July 7, 2010

Going analog

Filed under: art,creativity — crcb @ 12:30 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m a fairly digital dude. I have my cell phone, my blog, my accounts on Twitter and Facebook and Gmail and Delicious, my MP3 players, my eReader. But sometimes, the old manual methods are best. Case in point: mind mapping.

VYM, a very nice, free piece of mind mapping software, is installed on my computer, and I’ve used it. It handily exports your mind map to a clickable imagemap or a linear outline. But creativity is the point of mindmapping, rapidity and flow and feeling and sheer physicality are necessary parts of the process, and computers get in the way.

Looking at a couple of hand-drawn mind maps from my journal, for instance, I see that the word “BETRAYAL” in one is harsh and pointy, and the word “snakes” in another is, well, snaky. I could have done something similar on my laptop, but only by switching to graphics software. It would have required more than the few seconds my fingers needed, and the results would have been less expressive. It would have broken the flow. And, most importantly, I can still remember how it felt to attack the page for BETRAYAL, and the twisty pen-strokes of snakes. Those sensations, those emotions, became part of the diagram. When I change the lettering or draw a frog, it brings more of me into the process than choosing a font or icon from a pre-determined list does.

And that’s another shortcoming of mind mapping software: you can only do what the software is set up to do. Every application I’ve seen requires one central node, and provides limited means of linking nodes to one another. You can choose solid, dotted or dashed lines, curved or straight. Working by hand, I can create three central nodes, or nineteen, or none. I can link one node to any number of others, or leave it isolated like a rock in a stream. I can scribble lines that go from loopy to jagged to barbed. I can glue string and beads and feathers to the page, or fold it, or tear it, if I think that’s relevant. Some of these actions go against the technical definition of a mindmap, but so what? When I work by hand, there are no limits; and isn’t that what creativity is about?

September 10, 2009

What I’m working on, 9-10-2009

Last night I finished brainstorming 19 ideas for TV series pilots. (19 was the goal I had set for myself. 20 just seemed impossible.) Most are in the fantasy/sf/horror area, but the few that aren’t surprised me. Especially one that’s more, um — well, it’s kind of — okay, it’s romance!

Shut up.

I don’t know that I’ll do anything with any of these ideas. It was more in the nature of an exercise. But maybe. If I never write a TV pilot, some of them might make good stories. How do I know which ones? If I began imagining not only a situation but vivid characters, and maybe an episode or two, or even a story arc for a whole season, that’s an idea worth further attention.

My process:

  • I downloaded a word list of nouns, and created a Linux command-line alias… too much detail. I had my computer throw random pairs of nouns at me, and let those spark my thinking.If you’re a Linux user and want to do the same, download a word list of nouns and then run a command (or create an alias) similar to the following:
       shuf -n 2 /home/jdoe/Documents/writing/files/nouns.txt

    This works in Ubuntu, anyway. I don’t know about other Linux distributions, but I think shuf is pretty common.

  • I daydreamed.
  • I browsed news sites, and when something snagged my thoughts, I mind-mapped it.
  • In a couple of instances, I cannibalized old ideas that never came to anything.

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