Saturday, July 31, 2010

Autobiography in working relationships

Despite telling my students otherwise in order to allow them to feel comfortable writing a creative assessment item, I do believe that every aspect of writing contains some autobiographical information, whether it's how the writer looks at the world or an experience they've had.  Being able to read between the lines, and knowing the person on the other side, can be an enlightening process.  Of course, for this to be the case, the process must be undertaken un-self-consciously, which is what can make the whole exercise so difficult in the first place.  If you know that someone is going to be reading your work, you will automatically self-edit.  But what if we didn't, and what would that tell us about our co-workers?

I'm not talking about sending emails or memos.  I mean creative writing, as in short stories, screenplays or in-game modules.  If we wrote something for ourselves, then shared that with the people we work with, what effect would that have?  Would they be able to see facets of your personality that they'd never noticed before? Or would they take the work at face value, and learn only what you wanted them to?

I was thinking about this tonight, wondering about what it would be like to work in a team of writers.  I had the wonderful experience of working with Tom Abernathy when I was at Pandemic, and, for the first time in my life, I met someone whose brain functioned the same way as mine.  It was indescribable.  I can only imagine what it would be like, working with an entire team of like-minded people, but then that brought me to the scary part of that equation - how do you shield yourself from people who know how to truly read?

Not everything you write is autobiographical.  I can imagine many situations I have never experienced, and many I hope I never will.   But, as I said, your attitudes toward so many things dictate the way that you look at the world.  I read a quote attributed to Einstein, the other night, that said "Common sense is the set of prejudices acquired by age 18."  How much of your childhood are you giving away with each paragraph?

Psychoanalysts would probably find more meaning in the above than fellow writers, though having a background in both makes me eminently suited to question what I read.  Doubtless many people take what they are given and don't read too closely, since the benefits of doing so seem relatively moot and, to be honest, speculation may be interesting, but it will almost never be confirmed in the case of personalities.  But working in a team, in such a close-knit environment, where overtime is common - surely you would start to learn a thing or two about each other.  Surely, from your writing, that would shine through.

I suppose it's like any group of professionals.  How you code and comment says a lot about your mindset.  The other computer-game-related disciplines doubtless have their own indicators, and their own sub-sets that I'm unaware of.  But none of them expose so much of the self as writing, and using your own experiences to inform your writing.  Of course, it's impossible to accuse someone of having an abusive childhood, just because they write the symptoms well, but I wonder if groups of writers spend as much time thinking about each others' experiences as I sometimes do when I read student treatments.  And my answer, since I would love to work in that kind of environment is : I sincerely hope not.

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