Continuing from my discussion about using a wiki to sort out creative projects. Out of all that I've derived two general observations, and a theory I am attempting to put to the test:
- Boilerplate outlines, as used in creative work — e.g., screenwriting "beat sheets" — are bad not because they represent a fill-in-the-blank approach to creativity, but because the beats on them are the product of someone else's ideas about storytelling.
- The act of coming up with your own boilerplate helps offset that, even if it brings with it a fresh incarnation of the dangers of turning a story into a checklist.
All stories have certain things in common, otherwise it becomes tough to group them together under the general label of "story". But that doesn't mean the way we internalize and approach those things should be reduced to a formula. How we make them ours is crucial. If we make them ours by way of a template provided for us, instead of a natural process of discovery and internalization where the template is the end product of that discovery, then we reduce the whole thing to cook-bookery.
A balance is involved. On the one hand, if you don't provide people with any tools at all, you leave them to reinvent everything tediously — as Paul Goodman once put it, you force them to discover how to boil water and make shoes. On the other hand, you don't want the tools you provide them with to become the be-all and end-all of their creative processes. You want to equip them with a way to gracefully outgrow them, or at least find the freedom to not always remain in their shadow.
My take is that a wiki is a good fit for what I'm doing because it gives you both the tools and the creative freedom to easily make your own creative templating. It lets you discover what the right kind of templating is for the way you think about and execute a creative project. If you have to alter the format to fit the project, there's less penalty for doing so than with a "flat" system. The structure you create is retained where you need it, and changed where you need something else.
When i first started writing — better to say: when I first started self-identifying as a writer — I knew nothing about how to manage the work. Stories just seemed to spring fully formed from the head of whatever Zeus birthed them. Later, I went through the usual roster of courses about how to do it, but most of what I gleaned was less about which specific rules to follow and more about how one develops the discipline to stand on one's own feet. The only real reason to learn the rules was to understand how they could be transcended effectively, how they had to serve as a launchpad and not merely a foundation.