I have this bad habit of going into complete and total rebellion-mode every time I’m assigned a “Mind Map” in class.
My guess? Trauma-induced.
Since maybe the third grade, I’ve been trained to hate making diagrams to represent my thoughts. Of course, it was the opposite effect my teacher was trying to have on me, but it happened nonetheless. Topographical charts I’ve got no problem with. Geometric shapes or graphs? Nothing against those either. But something about the notion of defining and walling my thoughts and thought processes into little flat bubbles just fills me with rage.
Not all diagrams are evil, though. Yes, I really said that. In fact, this entire post revolves around one. One I made up completely out of the blue just so I could write a blog post about it, but one that also holds so element of truth, and that I’ve grown quite fond of now that I came up with it. I like to think of it as my Creative Quadrangle:
This diagram not only represents my creative pursuits, but also the fact that each one is an essential part of all the others.
I think it’s a common mistake to think that, say, a published fiction author could also be a filmmaker. I mean, they’ve done what they can do, right? They should just let someone else make movies of their book for them. They’re just an author, which obviously means they are restrained to authoring.
Except, this type of thinking is all wrong. When I write, I see the scenes and characters play their parts in my head like I’m watching a movie. The films I’ve seen recently often influence the look and feel of whatever I write during that time. Even now, the style of this article is very similar (or so I hope) to the style of a particular YouTube channel I watch that does “lesson” videos with a very unique kind of cadence to them.
Additionally, there’s no reason that a writer can’t directly influence or make movies about their own work. Many big directors, including Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson, are credited as cowriters of the scripts of their movies. Additionally, I’d direct your attention to a very special instance of a man writing a successful book and then proceeding to create an even more incredible screenplay and movie from it. Of course, I’m talking about William Goldman and The Princess Bride here.
But these connections between departments of art aren’t exclusive to writing and filmmaking. As can be seen in the fancy Google Drawings diagram, there are arrows between all of the four disciplines.
I’m not going to take the time to name all of them, but a few examples might include a painter listening to a certain genre of music while they paint for inspiration, or a musician trying to make their compositions sound like their favorite movie soundtracks. Storyboards are drawings that are used extensively in the filmmaking process, but they need a story to be based off of, which comes from a writer. Without lines to say, actors are just people ad-libbing stuff, and without music to help them focus or set the mood, writers are almost unable to produce anything.
This is my model of my own creativity. I don’t think it’s complete by anyone’s standards, and it certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. For example, a dancer might choose to include breakdancing or ballet as a fifth category, or just merge it with acting. Maybe you consider rough sketches to be in a completely different creative field than high art like photorealistic paintings. And where does improvised poetry fall?
The point is, this version of the Quadrangle applies specifically to me, but I encourage you to make your own version of it to define your creative pursuits. If you have space on the paper or in your mind, try to think of how your skills in each area affect your performances and products in the other. It’s important to develop a mindset that allows you to understand that very few creative people do just one thing. Whatever other talents you have, you’ll find that they have a weighty influence on your creativity. Recognize that and use it to your advantage. Are you particularly good at underwater basket weaving? Write a story about someone from a small town winning the Olympic Gold Medal for it, and you’ll be able to include details and descriptions that a non-weaver could never. Good with people and their management? Consider being a director; you might find that leading the masses suits you.
In any case, and with whatever choices you make based on your Quadrangle, I want to lay some final emphasis on the concept of artistic community. Like I said above, a lot of times you will find that in order to accomplish your personal goals, you will need to rely on the accomplishments of others. It reminds me of something I heard while listening to a podcast by Hans Zimmer, legendary film composer. He was talking about a similar concept to what I’ve just gone over, and he mentioned something I’d never heard before. He had just said how many individuals must work next to each other to make a movie, and how each person is individually relying on everyone else to provide them with what they need to have to be able to do their job well. He said, and I quote:
“—really, we’re all alone in this together.”
And I’ll leave you with that.