Writing is the means of expressing language by letters or symbols representing sounds and groups of sounds or ideas, or the graphic representation of language. The history of writing began with proto-writing, which was followed by the development of "true writing." Proto-writing used symbols to convey an object or idea, whereas true writing reconstructs language graphically in such a way that a reader can reconstruct the exact linguistic phrase written down. True writing usually encodes grammatical words and prefixes or suffixes. True writing appears to have existed in Mesopotamia and Egypt in 3200 B.C., in China around 1300 B.C. and in Mesoamerica around 600 B.C.
Writing systems differ from other means of symbolic communication in that they require an understanding of the spoken language in order to interpret the written language. The existence of writing is what scholars use to define the difference between prehistoric and historic times (the former predates written history). Writing is done by means of an alphabet, or a group of symbols representing components or sounds in the spoken language. Cuneiform and ancient Greek and Phoenician alphabets were among the early alphabets, as were the Viking runes and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Since ancient times writing as a means of expression has evolved continuously, and is constantly affected by technology (from the printing press to the computer to voice recognition software). The main elements of writing include the language used and grammar, the rules which govern the use of that language. Grammar allows for exactness and subtlety in the use of language that without it would be impossible. Writing and literature, while deeply connected are not the same thing.
Literature refers to the body of written works of a culture, imaginative or creative writing, or work produced by scholars. Literature enjoys a long history as well, and includes everything from the ancient Sumerian writings on the beginning of creation to ancient Greek drama to modern poetry. Creative writing is a more modern term to describe writing which exists outside the bounds of normal academic, professional, or journalistic writing and encompasses fiction, poetry, plays and screenplays, short stories, and creative non-fiction.