Friday, December 08, 2006

Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge

"Whatever joy there is in the writing process can come only when the energies are flowing freely." - Dr. Betty S. Flowers, Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process

It is often thought that the hardest part of writing is getting started. However, one might argue that the actual hardest part of writing is resisting the urge to critique (and delete) the work you've already begun and how to organize the execution of your project.

According to Dr. Betty S. Flowers, an English Professor at the University of Texas, the urge to abandon a project and the difficulty some writers experience in completing their work, is a result of "two competing energies [that] are locked horn to horn, pushing against each other." One is the energy fueled by enthusiasm or an emotional state, the second is a kind of critical energy, peering over your shoulder; a judge with authority and "the voice of your most imperious English teacher".

In 1997, Dr. Flowers introduced The Flowers Paradigm a method to help minimize the problems and maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of one's writing by breaking down the process into four steps - each one based on a character or personality that we all have within us.


The madman is an entity full of ideas, who writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, and gets carried away with the act of writing.

Start this process by promising your judge that you'll eventually get around to soliciting an opinion of your work but for now it is best to let your creative energy nave no restrictions by exploring your interests, emotions or questions that appeal to you. Talk on paper, page after page, don't take time to consult the judge or to correct sentences.


Once the madman has generated lots of ideas, the architect takes over by assessing the strongest ideas found in the madman's work. The architect's thinking is large (perhaps non linear), organizational and unsentimental, all in the effort of drafting the root idea of your narrative.


The carpenter sets out to build the draft. At this stage, the writing begins in earnest. And because you’ve planned the draft, the carpenter’s work is greatly eased: it’s more or less a matter of filling in the blanks. That may overstate how easy the carpenter’s work is. But
the process of building is greatly simplified when you have the architect’s specifications laid out in front of you.

The most important thing about the carpenter stage is to write rapidly, without editing along the way, simply filling in the details according to the architectural specs. If you edit, then the judge starts getting active - and this is just the type of interference your carpenter doesn’t need.

If you get stuck in a certain part, then move to the next section: you may have to leave a little hole here and there. You’ll notice, too, that the carpenter has some discretion - deciding how to finish off a corner, how to build the passage from one room to the next. Some architectural details, in other words, are left to the carpenter.


Once your carpenter has built a draft, the fun begins for your judge, who can start looking for ways to improve the draft. The judge will consider whether there are suitable transitions between paragraphs, whether you’ve used a consistent voice, comma splices, misplaced
modifiers and a variety of other things. The judge is a quality-control inspector.

Advantages of the Flowers Paradigm
  • It’s easy to remember.
  • It stresses the sequential nature of the writing process.
  • It dramatizes the need for rewriting and gives a sense of individual purpose to every draft.
  • It offers a way to deal with self-image problems that sometimes interfere with the writing process. That is, if you see yourself as a creator, you might be impatientwith the polishing and careful proofing that the judge can provide—and that every draft needs.


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Michael Peachey said...

Hi there!

Well, I noticed that there's only three comments... and they're all spam! So, I thought you deserve a real contribution

Thanks for a great post - short, sharp, shiny, and distils the key points... it's like you've been applying this principle itself!

I love this model. It's something that I was sort of doing intuitively, but now gives me an "architectural framework" to think about and refine what I was doing.