The most recent The Oatmeal has really got me thinking about my own creative process. This is going to be a rambling bit that has very little to do with game design and more to do with me and my problems. I apologize in advance if that’s not what you came here to read…
Inspiration can be quite a pain at times. I’m not sure about others, but mine waxes and wanes constantly. Sometimes very quickly, most times very slowly. I’ll go through brief periods of intense inspiration, then long lulls. Or maybe I have an long period of productivity with bursts of inspiration interspersed, and short periods of intense depression. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always been creative. I used to write poetry. A lot of poetry. The funny thing about those days is that I could only write poetry in the down times… the times when I was least inspired and mostly lethargic. I was never inspired to write during times of productivity… I just couldn’t find anything to write about. I was a different person then… more pessimistic. Less hopeful. I had goals and dreams like everyone else, but I was really hard on myself about them… and that was a vicious circle to trap myself in. I never achieved… because of myself.
I’m not that guy any more. In fact, I’m the opposite. I have a very different outlook on the future and a different way of getting things done. Now, during the down times, I find myself slumped on the couch, playing a video game or watching TV. I’m not productive and I can’t force myself to be. If I try to force it, I get in a vicious internal fight with myself and ultimately, it makes me feel worse. I am now inspired by excitement and happiness and I have a harder time dealing with the down times.
I haven’t written poetry in almost a decade. I am now inspired by excitement and happiness and I have a harder time dealing with the down times. Game design has become my creative outlet and I am most inspired during the good days. The difficulty comes from the fact that it is much easier to be depressed than excited. It is super easy to be lethargic and take a negative view of everything. It is a much harder task to be upbeat, progressive, and optimistic/hopeful. For me, that’s what game design requires of me. It is work, even if I enjoy the work very much.
I worry that I don’t work at it enough, but I find that if I force myself into it, I lose the inspiration to continue. Project: Dead End has sat idle for almost three months because of this. I want to finish it, I really do. I liked the game at some points in the development, but I was never in love with it. Now I loathe it because it marks a point in this adventure where I feel I have failed. Every now and again I flip through the design pages here and I feel like I have let down people. There were quite a few regular visitors that were following that adventure specifically. They chatted with me about it, sent me emails, and were genuinely interested in the project. Have I lost those readers? I’m really not sure.
So… how do I solve this?
Recently, I’ve taken more interest in other people’s projects than my own. I feel like having a design partnership… even if not co-designing… is very productive for me. Because of this, I get excited for others, but find it difficult to work on my own work. I’ve been doing a fair bit of art for others. Now, I’m no artist, but I can generate some passable work for prototypes… and I honestly enjoy doing it very much.
Is that stealing time from my game design? Maybe… but I’m not sure I feel inspired to work on design right now… so I wait. Sock Monster has been fun, and I feel like it is at 95%, but part of me nags that it’s not enough and needs a little bit more to be the best it can be. I can’t find that missing 5% right now and it’s causing me to procrastinate on it… so I work on the art.
Is art my new poetry? Maybe. I guess that’s not a bad thing. If I can turn both the good and bad times into productive periods, maybe I can produce good things. Maybe.
What I do know, is that interacting with you, my readers, makes me excited for what I’m doing. Even if it is mostly a one-sided conversation, just putting this stuff in words helps me solidify what it is I’m working towards. The occasional email or Twitter conversation helps keep me going and makes me realize that what I’m doing is sometimes benefiting not only me, but others.
I’ll stop whining now and get back to work. New things are coming, I promise. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon… when they are ready.