Emily—you said something to me a while back that I basically haven’t stopped thinking about. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “you keep starting new projects to ignore the fact that you don’t have a hobby.” While I don’t remember it clearly, I do remember the questions it made me ask myself.
Do I start new projects to ignore the fact that I have no persistent, passionate hobbies?
Do I continue to start new projects to cover up the fact that I’m not finishing projects?
Am I actually being productive?
My friends like to give me crap because I’m basically always planning a new project: a new blog, a new RPG campaign, a book I want to write, rules for a new system; it’s all in good fun. They love to point out that I have no time left in my week. My partner loves to laugh with me every time I have a new idea I want to chase.
A big problem I face is that many of my projects don’t have designated end dates. This blog started and doesn’t exactly have a stopping point. When we started Write Makes Right, we didn’t really have an end point in mind. I want to start a third blog publishing DnD content, and that also won’t really have an end date in mind.
I don’t have a lot of free time anymore, so if I want to pursue these things I need to become a work horse, or I need to start cutting out more of my free time. Or the third option: I can be more productive with my time. I can make schedules and set deadlines.
But lets back up and revisit the questions before. I keep myself really busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m being productive.
Do I trick myself into believing that doing anything is productive? Or should I cut the fat and find a few core projects to focus instead of trying to do everything? Right now, on a given week where I’m working a bunch of stuff, I work nearly every night. That means I’m quite busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean productive.
So what is productivity then?
Does it need to be defined by input and output? Does it need to be defined by the value of the work? I think the first thing I need to do is define productivity for myself.
I work on stuff as often as I do because I want to build experience and form creative habits. I would love to eventually be a writer and designer for games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. But first I need to practice doing this on my own. The idea of a savant who is genius from the start is a lie, and I know that if I want to eventually pitch these things to companies, I need to have experience under my belt.
I take a lot of inspiration from the German Bauhaus school and it’s artistic movements. I learned about it in college and I was enamored with it. The original Bauhaus school was a bunch of designers and artists who had grown tired with the movements of the past, and came together to create a school and a collective. Just to push art forward and create new and interesting things based on newer, more modern ideologies. Many great designers were part of it back when it was still a thing. A lot of artists used the school to create great volumes of work that we still emulate today.
That’s the idea I am trying to encompass when I’m toiling away at the things I want to create. Maybe I shouldn’t bother wondering whether the thing I want to create is going to have value. I think I value the journey a lot more than the product.
Important Thing #1: I place more value in the journey, rather than the product I create.
But let’s back up. What if I stretch myself too thin and I botch the landing? If one spreads their attention between too many ideas, none of those topics get the attention it deserves. It’s cool and all that I have so many things I want to do, but instead of adding more to the workload, perhaps it would be better to form a list and then work on them one at a time.
I could also make the argument that a lot of things don’t get worked on. I have a list of things I want to create and accomplish, but they are always put off because I have something more important to work on—usually Rogue Trader prep or blog posts.
I have always known that I work better and more creatively when my deadline is close. It was probably the most important thing I learned in college: when under pressure, I perform better. This is still prevalent today, it’s the reason I keep trying to start projects and activities that have an inherent, “thing is needed on this day.” Seven Degrees of Smudde, Write Makes Right, and Rogue Trader all have deadlines I need to meet, and as that deadline looms I become far more productive.
There it was. I used the word productive candidly. So what can I learn about this?
Important Thing #2: I need to be completing things on a deadline.
That one makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be concerned with productivity if I wasn’t concerned with time, right?
We should also consider that a lot of my projects are things I would like to do, not have to do. No sense adding deadlines upon deadlines for each project I come up with. I’m sure I’d get a lot more done, but I’d also be a stressed out, anxious mess.
One of the above definitions of productivity is: “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”
I already talked about how I don’t necessarily want to measure my productivity in an input to output ratio. But perhaps I can instead group my ideas by overarching categories and treat it as one large, spanning project. Then it will be easier to dissect everything into smaller steps that I can complete on deadlines. I can complete more pieces of larger wholes and still go on a longer journey while also having easy to accomplish goals.
Important Thing #3: Categorize individual ideas into larger wholes so that I can complete larger ideas by finishing smaller pieces.
I have tons of things I want to create for Dungeons and Dragons, Rogue Trader, and eventually my own RPG system. It only makes sense that I take all the elements that fit into one category and begin doing treating it as one whole. Instead of trying to contextualize wanting to create seven new player races, and dozens of new monsters, I can instead think of it as my “DnD Project” with the goal of completing one piece per month. Instead of trying to write chapters simultaneously, I can instead think of it as a book where I tackle smaller parts.
All of this probably seems really obvious to many—if not all of you. But I struggle to contain my wandering mind, so parsing all of this helps me slow down and find my stride. My mind wants to spend its time trying to manage my energy, when really I should instead try and manage the workflow so that my energy is spent more efficiently. Whenever I want to do something, for an example, create a new class in Dungeons and Dragons, my brain thinks, “Yeah, if I just buckle down and get to work I should be able to squeeze this in.” But that’s not really how anything works. It’s a romantic idea to believe that I am a content creating machine, but I’m just setting myself up for failure.