Process, Planning and Art


If architecture is art -  then art CAN be planned. And probably should be.
If architecture is art - then art CAN be planned. And probably should be.


I have an MFA in English and Creative Writing. I’ve written a novel, won my class’s thesis prize and have struggled to find a way to re-approach  –  that is REVISE – my work. I knew, for a very long time, how to generate pages. Technically, if you’re open to drinking, all you have to do is throw back a couple of pops and voila, you’ve got pages. Bunches of them. Not that that was MY strategy, per se.

Then, I started to study screenwriting, that incredibly formulaic, rigidly structured form that Hollywood demands. I’m not talking Truffaut, here, I’m talking Nora Eprhron.  I’m a little shy to admit it,  to my cohorts from my grad program but – I kind of like the rules. And what’s more, it made me feel not just excited, but a little more confident to go back to the novel and make some kind of shape out of it.

Now, some folks will tell you you can’t plan art. And to them I say – tell that to Frank Lloyd Wright. Go on. Drive up to one of his buildings, noticing how they engage the environment in which they have been constructed and then, put your hand on your hip and say, “Piffle. It’s totally formulaic.”

Here is my new thought: the PLANNING process is AS CREATIVE as the EXECUTION process. So, instead of just drinking beer at your typewriter and generating long rambly scenes without much punch or verve and no real intentional structure, you could be having  FUN planning your book or screenplay or short story or short film or whatever. And save the drinking of beer for when you have friends around so it doesn’t seem so gosh darn worrisome when you do it. And what’s best – your readers, who will now number in the double digits, will appreciate your new thoughtfulness and consideration of their feelings/time.

Lastly, if you haven’t checked out Alexandra Sokoloff yet, do. She’s smart, does great story breakdowns and has a boatload of strategies for the writers of fiction from the world of screenplays. And she should know, she’s a published author who has already had a career using the tools she teaches.

Because nothing is safer

Me, Sadie, Leo and Elizabeth
Me, Sadie, Leo and Elizabeth

Than free association in the middle of the night in a somewhat public forum.

My wife keeps after me to blog and so I am blogging. Perhaps not wisely, but blogging none the less. I have a secret feeling it’s really just to get me to work on my website in some other way than f’ing around with php and css, which I do in hidden folders.

My dirty secret is an unwavering romanticism that escapes in three forms: food and drink, technology and writing. Food and drink are obvious, painfully so: I want to love you so I made you some nice bread. In the web world, I want to build beautiful apps that aren’t just glossy, but have a reason to be, a functional justification and add to a person’s connection with the site. In the world of writing, whether fiction, some kind of script or “the personal narrative,” I also want to build something beautiful, but I want to do something more. I want to create in another human being the experience I am having. My romance is to buy into the new age co-opting of quantum mechanics to avoid melancholy – so that  the non-mass of my consciousness rubs up against the non-mass of yours. But then, a trip happens, not a vacation, but the stumbling kind, where you go over and hit the non-mass of the hardwood floors and you realize, again, it doesn’t take that much mass to really f you up.

What’s the point of all of this? Well, I’ve heard a million times that if you’re going to blog, your wife telling you to do it isn’t actually the best approach. You’re supposed to have a niche, something specific to say to the world. My niche then, is romance. Not roses and Jerry McGuire with Ben and Jerry’s. I mean something more Whitman-esque, something more Harold and Maude, something more Man of La Mancha, something definitely more Sophia Loren.

Let’s see how it goes.