Many people look at art or watch plays and probably just enjoy the final product. As a writer, and as someone who interviews artists of all types often, I’m interested not only in the finished product, but also the process that got them there. As many artists as I’ve talked to, that’s how much variety exists in the answers they give to the questions that explores how they do what they do.

Last week, I interviewed playwright Michael Hollinger for an upcoming article on A Wonderful Noise, which makes its Philadelphia-area premiere at Villanova Theatre this month (Ticket article here).

He said he writes all his plays by hand, ending up with “a great big mess of notebook pages.” With all the tech available — computers, laptops, notebooks, tablets, and talk-to-text — I’m sure some would find that surprising, but I didn’t. There’s something about putting pen to paper that typing words on a screen lacks. I write a lot by hand and I know other writers who only write first drafts that way, then transfer their work to computers for editing. Michael said he writes by hand because he believes “all creative process needs to honor messy before getting tidy.”

Satellite dishHe’s always taking in ideas from the world he encounters — a writer’s brain is always storing information for possible future use. “I believe all writers keep a kind of satellite dish on top of their heads, ready to receive ideas in their preferred genre or medium,” he said.

I knew that, as it happens to me — my brain is always seeing, storing info for future use — but I hadn’t considered his imagery. It’s an amusing visual — picturing me and all of the writers I know with satellite dishes on our heads gathering info that strikes us on a conscious or unconscious level, that will surface perhaps in something we write. It makes me wish the satellites were visible so I would know other writers just by sight. Imagine the tables at Starbucks filled with people behind laptops — it would make it so much easier to determine who’s writing and who’s playing Angry Birds.

In the end, how it gets done isn’t of utmost importance — just that it gets done. But it’s interesting to hear the different ways people achieve the same goal: a finished creative work. This time, it was extra fun because now I’ll forever associate satellite dishes with Michael Hollinger and I’ll imagine writers with beams of writing fodder being collected and stored through the imaginary dishes on their heads until unleashed by typing or scribbling fingers.

I hope I never lose my signal…