What It Means to Write: Creativity and Metaphor (2019)


An intimate and worldly adventure into the heart of language, learning, and getting lost.

At a time when people must work harder than ever to stand out from the crowd, the word creativity can seem vague and overused. But what exactly is creativity?

Adrian McKerracher travels from Vancouver to Havana to Buenos Aires, leading readers on a journey to discover poignant new insights into a life of letters. Through encounters with artists of all kinds, famous or obscure, McKerracher traces a socio-cultural history of the meaning of writing, each vignette a meditation on the way that metaphor limits and liberates understanding: creativity is a process, a possession, a relation, an algorithm, a game, and more. But What It Means to Write is far more than an archive of the figurative. Along the way, a labyrinth of chance reunites McKerracher with old friends, threatens him with violence, and invites him to remain forever in a place both real and imagined. His journey from cafés to libraries to late-night living rooms embodies the structure of a bold new methodology for interpreting creativity, demonstrating the tools for working productively with ambiguity and rebuilding meaning, one metaphor at a time.

Told in character-driven narrative pulses that reflect on the nature of belonging, understanding, and loving, What It Means to Write is a celebration of the possibilities of both language and silence.

Order a copy from McGill-Queens University Press, Amazon, or your local library.



“McKerracher displays a voice that is both accomplished and deeply human, vulnerable, and yearning for connection and understanding.” (Quill & Quire, Starred Review)

“The book is a strange beast, a stylistic hybrid that’s initially coy about its ambitions.”
“In a book that sets out to consider the meaning of creativity, McKerracher has made the quest itself the locus of imagination. Here, creativity is a journey, not a destination — the search for creativity becomes its most eloquent expression.”
“A genuine pleasure to read, What It Means to Write exquisitely employs memoir and nonfiction to ruminate upon the connections between creativity and metaphor. Others have attempted such an intertextual weaving of writing, fieldwork, and narrative, but rarely is it done so well.” (Cynthia Chambers, University of Lethbridge)


Read my guest blog post at McGill-Queen’s University Press, where I discuss 5 texts that pair well with mine.