Restless Hands: How I work
TL;DR - I talk about how I work, writing cycles, finishing my first book, and talk about future projects. Music: Skeletons - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
What I've been doing...
Well all, it's been a few weeks since I posted here last, but that's because I've been very, very engaged in a number of activities; notably the completion of writing my book, The Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide. I finished it early last week, but spend another week combing through it, fixing errors, rewriting small portions, and adding thematic material that wasn't in the original outline. And, last night, I mailed off the manuscript to the core design team, as well as to my layout expert. Today, I rested somewhat, although it I feel like I should still be writing. I suppose that's because I've been so engaged in writing lately that it feels weird when I'm not. As a result, I've been "blogging" a little more, as well as goofing off on Twitter a lot more than normal. But I've also been reading, as well, and sleeping a fair bit more.
Understanding your writing/working cycles...
All of this is part of how I work, too. I've learned, over the years, that I tend to fluctuate between two distinct cycles, one that is incredibly active, outgoing, productive, loud, and extroverted; one that is reflective, passive, restfull, observant, and silent. When I'm working in the latter, I tend to read more, look at the work of other designers (and writers), and puzzle out what works best for whatever challenge is at hand. While I fancy myself more rationale during these phases, I know that's not always the case. I do, however, feel a lot more balanced in my approach to problems. When I'm about to enter one of my more productive or active stages, I almost always deal with a sense of restlessness that is otherwise hard to explain; this is when I make my "lists," hit the gym harder than normal, hit the social media harder than normal, and write the most. I am, on this end of the spectrum, the guy balancing a full semester of classes, a part time job, regular emails/social correspondence, and writing, all while studying a new programming language or otherwise tackling something novel and new. Ironically, this is when I learn the least, but want to tackle the most.
I suppose, it its way, this works as a filter that lets me explore additional interests and options, so that when I return to my reflective or introvertive stages, I can sort through all of my interests and see what "sticks." As a game designer, storyteller, and world builder (which I sometimes wrap neatly in the mantle of "reality engineer"), understanding this process allows me to do more, to tackle feats I might underestimate, or worse, back away from. By knowing this, I am able to do more, to Just Do It, to steal an old slogan from Nike. In its own way, knowing this gives me a measuring stick, both for what I need, as well as what I want. This also helps me remain somewhat energized, so that I don't burn out on a given project.
Avoiding the Burn Out
For me, taking breaks is central to how I work. When I'm writing, I try to get up once an hour or so to do something menial - I wash some dishes, I straighten up the books in my office, throw in a load of clothes, what have you. I don't do this because I love domestic work, but because it gives my eyes (and my brain) a chance to rest. When I jump back in front of the computer, I'm somewhat refreshed. I do the same when I'm studying, although when I'm reading, I generally take breaks every 12-25 minutes (there's a great TED Talk on this, but for the life of me, I can't find the link).
I think taking breaks is important for larger projects, too. It's one of the reasons I travel, so that the projects I take on don't feel tedious or otherwise insurmountable. It's good, at least for me, to step back, take a week off, and prioritize. When I return, I'm generally refreshed.
Not everyone would agree this is wise, but this is another method I use to avoid "burn out," on some of my projects. If I'm aggressively writing about runes and giants, sometimes switching over to complicated cyphers, smart guns, and computer virii is just what I need to break a given writing pattern. It lets me see things from a multitude of angles, and the more I do it, the more I find my design benefits as a result. I start to see the universal foundations inherent in what I'm working on, and in some ways, feel I make more challenging material as a result. But hey, that's just me. YMMV.
(This is totally the keyboard I ue when I write).
Once this book is off to the printer, I am going to be finishing up The Beyond the Glittering Fane adventure arc, then moving on to a handful of smaller projects. This fall, I'm going to be working on support material for Occult Adventures, and Clinton Boomer and I have already discussed some fantastic options that support it, both in ancient, as well as modern times. I'm also going to be focusing on some pet villains, organizations that might spam a number of settings or genres. Additionally, I'm going to be working on HyperCorps 2099, a Sci-Fi Pathfinder project that is part mutants, part superheroes, and part dystopian, corporate future. Of course, there's going to be more stuff released for Rhune, too, so fans need not worry. Well, it's been a long day, so I think I'm going to sneak off and read some before I head off to bed. Carcosa calls.... Cheers, Jaye