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ENTRY

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 1
June 3, 2008

What I'm starting to think about as a general framework for artistic endeavors is a "Theory of Satisfaction." The purpose of the theory is to explain and predict the process of artistic creation as well as how people experience a work of art. I'll be speaking about fiction, obviously, although I'm not specifically including or excluding any creative, expressive activity as art.

I'll present ideas from the writer?s perspective as well as the reader?s. The two perspectives are obviously different, but one informs the other. I'm dividing the discussion into six topics:
  • satisfaction is an emotion
  • satisfaction is achieved when expectations are met or exceeded
  • satisfaction is changeable and temporal
  • satisfaction varies greatly from person to person
  • satisfaction is relatively short-lived
  • satisfaction is addictive
First, satisfaction is an emotion. Satisfaction is different from "satisfactory," which means meeting a set of minimum criteria. The satisfaction I'm referring to is more the sense of being satisfied or sated. It's different from but intertwined with pleasure. When we are satisfied, we may sense of pleasure. Satisfaction refers an emotion after a completed action, whereas pleasure refers to a current emotional state. So when we've achieved satisfaction, we often feel pleasure. Satisfaction is also different from happiness, which is a more complex bundle of emotions and refers to a positive general state of being.

While I'm writing, there is a continual process of creation, analysis, and reaction. I'm putting down words, listening to them what they are saying, critiquing them, and either going forward with more words or going back and revising words already written. This process isn't always as linear as it sounds - I could be at any stage at anytime, going back and forward as much as my cognitive capacity allows. And the process doesn't all occur at a conscious level, some of it happens at a subconscious level. Satisfaction moderates this process. If satisfaction is strong then the process tends to keep going smoothly and quickly. If satisfaction is weak or negative, the process tends to drag and can break down.

When I'm reading, I'm processing words into meaning, analyzing them, and reacting to them. If the meaning I'm getting is satisfying, then the reading experience continues smoothly and quickly. If not, it drags and can breakdown. The feeling of a satisfactory reading experience is the vivid, continuous dream that the American author and professor John Gardner wrote about. Like during sleep, you may know you are dreaming but you are so enthralled in the experience you don't want it to end.

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COMMENTS

Number of comments: 6
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Jean Hanson
I look forward to Part II. This is a bit like the writer's/reader's side of all the studies coming out lately about how happiness looks when viewed from inside the brain. I've often wished to quantify what it is I find alluring about writing, and why I'm such a voracious reader.

Todd
Thanks, Jean. Indeed, I'm fascinated with all the recent brain research going on. So I am influenced by it. I'm not sure where "satisfaction" occurs in the brain, likely multiple places. That would be interesting research if someone already hasn't looked at it.

Jo Reed
Okay, sure, I see your point but it's kind of abstract. I guess you'll be giving us "writers" (not sure why that's in quotes) some specifics on using your Grand Theory.

Todd
Yep, Jo, specifics to follow! Oh, and I'm not sure why you put "writers" in quotes either. Some subconscious reluctance, fear of failure? I assume you are a "writer"? When do the quotes come off?

Jo Reed
OKay, you got me there. Sure I'm a writer (quotes or not big boy). Did you always consider yourself a Writer?

Todd
Guess I always did, even when I wasn't.

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