Watching the League of S.T.E.A.M. from up close was fascinating. Likewise talking to members of Abney Park and Steam Powered Giraffe, as well as watching the other bands, troupes and performers there.
In simple terms, what I saw was creativity expressed as a tightly interactive process.
The creativity of writers of print fiction is very much an internal pursuit. We work alone, usually in privacy. Even writers who collaborate generally do that serially rather than through face-to-face interaction. (As I understand it, this happens differently for the script writing staff of television shows, so it follows that the solitary work pattern is not universally true of writers. Journalism, to mention another counterexample, is arguably an interactively collaborative process in another sense.) Creativity runs silent and deep for people who write novels and short stories and poetry.
By contrast, the creativity of actors, at least in the context I saw at World Steam Expo, was absolutely a participative, iterative process. The League of S.T.E.A.M. were in character much of the time, even when they were not out in public. When not in character, they were thinking and talking about character, or performance, or script, or costuming, or props. They live their parts, moving in a literal swarm of multidimensional creativity. Likewise some of the other performers. I never saw Spine from Steam Powered Giraffe out of his makeup all weekend.
As a writer, I live my parts, the stage being inside my head. But that stage and its creativity are contained between the privacy of mind and the interface between my fingers and my keyboard. Like I said, a profoundly internal pursuit.
I found myself feeling very envious of the League of S.T.E.A.M., of the other performers and musicians. Watching that ongoing performance and creative exploration made me wish fiction writers could work collectively. It made me wonder what fiction writers could do if they did work collectively.
What would it be like to pull half a dozen writers together in big room and actively, verbally brainstorm a story from conception to completion? Sure, we sit around and talk about ideas sometimes. Sure, we consult one another on technical or plot details. But what would it be like to live our way through that process? Participatively, iteratively.
It's not that I think the current process of writing is broken. I don't, not at all. It's just that I received a glimpse into a different process. It's a new toy, and I'd love to try that out.