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.
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.