On Iteration (Updated Job, Website, Life)

Writer’s naturally grok the iterative process. That’s what writing a book, short story, or whatever is. A series of drafts of varying levels of change are, inherently, iterative. You take what worked, what didn’t, and jumble them up into something new. Each version is, ideally, a little bit better than the previous ones. Then you just keep going.

So many other processes are just like this. Game design, for example. You’re going through and changing things on an iterative level, making incremental changes, hoping that each one is improving it. Sometimes it even does!

From the outside, it is easy to fall into the perception that creatives of all sorts are engaged in some otherworldly act of creation. That they are able to draw gold from straw at a moment’s notice. Don Draper certainly didn’t help this perception.

Think about nearly anything you do – almost everything in life is inherently iterative. You’re practically repeating the same days over and over again, trying to do it a little bit better each time. Eventually we hit breakthroughs, the big changes that alter things at a fundamental level. Then we start the process over again.

Now, we aren’t at the full level of iterative design through agile design and scrums, pushing out incremental updates to the world. Our products, be they games or stories, don’t work like that. If I tell you a story, it is unlikely you’ll want to hear it again and again and again at incremental improvements. That’s what our internal systems are for, what we use alpha and beta readers and testers for. It’s all a process, one that has to keep being pursued, followed, and worked on.

That’s even what writer’s who change from one project to another are trying to create, a system of iterations within their team of one. They change projects so they can return with fresh eyes. All the little superstitions that we develop for our creative processes follow these same logics and rules, all pursuing something a little better than last time.

The website is updated, a major set of changes that undoubtedly will reveal more and new problems. But we’re going to keep failing, keep screwing up in a forward direction, and then we’ll go on to the next thing.

How are you using iterative processes in your creative works? Any tips, tidbits or ideas?

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