Self-Expression in Creative Writing

self expression

Do you use creative writing for self-expression?

A lot of young people first come to creative writing because they have a burning desire to express themselves. Emotions are running high, ideas are flying, and opinions are in full supply. What better way to get it all off your chest than writing it down?

Self-expression is the heart and soul of all forms of creative writing from fiction and poetry to memoirs and essays. We combine our inner thoughts and feelings with what we perceive in the outer world and put it into words.

For some of us, self-expression couldn’t be easier. Give us a pen and a piece of paper and our ideas will come pouring out. For others, putting thoughts and feelings into clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs is a challenge. Everything comes out garbled, and only the writer can make sense of it.

Freedom and Self-Expression in Creative Writing

Sometimes self-expression comes across as little more than navel gazing, narcissism, or pontification. If we’re writing strictly for personal reasons, it doesn’t matter whether we write clearly or in a way that interests other people, but if we want to write professionally, to connect with an audience, our personal expressions must be clear and they must go beyond ourselves; they must resonate with readers.

Grammar and vocabulary are important: We need to communicate clearly when we’re writing for an audience. Personal shorthand, rambling, and bad grammar have to be reined in. When it’s difficult to put our thoughts and feelings into words, we need a bigger vocabulary. If we study the language and rules of written communication, then our written self-expression will be coherent and more likely to draw an audience.

Honesty is the best policy: The best writing is full of truth. Even fiction and poetry, however abstract or fantastical, contain a kind of honesty that comes from the writer being forthright. That means we must embrace who we are. We have to be ourselves. Don’t write what you think people want to hear and don’t hold back your personal truths.

Connect with readers: We’ve all read essays and poems that were all about me, me, me (me being the writer). You can certainly write an interesting piece about yourself (your thoughts, ideas, or experiences), but in order for people to find value in your writing, it has to include them in some way. You can write drafts for yourself, but during revision, give some thought to your readers. Why should they read this? How will they benefit from it?

Know your purpose: Why do you write? Do you have ideas you want to share? Are you trying to influence people’s opinions? Will you help people see the world from a fresh perspective? Is your goal to enlighten or entertain? A little of both? When you know why you’re writing, you’ll have a much better chance at writing something worthwhile.

How Do You Express Yourself?

I’ve come across a lot of writers who insist on the sheer pleasure or therapeutic value of self-expression through creative writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s healthy to give yourself a personal writing space that isn’t influenced by the thought of someone else reading what you’ve written. It’s also good writing practice, because there’s freedom in writing without inhibition. But what if you want to take your writing to the next level? What if you’re ready to turn your self-expressions into poems, stories, or essays that people will read?

When you write, do you think about how readers will respond? Do you plan your creative writing projects with an audience in mind or do you focus on self-expression? How much of yourself do you put into your writing?

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About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


8 Responses to “Self-Expression in Creative Writing”

  1. Coashus LaCree says:

    For me, creative writing has always been a part of my life. I’ve noticed as i get older it transforms into a different kind. I didn’t begin to jump into writing a novel until a couple of years ago but because I’ve started over a million times, people that are closest to me are doubtful that I can do it. This is definitely part of my strongest motivation. I believe that everyone has a story in them but what they choose to do with it is what matters. The fact that my first novel is taking so long gives me hope that it’ll stick with people; I have more practice and can depict the good stuff from the crap more easily. Writing isn’t about what the audience won’t like. It’s about what they connect with that makes it more than worth while.

    • I’ve heard this said of all art forms: art takes two people, the artist and the person experiencing the art. For writers, that connection with readers is where the magic happens.

      Good luck with your book. These days so many authors are scrambling to churn out novels; it’s refreshing to hear from someone who is taking their time.

  2. Chris says:

    The personal writings I posted on my blog space some time ago are being used in fiction I am writing now. I started using my own experiences in my characters (writing what I know) when I suddenly realised I already had material I could drop in to the writing. At first it felt a bit raw but it’s making my characters come alive more.

    • I have found that in fiction writing, a certain kind of magic happens where our personal experiences sneak in without us even realizing it. It sounds like you’re bringing your personal experiences into your fiction more intentionally. This is a great way to “write what you know!”

  3. Matthew says:

    I know its cliché to say it but I do write what i know. I base my work of people and events I know. I write to make sense of these things and to try and explore the emotions that people feel through an extension of myself and others. I love formulating people and seeing how they react in certain situations. In fiction you can explore various themes and have more liberties to create the characters and tell the stories you want to making the whole act of writing more freeing. It becomes a more personal task for me as I put elements of my personality into my characters and attempt to use my characters as a mirror for other people in an attempt to gain empathy.

  4. Krithika Rangarajan says:

    Aah…absolutely brilliant! Thank you, Melissa

    When you embrace your audience members, they will embrace you back! When you say, “I care” through your words, they will care back.

    Every published piece must be written with your audience in mind. And if it is a rant, be honest about it. Your transparency will earn brownie points from your readers.

    I recall one writer who was frustrated about a personal problem and took to her blog to vent her emotions. But she made it very clear that this was just a rant. Surprisingly, her ‘rant’ resonated with her readers who took to the comments to sympathize with her personal situation 😀

    • Thank you, Krithika! Transparency can be a useful way to bridge an introspective piece to an audience. Some of these pieces come across as expressive and are very relatable while others seem narcissistic. I’m not sure what makes the difference; maybe it’s nothing more than personal preference.