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Creative writing normally refers to the production of texts which have an aesthetic rather than a purely informative, instrumental or pragmatic purpose. Most often, such texts take the form of poems or stories, though they are not confined to these genres. Letters, journal entries, blogs, essays, travelogues, etc.
One of the chief distinguishing characteristics of CW texts is a playful engagement with language, stretching and testing its rules to the limit in a guilt-free atmosphere, where risk is encouraged. Such writing combines cognitive with affective modes of thinking. Poetry is that which arrives at the intellect by way of the heart. The playful element in CW should not, however be confused with a lax and unregulated use of language.
What are the benefits of CW for learners? CW aids language development at all levels: grammar, vocabulary, phonology and discourse. It requires learners to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in attempting to express uniquely personal meanings. In doing so, they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with most expository texts. As mentioned above, a key characteristic of CW is a willingness to play with the language.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the role of play in language acquisition. In some ways, the tsunami of the Communicative Approach has done a disservice to language teaching by its insistence on the purely communicative functions of language.