Philosophy of Design

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I was used to denying myself everything until I realized that I risked denying myself life. In other words, caffeine is a good food.

Some people’s faces are stronger from the front, others from the side—and most, from the back.

And he sat there, poking holes in his ketchup with shoestring fries.

I like design—I like completed design—design isn’t necessarily form over function. It’s sometimes form and function. Design for my website; design for my house (when I eventually buy one, and, at the looks of my current finances, I can probably afford a wall of a house); design of computer programs and the results they output; design for my apartment and book, music, and movie selections. And finally, and most importantly, at least I am trying to convince myself of the importance, the design of my stories.

There is little difference between an advertisement design, a website design, and a story design. There is always a message (even lack of a message or an emotional response is a message), it’s just the building blocks that are different. My toolkit for stories is still missing some basic tools, but I’m working on that. I just need to keep in mind the design when I’m writing a story—and I’m not (necessarily) talking about the “form” of the story. This doesn’t make an incredible amount of sense, but at this moment, in this depressed state, with hours of TLC’s design shows under my belt (allowable, but still terribly, terribly wrong, because I’m in California visiting Doolies), this message is very important

The design of a story is something you will work for, like you work for the design of your website. You stay up all hours to make it work and make it “right”—the right of the last stroke in a painting or the rightness of the design of a computer program or look and feel of the website.

You’ve known about the rightness for some time, but you’ve never caught it or understood it. I’m not asking you to understand it now. I’m only asking you to use it—replace your “ought to write” with “want to write until the writing is right.” I want to stay up because I’m dissatisfied with the design of the story, butting my head against the monitor until I can give it no more. I don’t want the empty page’s gaping mouth to hold anything against me. I will write and force myself to start over if it’s not. Adding new words will be like filling in the next blank part of the canvas and editing will be the adding the detail work and touching up. All will be in furtherance of the design concept.

You will identify this, the design concept, before you start and stick with it throughout the work. There you go, running out of steam—is it right yet? If not, suck it up and continue. Now, go apologize to Doolies for going crazy and the get to work.

The words flow just like lines of programming. When you don’t know what to write, step back and plan. There really is no such thing as writer’s block. What it is is a lack of a direction and plan. This happened often in programming. You would sit down and try to write a program without a plan and sometimes the results would be good, sometimes even with a rightness, especially if the results you were looking for were short and easy to get to. More usual, however, you would hit many dead ends and the right design would hit you at one of those ends or when you were about finished with a workable program with a bad design. Then you would have to start over. While this sometimes happened with programs you had expended the effort to design, this was less likely, especially if you found the rightness during the design phase.

The same should be done with writing. Don’t let your unconscious mind do all the work. It’ll chime in with the creativity when it needs to—especially if you supply it with the workable framework. This is outline work we’re talking about. The outline where the concepts based free of the writing can be explored and used to manipulate the reader. This work shouldn’t be used as a straightjacket for your writing. Let your writing go where it will. Likewise, this work shouldn’t stop you from actually writing a section because there is no framework in place for it. Design and writing are interchangeable concepts and it’s not always the rational mind that will provide the border between the two.

To truly write, you need to reach into that higher place—the place where the gods of your mind and muses walk—and let those powers guide you. They will if you let yourself go. They will guide both your writing, the poetic and associative part of the communication, as well as the framework. The spark of creativity creates the rightness in the macro-design or framework, as you’ve been calling it.

Enough about it. It’s time to test these concepts and see if they’ll help you conquer Lenny, Carl, and Moe—or if this is just another wasted effort brought about by a focused depression courtesy of caffeine.

Eating corn on the cob is like eating popper plastic (whatever that’s called).

He keeps repeating to himself, “I am not superficial. I am not superficial.” And yet, he looks at her and thinks how much better she would be if this and that was changed.

 Houston, TX | , , ,