As I set out again into process / getting creative work done, I am hunkering down after a few months of having a little too much fun
—or the weather's been really nice and I was finishing up smaller projects from college, moving into an Quaker community in Philadelphia, and starting a full-time job
—or I’m scared to try writing again because I've been at this play-writing thing for five years now and I’m aiming higher so it doesn't come as easily as it used to
—or this is just harder for me than it used to be
—or memory makes things look easier
—or I don’t know what process even means so how could I "go into it?"
Process is a black box. The artist goes in and the art comes out and even those most intimately involved don’t have a clear sense of how it happened. We mystify the creative process and hold it up as something that is impossible to examine. There are a lot of good reasons for this. Process is deeply messy and personal to the individual artist, it looks really different for each project, and I imagine that opening up the black box would require a radical vulnerability that is simply not appealing to most people. Not to mention a reasonable paranoia about ideas being stolen. But I also think the general resistance that writers and artists have to sharing how they work inadvertently sends the message that the creative impulse is either there or it just isn't, that magic happens or it doesn't, that you are a genius or you are not and therefore shouldn't try. I think this sentiment contributes to many would be culture-makers deciding that the door to their creative passions has been closed. Curiosity and creativity in whatever it is that you do can endow a sense of purpose. More tangibly I am curious about how this self-examination could affect my own work and my process. My process would itself become an experimental piece, wouldn't it? How would my art change if I adopted a transparent approach? If I put all my questions, feelings of inadequacy, moments of inspiration, leaps forward, and steps back into the theoretical public eye, how would it motivate me? How would it distract me? How would it terrify me? How would this level of self-observation help me learn my own way of working and better understand the play itself? Would I gain anything at all?
So yes, as you can see I've been feeling like one of the things I really want to do in my life is to try making something with a transparent creative process. I have a lot of reservations about this project but my curiosity has won for the moment. In terms of the particular project, I am currently about to start a revision period for They Extract! and I have decided to open my revising process. If this goes well, or interestingly. And it could turn out to be interesting in a host of different ways —only a few of which I've considered I'm sure. Then maybe I'll envision how a transparent process could work for developing the other forms my art takes on.
Why a Transparent Process for They Extract!
In terms of the particular play that I am working on here I hope that this openness will also help me to write with a deeper integrity. They Extract! opened at Wesleyan University back in January 2014 after two years of development and a month long workshop with the actors. This production ran for three full houses and people seemed to have a pretty fun and thought-provoking time.
Though I have not always know what the themes or political message of this play would be, if any, I was not surprised to discover, during that first workshop in January 2014, that my character’s had led me to a treasure trove of allegory, a scathing metaphor for our own trust in the corporate comodifyers to do what is best for the world and for us, or at least what is "necessary". After some time and much reflection I am coming to re-envision They Extract! as a space where I can hold the conflict that does exists between humanity and corporate capitalism. "Hold" rather than "see" or "feel" because this tension is true and yet I don’t know a single person who can actually take it all in. I haven’t found another way to mourn for all of those casualties of this unspoken war that is waged every day, in the mines, in the factories, in the policed neighborhoods, on the retail floors, in the dumps picked over, in the oceans, in the forests. It is a farce that I could only begin to address through this tiny allegorical backdoor full of humor and surprising tragedy —the world of the play. I need to take the time and space to recognize that this suffering exists and to hold it in this oddly shaped box —in this story. This all sounds kinda heavy handed although They Extract! is not, or won’t be when I’m happy with it —when we are done.
Even if this idea of a Transparent Creative Process is only ever symbolic I still see it as another kind of backdoor —a way to start living now in the future that I long for. I think that demanding transparency of myself in this writing process dovetails essentially with the themes of They Extract! as an active way to address some of the same conflicts and systemic failures that this play is attempting to hold. Writing and particularly editing this play is all about experimentation. How does the choreography want to be written? How does the play want to be formatted? Can I approximate time better on the page? Nothing is given. everything is playing around. I just want you to know that you're invited. Watch me try and make sausage, jam square pegs into round holes, teach some pigs how to fly. It could be fun - a little voyeuristic maybe AND FUN.
How I'll be using Twitter and Google Docs
I don’t want to bother people too much so I’m gonna use Twitter: @Almasengine. For those of you without Twitter, my feed, as well as all other relevant materials are also accessible on my website on the “Writing” page. I will be posting about my thought process and linking to the script on Google Docs or the full production video on YouTube as it relates to what I’m working on at the time. I will try to make this as inclusive as possible. I will always include the page number or time in the video where the specific, relevant content can be found. Of course watching the full video or reading the earlier script will provide important context for anyone who wants to comment, but I hope that someone just stumbling across my work would still find value in it.
I don't think these ideas are anything new. I think it would be pretty cool if other artist also tried working in this way. I think that is may be pretty easy for me to pull this off right now precisely because my work is so unknown to people. I really don't want to receive comments from or be followed by people who are not actually interested by this project. I hope that the people who would want to know about this can find me. That is all.
I need to acknowledge here that these tools are far from perfect. In fact using Google and Twitter means that my "transparent" process is deeply dependent on two of major corporations that presently pose threats to a more open internet for the future, but as is so often the case with large companies, they have the tools that I know about. If anyone is aware of a better platform please tell me.
And to any of you who would warn me against opening my intellectual property up to the possibility of being stolen, I don’t think there’s much that is “profitable” here. I don’t do this for the money and the ideas are stronger out there than in my head so I’m not really that concerned about someone building off them. I will cite anyone who comments on the script and likewise I expect the same sort of honoring of my contributions to your work. Yes, I’m talking about an honor system. I also have a donation button on the “Tour and More” page of my site; just saying.
I’m working a full-time job so it will be pretty slow, but winter is coming and that’s when I told myself I would really start writing again so we shall see. Whatever happens I want to invite anyone who is curious to watch me try to make sausage, jam square pegs into round holes, teach a pig how to fly. It could be fun - a little voyeuristic maybe. If you want to get more involved you can check up on my website, almasengine.com where you can access and comment on the current script of They Extract! (edited in real time) and the full video of that first Wesleyan performance. And Invite all your meta enthused friends to join the party. I don’t really have any expectations for what will happen with this project. As far as I can tell we’ll either be getting in on the ground floor or getting high in the broom closet. In some ways that is more in your hands than in mine.
I am doing this because...
I am curious about what will happen.
I think that constant, stated reflection will make me write better.
I think I have more to gain from this experiment than to lose.
There could exist a universe in which this idea is widespread and it is commonly understood that process exists and is a worthwhile. maybe that society would learn to love what is raw and what is human, not just glossy product, and I want to live there.
Maybe an accountability to Twitter will keep me motivated.
I want feedback on my work, the more the better, because I want my art to as good as possible.
Transparency is so exciting to me and I need to investigate how realistic a truly transparent process would be. I have to ask: what tools need to be developed to make transparency online more possible? —in art, but ultimately also in business and other systems / structures where openness and transparency would make room for more compassionate, innovative, and human decision making.
It's an okay publicity stunt.
The internet gives us the potential to connect globally, share ideas and support each others work, but I still have to make the choice and the changes to be vulnerable if I hope to live in to that potential future.
Nobody will notice so I can do whatever I want.
I am terrified to show my messy, unfinished, kind of bad writing to anyone. And I have learned that when I feel fear like this the best thing to do in order to facilitate my growth as an artist is to lean into my discomfort and keep finding ways to ask or hold the questions that I don’t yet know how to answer.
If I heard about an artist who was doing this I would wish I had the time to be ALL OVER IT.
I know that my Twitter feed will not be very flattering and I think there is a lot to be learned from that.
I want a record all of this.
Collaboration and transparency are radical ideas. To engage with them is an interruption of our current social reality; a set of systems that are not working so well for THE MAJORITY of us .
In light and love,
Broad Street Review: Towards a transparent Creative Process by Samantha Maldonado