is two guys collaborating to write on writing and collaboration.

Thursday
Jan 29, 2009

The Collection at the Beginning of Creative Process posted by Martin

I’m always fascinated with the process of creative types. Because, of course, it might teach me something about my own process which has been doggedly formed from ignorant persistence. I long for some sort of validation that I’m doing it “right” (make of that what you will, psychology buffs).

Merlin Mann has been digging into process, and I think his Macworld presentation Towards Patterns for Creativity was interesting beyond his charismatic manitude.

He talks about Twyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit (haven’t read it yet. Definitely on my list). Tharp starts each project with a box that she collects loose items associated with the choreography she’s creating. The box gets filled in a loose association and inspiration gathering, and then when it’s time to work it serves as muse and inspiration.

Compare this technique with Steven Johnson who, on his recent guest gig at Boing Boing wrote a post called DIY: How to write a Book. He captures information into software called DEVONthink, which acts as digital equivalents to Twyla’s Boxes (as Mr. Mann, sans external wink, likes to call them):

The first stage, which is crucial, is a completely disorganized capture of every little snippet of text that seems vaguely interesting. I grab paragraphs from web pages, from digital books, and transcribe pages from printed text — and each little snippet I just drop into Devonthink with no organization other than a citation of where it came from.

DEVONthink has the advantage of, once captured, of connecting text:

It has a very elegant semantic algorithm that can detect relationships between short excerpts of text, so you can use the software as a kind of connection machine, a supplement to your own memory.

Capture — the first step. In thinking back, all of my projects start with a single question “What if we lived in a world that was X instead of Y?” Knowing that question, capturing disparate information about that topic is how I approach it, albeit more loosely than either Ms. Tharp or Mr. Johnson (my process includes folders, Scrivener files, Yojimbo, and lost-to-the-ages software that didn’t stand the test of time).

Tangentially related to this topic is John Gruber’s talk at Macworld which gave us a maxim (Gruber’s Law?) which may or may not bear relationship to Mr. Beeson and my more democratic attempts at working together, but is still relevant to those who collaborate:

The quality of any collaborative creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge.

Comments (0) — Category: technique

HIDE Down Arrow

What is Spitball!?

Spitball! is two guys collaborating to write about writing and collaboration. We're writing partners who have worked together since 2000, and placed in the top 100 in the last Project Greenlight for our script YELLOW.

Currently, we are both working on multiple screenplay, short story, and novel ideas independently and together, and collaborate on this blog.

What Spitball! used to be

Spitball! started as an attempt to collaborate on a screenplay online in real time. From January 2006 to July 2007 we worked on an interactive process to decide the story we were going to make. A full postmortem is coming, but you can find the find all the posts by looking in the category Original Version.

During this period, we affected the personalities of two of the most famous spitball pitchers from the early 20th Century. Look at our brief bios for more info about this, and so as not to be confused as to who is talking when.

We rebooted the franchise in early 2009 in its current form.


 Subscribe to our feed


Our Twitter account, where we note when longer articles are posted. While we're at it, here's Kent and Martin's Twitter accounts.

Kent M. Beeson

Urban Shockah pic

Kent M. Beeson (aka Urban Shockah) is a stay-at-home dad and stay-at-home writer, living in Seattle, WA with his wife, 2 year old daughter and an insane cat. In 2007, he was a contributor to the film blog ScreenGrab, where he presciently suggested Jackie Earle Haley to play Rorschach in the Watchmen movie, and in 2008, he wrote a film column for the comic-book site ComiXology called The Watchman. (He's a big fan of the book, if you couldn't tell.) In 2009, he gave up the thrill of freelance writing to focus on screenplays and novels, although he sometimes posts to his blog This Can't End Well, which a continuation of his first blog, he loved him some movies. He's a Pisces, and his favorite movie of all time is Jaws. Coincidence? I think not.

Martin McClellan

Burleigh Grimes pic

Martin (aka Burley Grymz) is a designer and writer. He occasionally blogs at his beloved Hellbox, and keeps a longer ostensibly more interesting bio over here at his eponymous website. You can also find him on Twitter.