Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Inspiration and Dedication

(Holy wall of text, Batman!)

Inspiration is a funny thing. As I'm sure many of my friends -- or, indeed, anyone with a creative streak -- can attest, inspiration can certainly be fickle thing. Sometimes you will be awash will brilliant ideas, your creativity pouring forth in so many directions that sometimes it's hard to keep up with it all. But seemingly just as often, the well can dry up and you're left sitting with a dearth of ideas. Authors and musicians call it "writer's block", and many others just call it a "dry spell". It is something that everyone has encountered at one point or another and, unilaterally, it is something that sucks.

Searching for "Lack of Motivation" on Google is
really entertaining, actually.
A very different but related -- and arguably worse -- problem is finding the drive to stay dedicated to a project. Even if you have a veritable spring of creativity bubbling forth, if you are having difficulties staying focused or motivated to continue something you will never make any progress. It's a frustrating process; you have all these wonderful ideas that you want to breathe life into but just can't bring yourself to make it happen. You make all sorts of excuses as to why you aren't working on these ideas -- maybe you have other stuff going on right now, and you will get around to it sometime later; maybe you need better equipment/software/connections/locations/sleeping patterns/catering services/et cetera; or maybe you feel like your mind has so many amazing ideas that you couldn't pick just one to work on. You list excuse on excuse and nothing gets done.

It's something that I have firsthand experience with and something that consistently plagues my life. It's something that society battles with on a daily basis. And I'm the first to admit that it's all based on baseless excuses that all boil down to being lazy. And I'm tired of it.

Fun fact: I created this blog back in 2008. I had thought up the excellent name Loading Checkpoint and immediately stole the account name for it. That being said, my first post wasn't until April 2011 -- the first bad sign -- when I posted a review of the movie Paul, the alien stoner movie with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seth Rogen. I wrote solidly for about three months and had a decent amount of success, writing about everything that interested me -- I focused primarily on video games, but also wrote about movies, music, fun YouTube videos, and just anything else that struck my fancy. During that same span, I actually got two articles published on The Escapist (yes, a real video game journalism site) and got a ground floor position providing content to a different blog called Digitally Downloaded. Things were looking up!

Then the summer hit and I lost my dedication to all the projects I was involved with. To be honest, I had been losing dedication over the course of June. The updates were coming less and less frequently, which meant the possible spike of traffic from The Escapist and Digitally Downloaded was squandered and, eventually, the updates just stopped altogether. (I still regret that I didn't capitalize on that "success", as limited and inconsequential as it may have been.)

At the time, I was making excuses for my behaviour. Right at the beginning of June I was in a nasty auto collision with my now-wife and father-in-law, an event that totaled my car and set our finances back quite a bit. It's easy to say that things spiraled downward because of that but, really, it's just an excuse. If anything, such an experience should have given me drive to make my dreams reality, to buckle down and really focus on this sort of thing. I mean, that's what all the success stories and Hollywood movies tell us, right? Creativity + Brush With Death = Unbreakable Focus and Unending Drive to Success. But that didn't happen to me and it annoys the heck out of me.

I didn't post anything on the blog again until the New Year, when I decided to do a top 25 games for 2011. I spent a lot of time writing entries for it, going so far as to write up blurbs for my picks from 25 to 2 -- but then lapsed and didn't write anything for my game of the year. (Bastion, for the record. That game was amazing.) And then the blog sat empty until late into 2012, when it became what Loading Checkpoint looks like now, logo and all.

I'm going to stop detailing everything so intricately -- you can go back into the archive and follow along with the bouncing ball, if you really want -- and just give the Cole's Notes version: this blog has been a rollercoaster of activity. Sometimes I will update things regularly for months on end, but it always seems to spiral back to inactivity in short order. Recently I changed topics from video games to tabletop RPGs, thinking that would keep me motivated. Hell, earlier this year I started recording videos for YouTube but that, too, only lasted a few months. You could probably do a quantitative analysis of my online activity and find that each "cycle" lasts somewhere around three months, with a peak toward the end of the first month and then slowly petering out. It's frustrating and, frankly, a bit embarrassing.

This. Times a million. Ugh.
You see, I have all sorts of inspiration for creating online content, written or otherwise, but my dedication lapses after a while. After every bout of silence, I'll come back offering apologies as to my absence but, really -- internally -- I'm frustrated at myself. There's no reason to lapse but sometimes I can't bring myself to write or record anything. "I don't have enough time right now," I'll say to myself. Or: "I have so many ideas, how can I pick just one?" Or maybe: "This is just not logistically possible right now." Or even: "I'm too tired from work, I just want to relax." I make as many excuses for myself as I do for my imagined fanbase and, ultimately, nothing changes. And I'm tired of it.

Which brings us back to the start of this article.

Sometimes inspiration is tough to find. But, for some people, dedication to and motivation for a project is harder to keep. I am one of those people, and it sickens me, and I'm tired of it. So I'm going to start doing something about it.

The end of the year is quickly approaching and, because of that, I am going to do a list of my Favourite Games of the Year. I am pledging to finish this list by no later than January 1st. I will do whatever it takes to make it happen! And, though I don't want to pass the buck on to my friends, I would really like your help with this. If you are reading this -- and I really don't care who you are -- I am asking you to help me by making me accountable for this list.

I am going to set a schedule for myself: there are four weeks between now and January 1st. If I make a list of my top twenty picks, that is five games per week. That is absolutely possible -- easily so! I ask you, whoever you are, to call me out -- privately or publicly -- if it seems like I am not keeping to the schedule. If I make excuses for a delay, berate me until I get caught up. There is no reason I can't meet this deadline so make sure I know it.

I want to get in the mentality of being accountable for the blog and I think this exercise will help me with that. As for what happens in January... Well, I don't have any plans yet. But if I can make it that far sticking to the schedule I have set for myself, then there's absolutely no reason to stop. I have plenty of plans for what I could do but let's take this one step at a time. First thing in January, though, we'll talk about what the future can hold.

If you've made it this far, I want to thank you. I started writing this with the intent of doing a quick blurb about the difficulties I've had with this blog, and a promise to make things better moving forward but I just couldn't lie to myself any longer. It's time to move forward, to prove that I really want to do this and just go for it. There's nothing in my way except my own excuses -- it's time to realize that and just make it happen.

So let's do it!

(TL;DR: I am lazy and a procrastinator and it annoys and frustrates me. I want to get back on track and stay motivated. I am going to write a Top 20 Games of the Year list and have it posted, in full, by January 1st. I plan on releasing it in installments -- probably five games per week -- until the entire thing is posted. 

I want help making me accountable for this list! If it looks like I'm making excuses, or just not posting at all, I want you all to berate me -- publicly or privately -- until I complete the list! I want to make myself accountable to this blog again and if I have people egging me on if I lapse, I think it will help me maintain my drive to do better.


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