Friday, September 07, 2007

Writing Is Like ...

Writing is not like a box of chocolates. Or maybe it is. But I'm not going to talk about that.

Writing is like programming/coding. I've spent a lot of time the past few weeks on the latter for a website (XHTML and CSS and PHP - oh my!) and there are similarities.
  • Writing/Coding is a craft.

  • Crafts take time to learn, but can be learned and taught. Crafts require mastery of basic principles before more advanced skills can be learned and used. Day one will bring 'Once upon a time'/'Hello world', not 'Call me Ishmael'/recursive array calls.

  • Genres are like computer languages

  • If one can handle the basics of fiction one can write Fantasy. If one knows the logic of loops, one can use them in any language. What matters are the subtleties, the rules within each genre/language that one has to learn or otherwise violate at one's peril.

  • Great writers/programmers are lazy

  • Write once is a common motto. Neither wants to edit/debug what they have created. It is necessary, of course. The goal is to minimize the editing/debugging, learning from mistakes, reusing techniques/code one has used before.

Of course, this comparison won't bear up under intense scrutiny. You all are friends so I know you won't point out details like, oh, that the themes of paranoia and questions about the nature of reality by PKD have nothing to do with the deficiencies of garbage management within C++ code.


Blogger Camille Alexa said...

Ishmael, or Gump Wheeler?

September 8, 2007 at 12:24 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Didn't like the movie, so I'll go with Ishmael.

Unless I misunderstood the question.

Not that I've read Moby Dick either.

September 8, 2007 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

I also like the analogy. Because there comes the time of compiling/running (first readers). This is where you find the problems and debug (edit). There are the tricks you learn (onld HTML useage of tables, CSS float commands, recursive subroutines) that your first try is probably very rough. Then your next try gets better. You get baroque with their usage. And finally it's just a tool that you use and the use gets simplified and streamlined.

September 8, 2007 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...

I was only trying to understand the box of chocolates reference.

I don't think I even saw the movie, but I've seen it parodied so often, the chocolates ref jumps out.

Billy Budd is the most heinous piece of fiction I was ever forced to read for an English class, so I never made my way through Moby Dick, either.

September 9, 2007 at 1:33 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Steve, nice follow-up. Actually, more thoughtful than my post. Sounds like you've tangled with web pages.

Camille, we had Bartleby the Scrivner, repeatedly due to some weird high school curriculum dictate. It wasn't bad, wasn't great, but as you imply, wasn't much incentive to take on the big fish.

September 9, 2007 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

I've worked with HTML since back in the days when we made it out of recycled plastic bags. Or at least there were only text based editors, not the WYSIWYG (yeah, right!) editors. And I used to be a programing major in College (before switching to art).

I've never read Moby, but I've seen the movies and read the Cliffs Notes just like my professors. :)

September 9, 2007 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Got me thinking what classics I haven't read that I might attempt.

Anna Karenina was painful enough, so definitely not War and Peace.

I will probably re-read Ulysses some day, but life is too short for Finnegan's Wake.

September 9, 2007 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...

I quite liked Ulysses when I read it, but my mind was considerably more nimble when I was that age (16? 18?). Much as it pains me, I'm with you on FW.

September 11, 2007 at 2:48 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

I actually have FW on the shelf. Opened it this morning, read two paragraphs, and put it back on the shelf.

After much thought, decided Jane Austen is probably the classic writer I'd like to read but never have to this point. Don't know how I avoided her until now.

Actually, I do. The academic emphasis on dead European white guys. But I digress ...

September 11, 2007 at 11:58 PM  

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