Friday, December 26, 2008

Murdering your darlings

No, this is not a post about murdering Alastair Darling and his entire family (that's a treat for later) but rather a post on the creative process—whether than be writing, design, or anything else of that type.

The post comes from The Ministry of Type (one of my favourite design blogs), who has this to say...
This article on writing by James Patrick Kelly should be required reading for anyone involved in any creative activity. I read it years ago, and though I forgot the exact phrase, I’ve followed its basic principles ever since; whenever I’m stuck on a design I remove the thing I like the most and continue to develop the design without it. Almost every time it’s that thing, that darling, that is holding me back, distracting me from the design. I find that what I’m doing is trying to adapt the rest of the design to fit with this thing, rather than than developing the design as a whole. Even if it wasn’t that thing, the act of removing something from the design, that act of subtraction is what frees up my thinking again. The article addresses this nicely, and you can see how it applies to more than writing:
Some writers like to fix problems by addition rather than subtraction. First they layer in just a little more complexity to develop a rounder Aunt Penelope. And then they expand the garage scene, so it will foreshadow the car chase. Last they have Biff’s lawyer explain the rules of evidence to his secretary after the trial so that slow readers will get the end. If these writers worry about wordiness at all, they might tighten a few lines here and there. Drop a “he said,” on page two. Major surgery is for beginners, right?

Nowadays it’s become (almost) a natural process and I find myself peering suspiciously at something that’s just too shiny, too perfect, too lovely, too early in the process. This isn’t to say I remove everything that’s nice from my designs, far from it, but what I tend to do is to move through versions very quickly.

This is a method that I used to use quite a lot when designing. As I have got lazier and, most importantly, more short on time, I have tended to simply go with what works early on. As a result, I think that, although my skill with the applications has increased, my designs have been less immediately eye-catching and less durable.

I think that—when I get some time to do some more artwork—I might consciously adapt to the above as a strategy and see if it works. Because I certainly can't be arsed to do it for my writing...!


Henry North London said...

DK I need a website designed

I'll email you or meet up with you at somepoint in London .Are you coming to the Southeast meet on the 17th?

Roger Thornhill said...

Labour have a different system.

They see something which works and then they remove/break it and then try and come up with an alternative without ever undoing what they have done.

Oh yeah? So what has happened for the last ten years, exactly?

Over at the ASI, they are posting some of the winning entries of the Young Writers on Liberty. One does not want to put such keen minds off,...