Come December 31st, many people make resolutions for the new year. They may, like me, plan them beforehand or maybe they’re just invented on the spot. Regardless, they serve as temporary, in most cases, excuses to change some aspect about ourselves that we might not like and would like to improve. “This year, I’m going to do less [X], more [Y] and start [Z].”
Then the new year comes and the newness is spread thin across time, the optimism drains away. We take our resolutions and link them together. We make a long chain of What-Ifs that do, in nearly all cases, eventually wear us down enough that we give them up. The burden of doing one thing or another becomes too much. The time commitment needed for some projects cannot be maintained. And, as days become weeks become months, we stop. We surrender. We give up.
I’m no different. Did you catch yesterday’s post? I mentioned there that I meant to write daily posts in 2011 starting in early May. My plan was write at least 1,000 words a day. As that post points out, I did not make that goal. I tried, nearly made it in sheer word count in a few posts, but was not ultimately successful. I had several good runs of it. One lasted nearly a month in one go. But, as I mentioned, the time, the effort and the, at least in my case, loneliness ate at me until I moved away from the keyboard for longer and longer stretches of time. So, it’s time to start again.
That’s what a new year is for: starting over. When the calender changes, so too can you. But we have to start small and build bigger over time. I said yesterday that I wanted to write 200,000 words in 2012 on this blog. That may seem like a big number to you — and somewhat to me too — but it’s not 200,000 in one go. It’s all small steps: 250 words here, 500 words there. It’s one paragraph in front of the other. If I — or you — mess up, we start over again. We do better next time. We strive to do what we can when we can for as long as we can. That’s want I want to talk about right now.
What… in 2012
I want to write more. That’s my primary goal. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past few weeks, I started with Computer Science and programming. That’s still my first love. I still write code and try to problem solve. But I also, upon taking on the role of writer for awhile, have grown to like this too. However, I’m not as good at writing. It doesn’t come as easily to me. I don’t have the muscle memory of words, phrases and fancy structure that I’d like. So, I want to write more.
Because I’ve come to learn that writing is a muscle, like most other creative skills. You have to have some pattern of exercising it, some ritual that invokes, at least for yourself, your personal muse. You must have some place, habit or technique that puts you into the mental space or frame of mind that allows you to create. For me, that’s music. I listen to certain tracks when I want to concentrate on a task and not be disturbed by the things around me. When I listen to those songs, I’m writing. That’s all I will allow myself to do. If I have to switch to something else, I stop the music. As long as it is playing, I must be writing. In 2012, I hope to grow very tired of those songs.
There is a joke that I’m going to mangle a bit here. It goes something like, “How do you know someone is a writer? It’s when they can’t figure out why no one else is writing thousands of words every week.” I’d like to change that some for this next year in reference to myself, “How do you know when you are a game designer? It’s when you can spend four hours straight working on a game system and then want to add more the next day.” I’ve been doing that a lot lately.
I’ve got a bad — or good, depending on your point of view — habit of jumping the rungs on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. It’s a framework used primarily in pedagogy, but I find it useful in looking at issues of learning for an individual. Roughly broken down — there’s a joke waiting for you there — the orders are: Knowledge (reciting ideas) Comprehension (demostration of ideas), Application (using ideas), Analysis (breaking down ideas), Synthesis (combining ideas in new forms) and Evaluation (juding ideas). At the college level, most classes want Comprehension or maybe Application. Some higher level classes even want Analysis.
I like to combine things, put things into practice. Frequently, when I come across a game system idea or even way of looking at something, I move to put it into practice. I want to do more of that in 2012. I want to go from understanding some concept (Comprehension) to putting it into practice to make something new (Application to Analysis). Right now, that means putting more time into Minty Breath and, hopefully, have something to show within a few months.
I also want to finish more games. As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I’ve worked on a few prototypes in the past year. I even got so far as getting some art assets together for a demo I made of a game that used the mechanics of Canabalt but was based on the movie Logan’s Run. (I don’t mind if someone else uses that idea, just make it good. If you decide to make it, send me a link. I’ll be glad to play it.) [If you are curious to see what I worked on, you can still find it on Flickr. I used one of the examples that came with the XNA Game Studio IDE and changed some settings.]
Other than mentioning my moonlighting in my Recommended Books for 2011 post, I’ve been pretty quiet about my interest in doing graphic design work again. I’ve done some posters in the past, designed a few logos for some events — that weren’t even used! In 2012, I want to do more of that. I want to make some things and put them out for people to interact with and through to other people. I want to have some examples that live in more than just in my mind, in my personal files or as mockups on some report for people to throw away.
When… in 2012
Remember when I mentioned the ritual for writing a couple sections up? Yeah, that’s what I want you to do too. Find a time to create in your life. Look through what you do, maybe make a list of your daily routines and downtime. Then find a moment to write, paint or just read. It’s all about small steps to long journeys. You take a step here and a step there. You plan for a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Then you stick to it.
What works for me is a routine, some schedule I can stick to and then work around. I have periods on my personal calendar where I am supposed to be working on only one thing. On Saturdays, I am supposed to be working on playing games and doing graphic work. During the weekdays, I am, when I have time, supposed to start writing by 10 PM in order to be done by midnight. It’s tough to start but worth it when you can look back and see that each time you stuck to your schedule, you helped build up the discipline to do other non-fun things too. You can use your writing muscles from working on blog posts, in my own personal example, to write things like reports, papers or even the occasional letter to a friend — yes, I actually write letters to people.
For as long… in 2012
This can be tricky. How much time, money and other resources can you commit to taking on a new project? I’m afraid I can’t answer that for you. It’s all relative to your own life. It’s all based on what you to do, how much time you have and what your goals are for the project. Some can commit to thirty minutes a day, others can say hours. All I can talk about is my own life.
Here’s a secret to getting more done in 2012: cut something out of your daily life. I don’t mean things like time with friends or surfing the Internet, although that might be something to consider. No, I mean things like watching TV, watching YouTube videos or being trapped in the time-sink of going from one Wikipedia article to another. Look at your life and make a catalog of how long you spend doing things. Do you spend more than four hours a day watching TV or other video-related services? Is it part of your job? Maybe consider cutting that out.
I personally watch very little TV. I’m at maybe five or six hours a week on average. Of course, I also do strange binge behavior from time to time too. I’ve been know, as my bio lists, of being “frequently obsessive” with a show or book series I like and run through them in a week or so. I’ve done it in the past and I expect that I will do it in the future too. But, even with that tendency, I still try to cut down on the hours spent doing nothing more than sitting and allowing my mind to passively take things in without thinking about them. Even if I am sitting and watching a show, I try to take the occasional note about something I really liked, hated or was just interested in while watching. That way, even if I am spending hours and hours watching, I’m also thinking a little bit too.
Find some time for things you want in 2012. Plan a place for them and then stick to it.
Think. Plan. Play.