Orders from on high demanded that this week we take on whatever role we've managed to avoid up til now. For me, that was the role of coding. I can't speak for the others, but for me this is the position I'm least happy in: not so much because I don't enjoy code--I do, at times--but because I don't like being in a position without creative control. So this was for me a week to sit back, say nothing, and do my best to bring the others' vision to life in a working prototype. This is, of course, as natural to me as riding a bike, which is perhaps only a funny statement if you know me well enough to know I never learned how to do that either.
What I find really interesting about the results of this particular collaboration is how much it reveals of our individual styles. We assembled on our main page a sampling of our own individual projects along with profiles discussing our backgrounds and creative intentions. We also have a page with images from the previous collaborative projects and a discussion of each. Looking at the individual set next to the collaborative seems to reveal our roles and influences just as plainly as when we come out and say it. Of course, I might be biased, since I spent a couple of hours surrounded by those images getting the site together and coded.
I find this really interesting thanks to my minor obsession with the idea of creativity. I'm immersed in a creative writing workshop every week taken online through my other university and I constantly marvel at how we all--yes, myself included, or why would I take it at all--buy into the notion that creativity is something that can be workshopped. The only way I've ever found to feel like I'm a "creative person"--whatever that is--is to read so many things that I can at least be sure that whatever I'm spouting comes from digesting as many ideas as I could fit in my head. My mother occasionally said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but they also didn't keep any apples in the house, only books, and I find that those go down much better on a daily basis than any fruit not blended into drink form.
So that takes me in a roundabout way back to my point: what is at the root of divergences in creativity? Why do some of us think in grids and others in colliding bubbles? For that matter, why do some of us see in grids and others in bubbles?
Thankfully for me, I have no qualms at all about not answering that question with anything but a list of the books I believe answer that question better than I ever could--without, of course, ever answering the question at all. First up, Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, which I revisited while thinking about the first group project. Queneau was on the frontier of stretching language to its limits when he was writing in 1940ish, and he somehow still seems to be on the frontier when I read it again today. How on earth is that possible? Maybe for the same reason most people don't read Finnegans Wake: it stretched the idea of what a novel could be so much that no one has really felt the need to venture out that way again. (My web domain, by the way, comes from a Wake quote: "Where flash becomes word and silents selfloud"--which offers another stretch on the way we think about language. Just don't mention that to the Joyce estate, they've gotten rather touchy these days.)
And one last book I open whenever I need a different way to think about a design, or a writing project, or a research question, or a writing desk for that matter--Alice in Wonderland. Oh yes, it's cliche, but such a glorious cliche! Perhaps we all need a trip down the rabbit's hole now and again.
So a question back at the metaverse, or up the rabbit hole, or through the void: choose your own metaphor. What do you read when you think on creating?