Whether I am writing a play or a game, I mostly use a computer, but in any process, there comes a moment when a computer just doesn’t have enough storytelling horsepower, and you gotta kick it old skool.
This is a pretty typical notebook shot for me: a scene or moment on each post-it, so that I can clump, unclump, and reclump ideas. (Sadly for you, this isn’t a page with visible stick figure drawings, which pop up in my notebooks about as often as aging movie actors pop up in cameo roles on “Law & Order.”)
So, I had this whole set-up laid out on my “desk for the day” while on a contract gig, writing a game story at a client’s office a few weeks ago. A colleague at the desk next to me glanced at the pile of scrappy post-its, then at me, and then at the massive flatscreen monitor on the desk, attached to a top-of-the-line computer which I hadn’t even powered up.
“What’s going ON over here?,” he asked.
“I’m working on the shape of the story,” I said, a little embarrassed to be caught in the middle of what’s usually a pretty private mess.
“There’s got to be a digital solution for this,” he puzzled, squinting at the brightly colored scraps of paper holding barely legible handwriting. They were scattered chaotically everywhere, giving my desk a lively but decidedly amateurish look, as though a kindergarten book report had barfed all over it.
“I am sure there is a digital solution,” I said, “but this is so much more fun!” I stopped feeling embarrassed, and started feeling lucky. “It’s way more fun to move things around… and see different combinations… when you have real physical objects to play with, and aren’t just looking at a screen.” I moved a note from one pile to another.
His eyes lit up, and his brow smoothed with the dawn of comprehension. “Right,” he said, “because you feel like you’re actually DOING something!”
It is easy to forget, especially on a computer, but yes: writing IS actually doing something.