Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Some Necessary Truths about Creativity #IWSG

As many of you know, I’ve been working on game design and I’ve discovered—much to my delight and distress—that it’s very similar to writing. Because of this, I’ve learned a few unexpected truths about creativity I’d like to share with you today.

Game design, along with writing, can be frustrating. This may not come as a surprise to many of you, but I think it’s a truth we live with on a surface level until we’re sunk in the thick of it. When we’re not feeling the frustration, we can brush it away, shrug, and say, “Sure, frustration comes with anything creative. It’s part of the deal.” It’s harder to say that when we’re experiencing the angst of something not working the way we want/need.

Frustration is the doorway through which doubt can creep. Resentment for the project can rise, a sense of failure can take hold. The extremes don’t happen every time, but the frustration is the seed from which all those nasties can bloom. It's important, even crucial, to understand the truth that yes, setbacks can happen when we’re creating something from the heart, and it’s okay. It doesn’t make us failure if a solution doesn’t come to us right away. It doesn’t mean that’s the end of our writing/game design/[insert creative outlet] career.

Game design, along with writing, is slow. Writing an outline for a new manuscript can take me a month or more. Then writing the first draft can take another month or three or four or five... Then there’s all the rewriting, editing, and tweaking. The same goes for game design. Planning what I want for the game takes forever. Then designing the pieces, building them, thinking up puzzles and interesting levels, then implementing them in a way that actually works in the environment and on the platform… takes an eternity.

I’ve learned testing is crucial. Test often. If I spend the time making everything look pretty before I’ve tested it, then I’ve potentially wasted a lot of time if at the end I discover it has to be redone from scratch. The same goes for manuscript writing. If I spend days, weeks even, prettying up a scene without checking to see how that scene works in the story, then I could be wasting time. And once it’s pretty, it’s even harder to throw away if it doesn’t work.

Because anything creative takes time to get right, because it can be frustrating, it’s important to remind yourself why you started in the first place. It’s important to celebrate the little victories—I actually got a mini puzzle working in my game. I was so excited to see it working that I celebrated the event even though in the big picture it was such a little thing. It helped me focus on the win rather than on the mountain of work I’ve yet to accomplish. And it’s important to remember your love for the project. That love will get you through fire.

What are some truths about creativity you’ve learned? How do you bolster yourself up when the project is dragging its feet?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.

75 comments:

  1. I imagine test is a huge one with games? What? A first draft takes a month or more? Nah, just finished my current on in 16 days. Of course I have to edit the crap out of it and that will take a while haha I know there has been some projects that just annoy once you get in the thick of them.

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    1. Yep, testing is absolutely crucial... test early and often.
      I'm impressed by your 16 day first draft.

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  2. Frustration is a bugger. I learned that you can't force a dead or stalled project. When you really can't go on, consider taking a break and reevaluate. Congrats on doing what you love and watch out for those doubt's.

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    1. Ha, I've got many projects on the run at the moment so it's easy to take a break from one to work on another.

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  3. It's the little victories that keep us going!

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  4. The closest thing to game design I can claim is dabbling with Minecraft!

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  5. Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree! I don't game design, but in writing, I send chapters to my CPs as I go. Feedback lets me know about any "big picture" or characterization problems early so I can correct them as I go. Who wants to write 80k, get feedback, and then have to toss out half or three-quarters and start again. What a waste of time. :P Great post!

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    1. As long as your CPs know where you're headed, that would work. We each have to find what works for us, of course.

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  6. I agree, creativity takes a while to get right. Me and my creative side aren't talking to each other right now. Wishing you the best with your gaming design and writing.

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    1. aw, I hope you and your creative side start talking soon.

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  7. hope the game design is going well!

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    1. Yep, celebrating those little victories!!

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  8. Can see how game design can be similar to writing. And so important to celebrate the steps along the way.

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  9. I really learned a lot here. I didn't know much about the similarities between game design and writing :)

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  10. Sadly, we can waste a lot of time trying to make crap look good.

    That's so exciting that you're working on a game!

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    1. Unfortunately it's taken me a long time to work that out ;)
      Some projects are hard to let go.

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  11. “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

    “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw

    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

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  12. “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

    “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw

    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

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  13. Great points about reminding ourselves why we love the project and how we should celebrate the small triumphs along the way. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  14. When I first began my career in 1984, it took 7 years to complete my first novel. My 2nd took 3 months for the first draft. The 3rd and 4th and 5th were about the same. My 6th is taking forever. It's already been over 2 years and I'm still struggling over the ending. I have no idea why. I hope it's because I've challenged myself with this ms. But really I don't understand why the delay. This is a great post, Lynda. I'm reading it over again in hopes that something will break free inside my head. Thanks, and Happy IWSG.

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    1. Ah yes, I have the same problem with a manuscript at the moment. The ending just isn't working. I've put it aside for a while in favour of my other projects, but I'll get back to it and perhaps the time will give me a fresh perspective. Perhaps the same will happen for you too.

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  15. I like the idea of celebrating small victories along the way. That does help keep you going when the goal seems so far away and so big!

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    1. It's all part of being kind to ourselves because really, as writers, we put so much pressure on ourselves.

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    2. When I become excessively grumpy, my husband hands me my walking shoes. "Come back when you've released some of that pressure." :-)

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    3. Walking! Yes! It releases endorphins and makes a person happier... so does chocolate... ;)

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  16. Just about everything stunts creativity. Why is that? Finding those small victories are a gold mine to keep us going.

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  17. I love celebrating the small victories, because when you total them all up, they equal something grand :)

    "New" things help me with creativity, such as trying a new meal out at a restaurant, visiting a new place, or even smelling a new scent. New is definitely my best source of stimuli.

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  18. Great post! I completely agree - writing can be frustrating, but so long as we keep celebrating our small victories along the way, we'll all get there in the end :).

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  19. I try to have a list of things I love about the project I'm working on to inspire me on the frustrating days! The game designing sounds exciting. :)

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    1. That's a great habit! And yes, game designing is super exciting, especially when it works.

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  20. I hear you about prettying things up. That's a hard lesson to learn, but working with editors on my last book convinced me that it's better to draft, clean a little, then get feedback. Shining is a final step. Wishing you cheese and a little less frustration.

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  21. It's the part about pushing down past the surface that's hardest for me. It's to easy to dwell near the surface when I'm writing.

    I suspect game design can be pretty brutal, especially if you having to collaborate with a lot of people to get the job done.

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    1. That aspect of game design is difficult. I did that for years as an art leader. Now it's just myself and my hubby, which in a way is even more brutal because I have to be everything and do everything.

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  22. I too have noticed similarities in creative endeavors--comparing doing artwork to writing. The often-icky rough drafts, how some projects can be improved and some can NOT, how some projects just flow easier than others, how some periods in life the ideas and energy flow like crazy yet at others it's more stagnant. I'm sure the creative part of gaming is the same! Best of luck to ya, critter!

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    1. Well said. Said by a true artist too. You understand.

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  23. Love this!!! --> And once it’s pretty, it’s even harder to throw away if it doesn’t work
    So very, very true!

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    1. That's why I have multiple versions of a document--I pretty much delete nothing, at least, not forever.

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  24. I backup a separate copy of my work every day so I can return to any version. The first part is exciting because all is new. The end because things come together and it IS the end. I try to give myself mini-goals to keep me going in the muddy middle, though.

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    1. Yeah the middles are difficult to slug through sometimes.

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  25. Marvelous post as always Lynda! I've had to dismantle many pretty scenes and it hurts so much. I like what you said about little victories, I'll keep that in mind! Thank You!

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  26. Lynda, like you, I too like to celebrate the small victories. Nowadays, I am trying to get more organized so that all my writing goals don't look daunting.

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    1. Wishing you all the best with that organization thing... not always easy but certainly possible!

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  27. Dark chocolate for the mini-puzzle!!

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  28. As usual I'm offered another angle, or something new to consider. When I come here, I leave thinking hard and I like it. Thanks. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. Your comment means a lot to me. Thanks, Anna.

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  29. Hmm, yes lots of similarities between the two.

    It probably wouldn't work for the gaming, but with writing I like to have several projects on the go at once. If I don't fancy one, I can work on another and as some are short stories, I don't have to wait too long until I get something finished.

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    1. It does work in game design to break up where the focus lies. There are so many areas to conquer, it's good to be able to swap and change where I put my energies.

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  30. Okay, I'm not sure what happened to my previous comment, but it went by by. Anyway, sometimes when I'm struggling creatively, I search for things that make me laugh. For me, laughter keeps my creativity flowing.

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    1. Blogger has a way of eating comments on the occasion.
      I hadn't thought of laughter that way, but you are so right.

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  31. I have learned to have faith that no matter how hard or frustrating, if I keep at it, I will get where I need to be in the end.

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    1. Quitting is the only way to know for sure it isn't going to happen ;)

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  32. Hi Lyn. I'm sure you'll become more familiar with game design and cut down the hours it currently takes to try a new design. Much like how much-published authors can write and publish a book in three months while newbies take about three years to get there (if they ever do). Creativity is a strange being, but still has inherent rules. What is that saying? Creativity is 5% inspiration and 95% sweat...or something like that. I agree.

    Have a good month! (I hope you're making time to write fiction as well!

    Denise :-)

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    1. Oh yes, I've already sped up heaps from when I first began. I use that as a reminder when I'm wading through slow new stuff again ;)

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  33. I think it is important to celebrate even small accomplishments. We all need a carrot to keep up the time consuming and frustrating work.

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  34. I am so impressed! Writing and game design. That means you are pretty technical as well as creative. But I agree, creativity takes time and work. I paint sometimes, and find it true of painting as well as writing. Good luck on all your ventures!

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    1. I sometimes try to deny my technical side, but yeah, it creeps out on occasion ;)

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  35. I've learned that it's okay to scrap projects--I have partially or fully completed drafts that will never see publishing daylight--and I also learned it's okay to revive these older works, because with time I have new ideas and perspectives.

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    1. Well said. I've learned the same (sometimes I need a reminder, though)

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  36. oh man, this is great Lynda! I find that after I type a scene I have to thoroughly be able to envision it, like a test run, and if it's not working then it's not working.

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  37. You're absolutely right; it can be slow and frustrating. And yet ... I love to write. ;) It's a passion.

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    1. It's that passion that's the true driving force.

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