Sunday, December 30, 2012

On Being a Crazy Cook


When I was a kid I wrote a lot. Usually I found a way to bend school projects to my will and make stories out of them. Often I wrote just for the hell of it. 

When I was at my parents' house recently, they had a high-school English short story I'd written (which owed a huge debt to Anne McCaffrey), and another from even earlier, the sixth grade I think, which had more than a hint of Douglas Adams and Robert Asprin in it. They were, of course, terrible. Not a week or two later, but a friend of mine handed me a binder with a hundred pages or so of a fantasy novel I'd tried to write as a junior in high-school or something. Yikes. Lots of unpronounceable made-up words. It had a glossary. Blech.

It's funny that those things showed up around the same time, and then NaNoWriMo popped up too. Shazam and Kapow, I wanted to write again. Partially it was curiosity - looking at the godawful prose I'd written in my younger days, could I do any better now? I'm not sure writing a jillion emails and editing game dialog really prepares you for a career in writing, but at the very least I have the benefit of more life experience, an older (maybe wiser) perspective on my life.

Your face always goes hot when you read ancient stuff you wrote (or drew, or sang, or whatever) as a kid. But what really struck me was the amount of energy I'd had to do it back then. 

I did a LOT of different stuff as a kid. You forget what a dynamo of energy you could be when you were younger. I remember hand-making a book and transcribing a story into it, doing illustrations, coding games on my PC, making abortive stabs at writing and illustrating comic books, doing that painstaking art where you make everything out of ink dots, attempting to animate a cartoon, drawing a comic strip, writing songs, playing the guitar and singing, learning to juggle (By juggling rocks. Ouch.), trying to make an RPG ruleset, and of course, writing stories. 

It feels like I was trying to place bets on every possible option. A lot of those things I still love (not animating any cartoons though, sorry).

I look at myself now and my focus has narrowed so much, and I feel like I should do something about that. Why do we have to do just one thing with our lives? Why do we have to be defined by an occupation or a single hobby? I miss the rush of possibility when trying to do anything and everything.

I want to be that crazy cook in the kitchen, running from bubbling pot to simmering pan, having all sorts of stuff on the burners, happy in the chaos of making a bunch of different stuff at once.

The sad truth is that becoming good at something and ultimately succeeding at it isn't really that fulfilling. At least, not for me. I got what I wanted - I run a game company, for God's sake! I make games! They even review well and are financially successful. I got nothing' to complain about!

And I'm not really trying to complain about it. It just seems to me that that singular focus isn't enough. Maybe other people aren't this way (of course I can't speak for them), but I find myself wishing I'd kept placing a few of those other bets.

Once upon a time when I made games, I did EVERYTHING - code, art, sound, music. I made a friggin' space sim and made clay figurines that I stop-motion animated for the comm videos. It was ridiculous, but god dammit it was FUN.

I don't have the same breadth anymore - I do engineering, maybe a LITTLE art when I can get away with it, some sound design, and of course game design. I don't get to touch everything anymore, which is good and right and proper, because we have experts in their fields working to cover those bases, and that's really their purview now.

But.

Getting better at something is what I love.

So I think that's what I'm going to do now. Never too late, right?

1 comment:

Shadowfax said...

I think just putting all your energy and spirit into something... especially something that (in the end) isn't the epitome of happiness and existence that we imagined it will be (i.e., anything in the world)... isn't healthy and will be quite disappointing. Superbowl winners think "is that it?" Rich people don't feel rich.

But this world of goals is weird. We have this lie pounded into our heads each day... sometimes by ourselves... if you'd just focus all your time into your current goals, that would be GOOD!! You want to succeed!! Then... success hits. You are now an unbalanced unsatisfied success. That was it?

It is good to get things done... but not THAT good. We have a bad habit of putting 'nice' things on too high a pedestal, while missing the 'good' things. I'm convinced there's more to life than the stuff and projects and goals. And when we were kids, we were a little closer to what we should be...

For the record, I'm preaching to myself here. I spend so much time trying to get goals done and want so much to be a success... and when I goof off, I feel embarrassed and ashamed. So instead, I'd rather be working the best I can, *enjoy* all my projects instead of just *finishing* or trying to be a success, while never being afraid of whether they'll succeed or not, and never ever be afraid to spend time trying something different. Never make a decision out of fear.

Basically, I think a lot of our decisions boil down to fear, instead of a real positive healthy outlook on life. "Let's build a business!" vs "I gotta get this business working!". Living in a world of deadlines and goals, but really, not being part of it.

I ramble now... and I certainly don't have all the answers... but you're certainly on to something here, I want to do the same. Let's see where this goes! =D