March 25, 2009

Impromptu Break - Confession

I’ve been putting off making this post, as it’s a bit embarrassing. It’s more than a week later, and still no game. I guess this counts as a failure! What happened?

After I made my post last Monday, I did some soul searching to figure out where I was going wrong. My conclusion was I made a mistake in jumping straight into working on game projects the instant my thesis was complete. Heck, I started work as soon as it was at the printers. However, with my write-up dragging on and on and me being at least four months behind on my pencilled in schedule for 2009 I felt I had to make up for lost time.

My biggest concern is that I seem to be entirely motivated by guilt. I feel guilty I’m this far behind, that I’m not up to speed, and that I’m not putting in enough effort. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, but it’s entirely negative and really not the best motivator for anything creative. So I decided to try a motivational experiment, and told myself I didn’t need to feel guilty last week. Work on what I feel like, if I feel up to it, but if I want to dabble with other things, feel free.

The results were.. somewhat expected. I ended up doing very little on Project Protos. I did however feel a lot more relaxed. I caught up on a bunch of chores I’d been putting off for ages. I spent some time pondering the whole whys and wherefores of me going into games. I also drank a lot of tea and spent too much time surfing the internet, which is a real problem. I think I needed a break, but I can’t even relax properly.

I’m not sure if this impromptu break was wisdom or just weakness. I’m not that happy I wasn’t able to keep up with the game-a-week progress that everyone else is doing. I’m also unhappy that it’s near the end of Q1 2009 and I’m not even out of the gate yet. But I also don’t want to burn myself up in a few months due to a misplaced priority of quantity over pace, which I feel is a real danger. It’s a quandary. I feel like in the last couple of years I’ve pieced together a winning plan for this, but instead of a beautifully arranged dot-point list it’s taken the form of a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle designed by Escher. I’ve got all the pieces but it’s a challenge to even start putting them together. And I don’t know if my plans all hinge on me being a superman who can work productively for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. There’s too many unknowns.

My gut feeling, which I’ve come to rely on, is that the Flash game that is Project Protos is a wonderful start point, but I should continue to work on it at a relaxed pace. I was going to say I’d aim to have it finished by the end of the month rather than in a weeks time, but I notice that for today that doesn’t make much difference! My real goal is to switch into a sustainable, professional, productive mindset. I’m giving myself a week to settle down, clear out the mental cobwebs and find my focus. When April comes round, I’ll be ready, and in a much better position mentally to work on experimental microgame projects.

My first big change is to curb my internet procrastination habit, which may be difficult. I’ve got a nasty habit of just heading to a random site whenever I get stuck on anything, which is an easy way to waste a day’s work. I’ll try tweaking my mindset each day until I find something that works.

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4 Comments on Impromptu Break - Confession

March 25, 2009

Andrew Russell @ 12:10 pm:

Oh, dare I say it? Yes: I told you so.

(Actually, re-reading my reply, I may have skirted around the issue a bit… sorry.)

Anyway - you seem to have run head-long into the same problem that I had when I finished university. I had been wanting to do this for so long, and university was stopping me (true in my mind, and probably true in reality). Logically - after university was over I should have no problem instantly churning out games! And when I couldn’t - instant guilt - and when I started running later and later against my ideal schedule - more guilt!

It’s an easy trap to fall into. My advice is:

1) Take a real, proper, long break. (If you must be productive - dedicate it to reading books on productivity, time management and indie development)

2) Commit to actions, not results. For example: Programming for an hour each day is an action. Finishing a game each week is a result.

(Sketchable, could go either way. When I came up with it, it was supposed to be an action (release something, anything every two weeks). But it’s easy to start feeling that I’ve committed to the result of making complete, good games. And when I do that, my work actually suffers.)

PS: I’d be keen to chat in greater depth, in real-time. Drop me an email if you’re interested.

Andrew Russell @ 12:22 pm:

Addendum: Just to be clear: a week is not a “real, proper, long break”. Start to think in the region of time that you would normally think is absolutely too long - and then double your figure - and then take the break without guilt.

(And I don’t say this just so I can build up my lead in our balloon race. It took me 8 months from uni to get started - and a lot of that was guilt laden and stressful because I wasn’t allowing myself the break.)

I don’t take breaks very well. :) I’ve had a few week long breaks here and there, but I don’t think I’ve taken anything like a month off since… summer 2000/2001, maybe? Or was it the year before? Even when I do take an extended break, I can’t last more than five days before I need to work on some project.

Your second point I think is very wise. I’m focusing too much on the checkboxes on my list, not on the time that goes between them. I should start by blocking off an hour for a particular activity, like programming, and not worry so much about the deliverables at the end of it. Once I’ve got some momentum I can start worrying about the milestones.

March 30, 2009

John Miner "anothrguitarist" @ 9:36 am:

I’m at the same place you were before you finished your thesis. I’m about to graduate from my community college, and it’ll be the first time I haven’t taken summer classes since I started in ‘06. I’m taking 22 units this semester, and it’s hard. I keep promising myself that I’ll churn out games over the summer, catch up on math/physics, and read like a madman. Realistically, however, I know I need a break. I actually plan to get my passport as soon as possible. I’d like to go to Australia. :)

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