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May 12, 1999: a creature of language

Wednesday

I have a list of seven things I've wanted to write about in the past that I was saving for later, but now I'm not in the mood to write about any of them. Often I want to write just to rant or vent, so when the mood passes... well, the mood passes.

But let me not go on endlessly writing about not feeling like writing. It's been done.

I mentioned yesterday that I focus on creativity a lot. One of the big themes in Douglas Hofstadter's le Ton beau de Marot was the idea that creativity is enhanced by constraints. Give someone a wide-open space in which to be creative, and they may be overwhelmed by all the choices. Give them a narrow space, and the ideas start pouring out. For the titular poem, the focus was on "formal constraints"--rhyme scheme, meter, etc.

Ideally, as an artist, you work within a medium and use that medium as a tool to do whatever you want in that medium. You have something you want to say (perhaps chosen tailored to the nature of the medium, so you'll be able to say it), and you use that medium to accomplish it.

Rarely do I work that way. For the very wide open media, such as writing or computer programming, I do occasionally just have something to say and go to it; but often I will construct a more constrained medium and use that--for example, a web journal, or trying to write a program to do something complex in a very small amount of space.

But what's most telling is that I'll often take a relatively constrained medium, and tighten the constraints even further. Part of this is because there's only so much you can say in a constrained medium. So I like to 'push the boundaries', work along the edges, choosing what I am going to say based on the opportunities provided by the boundaries of the medium. Notable examples of this are my hacked Red Meat Construction Set comics (which, for the most part, made awfully poor Red Meat comics, but were amusing for being what they were), or my Electronic Magnetic Poetry Kit piece where I used every word. (To be honest, it would be nice if I had spent about three or four times as long on it, instead of making a couple throwaway poems, but I was getting pretty tired of it, and the UI left a lot to be desired for doing major revisions.)

I had some big smashing conclusion where I was going to point out that the issue wasn't really constraints or formal properties, but something else, except now I can't remember what it was. Sorry, have a suq journal entry.


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attribution dammit: Lords of the Backstage Marillion