Is Literary Creativity Restricted by Language?

Words by Holly Royle

The English language is continually expanding as new words are frequently introduced. The Oxford English Dictionary publishes four updates every year as new words are added to the dictionary. The latest update was January 2018 in which over 1100 words, senses, and subentries were introduced including hazzled and electric catfish. This ongoing evolution of language means that surely we will never run out of words for self-expression, be it in the form of prose or poetry. Concepts of love and hate, for example, can be expressed in many different words but with so many writers exploring these concepts is repetition inevitable? Language can be limiting no matter how many new words are added or developed or change their meanings over time. It can be difficult for writers to find the right words to express their ideas. Is creativity limited by language?

This possibility of the executions of creativity being finite is applicable to other art forms. With a finite number of notes the world of music, it is not unlikely that we will one day run out of anything new. The seven notes of music; A, B, C, D, E, F and G, do have variations. This and the combination of instruments, rhythm patterns and music technology are enabling musicians to develop new sounds. There are however, already many songs in existence that use the same chord progressions due to the finiteness of music notes. If you’re interested in finding out more, this video by Axis of Awesome displays this excellently:

Returning to the world of literature, the limitations of language are unlikely to be overcome completely. Different languages have different words for different concepts, for example the German word schadenfreude is defined as the pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune. To express this feeling in English would be a far more clunky collection of words. However, this being said, English is a very diverse language with words deriving from Germanic and Romanic languages and has a larger vocabulary than many other languages.

So, how does this affect one’s writing? When composing poetry or prose or any other type of work of writing, my advice would be to keep a thesaurus nearby. This will help to an extent in finding the best fitting words that express meaning, even if the definition of a word does not exactly portray your intending meaning.

Do you agree with this? Are creative mediums limiting the expression of creativity? Let us know what your opinions are on the subject in the comments.

P.S. Have a happy Easter weekend!


Information sourced from:

What Gets in My Way (Or Does it Really?)

Words and Picture by Reece David Merrifield

I don’t think there’s ever been a moment for any of us where we can really say ‘I have nothing I don’t want to do today’, and if you do say that, I promise it will come sooner than you think. It can be the smallest of things: like washing the dish you’ve just eaten from or doing the weekly shop; or it might be unfortunately necessary, like a University course that you (I) particularly never wanted or thought of doing before, or attending interview after interview to find the job you really want (or, in the end, ‘a’ job that you’ll need in the end)

Now, some choose to put these things off in the vain hope of doing what they want all the time (most of the time, guilty as charged), or they pursue these chores with the knowledge that, the quicker they’re done, the more time they have to enjoy the things they want to do in the first place. However, as a writer, I’m aware that these things are usually a goldmine of information and experience, as doing things leads to the unknown of what could happen whilst these things are being done (especially those of a clumsy nature). It’s all well and good going by the philosophical motto ‘I think, therefore I am’, but you should also add ‘I do, therefore I live’.

Washing a dish leads to cleanliness and, combined with shopping, can become the plate later on in which you have cooked and tried something completely new. Interviews create social interactions and affiliations which can be tapped into if you come across well to others, even if you didn’t get the first job. And if you do get the job, then the money flows, you keep active and possibilities are more than endless. From my current personal perspective, a course in macro economics is not particularly what a call a walk in the park or time well spent right now. Yet, when completed, it can only look good in the long-run, and if not, I can still write about the boredom I have and am still experiencing in an amusing and positive fashion.

So, if you’re a writer, a painter, a photographer or in the sphere of creativity whatsoever, I advise you not to discount the things that get in our way. As I’ve come to realise, they actually end up enriching in your life in ways you never expected but will be rewarded with sooner or later.

World Poetry Day Special

Words by Joshua Cialis

World Poetry Day has crept up on us again. A day all about the promotion of reading, writing, and publishing the art form we love so much. This post is going to be a celebration of all the poetry we enjoy reading and writing and that Foxtrot Uniform is doing everything to share with the world.

Poetry is not just the strongly metered rhyme you read in your GCSE lessons. Its not the strict stuff written by old, dead white men in tweed jackets (although we can see the beauty in this poetry). Its the great barbaric yawps of the soul. Every age has its stereotype of a poet, in the 1700s it was the Romantic rock-star poets like Byron and Wordsworth; in the 1910s it was the war ravaged men of WW1; the 50s and 60s stereotyped poets as beret wearing beatniks; and in our generation the poet is a seldom seen person, someone apparently interested in a dying art. However, it is Foxtrot Uniform‘s mission to bring interesting poetry back into the eye’s of society.

So this World Poetry Day I encourage you to get out some pens and paper and write a poem – or two. If you’re stuck for ideas here are two exercises to help you write a poem fit for 2018 – and maybe if you’re really proud of it you should send it to us for publication.

  1. This first exercise is for anyone, even if you don’t know how to write poetry you can use this exercise as a way of writing decent poems without any needing any real imagination. These poems write themselves: Introduced by William Burroughs, in the 1950s was the Cut-Up method. Originally used as a way of writing prose I have adapted his method without the need to tear up your favourite books: Firstly take your favourite anthology of poetry (a book of many different styles works best for this method). Then take todays date (21-3-2018). Turn to each page in this date and write down the first and last line of each page (so for todays date you will turn to page 2, 1, 3, 20, 18, 21, 32, 201). This is your poem.
  2. Townsounds. Find a bench in your town, write down everything you hear; what’s said? what sort of things can you hear? what goes past you? what do you think of? There’s your poem; happening right in front of you.


Performing Poetry: A form of sharing

Words by Joshua Cialis, Picture by Justine Mason

Performance is a great way to share your poetry without having it immortalised on the page forever. So, if you’re unsure about a poem you could try it out at an open mic night or you could show a poem at a poetry gig. Some people say that there is a difference between performance poetry and poetry for the page. Although I agree in some ways, I also feel that any poem read in its writer’s voice lends a certain something, this may be a truthfulness or purity, but the voice also lends a rhythm – and therefore a meaning – that might’ve been missed by reading the poem on the page.
I recently gave a reading at a great event at the London Roundhouse, giving a space for young people to perform their poems or music. It was unlike any performance I have given, unlike the boozy bars I’m used to performing in this was a smaller studio room. This intimate space allowed me to feel more of a connection with the audience rather than the aloofness that can sometimes be felt on a large stage. I did a half hour set of poems; a mixture of performance poems and some new pieces that I’d been working on for the page. Due to the intimate setting I was able to do some poems that I wouldn’t normally do at a performance and was able to explain things a little more than you can at a boozy performance venue.

I would definitely encourage any poet to share their work at poetry events as it can help boost your confidence in your poems – and yourself – and audiences will always want to support you even if they are a slightly rowdy. So definitely go try it; share your words and let it flow.

The Wall – My experience of Writer’s block

Words by Holly Royle

I struggle to write on demand. I often find myself waiting for the right idea to catch my eye and blossom into a fully formed piece of writing, be it poetry or prose. This can be incredibly frustrating if I find myself wanting to use my limited free time to write but have no inspiration.

To overcome writers block I have looked into a few methods which may help. These include:
-Taking a walk
-Changing the environment
-Listening to music
-Reading a book or poetry
I find taking a walk can help, but I would add to this tip that you should walk around without actively searching for an idea. For sooner or later inspiration will appear, whether in the form of interactions between people, a squirrel running up a tree, the flow of a river, or a sudden change in weather.
An equally frustrating occurrence is when an idea floats by and I fail to catch it in time. If I have no pen and paper to hand, or I am in a situation not convenient for writing, ideas will pass me by never to be found again. In vain attempts to avoid this I have taken up the habit of carrying a small pad with me and even leaving one by my bed for those 4am moments of inspiration. This of course does not fully solve my dilemma and I am yet to discover any other means to overcome this.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If you have any tips feel free to comment as they may be helpful to other writers.