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Madman, Architect, Carpenter, and Judge

Writing May 17, 2024

Back in 1981, Betty Flowers introduced a fascinating concept about the different stages of writing, which she called Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process. I find it incredibly insightful to think about these stages more intentionally as I continue my writing journey, recognizing the different tasks and focus areas each role brings.


Meet the Madman—a whirlwind of ideas, bursting with energy, and darting from one thought to another. This stage is all about raw creativity. Embrace the chaos: scribble down random thoughts, draw mind maps, and jot down scraps of quotes and ideas. The Madman is about letting ideas flow freely, without worrying about coherence or completeness. As Brene Brown aptly puts it, this is the time for your SFD (Shitty First Draft). Push back against the Judge at this point and allow the Madman to run wild, focusing on capturing feelings, energy, and raw musings.


After the Madman has his say, it’s time for the Architect to step in. This role is about bringing some order to the chaos, grouping similar ideas, and starting to see the emergence of arguments or rationale. It's important to take a break between these stages to let the ideas rest and gain some distance from them. I usually give it about a week before returning. When you do come back, start to shape the random thoughts into coherent groupings, focusing on paragraphs and the underlying intuition that will drive your writing forward.


Enter the Carpenter. Now it’s about refining structure, ensuring logical flow, and enhancing coherence within paragraphs. The Carpenter files off the rough edges, mends related thoughts, and sequences ideas more logically. This role demands attention to the craft of writing—making sure each sentence is clear and contributes to the overall point. I've found tools like Grammarly can be quite helpful at this stage, assisting in maintaining the integrity and unity of your ideas.


Finally, it’s time for the Judge to take the stage. This role involves a critical review of your work. Consider your audience: are you using appropriate language? Are your points clear? Will the reader walk away with a solid understanding of your message? This is also a good time to seek feedback from others. Grammarly can assist here too, but nothing beats a trusted friend’s honest review to ensure your writing lands as intended.

Hopefully, these stages give you some new perspectives on your writing process. What strategies have you found effective in improving your writing?