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The Battle Plan (for creative people)

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As I am finally coming out of a 5 days (and counting...) long battle with a particularly annoying flu due to wildly shifting weather (go Denmark!), I was beginning to sort in my head the things I have wanted to blog about here when I, instead, was blowing ooze through half my orifices and gasping for air. I'm sorry about any mental images created by that statement, by the way...

The fact is, I feel weird about time. Not just because it's what my game and the entire surrounding project is about, but also because... time, man. Who has it, these days?

In all honesty... I have it. I feel like I have way too much time. I also feel I have way too many things I want to do. Procrastination aside (yes, big aside, I know), I keep feeling that I am doing something very wrong, and that something is planning. I plan, don't get me wrong. I make detailed lists of tasks needing to be handled, and I manage to follow most of them, with only minor changes along the way. I like creating structure, even if I do love the thrill of being surrounded by creative chaos, too. I plan, a lot, for a lot, in many ways. And I follow through to the best of my abilities.

What keeps ringing in my mind is a piece of advice a friend once gave me, though. It was for playing Starcraft, but perhaps without knowing it, he said something that was, to me, endlessly profound: If you have a lot of resources, you're doing something wrong. The point being that it was a waste to have a lot of unspent resources, just laying around. If you got it, you should invest it. Make every bit count. And I feel like that should be true for projects, too, especially projects like game design and creating large fictional universes, like my Embassy of Time.

So the thing bothering me is, why do I have both the feeling of a lot of downtime, and a clear idea of what I want to do with it, but end up spending less than half of it in a useful way? Sure, procrastination, daydreaming, goofing off with some fun thing you made, and posting stuff about what you do to online websites (this blog included) will expend time, but it doesn't feel like that's the problem. It feels like the factory is on and ready to go, but someone (me) keeps forgetting to push the button. Not due to sloth or not wanting to; I want to do these things, to the point of finding other things in life a bit tedious in comparison. But something goes wrong in the planning phase.

Part of the problem is that I have, due to the nature of the project, a lot of balls in the air. I just started writing the main book behind the game's story, a rewrite of some old works of mine. The game itself is moving into new territory that requires me to understand and creatively use a lot of science and math. And there are other, lesser arms of the project that I need to do some research on, including research into managing social network websites (I even have another, dormant, blog, and a Twitter account, and no real idea what to use them for at the moment). But none of it is mysterious. It's stuff I can just do, and stuff that I often, as stated, want to do. Somehow, I just end up screwing up my time management, and get less than half of it done, if even that. And it bothers me.

There is no answer on this one. It's my post-phlegmic brain trying to be constructive and productive again. But I can't help but wonder if I am missing some clever way to get my ducks in a row and push forward like I feel I should be doing. Maybe it's because my cat ran away and something deep in my brain can't concentrate. Maybe I feel guilty for not doing more 'grown-up' things, like earning more money and buying a car or wearing a suit or something. Maybe it's my bloodsugar that's too high or too low and messing with me. Maybe I need to hydrate more. But in the end, I feel I am not living up to my potential. And that bothers me to no end...

EDIT: While proof-reading this entry, it dawned on me that classical motivation, i.e. "the carrot and the stick", may be more involved with this than I suspected. Few things motivate like someone letting you know that you're doing "a good job", that you're going in the right direction, at the right pace. That is, in my experience, nearly impossible to measure when working on your own. Nobody is setting guidelines or putting pressure on you. I just watched someone play Dark Souls and thought a lot about how the point of the game is that the insane trials involved make success feel that much more awesome. I, and I bet most others working completely independently from an employer, have no benchmark to go by in that way. Sure, figuring out a solution to a problem or a bug is great, but it's hard to truly see, and feel, that you're "moving forward". There is no beam of light and a booming voice to tell you that you leveled up, no answers in the back of the book to compare your work to. You don't know if you're even on the right track. I'm thinking that it might pay off to look at some gamification theory and try to set up something, but I doubt that this is even possible in a situation like mine and people like me. Anyone with an insight is highly welcome to tell me how wrong I am about that! Please?!

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Embassy of Time, It's like you're speaking my language with that last edited bit there.  I've been working on this idea of mine for years, bit by bit.  For the longest time the cohesive vision wasn't there.  When I started playing around with THREE.js my first challenge was to figure out how to make an Icosahedron, after that, how do I rotate the camera the way I want it to, and then I added more and more as I went.  You'll encounter lots of barriers, barriers only you see because they have some importance to your story/game.  The first major barrier I encountered was only being able to render about 100 moving cubes across my sphere, I knew I needed at least 5000 to achieve my vision.  For months I just kept plugging away at other needs for the project because I didn't have the insights needed to make 5000 a reality.  Then one day while out for a walk, where I usually do my brain-storming, it hit me, a new way to approach movement about a sphere and I was able to reach that particular goal.  

And you're absolutely right, no one is going to pat you on the back, with my journal I get an occasional "well done", or "looks interesting, keep it up" but really no-one has the foggiest idea of what my vision is, I make mention here and there, but for the most part it hasn't been solidified enough into something tangible and interactive for me to expect any real 'pats on the back', which may never come.

But I've achieved two successes with my project which made me realise I deserve to pat myself on my back, one was last year when I made a rather robust algorithm to identify a path between any two points on a sphere with speed and without breaking.  And I did it, I learned a lot about how raycasting works and also it's limitation with certain geometries and floating point numbers.  The second was my latest realisation that my sphere generation algorithm is in fact faster and more powerful then the one that comes with THREE.js, that's when I knew that I may not have a lot of syntactic knowledge to share, but I've got my logical/ problem solving skills to participate.  As to you will find your own successes and recognise them as such.

Biggest piece of advice I can give to you is, Find your Out!

I've found my out, though I'm not yet ready to leave this project, but once I'm there I will be very happy, ironically, to leave all this behind me and move on to bigger better things.

Cheers man, and feel free to message me if you're still interested in that alg.

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[all of it]

Yup, sounds like my mental state, too! I do all the "set goal, value success" stuff, but it still feels like painting in the dark. Nobody, including myself, can really judge the progress from any fixed perspective. Maybe this is why 72-hour game programming challenges are so popular, it gives a quick, measurable result. Dunno.

I knoe I'll be messaging you about the algo, though :)

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Hey Embassy, I've been through exactly this many times before. It gets to a point where I just need to drop a project and commit to leaving it behind. 

I'm finding it hard to conquer at times (I do have ADHD) and I try a few things to keep me on track. The biggest success for me so far has been getting "ok" with taking a break from a project, work on other stuff, then come back to it. Also, having others share the same vision and rely on each other to push helps.

I do have short term goals to keep it on track, even if it's just as simple as getting a dynamic color system working on a game object or creating a serializable class. Sometimes just working on a little thing helps you focus on the main goal again, it keeps it alive. 

Having a lot of goals, interests and distractions can be difficult to manage, try to limit yourself to a few "good ones". I'd love to get back into music, electronics, build a dune buddy etc but I remind myself to stay true to my main goal.

It's working on, it's slow but I am "progressing" and the project hasn't stopped. I will complete it, even if it's not the greatest attempt. 

Good luck, sounds like you have as many challenges as I do :)

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[...] Also, having others share the same vision and rely on each other to push helps.

Oh, such a dream of mine! I think one biiig problem is that I feel like everyone is either ignoring me or just looking at me in expectation. I lack equal minds (not of quality, but of... content?). I have a hard time discussing anything with anyone, and nobody around here 'gets' any of this stuff enough to be an active motivator. I can get people to test and give feedback and such, but discussing intricate questions, worries and obstacles about my coding (or my writing, my animation, my drawing, etc.) is nearly impossible. I always focused on attaining the skills for this, and ended up lacking the environment.

I don't need to leave anything behind, I think. After a long and hard self-examination a while back, I sorted out the projects with a future from those without. Half of what I have now is actually disassembled from scrapped work and reassembled for this, so I don't need to reinvent everything from scratch. It's all nice and neat, but without some form of solid structure to work within, I flail a bit too much. The whole cancer thing just made me think even harder on making the most of my time, but I have long been worried that I bleed sooo many resources because of how things don't mesh well, time-wise. I think the solitude of the work does add to that problem, although it is no doubt always going to be there, solitude or not.

I think we pretty much agree on the rest of what you wrote :)

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