Archive for the ‘Life as a Creative’ Category
Working at Paizo for the last few months, there are two concepts I’ve picked up on that I’m applying to other books down the road. They’re not mind-blowing ideas, but because we’re all learning this ad hoc, some techniques only get discovered as you’re working with different professionals.
Text Between Headers
If you look at Paizo products, you’ll see that wherever there’s a header, there’s at least one line of normal body copy between that at the next header. Usually it’s more substantial, but sometimes it’s just “The following may be selected at any level.” or similar.
The reason for this? It lets headers breathe on the page. They don’t run into each other, and it makes scanning on the page easier. So now when I’m working on a book, if the structure has me writing one header and then immediately after that a subheader, I stop to put something in between them. (Sometimes just “XXX” so that I know to come back to it later.)
Stop at H2s
We don’t go beyond second-level headers here, which blew my mind. As someone from a crunchy software background, getting deep with headers made sense. (I think we went down to H4s in some earlier Fate Core drafts, though not often.) So to see this limiter was interesting.
If there’s information breakdown after H2, it’s done in the body copy, with a bolded or italicized phrase & colon.
Here’s some more stuff!
Stuff 1: Stuff!
Stuff 2: More Stuff!
Stuff 3: Even more!
And you’ll notice that there’s a line in between the header and the further breakdown. (And the astute will notice that the colon isn’t styled.)
If you flip through some products (especially those over the last year, as the styles have evolved over time in both the editorial and art direction camps), you’ll see all sorts of little things like this. There’s so much I’ve learned here, which gets me fired up to come to work every day (aside from, you know, making games). Occasionally I’ll share what I’ve learned with y’all.
I’ve been replaced.
I was reading Jason Pitre’s brilliant A Spark in Fate Core, which is an alternate take on the Game Creation chapter I wrote in Core. I recommend you read that if you like world-building systems. At the bottom of the first page:
This replaces chapter 3 in Fate Core.
It’s happened time and time again. I’m nearly 35, and I’ve held a number of jobs over a couple different careers. I’ve been replaced as a programmer in Californian government, as a writer or editor at a number of places, and so on. And it will continue to happen. That’s the cycle of creative works. And it’s awesome.
Let me tell you why:
I replaced Rob Donoghue as the make-a-setting guy in Fate, at least as far as writing about it in products went. He started City Creation in Dresden, and I finished the re-design. (And thank fuck for Clark Valentine, who helped finish the text on that chapter that I didn’t have the brain for.) You can see his DNA in the stuff I wrote in City Creation and Fate Core.
Now Jason’s written a replacement for that that has my DNA and Rob’s DNA in there. He made something that’s pretty interesting, building on what we did. We indirectly contributed to someone else’s awesome thing, and we didn’t have to do any further work to enjoy that. That’s pretty cool.
But that’s not even the coolest part. The part that is: by being replaced, we become free to explore and do other things. Leonard Balsera & I replaced Rob & Fred as “the Fate system guys,” freeing those two to focus on other things they were more passionate about: running a company and being fathers. Now Mike Olson & Brian Engard have replaced Lenny & I, allowing us to do work in day jobs unrelated to Fate. Someone will at some point replace them, and so on.
To be replaced it to be freed to grow as a creative person. And to be replaced is to give someone else a chance to grown in a spot you filled. You need both, because once you’re replaced, you’re liking to replace someone else in some other space.
Now, there are two kinds of replacement: one where your works are built upon and one where your works are scrapped. You might think only one kind is welcome, but fuck that noise — both are great. The former is great on a personal level, because you can look upon your works’ longevity, even as it changes hands. But the latter is also key, because people will make something that still reacts to what you did, even if they go a different route.
That’s effectively what I’m doing with the Technocracy. The old Convention books are (more or less) about them being villains. I’m writing about them being heroes. I’m not denying former canon or whitewashing, but I am scrapping quite a bit of the pure-villainy themes.
Nothing says that when you’re replaced, people won’t still love what you did. Fuck knows there are a bunch of Mage fans out there who hate what we’re doing with the Technocracy because we’re replacing what they loved (in some cases because of what we’re replacing it with, and in some cases simply because it’s being replaced).
So when I look at that note in Jason’s document, I don’t fell despair or disappointment. I feel pride; someone has built something on top of my thing and is getting praise for it. Good on him. Now I shall go do the next thing, and maybe in the future build on his works.
Replacement is necessary for the cycle of creative growth. And you can see how the converse is true: look at those who jealously fight against being replaced, and how they’re more often than not stagnant, making the same shit they made twenty or thirty years ago.
Allow yourself to be replaced, and you allow yourself to transcend. And you allow your field to become better for it.
Over the weekend, I tweeted a couple thoughts about doing what you love:
Anyone telling you that doing what you love won’t feel like work is selling you a bunch of bullshit. But it *will* feel damned rewarding.
Also, what you love will change over time, as you grow exposed to new facets of what you’re doing and to totally different things.
Today, I’m doing what I love. I work on making games and making games better — at Paizo, for various other companies as a freelancer, and for myself. But here’s the thing: I know I won’t be doing this forever.
I know I won’t want to do this forever.
When I was in my early 20s, I got a job as a software developer. I was making web applications, and really happy that my life involved fucking around with the Internet as a living. As time went on, I loved that less — my interests changed, I stopped enjoying programming for its own sake, and I started getting my writing published.
To say I’m “lucky” enough to have done what I love twice in my life, however, misses the point. This is all still work:
- Yesterday, I came into the Paizo office for eight hours, then went home and did another couple hours or so on the Technocracy.
- On Saturday, I spent the day, from noon until around 10pm, working on one of the Technocracy books.
- Friday, worked several hours at the day job trying to push a document out to the next editing pass, and then going home to work on the Technocracy.
- Thursday, see Friday
- Wednesday, see Thursday
- and so on
The last time I worked less than eight hours in a day was maybe around four weeks ago (every day, not just weekdays). Yes, it’s doing what I love, but it still feels like work. I still feel my brain being toasted after a ten-hour day. I still want to curl up with some Mass Effect 3 DLC I haven’t gotten to play yet. So anyone telling you “it won’t feel like work” is a lying fuck who is just trying to sell you something. Or trying to convince themselves that that’s true.
And as time goes on, as you gain experiences in life, what you love will change. That’s cool! That’s a natural part of the process. Plus, your further experiences with doing what you love will show you parts of the business you hate, and depending on your personality type and what you’re dealing with, that might overwhelm your love in the first place.
So here’s the deal: things will still be work because it takes effort to achieve something awesome, and people will always have different ideas of what’s awesome than you. (Spoiler alert: you’re going to have to deal with people while doing what you love.) And you’ll grow and change as a person.
Embrace all that. It’s part of doing what you love.
I work with my friends all the time. In the RPG world, and I’m sure this is the case in many worlds, it’s hard not to. If we have talented friends, and we’re working on something where such a friend is a good friend for a project, we’ll grab them for it.
That can, if you’re not careful, fuck friendships up. And on occasion, that’s happened with me. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re working with friends:
Keep communicating about not-work. You were probably friends for some reasons and communicated in some way before you started working together. Watch that your conversations don’t just revolve around the current job you’re doing.
Watch your shit-talk. We all shit-talk about people as a venting mechanism. (We all do, right?) If you’re doing far more of that than being happy with working with this person, it’s time to re-examine the working relationship before things go sour.
Be upfront about problems. Some of us have a tendency to cut our friends slack. Avoid that; doing that can build resentment as we don’t talk about the problems we have. And that just leads to explosive moments that wreck friendships. Related: be willing to talk about those problems, not just list them off and move on.
Watch the passive aggression. Especially on places like Twitter. (I’m not perfect at it, especially late at night when I’m tired, but I try.)
If you do get to the point where it’s time to call it quits when it comes to work: for fuck’s sake don’t do anything before the conversation’s over. If you do anything — tell other people you’re looking for a new person, contact coworkers to announce that person’s leaving, etc — before the conversations’ done, you’ve pretty much fucked any chance that the situation is salvageable from a friendly perspective.
Confirm that you received an email, especially when it contains a contract, files, important directions, or anything else where “hey, I got this” could be handy for the sender.
You know what happens when you don’t? The other person has to wonder if it just a spam folder, got buried in a bunch of emails, accidentally deleted because you clicked on the wrong thing, misdelivered, or otherwise just didn’t get to you.
If you’re the sort of person who leaves emails unread to deal with them, try this:
- Reply that you got something
- Flag the email as unread
Better yet, quickly process the email to at least add it to a to-do list or download to file into a working folder. But, at bare minimum, confirm receipt.
Confirming receipt is a small sign that promotes trust and acknowledging responsibility. You know, things that actually indicate professionalism.
That is all.
 Also, there are many better methods for dealing with work processes.