Making and Motivation: MIX 2013

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I have set myself a challenge: I am giving myself precisely three-quarters-of-an-hour to write this piece, after which I will post it. I will not ‘sit on it’, or ‘sleep on it’ and – save for major factual error or (unintended) offense – I will not ‘tweak’ it after it has gone up, which is what I would typically do.

As part of the Making Day we programmed for Bath Spa University’s MIX 2013 conference, I had the pleasure of attending Leila Johnston’s workshop Making Things Fast: How to Stay Creative and Motivated. In three hours four of us – who had never met – devised, wrote and a performed a show for her.  We made a comic, wrote a song, made props out of card and pipe-cleaners and used Vine to make videos. Leila’s gentle encouragement to ditch the end goal, and to stick two fingers up to perfection, opting instead to give into the journey and enjoy the process of making, was incredibly invigorating.

Boat prop from the Making Things Fast Workshop

Boat prop from the Making Things Fast Workshop

By the end of it I felt like weeping at all the three hours I’ve lost procrastinating, tweaking, or being held back by some imagined fear of criticism or judgement. So, in the spirit of that workshop, and without further todo, here are some of the key themes that emerged from two very enjoyable days at MIX 2013:

Motivation and success

In the writers’ survey we carried out prior to launching The Writing Platform, ‘finding readers for their work’ trumped ‘making money from their work’ as the key motivation for writers. In her keynote my colleague, Sophie Rochester, explored definitions of success. Using Dostoyevsky’s tumultuous writing and publishing career – an endless cycle of critical and financial ups and downs – as her starting point, she argued that whilst repetition and scalability in projects might be a suitable goal for publishers, they might not be suitable ones for writers, especially those who thrive on creating anew each time.

From binary thinking to pluralism

As humans we seem to struggle with non-binary concepts. We find it easier to get a handle on works – and the people who create them – if they fit into boxes: this-or-that rather than this-and-that. In her talk and reading on Tuesday evening Naomi Alderman shared her experience of creating such diverse works as the bestselling running app Zombies! Run and novel The Liars Gospel, drawing an interesting parallel between the frame-of-mind and environment she is in when gets an idea for a story, with the frame-of-mind and environment the audience will be in when they eventually experience the finished project.

This plurality was also something we noticed in the applications for our The Writing Platform Bursary. Our categories of ‘Writer’ and ‘Creative Technologist’, whilst helpful for administrative purposes, did not cover the rich and diverse skillsets of many of the individuals who applied. Which brings me onto …

The inadequacy of our language 

Multi-authored story experiment at MIX 2013 Making Day

Who is the writer? who is the audience?

Our language hasn’t caught up when it comes to describing the new types of work or the new types of people creating them. This is a topic that came up at the Futurebook Innovation workshop earlier this year: if you can’t define something adequately, how can you connect it, or sell it, to an audience? Indeed the word ‘audience’ itself is no longer adequate for many types of storytelling. Naomi shared an anecdote receiving a ticking off for referring to ‘audience’ in a participatory story-telling project she worked on.

Responding to Naomi’s anecdote someone in the MIX 2013 audience (?) suggested the word ‘authience’ – whilst that particular word might not take off, as word-lovers, there is plenty of fun to be had!

You can get a full digest of Making Day at MIX 2013 at Epilogger and we’ll be posting further thoughts and work created on Making Day on the site soon.

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