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Architect by day, writer by night

How one architect’s design process has fostered a whole new creative outlet

by Scott Berger, Architect

I’m an architect. I’ve been in the profession for three decades, so I’ve learned a few things about being creative. How to harness it to design a building. How to take the first flicker of inspiration and turn it into a plan or a sketch. How to show the intent, rather than tell about the intent. How to do so quickly, efficiently. It’s how I work, how I create.

I’m also a writer, but I’ve only been doing that for nine years. And I had no training nor experience, apart from school assignments. I also had no previous desire to write. But in 2006, I got bitten by the writing bug, thanks to a co-worker. So how do I write?

The short answer? Like an architect.

The long answer? I realized I knew less than nothing about writing, so I joined a writers group and immediately learned writers created differently. Most first threw together words, no matter how undeveloped the idea. Then they spent hours, days and longer writing and rewriting.

I tried that, but my being an architect first proved problematic. As an architect, I’ve been trained to get the design pretty close to right the first time (and quickly). Then if I’ve done it right, I spend a little time making minor adjustments. Try as I might, it didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t much fun, so I leaned back upon the process that serves me so well in the profession.

So, I started writing like I designed buildings – get a solid idea worked out before I put much down on paper. Then I would spend much less time rewriting than most of my contemporaries.

It was then I discovered two pleasant differences between creating a story and creating a building design.

  1. No deadlines. Oh sure, writers do have deadlines – I’ve since discovered that – but I realized my writing a story didn’t have any deadline. What a joy that was.
  2. Creating for the sheer joy of creating. Creating solely for myself.

My writing blossomed after that. Free of the restraints of professional advice, the words flowed easily. Twelve full-length novels in about eight years’ worth of easy. And then earlier this year, I got what writers like to refer to as “the call.” For me, it was actually an e-mail saying, “We want to publish your story.” So, nine years after I began writing, I became a published author with a romantic suspense story titled Quite The Catch.

Anyway, all that writing revealed another way my architectural background comes in handy: problem solving.

Here at work, my problem might be a late client request or a previously undiscovered site condition during construction. In my stories, the problem could be an obstacle created by the heroine’s enemy or an event that keeps the heroine and hero apart.

There is one big difference. In architecture, creating problems is a very bad thing. In writing, it’s not only essential to maintain a reader’s interest but it’s a boatload of fun to do.

However, both my writing and my work need to have all the major conflicts resolved for them to be considered complete and ready for the public. So I spend most of my time aiming for that goal, whether I’m wearing my architect’s hat or my writing one.

And it’s that satisfaction of successfully solving the problem that motivates in both my worlds – architect by day, writer by night.

I started writing like I designed buildings – get a solid idea worked out before I put much down on paper.

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