Friday, May 23, 2008

Sequence & Iteration

In Artful Making, Rob Austin and Lee Devin emphasize the difference between two ways of doing things: the sequential approach and the iterative approach. Given my theme of planning and scheduling, one might think I suggest doing one thing after another until you're finished. That is, first you write an abstract, then an outline, then you make a schedule, and the schedule tells you to write your introduction and conclusion, then your theory, your method, your results, etc. But that's not likely to work.

It is better to see writing as an artful, i.e., iterative, process. Just as reading properly always means rereading, good writing requires rewriting. That means that your writing process should always return to what you have written and rework it. Your schedule, then, is much more about planning to return than planning to proceed. When will you look at a particular section again?

One of the recurring examples in Artful Making is the theatre. In theatre, there is usually a lot of rehearsal. Getting a play up is all about rehearsing it. Each scene has to be acted out many times, not just to practice the lines and actions, but in order to see how those lines and actions work together. During rehearsal, you end up changing the way the scene is played. You rethink it.

Rehearsals, however, are normally working towards opening night. That is, you can't keep working on a scene forever; you have to make sure that the whole play is coming along at a reasonable pace. So you have a rehearsal schedule that ensures that you get through each scene at least once and leaves enough time to do it over a until you are satisfied that it will work in front of the audience.

On opening night, you have to go out there, ready or not. It's the same when you write: make sure there is a deadline. Plan to get through each section several times. But in the end you have to submit that paper. Let the critics howl.

1 comment:

Mogens Holm said...

Thanks for another example of the research-configuring potential of the theatre-vocabulary (or should I say 'theatre-semantics'?)