The Creator v the Editor

| Colin Dawson

The following is an extract from the documentary “Abstract”, Christoph Niemann, an illustrator and animator writes about being both a creator and an editor:

“I need to be in control and I need to have a clear sense of where I am going and why something’s working and not working.  On the other hand, I’ve also realised that being more free spirited is necessary.  I’ve found that I need to develop these two personas separately.  Be a much more ruthless editor and be a much more careless artist.  This I find physically exhausting but there’s good stuff happening there.”

So, Niemann talks about two creative roles:

  • The free-spirited creator or careless artist who comes up with a thousand different ideas, makes surprising connections, and dreams up metaphors and stories.
  • The ruthless editor who cuts down an idea to its essence and polishes any work close to perfection.

Any illustrator, writer or trainer will have to juggle these two roles . . .  be a creator and an editor.  This juggling act is one of the reasons writing for learning can feel demanding.

How To Juggle Your Two Roles

Chris Bailey in his book “Hyperfocus” describes two types of focus:  hyperfocus and scatter focus.  Hyperfocus means giving all your attention to one specific task.  For instance, eliminating typos and grammar mistakes is a focused task, and the better we focus, the easier it is to spot typos and the quicker we can finish proof-reading.

But being focussed can lead to tunnel vision.  To be a great writer for learning we also need what Bailey calls scatter focus.  Scatter focus is when we intentionally let our minds wander to let creativity thrive and come up with fresh insights.

While most productivity advice tells us how to focus better, Bailey found that learning how to engage in scatter focus had a big impact on his productivity and creativity.

Writing for learning successfully should encourage us to scatter focus in order to find more enticing ways of explaining our ideas and teachings.  Learning is not about absorbing fact after fact but being involved in the process and really understanding.  This happens through the creativity of the learning designer.

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