Wednesday, January 7, 2009

But Is It Art?

A couple of years ago, I spent an entire month writing stories, articles, and poems for a shelf product for a company that shall remain nameless. What could be more fun than that? With the poems, I amused myself by choosing different forms in which to write. The children who later read the poems had no idea they were reading a villanelle or a poem in terza rima, but the discipline of a strict form gave me license to be more creative with both content and language.

There's a kind of beauty in rigor and discipline; you can see this in any creative endeavor, including item writing. I've seen items that were elegant in their simplicity and adherence to the demands of the form. Following all the rules doesn't make for a perfect item--even a flatly literal basic recall item may be written perfectly, and yet be a bad item. But it's impossible to be ignorant of (or ignore) the rules and write a good item.

That having been said, when you have completely mastered the rules, you may want to break one or two once in a while, for a specific purpose. The catch is, of course, that the flouting of the rule must be intentional and purposeful, or it just looks like what it is: a mistake.

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