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Block | The Beast

When I first put up a website in 2009 it had four pages and a blog. Several iterations later it grew beyond what I could do with iweb so I busted out Dreamweaver and created website version 5. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good either. A pretty solid example of what you can learn to do with an introductory book.

But then the site continued to grow beyond what I could handle with my limited design, the back end was a disorganized mess, I didn't make my own templates to use and in general it was time to do an overhaul.

I had a better Dreamweaver book, a better sense of CSS; a good understanding of how to handle the back end so it could grow, and a few crazy ideas of new sections I have since dropped. I restructured several times and settled down to a design that was about 50ish pages.

Then the ideas didn't stop. Before I knew it I had a 79 page beast on my hand (at the time of writing this). Just like every other project have ever touched, it ended up being much bigger than I expected. My novels all started off as single books, until I split them into quartets, and right now, July 10th, 2014 - none of them are out yet.

This gets very intimidating on a regular basis. I look at what i have, and what I still have to go and feel like maybe I'd better spend my time repotting plants. Finishing stretches further and further out of my grasp as the goal posts move faster than I can create.

When I looked at my list of pages for the site I had only done 30, I wasn't even half way. I was given the advice to pick the small battles first, and while that helped on the obvious pieces, there was so much that was only in the conceptual phase, or promised to require an article longer than I had the concentration for.

That familiar stress, the burn, the urge to just be done is intense. As crazy as it sounds, having too much to do can stall us into doing nothing. And nothing says "too much" than a project that just keeps getting bigger, more complicated, more involved with every note you scrap together. A beast.

On the one hand, great, we've got something different, something to communicate, whether it's a game, a sculpture, a book, or any other creative endeavor. On the other, bloody hell, exactly when will that be? Because I'm not getting any younger.

And therein lies the problem. As a culture we are addicted to the clock, whether it be an unconscious need to account for our time, the pressure of deadlines, or even the waning patience of your boss or worse audience. And no matter how many ways you look at it, you only have one choice to get it all done. Take more time.

Pushing back release dates, the rest of the development team, the expectations of fans or the demands of a boss is not our favourite thing to do. And it only gets worse the bigger your name is. How impatient have games been for an expansion that has been announced? How much frustration have been declared by George. R. R. Martin fan's? The poor guy can't put out a post about a football game without an outcry that he should spend night and day writing till he's done.

Which is where reality and expectations smack against each other. The creative flow does not turn on like a tap, last in a steady stream for eight hours and then knock of for the evening. Indeed most writers can only squeeze two hours of actual writing out of their soul on a semi daily basis. Provided they don't get lock out.

Game designers have the same problems, there is a big gap between coming up with a concept and putting it to code, and it is inevitable some great ideas will sneak into the development phase, and some stalls. You can try to hold back announcements, but then fans will pester you for word on what you are doing next.

Put in that light, I'm somewhat relieved that I've started off slowly in peace and quiet with only the occasional nagging of friends who want to see my work in print, or at least be able to read it. (I'm super secretive with my work) But it doesn't change the ticking bomb inside me that says "I have to finish something this year."

So what to do? Is it really as simple as pushing back dates and ducking under the radar as much as possible while you just slog it out one step at a time?

Frankly yes. Well no. It depends.

Accept that there are times in your life that are perfect for an intense burst of creation, a week off to yourself with no TV, movies, friends or other distractions, a lull between other projects, a shift in your concentration that seems to be a gift from whatever god heard your prayer.

But

With that you need to accept there are times that are the opposite. The holidays, moving, a heavy workload, social events or, according to the internet, the season finale of a show the swept everyone up in a super craze.

And

Quit measuring yourself against other people. I went to collage just before I was sixteen, wahoo, I took seven years to finish, oh well. Life balances out. Some people have a kick start early in their careers some people (points to mirror) need a lot of time to develop and understand who they are as an artist and what they want to produce. Some authors publish at 18 and then some of those never put anything else out. And then there is the 82 year old getting her first book in print. She took forever and ended up on top because she gave everyone hope that everything happens, when? In it's own sweet time. I told you we are addicted to the clock. Throw it out.

So

a) Be reasonable with your own expectations.

b) Start every project with the knowledge the game will change.

c) Be ready to adapt to market changes.

d) Don't bother to plan a rigid timetable. If you need one for
work account for flex time.

e) Be prepared to accommodate known stressors and delays.

f) If you have a super fast period don't announces how much
you've done, just enjoy the breathing room.

g) Be prepared for slow periods and don't get discouraged by them.

h) Overestimate how long things will take.

i) Only make lists if you find them encouraging and are far enough
along to have a clue of what you need.

j) Don't expect to stick to the list.

k) If you are non-linear, work in whatever order you like.

l) Don't give up.

m) Don't panic and carry a towel.

Well maybe not the towel bit.

Other than that, it really is, one step at a time, bird by bird, sentence by sentence, headache by headache, cups of tea in streams and maybe a nice glass of wine when you hit a milestone.

I short; if you can, throw out the timetable, ignore the pestering to finish and attempt to enjoy the journey. If you can't, be reasonable with what you can do. And just keep chipping a the marble, you'll get there.

Now breath.


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