Does structured writing stifle creativity?

I hear that a lot, but I don’t think that structured writing limits creativity. Look at poetry, look at sonnets. That’s about the most regulated, structured writing you can get – and yet nobody thinks poets are not creative.

Today’s quote of the day is a paraphrase from one of the speakers at last year’s DocTrain West, but I can’t remember who. (If you remember saying this, I’ll be glad to credit you… 🙂 )

The idea stuck with me, because I think it’s a very apt comparison. Just as sonnets impose a certain number of lines and a choice of rhyme schemes, structured writing allows you to mix and match elements in topic types. It redirects the creative challenge to focus on contents.

As Sarah O’Keefe points out in her recent article “XML: The Death of Creativity in Technical Writing?“:

XML kills off the possibility of creativity in one specific area (formatting)… Technical communicators add the most value and have the most opportunity for creativity in crafting sentences, paragraphs, topics, and groups of topics that explain complex concepts to their readers. XML does not interfere with this mission.

What do you think? Does structured writing interfere with your creative impulses?

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