Writing, Science, and Making

On my way to UCSD yesterday morning I listened to this story on our local public radio station about a zombie horror video game inspired by a nature documentary, with commentary from a local entomologist from the San Diego Natural History Museum, Michael Wall.  I’m not much of a video game player, but I love the idea that a nature documentary and the very real behavior of parasites inspired the story of this game.  I started to think about the ways that science and writing are natural partners and the roles that curiosity and creativity play in both.

And then I started to think about the ways that curiosity and creativity often get squished in schools in the name of supporting our learners.  We’ve been reading, writing, and debating formulaic writing in the SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute this week and asking ourselves what is gained and what is lost when writers, especially young writers, are encouraged or even forced to fit their thinking and ideas into five paragraphs (or three or…) predetermined and highly structured by a formula?

I’ve heard people say that “structures” (provided by formulaic writing) free young writers from the frustration of figuring out effective organization for their ideas and their writing.  But I’m guessing that neither the writer of the nature documentary nor the video game maker used a formula to craft the stories behind their movie and game.  I wonder if they even thought they were writing (as in school writing) as they crafted the narrative structures that hold their work…or were they simply making and/or playing as they explored the ideas in their heads?  I’m also wondering if they worked with collaborators–and how that shaped their stories and their productions.  (It sounds like both making and playing to me…and fun!)

My brain is already on fast forward to the new school year as I think about how my students might be inspired to write video games and documentaries and radio podcasts like the one above and who knows what else!  I know I won’t be providing any fill-in-the-blank formulas to structure their compositions.  Instead, I will help them locate mentor texts (texts in the broadest sense of the word) to play with, examine, and study to figure out how they will construct their own.  And I will create and compose along with them.

And for those of you who think your ideas are not clever or original or good enough, take a look at this video (thanks Kristina Campea for sharing on google+ at the #clmooc).

So what inspires your writing and creating?  What structures do you depend on to move from ideas to composition?

2 thoughts on “Writing, Science, and Making

  1. Jaap

    Good post Kim. I did read a lot of manuscripts as an editor. Most writers do write a story first. And when they think they are done they send it in. Then starts the improvement. So do not use forms, but instead talk about this particular finished story and try to make the student make it better. (You could even ask them to divide it in parts.


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