Posts Tagged ‘ creativity ’

MY GAME DESIGNING LIFE

Well, folks, Heartland is hauling.

My first tabletop game design ever has been released to the public! What a cool milestone for me. A few years ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be a published game designer but if I’ve learned anything over the years it is that things don’t always goes as planned and there are still good surprises in the world!

The game is being well-received and we’ve been getting some solid reviews. Check out this review by Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower:

I even spotted the game on the shelf of my local game store. It’s pretty neat. I am so glad that people are liking the game.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on the shelf at Gamer's Sanctuary in Flint.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on the shelf at Gamer’s Sanctuary in Flint.

There is this funny thing that happens when you are a creative type. When you are working on something that you feel is important, great stuff, you start to think about what’s next and wrestling with identity questions like “did I get lucky or am I good enough to do it again?” At least that’s how it works for me. I try not to get too stuck looking too far out in front of me but when things get rolling it feels important to keep building on the momentum that is already working for you. And when things get buzzing, I find that they’ll keep buzzing if I can keep up. I guess that’s what Jim Collin’s Flywheel Principle is all about, but I digress.

The difficulty for me is that one idea leads to another and then I have to decide which idea to pursue. Sometimes this is an easy decision but not always. And that’s the tough part, sometimes being creative feels like work and other times the muse drops an idea into your lap. And sometimes the best stuff comes from the stuff that feels like work while other times the stuff that just happens is the best stuff. It’s important for me to remember this when I get lazy. It’s then when I need to open up a blank Word document and just start typing until the page is filled. It’s then when I need to pick up a deck of cards and start shuffling and dealing and making pretty shapes until something clicks. And when the works feels grinding, I need to remember, too. I need to remember to step back and take a break because sometimes things come together when you aren’t even working on them directly. The tension is to remember and live in-between both places.

And I’m just talking about the creative part of designing games, or any other creative pursuit, here. This doesn’t take in to account the work involved in getting a game published, the business of the work. In between great ideas you have to learn to get a sense for when something is ready and then figure out how to pitch the idea and who to pitch it to. Or you have to decide if you want to produce it yourself. This is fun and creative in it’s own way, but it calls for a willingness to do your homework and listen, and I mean really listen. When people don’t like something about your game, or song, or story, or painting this can feel very personal like someone is saying your baby is ugly but if you are willing to listen you can learn, even if you disagree.

Maybe this sounds a little bit like chaos to you. But to me, it’s a very exciting process that gets me pumped up. I feel alive when I am bringing creative pursuits to life. Even when it hurts because it’s hard and frustrating, it still makes me feel alive, pain is like that sometimes. It jars us awake and aware and makes us present to the moment. When I remember thing part about the creative process being the thing that makes me feel alive, I can settle in and do the work I love to do because I’m free from having to worry about the final product. I no longer have to ask those questions about whether or not I’ll be a one-hit-wonder because getting published is just a perk that sometimes follows doing what you love.

These days I’m not so worried about whether or not I’ll have new ideas that are worth publishing, I am just focusing on the process and trying to enjoy each step along the way. And in the midst of that, some stuff will get published and some won’t but either way, I’m still having fun doing something that feels important and has potential to bring people together. For me, that is what makes this important work. Time to get back to it.

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I AM NOT A WRITER

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here on The Green Couch. And I think a light bulb just went off that helps me understand why. Ready?

I am not a writer.

I know, I am writing now. There was once a blank space here and now there are words but when I say “I am not a writer” what I mean is that I don’t get this urge deep down to puts things down on paper or save them to my hard disk.

I can write. And a lot of the things I do involve writing. As a pastor, I craft 3000 word messages week after week to share with my community. As a musician, I jot down lyrics that explain an emotion or idea that I want to share in a song. As a game designer, I have to write clear instruction so people I don’t know can figure out how to play my games.

So, I write but I am not a writer. It’s not in my blood in the same way as real writers. You know the kind I am talking about. The ones who would be happy to spend much of their lives in a small, quiet office massaging the keyboard in a way that every word becomes a part of a sentence that forms a paragraph that makes you gasp for air because of the beauty and truth in what is being shared. Yeah, that’s not me. That’s someone else.

Don’t think I am being overly hard on myself. I am okay with this discovery. I am not a writer. I write. And I can even write well if I put my mind to it. There have been many times when I wanted to see myself as a writer because writers are important. And who doesn’t want to feel important?

I’ve noticed that the times I do write are always connected with doing something that connects me to the people around me.

I write a sermon each week to connect with the people of much church. I hope that what I share adds value to their everyday lives and, in the long run, to our community. We have to do something when we get together, right?

I write songs to help me communicate things that are hard to communicate. But I also write songs because I get to record them or play them in front of people. Music is about creating an experience.

And that weird board game thing I’m into? Well, that’s about creating an experience, too; bringing people together in a real life situation, face to face, using their brains, having fun, and making memories.

I don’t write just to write. I write when it leads to bringing something new into the world. I write when I see an opportunity to connect. I write so I can do.

I’m not a writer. And that’s okay. I’ll keep writing because it’s what gets me to the life I want, to the life I feel called to. I’ll keep writing because if I don’t there will be many things I want to see in the world that never come to be. Writing is a tool. Writing is a gift. I am not a writer. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t feel like writing.

A FEW THOUGHTS ON CREATIVITY

Do you love ideas? I do. Almost to a fault.

When I hear a good idea, see a good film, play a good game, or watch daring dreamers bring something new into existence, I’m in awe. I’m kind of an ideas junkie. I love watching people explore their passion and make something out of it. There are so many ideas out there we don’t even have to think for ourselves if we don’t want to.

At different times in my life, I’ve been a collector. I’ve collected comic books, punk rock records, Star Wars junk, and I currently have a couple cabinets filled with obscure board games. If you’ve ever collected anything, you know that there is so much stuff out there to get into that it could consume your life.

Just out of high school, I worked in a record store. Every two weeks, when I received my paycheck, I would go through the same ritual. Set aside $50 for gas. Set aside $50 for going to shows at the local punk rock club. Spend the rest on the music I’d been saving under the counter at the store, utilizing my employee discount, of course.

Some would say I wasted a lot of money. I’m probably one of those people to some extent. But what I gained was inspiration. I connected with music.  A lot of the times I was just a consumer of others’ ideas. But at some point, inspiration moved me to action. It made me want to create something so that I could express my own ideas and even try on some different identities for a while. Being creative, I learned a little bit about who I was, about what made me feel alive.

I’ve played in bands and released some records (even  sold a few copies, too).  I cared so much about my music that it became the focus of my life.  If I’m honest, I know that the world would have been fine without my contribution but there was something special about putting an idea into action. It made a difference in me. It stretched me outside of the limits of what was comfortable for me. Writing this blog has done the same thing. Other creative endeavors have pushed my limits as well.

My latest creation. A strategy card game.

Creativity is exciting. When ideas come to life it can change the world, even if it is just a little corner of it.  Sometimes, maybe the only change that happens is in the one who is being creative. Other times that inspiration lies dormant and good ideas remain in the realm of the abstract. I think this is where the line is drawn between consumers and creators.

Ideas have to come to life in order to make a difference. Will you be a consumer or a creator (maybe “co-creator” would be a better word)? What’s your idea and what difference will it make?

I don’t want to simply soak up the ideas of others’ in this life. I want to be swept up into movement that brings life.

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