Last night I went to see the Clint Eastwood directed movie – Hereafter. I thoroughly enjoyed it as I had a near-death experience in the 1980s – and it sang true to many of the things that happened to me at the time – but which I have not really been able to articulate since.
The ironic thing was that I had attended a parents evening the night before and found that my son was struggling with his History and English essay writing. I took my son out to dinner before the film and explained to him that when I sit down to write something of any length, I always do it back-to-front. “Begin with the end in mind”. That sort of thing. I also use this very powerful tool in the work that I do. Some call it envisioning. I call it “Back-to-Front” Thinking. I then thread the important threads through the storyline to create drama, interest and tensions that get resolved at the end (which I have already written). I am no great writer – but I find this technique is so powerful, it has allowed me to express my ideas much better than any technique I was taught at school. I suppose in tech-speak it is like reverse engineering….but on original work and not copied from someone else.
Now when we got out of the film, the two pieces fitted so neatly together! The writer of the Hereafter movie, Peter Morgan, must have written the script back-to-front. How else could he have done it?
Like reading a good book, the film has three threads – a man with psychic powers, a woman writer-journalist who lives a near-death experience and a young boy who….well I don’t want to give too much away! The three threads dance through the film until they resolve each other’s tensions and stories at the end. What good movie or book doesn’t?
So back to Homework. I wondered why I was never taught this technique at school? I think of all the painful experiences where I had to sit down and write – without being told how it important it is to design before doing? I wonder why we don’t talk about the “how” of the structure to produce fine art – and make it much easier for young folk to succeed in what is really quite a simple technique.
Thinking of the UK government and the UK economy, I wonder if it is time for a bit of back-to-front thinking there too?