Architecture of Writing

How can the techniques of architecture, cinematography, gardening, or game development be used to inform one’s writing practice? What new styles and techniques could emerge from this exploration? And in turn what could these disciplines learn from writing? Together we will explore the ocean of possibilities and seek to discover the unexplored territories of the written word.

Prerequisites

Have a writing project in mind before signing up, this could be to write a poem, essay, script, or be part of a longer term writing-related project such as a book, hypertext textbook, or digital garden.

Who should sign up

You have a keen interest in writing or communication and wish to expand writing repertoire. Perhaps you want to explore new approaches to writing, play with new techniques. If you are at heart an adventurer or explorer of new ideas, then you might certainly enjoy embarking on this learning journey together.

Goals

Explore and invent new writing techniques inspired by any discipline or practice other than literature: architecture, game development, cinematography, biology, mathematics

Structure

  • Research → Play → Output
  • First week: walk through a couple examples or choose a specific discipline to explore as a group. Brainstorm a couple ways we can gain inspiration from this medium to inform our writing practice, and do a couple short group writing session to come up with examples
  • Second + third week: each participant brainstorms and develops inspiration and writing techniques based on a discipline of their choosing, these are collaborative explorations and conversations but primarily led by the participant in charge of researching that specific discipline
  • Near the end of the third week, each participant will present their research and discoveries to the rest of the group. In between these short presentations, rapid writing sessions for everyone to try out the techniques described
  • Fourth + fifth week: finally participants must write a piece (or multiple shorter pieces) using some of the techniques they have explored together. They may choose to stick with the discipline they were researching, or pick and choose ideas from any of the disciplines discussed.
  • The final meeting we will read each other’s work and each participant presents how they used each technique and reflect together on what worked well and what didn’t
  • (optional) Sixth week: collect distilled ideas and reflections into an artifact to leave behind, much of this distillation will be an active process throughout the course.

Artifacts

I hope that by the end of the course, we can compile some of the very best ideas and takeaways and create a lasting artifact. This could be a blog post, video, or even a short book/chapbook collecting both writing pieces and descriptions of the techniques explored. Not only will this serve as an artifact of what we have learnt together for future reference but can also serve as a launchpad for future cohorts to build upon these ideas and explore in new directions—furthering the collective conversation.

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This is the place I think more structure could be handy. Maybe an output of the first session could be specific ways each participant is going to lead the discussion around their exploration?

I love this feature! Puts a nice constraint on the complexity of the techniques as well, something you can explain and people can try within a single session.

Could be interesting for each person to have a topic/theme that remains constant as they try out all the different techniques.

Oh man I’d love seeing this as a book. That being said, doing it in a hypertext medium means that future cohorts could draw links to past ones really easily.

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Yeah! And it could be both. I think that there could be a decision-making bottleneck if it’s vague what the end artifact could be. Perhaps the goal would be a hypertext artifact documenting process, resources, methods, examples in a structured and well-defined way, and then the cohort may optionally decide to take that further (mostly reformat) into a book or other kind of output.

I’m imagining this final artifact to be a sort of shared document, but one that you cannot edit directly until the final stages. Through forum discussions, audio/video call notes, project pages, etc. you build up a large collection of rough notes and discussions. Over the duration of the course participants can highlight specific passages which stand out, summarise long posts into key insights, star the most helpful resources and learning material. And slowly, by collectively highlighting, summarising, organising, these start to feed into the final artifact.

There is benefit I believe in teaching or describing concepts to others, and this can be one of the most powerful aspects of peer-learning. Teaching others is a great way to identify gaps in your own knowledge, condense ideas, and think of analogies of how best to understand a topic. By introducing this idea of a final artifact, participants are not only teaching each other in the calls/forums, but they are also collectively trying to teach all those who might follow in their footsteps. And I suspect that just as teaching peers as an individual helps identify gaps and better understand concepts, teaching future peers as a collective works similarly but at a different magnitude of scale. With both in tandem, I think it can create a really effective psychological framing from which to approach peer-learning.

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2 posts were split to a new topic: Creating structured conversations

Super cool idea here! I could even see this working as a sort of series. Same structure, but perhaps particular cohorts could draw on e.g one of architecture, cinematography, gardening etc. Though having it be very interdisciplinary seems like a lot of fun too, just would want to make sure it’s focused enough.

Ah so kind of a couple different possibilities here. Seems possible you might attract a more cohesive group if there’s one specific discipline decided on ahead of time. This could make it easier to prepare some examples and so on.

Or if it’s each participant selects a different discipline that would work too! I think as long as it’s framed clearly, either could be cool.

Yeah I like this! Seems useful to build collaboratively and refine over time, from loose notes / discussions / shared examples, to more refined structure with templates, best of, etc.

That’s a great idea. I was thinking that it should be interdisciplinary because (a.) it gives more space for each person to come up with unique insights, (b.) participants can incorporate their own experience and skills into the course, and (c.) because perhaps it can teach a larger lesson of interdisciplinarity and the value of borrowing ideas from a variety of different disciplines. Why not both though? The first cohort or two could be widely interdisciplinary, and then from there it could branch out into a series of cohorts with a more specific focus to delve deeper.

I agree that such an interdisciplinary structure could lead to there not being enough focus, which is why I plan on providing a few examples in the first session as inspiration and to give participants a good idea of how they might approach their own explorations moving forward.

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Huh, I hadn’t thought about that. One of the requirements then would be a technique which can be applied to short pieces of writing (sentence/paragraph level) so that we can quickly experiment with the idea in these rapid writing sessions. It also makes me think that part of the documentation of the different writing techniques could include the scale(s) at which the technique is meant to be applied.

I wonder, perhaps it would be useful to have a ‘example pool’ of pre-written sentences and paragraphs. These could either be written specifically for the course or be drawn from different literary sources. They would function as the “quick brown foxes” or “boxing wizards” (example sentences to test out different fonts) of writing techniques, and people could pull from this pool and rewrite one of the sentences or paragraphs using their technique.

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Yeah that’s a good point, could be a consideration for future course lifecycle, probably makes sense to start simple, with the possibility of doing more focused cohorts if there’s demand.

We’ve been thinking about something similar for the Meta Course itself actually — eventually could be cool to try like a cohort focused on developing writing courses vs. a cohort focused on developing art courses or tech courses etc. But for now maybe narrows things too much. And interdisciplinary is nice!

Really like this idea! I think we chatted about something similar on Twitter, did I link to this book Table of Forms? Really fun collection of experimental poetry organized as taxonomy of constraints. There’s an online version of the actual table, basically a matrix of the type of form & the scale at which it applies: https://spinelessbooks.com/table/tableofforms.html

Something like that, a very simplified version maybe with just a handful of techniques and scales, would be a very cool thing to help structure this.

Also sounds useful! Like the single paragraph story seed Queneau uses in Exercises in Style, kind of the baseline from which he showcases all kinds of different writing styles rendering the same simple vignette. One book I have that could perhaps be a fun source text: Artful Sentences