CSL Blog Project, Volume 2: Logical or Emotional? How is Computer Science Related to Writing? (feat. Dustin Archibald)

Logical or Emotional? How is Computer Science Related to Writing?

by Haoyang Lin

Dustin Archibald

Many people think science and art are two totally different professional fields. They stand on two opposite sides because the people who learned them are different. Scientific scholars may be more logical and rigorous because they usually deal with logical questions that just have one true answer. However, art scholars may focus on creative and emotional parts. Dustin Archibald is the president of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and he is a man who is successful in both scientific and artistic fields.

He was a computer science major in college, and his current job is still about business security and automation systems. He has also published fiction and comics: he writes middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction. Having previously published comic books, his focus is on speculative fiction and creating fantastic worlds. In fact, he has done very well in these two seemingly opposing professional fields. During the interview with President Archibald, he told me about his success in these two professional fields, and he offered university students some advice to improve their writing skills.


HL: Some people may say scientists are usually rigorous and logical but writers or artists are more imaginative and emotional. They seem like totally opposite jobs. How can you find the balance point between your jobs (Writer, President, and Chief Technology Officer)?

Computer Science and Writing do seem like polar opposites. Indeed, most people think they are. That’s not true, though. Computer Science is less like a science and more like an art than most people realize. Depending on the person and the situation, many different programs can be written to solve the same problem! This requires a great deal of creativity and intuition. Writing is more rigorous and logical than most people believe. To be a great writer you need to consistently write. A writer has to be a master of logic in order to ensure a story makes sense. They need to ensure the characters are consistent, the story progresses in an easy to follow way, and they need to ensure events happen in a certain order.

I’m lucky to be able to do both.

HL: When you are writing a new story or creating a new fantastic world, what’s your writing strategy to make your characters and world background a complete and well-rounded portrayal 

When I’m writing a new story or new world I often create a “bible” beforehand. This includes details about characters (their personality, age, history, or interesting facts about them). For the world part I do the same, but I focus more on answering basic questions (What kind of technology is available? What are the religions? What are the different types of people or creatures?)

HL: Why and when did you choose to be a writer? Was there anything that inspired you like games, movies or novels? And could you please give university students some advice about improving their writing and critical thinking skills?

One particular inspiring event happened when I was in the 8th grade. Our class had been assigned to write a chapter to finish a book, replacing the existing one. The teacher read out loud a few of the chapters written by the students she thought were exceptional and my chapter was one of them! I was thrilled. When I received the paper back there was note from her that read “I hope you choose to write professionally. I mean it!” Since then I’ve wanted to be a writer.

Games, movies, and novels all need to follow the same story structure. They need to entertain, inspire, and engage.

On how to improve your writing skills:

  • Write often. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do need to do it. Try different styles, perspectives, themes, genres.
  • Find a mentor. A mentor can provide valuable experience about writing and help you work through problems. It’s also fun to get to know people who are well on their way to being what you aspire to be.
  • Join a critique group. Make sure it’s a group that is positive but honest. You want to find a group with experienced writers who can help you get better.

On critical thinking skills:

  • The basis of all critical thinking is skepticism (not taking things at face value). Always ask yourself “Is this true?” and then commit to finding the truth.
  • Talk to experts. Professors, instructors, doctors, anyone who has dedicated their professional lives to becoming experts in their fields. Ensure that they have credentials from reputable institutions.
  • Learn to research using academic resources. The internet is great but not everything posted is accurate. Be skeptical.  

In conclusion, Mr. Dustin Archibald suggests many methods to improve our writing skills. He also shares his own life experience that illustrates how he can be so successful in different ways. Think more, practice more. I believe, if we can do what President Archibald said, it will be not hard to become successful.

*Images taken from Dustin’s website.

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