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Facing Creative Road-Blocks

I find myself not working on the things I really want to. This blog-post is me pointing out the reasons why.

(Edited ) | Perspective

At the start of March I launched this site with the idea to expand it further with blog posts going over coding concepts I found interesting, reviewing video games, looking back at finished projects, and other ideas that may come to mind. Nearly 2 months later and, aside from various tweaks to the HTML templates, this site is dead. Activity wise, that is. Don't get me wrong, I do want to keep working on this site. I think it's a great application for the web-design skills I've developed in the past two years, and it gives me another outlet to express myself and my interests. But for some reason, I find it hard to write for the site.

Thinking about this reminded me of my interest in video editing, mainly because it feels stuck in the same situation. I have plenty of video ideas I could work on and even encouragement from my friends to do it, but I find it hard to get started on an editing project. Obviously the best solution would be to start working on something and go from there, but I find there are a few obstacles that make that a harder challenge than is realized.

Universal Drain

If you have ever attended a university you know how tiring and stressful it can get, especially at the end of a semester. You're piled with work that, no matter when you start, will leave you staying up past midnight to finish on time. It may be better or worse depending on who your professor is, but it will always become overwhelming at some point. You'll likely find yourself working every day of the week which, funnily enough, is not something you're supposed to do. We need to give ourselves break time and allow ourselves to relax instead of burning ourselves out. With this in mind it would be fair to say that university is an environment that teaches bad work habits, but I'll leave that for someone else to chew on.

For me, my university semester has been draining since we ended up having to deal with a strike. While being on strike was fine for me as I used that off time to work on this site, coming back to class was the hard part. The best way I could put it is that the strike put me into summer mode; the only things I had to worry about were my own projects. How do you expect me to react when a strike ends up lasting nearly two months? When university came back into session, I found schoolwork and personal projects taking up brain-space simultaneously which made the first few weeks back a slog. It wasn't easy to get back into classes, and I've found myself being caught off guard by deadlines approaching a few times.

I'm not sure how common strikes are from other universities, but I have heard from a fellow developer that they experienced a strike every year of their degree and the pain was much the same. Either way, it's just more fuel to the fire for my point that university is an exhausting experience. If it's not schoolwork, your motivation to work on it will disappear. Then your motivation to work on schoolwork will follow.

Order of Operations

As a creative, your work will inevitably expand upon what you've previously made. It's something inherent to creation itself; every attempt to make something keeps the previous attempts in mind to know what worked and what didn't. There's a more explicit version of this expansion when it comes to referencing previous projects. Ranging from full-blown sequels to minor acknowledgements, using previous work as a base allows one to explore ideas there weren't able to within the scope of the previous work. EmpLemon's videos Sacrifices to the Church of Nintendo and New Coke are perfect examples of this, both referencing previous videos and expanding upon them in a way that elaborates on their core message.

An example that comes naturally to me would be Half-Life: Alyx. To talk about it the audience must have an understanding of Boneworks first, as it was - and arguably still is - one of the most defining games for VR. It set a standard that Alyx would have to compete with, making comparison between the two an important part of critiquing the game. With all that said, a problem with considering follow-up work is wondering where you start. Depending on how hard you think about it, all the potential work meshes together, and it appears impossible to make a dent on anything surrounding the topic. I need to give credit to my friend Omega who gave me advice with this problem recently; the best solution is to focus on one project and forget about any others until what you're working on is done. Even then there will be subjects that are hard to gauge where a starting point could be, but at that point that's just our good friend "Writer's Block" coming in to ruin your day.

Overall, I find considering the continuity of my work can create a writer's block that stuns me for a good while. It's something I should do less, since while it may be good planning to think about how my future work can or will mesh with what I create now it often does more harm than good. This ties into the last obstacle I find myself grappling with, however...

Personal Troubles

Finally, we come to how the hurdles I set up for myself. This is the hardest obstacle to address as I have to tear down bad mentalities I've established for years. The hurdles I have to contend with is caring for anything and over-thinking everything, both of which can be solved by letting go and not worrying about what may come. There is more I could say about what I could do to address this problem of mine, but the important point to make here is that you are your own worst enemy. It's a line we have heard millions of times but, at least for me, it never sinks in. There is nothing stopping you or me from creating something spectacular. The only person stopping us is ourselves, and it's better to loosen the creative leash on ourselves than it is to keep it tight to prevent us from causing problems.

The important thing is to care about yourself. Not in any egotistical way (that's part of my problem in all honesty, I want to avoid being egotistical at all costs), but rather in a more humble manner. Create music that sounds good to you; not for others or because you're a fabulous producer. Make games that are you think are fun to play or create, not for others or because you know how to make a new billion dollar IP. While it might seem exclusionary to not care about how others perceive your work, it should add a quality to your work that can be best described as "you". That uniqueness will give it a quality that brings people in, and will at least be more creatively fulfilling than chasing any trend ever could.

I'm still learning how to care about myself, and it's definitely a long road ahead, but I'm going to keep doing my best to work on what I care about without letting others influence me. I think if I get past that obstacles I set for myself, I can come through in the end.