While I was a PhD student at Royal Holloway I (with the novelist Doug Cowie) put together a couple of experiments to test the idea that the same processes that programmers used to focus their creativity might work in a more traditional setting.
We put 10 undergraduate budding novelists in a room for a week with some unusual bits of technology, it went surprisingly well and the students constantly amazed us with the results. We’ve refined the project a few times since the origin and it constantly produces astonishing novels. We call it the TooManyCooks process.
I’d been having fun running the project with schools and so on for a year or two, and then some researchers from Psychology popped along to observe. They ran their own experiments and found that when school kids went though this process and held their own book in their hands, they also gained massively in confidence, independence and locus of control.
Shortly after we got the results of the research back, we started WhiteWaterWriters, a voluntary project to train teachers and youth leaders to run inspiration literacy camps. The camps give a group of young people an idea for a story on a single side of A4. Our cooks take the idea, workshop it, develop it, storyboard it, draft it, proof it refine it and polish it. After four and a half days – they publish it. You can read much more about WhiteWaterWriters (including a much more detailed history of the whole thing) at www.whitewaterwriters.com.
TooManyCooks as a process still gets the occasional outing outside of schools though, I’m hoping to be putting up some posts around that shortly.