to understand.  I take nothing and make something out of it.  I take the tiniest kernel of an idea and turn it into a manifesto of beauty.  Does that mean I don’t struggle with the “creative” part of my job?  Nope.  I struggle almost daily to breathe life into documents that may be called  dusty, dry, or boring.  Believe me, it’s not always easy…Those may be the days that I delete almost everything I write because I can’t find just the right word.

So if you see an otherwise serious document with the tiniest bit of “creative writing”, ask yourself if the writer just needed to liven a document…..either that or they wanted to see if you would catch it….