Supercharging the Creative Process:
A Roadmap Toward Better Art
Part 4, Philosophic Machines
One day, back when I was a scriptwriter, it occurred to me that films contained people, places, goals, visions, missions, thoughts, emotions, efforts, heroes, villains, bystanders, life and death, art, energy, space, and their own unique set of “natural” laws—basically, everything that life contains. But, of course, different.
Whether real or fanciful, a film is its own little world or you might say an encapsulation of life (or a mirror or reflection of life). And so organizationally speaking, the rules by which art is created must parallel those by which any universe is constructed.
In other words, a story or an art form, even if it follows a different set of “natural” laws where fantastic things are possible, constitutes its own little universe. Thus its construction must logically parallel the real universe in which we live.
Some years earlier I had learned about the existence of something called a “philosophic machine.” The concept is centuries old.
A philosophic machine is made by taking a known pattern and using it to explain the construction of something else you only partially know. For example, we have the basic pattern of an engine. You could use that pattern with which to model the organization chart of a manufacturing plant.
Let’s look at how an engine works. First, someone up above has to decide when to push the accelerator pedal and where to go. So first comes planning (executive branch). Then someone has to shift gears and watch the speedometer to make sure the engine is turning at the proper speed to drive the car where planning wanted it to go. So that is management.
But if we have personnel, then we also need a department to obtain personnel. So there’s HR.
Then we get down to the actual engine. An engine is started with stored electrical energy. In a business, energy means money. So there must be a financial department to turn things on and purchase raw materials.
An engine takes in air and gasoline. So the next department would be purchasing.
Air and gas are mixed together. That is pre-production. The air/fuel mixture goes into the motor and is burned, producing force — the product of an engine. So next we’d have production. The raw force must then be converted by a crankshaft into an output of useful rotational motion. So there you have packaging. Various checks and balances (a flywheel) are there to maintain an even quality of motion. So there we have quality control. These quality control functions also inform the driver (management) of engine temperature, oil pressure, etc. So that tells you quality control has to report to management.
The uniform qualified motion turns a drive shaft which transmits this useful motion to the rear wheels. So there you have shipping and a supply chain.
And so it goes. Perhaps you have a business where the quality control people were not actually reporting their information to management. Well, the use of even this crude philosophic machine would indicate to you that at a very minimum they need something like an engine light to inform management when something is wrong, and if high performance is wanted, the reporting should be much more detailed.
Now there are other functions I have left out in this simple example. The cooling system for example. These might also have their counterparts showing up in a business. What does cooling do? Maintains cool temperatures in production areas and removes excess heat. Maybe that’s HR department or maybe that’s something else. I’m just giving an example off the cuff to show what a philosophic machine is and how it’s useful.
So a philosophic machine is really a pattern or fundamental arrangement of sockets into which you can plug what data you have, and thereby predict the existence of new data. You can discover which elements might be missing and thereby build a more complete picture and then discover a solution.
A philosophic machine can be used to analyze anything including complicated productions like books and films. I did not invent the use of philosophic machines. I only realized a good philosophic machine, invented by minds greater than my own, could be used to enhance the artist’s greatest and perhaps, dare I say, most divine ability: the power to create.
Now, let’s talk about scriptwriting.
Chances are you are not a scriptwriter. I know that. Perhaps you make pottery. Or scrapbooks. Or landscapes. Or beautifully balanced ledgers. Or artfully instructed students. What do you have in common with a scriptwriter? Nothing.
I know: You don’t know the first thing about scriptwriting. Plots. Character arcs. Scenes. Writing dialog.
But consider the story of your life. Bad or good, it IS a story. And of course you are the author of that story. It’s an ongoing story and you will continue to script that story for the rest of your days. I hope it turns out to be good.
Every person is a scriptwriter. You are a scriptwriter. If only for the most important story ever told: the story of your life.
Knowing more about the process of scriptwriting can help a person in two ways. 1) it can improve the quality and speed of your production; and 2) it can improve your own ability to script the on-going chapters of your life as they continue to unfold and even change directions.
The process of creation is the common cloth not only of any medium in the arts but of the process of living itself. So it’s not just a metaphor or something to study when you want to improve your writing. You may have never thought of it like this before, but you are creating a story every day. And even if you embrace the idea that others are involved in the process, no one will ever have as much ability to send the script into a new direction, or to write a new unexpected chapter, as you. The pen is in your hand. You have the strongest grip on it.
Now at this point, there should have been a crescendo of music. I don’t have any of that, and so I apologize for my anticlimactic presentation.
Next: Part 5, Creativity and Games