November 10, 2022

A little trickery

Dammit I’m not done with that topic.

Now that I’ve got what vaguely passes for a clear head and a full night’s sleep I’ve got a couple thoughts.

The problem with the kind of, what the hell did I call it, synthetic creativity? I don’t know. Gotta go read my old post so I can see if I can at least keep a consistent taxonomy throughout what’s gone from brain dump to a series (consisting of a brain dump over time.) Yeah, Synthetic Creativity. That kind of creativity that doesn’t really seem particularly creative and is instead just a slight stretch on top of an existing…err…thing.

I was talking to Frank for a couple minutes out front of the cigar lounge, where he’s reading a book… The Gothic Enterprise I think it was, about the building of cathedrals. He made an offhanded comment about how interesting can a book about architecture possibly be.

I chuckled and described, however briefly, Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language books and the peculiar cross-disciplinary effect (affect? I don’t fucking know anymore) they had on the software development field and the utterly unanticipated (I assume) way he literally changed the world.

It provides frameworks within which a certain kind of synthetic creativity can flourish.

What Alexander did, however unwittingly, was provide buckets of ideas and, at the risk of getting heady, ways of thinking and solving structural problems that amount to a giant catalog of “paint by numbers” pictures that could be filled in with whatever colors were appropriate to the project at hand.

Now, when I say that, what I DON’T mean is individual patterns themselves, but the style of doing things that his work actually enumerated, to look for existing patterns that exist at a level of abstraction slightly above a level that can be literally “cut and pasted” all over the place, in digital parlance. But to see that database access of a certain sort or sending objects over a network or any of a thousand thousand things exist and are suggestive of a common approach.

“But all that’s just pissing in the wind” – Wintermute

The reason I bring it up is to reference what I was grasping in the dark for yesterday.

The difference between kinds of intelligence and perhaps levels of creativity as they cross paths with other idiosyncratic personality traits fascinates me to no end.

So let me take the theory I posited yesterday: Perhaps it is thus that I’m not particularly creative, yet have the intelligence and predilection to be very good at solving problems.

Well, that suggests a certain kind of “thinking inside the lines” or, said another way “working within a particular frame of reference, boundaries and rules of a sort.

In the immortal words of Rob Van Winkle “If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it.” I work VERY well within frame, when rules are in place. It’s why I’m as good as I am at solving software problems. I know that world cold.

But put me into something that I perceive as a purely creative pursuit and I’m completely fucking lost.

So what I was thinking about on my way down here, 2nd red bull and nodoz percolating through my brain chemistry was that I might be able to play a trick with myself, hinted at yesterday (even to myself. I wasn’t being intentionally subtle so much as just groping around in the dark.)

I might be able to set myself up with a truly dizzying number of constraints and thereby turn what I perceive to be an open-ended creative task into a problem solving task.

As I mentioned last night, I bought on my way home, a few books of cultural myths/fairy tales from different cultures. There’s a series that Barnes & Noble had that looked pretty interesting, so I bought the Norse, Native American and a catch-all. They each take a bunch of stories and bundle them together by category, worldforming myths, trickster stories etc.

So why don’t I make an exercise out of taking one or more of those (let’s start with one there, caffeine boy) and just rewriting it in to a new setting? Make no pretensions of it being a new work or anything particularly creative, just a translation of surface genre.

I really like the idea. Seems like as simple a solution as I could possibly come up with.

And hell, maybe that’s what people are doing. Maybe that’s just the way it’s actually done, to some extent.

Thing is it’s not like I grew up in an environment that fostered any kind of creativity at all. I recall with twitching clarity the admonishment against musicians, artists, and authors growing up “yeah, it beats working for a living.”

So it may just very well be that I’ve got to find my way around the creative process not even realizing that such a thing actually EXISTS, much less how to go about it.

After all, when I started in the world of programming, and in fact with every new technology, tool or toy I use, I started the same way: Let’s take a piece of software someone wrote that’s doing or using what I want to familiarize myself with and tweak it while I figure out what those tweaks actually mean and do.

Then take that process and iterate it until I’m familiar enough with whatever IT is then I can use it to create new things.

It’s just so much easier with software because with software, something that just doesn’t work just doesn’t fucking work. The compiler will fail, the results will be wrong. It’ll puke all over the place until you get it right and the tools themselves will tell you what you did wrong, more or less.

So creative writing doesn’t have QUITE the same kind of strictures of system in place. I mean you can write crap and it can just exist. There’s not really much in the way of objective verification that can happen. It’s a much softer process, though I’m not at all sure I’d consider it a less objective one.

Things that work actually work, be they artistic or engineering.

So yeah. Maybe some day this weekend I’ll make a practice of trying to work something like that out. Hell, if I’m really feeling masochistic I’ll post it here.

And won’t THAT be fun.