Working in the Nooks and Crannies

Writing 150There are still too many projects but not enough time, but I’m beginning to think this is just the way of things as you get older. There are always so many things you want to do, but for some reason there’s just not enough time and/or energy to get to them.

Right now I’m still trying to make writing, reading, eating and exercising a priority though I have to admit I’m not doing the best job of it. I was having a conversation with a friend last week about the problem I have with focus. I can carve out a chunk of time for myself to work on a specific project, but when the time comes to actually sit down and do it my brain just…slides off the task towards something else — anything else, really. I’ll check email, or Facebook, or texts, or Tumblr. As long as it gets me away from the uncomfortable feeling of moving forward on a story, then it’s fair game.

There are a number of reasons for this, and some of them are tougher to deal with than others. There’s the ever-present fear that the mere act of creation is somehow whittling away the potential of a story: instead of something grand, each word I choose makes it something concrete. It’s strange to think that laying the track for a story is also, in its own way, an act of negation. When you’re pushing the story in a different direction, that’s the direction it’s going in. It won’t have the chance to go anywhere else — not really. How can you be sure that your direction is the best one? You can’t. And that’s kind of terrifying. I really care about doing right by my ideas, even though I know I might not have the chops to do that. So what can I do about that? Practice, of course.

I can say that the fear of creation is enough to put me off-track, but I also know that there’s a far more mundane cause. I just haven’t been in the practice of concentrating on one task. Whenever there’s a break in workflow, my mind immediately slips to the half-dozen other things I could be paying attention to in that moment. It’s hard to set those things aside, allow myself to have the break or breath of air, to dive back down immediately.

This week I’d like to try to address that. Whenever there’s a pause at work, or I find myself with a minute or two of downtime, I’ll try my best to be mindful of the opportunity and work on…something productive. Think about a writing project, let myself get a little further piecing together a character and their motivations, noodle around with the themes or ideas in a story I’m reading. Part of the way you get over the fear of something is to confront it head on, to immerse yourself in it as much as possible. I love the idea of opening myself up to the worst that could happen, experiencing it and moving on from it.

Yes, it is quite possible for me to tell a bad story, even an atrocious one. Storytelling is really hard, and there are any number of pitfalls waiting for the unwary teller. Sometimes, all you can do is fall prey to one and try to scramble your way out.

I’m working to do that with the story in my Pathfinder game. I’ve run it for over two years and 35 sessions now, and there are still a number of issues with it; the system is giving me fits, but those wounds are more or less self-inflicted because of a jam I’ve gotten into myself with changing a few things. The Butterfly Effect bit me in the ass, and several levels later I’m still trying to navigate the crosswinds.

I think I’ve focused too much on making the scenario work for the setting in the past, without making sure that the story was engaging enough on its own. I’m resetting things so that I’m focusing on making a story worth telling — one that’s interesting to me and populated with fun characters and interesting settings. I’m certain that not everything is going to work, but hopefully enough will work that the story will find a better footing. And even the failures can be fun.

So that’s what’ll be on my mind while I’m waiting for a process to finish or my bus to come. What are the concepts that I want to play with here? How do I plug that into a big fantasy adventure? And how do I connect those themes to my different players, who all have their own hooks and perspectives? Challenging? Sure. But it’s one I like the idea of leaning in to.

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