Thursday, July 22, 2010

Puttering Along

I seem to have blown past 200 posts. This is nice, but somewhat aggravating, since I did the same that at 100 - I figured I'd use the 100th/200th post for some meta commentary, but completely spaced. I could probably get away with lying about it - it's not like anyone else is actually counting posts - but that seems like poor sportsmanship.

given all that and the fact that I am wiped out and in a weird mood, I think we're going to get a less grandiose version of things.[1]

So, back in 2008 I went to Gencon in what was probably my most "professional" mode to date. I put that in quotes because even as I say it, I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that, but I met new people and got to be "in the industry" mostly by acting like I was. Many cool things came as a result of this, including some freelance gigs. A few more followed, and while it was no huge amount of assignments, it was kind of fun to write for someone else. It was also intensely educational.

Writing game books is just one more type of project, and all the good and bad realities of project management come to bear just as strongly. Communication, feedback and clarity are all going to be functions of how the person running the show handles things, and since they are usually juggling deadlines and multiple contributors, it can be a crapshoot to see how things shake out. Previous to that, writing I had done had either been in a straight professional context (which is to say, people I was doing it for/with were in the same office, and thus freely available) or for myself or Evil Hat (where I was pretty much accountable to me) so this was a very different experience and one which I think would have been pretty daunting if it had been my first time out.

And, even so, it was a little bit daunting. Some of it was process - different companies and different developers made for different atmospheres. WOD:Mirrors was made notably fantastic by Chuck Wendig keeping all the writers in the loop, kicking things around, rather than totally siloed off. It was a great experience, but there was an edge to it: It was fun and informative, but but it also left me less certain of my own writing.

Anyway, this ended up stretching writing muscles I didn't know I had, and I wasn't entirely satisfied with the result. I mean, the stuff I wrote was OK, but the one thing I ended up walking away with was the sense that it could have been better. Not just the writing, but how I wrote. My usual method was long dry spells punctuated by bursts of productivity. When I was writing for myself, this was no problem at all since I set my timeline[2] but on a contract job, that's an issue.

I had actually set this blog[3] up a while ago, as a hedge against the day I moved off Livejournal, but hadn't used it much,and I decided it was the tool for the job[4]. I would write something every weekday, with the intent that this effectively be a workout for my writing muscles. Having a clear purpose was somewhat liberating. It is an absolute joy when people read and comment on your blog, but it's a hard thing to come to expect it. Writing a blog for other people is a good way to end up depressed. Hell, even knowing that this blog is first and foremost for me, there have definitely been days where I get all "This was a really good post! Why has no one[5] commented!" Thankfully, I can usually just shake it off.

In any case, I mark this as a definite success. I think the blog's been good and occasionally useful, and my writing has gotten notably stronger. It's still full of holes and weak spots, but my ability to just do the work and produce words has increased measurably, as I discovered in a recent freelancing gig. I had to do a bit of a writing sprint for it and discovered that 2-3000 words per day is now my cruising speed, and I can push much higher. That's a good number. It's not amazing (the words per day rates of some folks I know put it to shame) and it's only so meaningful a yardstick (3000 words of crap is still crap)but at the same time it's something concrete that I can point to, and that's a big deal. 3000 words used to be work, and it isn't anymore. That's progress, and progress feels great.

Anyway, I don't mention all this as a preamble to any change. I'm still enjoying the blog, and there are still many problems with my writing that I'm hoping it will help with. But for everyone out there reading this, I just want to say "thank you". It's easy to say that I just do this for myself, and that I'd do it even if no one was reading, but in the real world, I would hate to test that theory. I treasure every comment and every eyeball, and consider myself lucky for every one.

1 - While Inception was totally worth seeing, seeing it on a weeknight has totally blown my sleep schedule.

2 - And in a professional context it doesn't come up because technical writing uses a different part of my brain, so far as I can tell.

3 - I have Wordpress set up as well, but in Wordpress I am infinitely tempted to fiddle with the settings, plugins, tools and such. I went with Blogger in large part to curtail those instincts so I would just write.

4 - This was also accelerated by my getting very badly burned out on RPG forums, but still wanting a place to discuss gaming.

5 - What's really dangerous is "No one" can end up meaning "No one in the past 3 hours"


  1. Just so you know, Rob, even though I don't think I've never posted a single comment I read every single post and I find almost every single one thought provoking and interesting, often forwarding posts to gamer friends with a comment like "here's another one from my favorite gaming blog." Certainly, your bog is one of the most worth my while things in my blog feed and the consistency of your output, in time and quality, is admirable. Thanks so much for making my internet day brighter all this time.

  2. I mostly lurk everywhere I go on the internet but I just want to say this is one of my favorite blogs. Your posts are consistently great. Golden even.

    I can't speak for why some people don't comment more often but for myself I often sit back and think, "Wow. Awesome. What could I possibly add to that?"

    You're too good.

    Thanks so much for doing this.

  3. Ditto what they said. I appreciate reading from someone who think about revolutionary things like story and having a good time while gaming.

  4. @Matthew & Goken - thank you both, I am flattered in a way that my New England upbringing demands that I respond to by looking at the floor and mumbling something sheepishly!

  5. Just to echo what Nick & Matthew said:

    If I don't comment it because I'm thinking "Hell Yes, but I can't possibly add anything of value".

    So now I'll try to randomly post "Hell Yes" occasionally :-)

  6. I also would like to say "Thank you!" for this blog. I comment very rarely, because I think I don't have interesting things to add to your wonderful posts. :)

  7. It's been about 5 hours. Here's another post. Heh.

    Keep up the good work, you're raising my game.

  8. Great to know that you can work out your writing fu like you can your body. Sometimes your blog is just a little too deep and thoughtful for my scattered mind, but I check in every day and when something grabs me, I'll focus in. It's always rewarding.

  9. Rob, I don't comment much, but I can sum it up by reiterating Nick's post. I've missed you for about a week, but I'm catching up now. Always good ideas, always.


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