It’s not uncommon to hear writers being compared to architects.
The comparison makes sense on a number of levels. Firstly, both are creative occupations. Both create something where nothing previously existed. Just as an architect designs and creates buildings, a writer designs and creates stories (or whatever other type of writing they specialise in).
Both writing and architecture can be considered to be crafts. They’re skillful pursuits which require a lot of learning in order to be done well. There are particular rules that should be followed in order to do the job well. There are tools that can be utilised in order to ensure that whatever is created is rigorous and sound. For architects, these may be the variety of building materials available. For writers, it’s words, as well as the various literary devices we can use to make those words more than just the sum of their parts.
A third way I can think of that makes writing and architecture similar is that both have their different styles and genres. For writing, we have the division between non-fiction vs fiction, and fiction can be further broken down into genres like romance, fantasy, scifi, crime, etc. Architecture also has its styles, like gothic or baroque or art deco, and I’m sure I could list a lot more but at this point my ignorance about architecture is beginning to show through.
But while there are many similarities between the two creative pursuits, there are some pretty substantial differences as well. And the more I think of those differences, the more I realise it’s a pretty good thing that I’m a writer rather than an architect.
I think that if I tried to impose my writing style onto the design of a building, it would be a disaster. That’s because of the way that I combine the techniques of plotting and pantsing in my writing. While I start with a rough idea of how the story will work out, I don’t figure out most of the details until I actually start writing. Not to mention the fact that I often change my mind about key aspects of the story or the characters, especially in early drafts. It’s only in the later drafts that everything is clarified and all details of the story become consistent.
Now imagine how that would work if I was designing a building. My basic design would be an extremely rough blueprint. I would only be figuring out the details as the building was actually built. How do you think the builder would appreciate this? What about the client I was designing the building for?
A second problem is that even as the building was being constructed, I would be constantly changing my mind. Imagine how the final thing would appear. It would probably end up with doors on the wrong floor and windows at all sorts of peculiar angles and a roof that combined seven different styles. However much I tried to keep my design on track, I’m sure the whole thing would turn into some sort of messy hodgepodge.
So that’s why it’s a good thing I’m not an architect. It’s way better that I’m a writer, where I can plot and pants and edit and rewrite and change my mind to my hearts content.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as