2023 - Year of the Fool's Leap
The New Year is finally upon us... has been for the past several days, in fact. With new years often come new resolutions, and I'd like to share mine with you, as they pertain to my creative output (and that's why you're here, right?). Seeing as January 1st marked the projected end of my little sabbatical I took back in July of last year to rekindle my creative spirit, it's now time to get back to work, put my nose firmly to the grindstone and start crankin' out content ...
... And yet...
... A keen sense of dread permeates my being, like the first day of the school year after a long fun summer away, or like the first day of a strange new job after being unemployed and free for a considerable stint beforehand.
Why would I be feeling this way about my own enterprise? That's what I'd like to detail in this post.
After a bit of introspective work, I've come to find a pattern of behavior that may be, at least in part, why I've not been nearly as productive as I could've been over the years, and taking an extended break has allowed me to more clearly define why that might be. It also seems to suggest a novel alternative that might actually yield results.
So, if you're interested, then by all means, continue.
What I Accomplished while "Taking a Break"
An Unhealthy Obsession with Productivity and Efficiency
For a predominately right-brained artsy type, I sure do have an immense obsession with productivity and efficiency, to a fault.
In my Rediscovering the Joys of Creating post, I mentioned how I tend to exhausted myself trying to come up with an efficient system of content production. Allow me to elaborate just a little bit on what I mean by that, and illustrate just how obsessive I can be.
Currently, I've devised a hierarchical project-prioritizing system of scheduling used to juggle three types of creative projects at a time - a primary one, a secondary one, and a tertiary one, all scheduled to be worked on a biweekly basis with the appropriate time allotted to each project (primary gets a full week, secondary gets four days, and tertiary gets three). Then I have to go through each of my many myriad potential creative projects and decide what I want to be primary, secondary, and tertiary. To give myself a little flexibility, I've devised a system whereby I can periodically reevaluate this project hierarchy and modify it where appropriate.
That's for specific, immediate projects, but what about into the future? I've even come up with a system to organize and categorize my longer-form life goals and Dreams - The Dream goes at the top of the hierarchical pyramid, which splits off into Chief Aims, which are further split into Logical Next Steps, which are in turn split into Macro-Goals, which are then split into Micro-Goals, which are finally divided into individual Tasks...
Are you confused? Overwhelmed, maybe? Yeah, this is supposed to, in theory, simplify and streamline my productivity... and yet, I find myself not actually producing anything. Gee, I wonder why...? *Queue exasperated eye-roll*
You'd think a system specifically created to optimize productivity would also, y'know... increase productivity? If that's so, then why do I have so little to show for?
With all of that said, you should kinda sorta have an idea as to the madness I've needlessly subjugated myself to on a consistent basis, ostensibly to optimize productivity... Now look what happens when that productivity optimization system is lifted.
Oh, the Ironic Accomplishments while "Taking a Break"
During my break, one thing I found myself enraptured with is working on my Voyage of Kiki Banana game project (one that I had set to the wayside for the time being due to it seeming to be entirely too large a project for considering at the moment), the beginnings of which I showed off in a previous Update post.
What you're about to see is only about maybe two solid months of work, possibly less than that, I'm not entirely sure. Regardless, not a tremendously huge chunk of time, and definitely not adhering to any rigid productivity protocol.
-- And just to be clear, everything you see here was made by me - every texture, every material, every 3D model, every 3D animation, every code blueprint (with the aid of a lot of tutorials, admittedly), I mean everything. Nothing here utilizes any pre-made assets from anywhere, so keep that in mind as well. --
An adventure begins!
"Let's go find some treasure!"
"Is shade treasure?"
She has a ground-pound attack!
She can even wall-jump!
She can swim, too!
A scenic view.
Wading in knee-high water slows down her walking speed.
Dangerously close to a double nip-slip there, watch out!
Talk about a leap of faith!
Oh, and that's not all. I've got a real treat for y'all this time - actual video footage of the game play!
Again, to reiterate, this is only about two months of casual work, by an amateur game designer no less. Now imagine how much more this could be in three months, six months, a year or two... or three. Perhaps I could even rally a small team of folks who actually know what the hell it is they're doing to aid me in the completion of this zany game, maybe even formalize a studio for the future production of other games! Who knows!?
Such is the power of following your bliss. This is what happens when you allow your creativity to, well, create!
-- Not gonna lie, I'm very tempted to make this the project I work almost exclusively on from here on out. I've had so much fun working on it, like nothing I've done before. It just feels so... right. --
A Fool's Leap into a Radical New Productivity Paradigm
Inadvertently Annihilating my own Motivation
Here's the introspective, philosophical part of all this - the part that you could potentially learn from, so listen up!
Now then, if I'm so much more productive and, most importantly, happy when I'm not subjugated to a rigid productivity protocol or, worse, in the process of constructing a rigid productivity protocol (which takes for-freakin'-ever, by the way)... why don't I just ditch the rigid productivity protocol altogether?
The reason I haven't done so before is because, well... I've never allowed myself to even take an extended break before six months ago, so I've never even known what it's like not to be subjugated to a rigid productivity protocol. Now that I know what it's like to loose the reigns on myself and just let happen what wants to happen...
... I don't think I'm going back!
What I had been doing this whole entire time was mistaking Creation with Production, these are not the same phenomena. Creation is the internal act of taking the disparate contents of one's Imagination and forming them into a coherent working concept for some medium of expression. Production is then taking that newly formed working concept and acting upon it in the external physical world, building it into a real, tangible thing in a linear step-by-step progression. These two processes, while related, are not the same.
Creation is spontaneous, natural, mostly unconscious, right-brained, holistic, sometimes wild and chaotic. It is more akin to planting a seed in the dirt and watching it grow into the thing it wants to be. It's a wholly organic process.
Production is strict, rigid, left-brained, systematic, structured, an orderly process. It is more akin to the building of a machine or structure, piece by piece, brick by brick, in a deliberate sequence often by means of instructions, such as a blueprint or an enclosed instruction book. It's a wholly mechanical process.
What I have been doing this whole time is trying to impose the protocols of the Production process onto my Creation process, which inevitably kills motivation. It's like trying to rush the growth of a plant by some artificial means or something, you just can't do that... not without unforeseen consequences, anyway. In my case, it was the utter annihilation of my drive to create at all. Without a Creation to produce, no Production could take place, and thus nothing was made. So much for efficiency and optimization!
A Useful Metaphor - The Garden and the Gardener
Of course, one can't just purely rely on their unconscious mind to give them exactly what they want all the time. There has to be some structure imposed upon the process, otherwise it'd be a completely random draw as to what comes forth from the ever chaotic Imagination. But how does one do that?
You work with the Creative process, not against it.
The planting metaphor I keep going back to is an apt one, and to build upon it, I'd like to explain this process in terms of Gardening.
The proper relationship between the conscious mind (the one that Produces) and the unconscious mind (the one that Creates), is like that between the Gardener and his Garden. A Garden is a blend of nature and culture or civilization. It is essentially bits of nature deliberately arranged in either a practical or aesthetic pattern (often both) for the purposes of either harvesting fruits or herbs or to create a pleasant space to experience. A Gardener, then, is the one doing the deliberate arranging of the bits of nature.
Here are the comparisons between the phenomena of Gardening and that of Creation/Production:
The Garden itself is the Unconscious Mind, connected to the Imagination from which ideas and thoughts and things emerge, and the space in which they exist.
The individual Plants that make up the Garden are the products of a sprouted Seed, a particular intent nurtured into a flourishing creative concept.
The Seeds are intents, bits of will that require sustenance and time to germinate to become a full-on working concept.
The Fruits are the final product, that which can then be processed, packaged, and shipped to those that need or want them. In other words, ripe concepts ready to go into the production phase.
The Weeds would be those unwanted thoughts and ideas that happen to sneak into our minds without our consent that, if left undisturbed, will grow and choke out the otherwise healthy Plants we want growing. They also suck up all the nutrients in the soil as well, leaving one deprived of the right attitude.
The Soil is the Imagination itself, that part of us that is most rooted in the collective unconscious, from which all human ideas spring.
The Nutrients in the Soil is one's attitude - a healthy, positive attitude is one that allows for Seeds to flourish and grow, and a sickly, negative attitude either makes a Seed struggle to sprout or kills it altogether.
The Gardener is the Conscious Mind, the one that plants Seeds, cultivates the Soil, and trims and prunes Plants to his liking, and reaps the Fruits of his labor.
The Gardener doesn't work against the nature of his Garden, he works with it. He's not trying to plan out exactly how many branches this or that plant should have, and how many leaves should grow on each branch, and how many fruits and seeds it ultimately bears, and then throwing a hissy-fit when things don't turn out exactly as planned, ripping the plant out of the ground and starting over...and over... and over again. That would be absurd.
What would be equally absurd is the Gardener slacking off entirely, just scattering some random seeds around and just hoping to God that they sprout and grow and eventually bear fruit, without his tending the soil or removing weeds or trimming and pruning, or anything. If the Gardener continues to neglect his Garden, the Garden soon ceases to be an actual garden and just becomes a plot of wilderness. May as well not even have a Gardener at that point.
What a wise Gardner would do is he would plant the seeds that he wishes to see grow, cultivate and fertilize the soil he plants them in, wait patiently for nature to take Her course and allow the plants to grow how they want to (that's key), and only trim and prune where appropriate for his purposes.
My New Productivity Protocol
This useful metaphor helped me to see exactly what I had been doing wrong this whole time, and why "letting go" yielded more results than rigidly adhering to a strict protocol ever did. I now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I've gotta do something different... but what, exactly?
Obviously, I can't just go on a perpetual sabbatical, as that would be akin to the Gardener neglecting his Garden and just allowing anything to grow, which is clearly not conducive to a productive enterprise. There's also certainly no need to go back to being the Gardener who pre-plans every leaf on every branch of every plant either. Here's what I intend to do from here on out.
I will follow my gut instinct, my bliss, my fancy, dare I say my Heart, when it comes to deciding on what creative project to work on. There's always something I'm wanting to do at a given time, just often not what my rigid productivity protocol has scheduled for that given time, and when I really pay attention to it, it's not always something radically different from what it is I ultimately want to accomplish anyway - namely building a body of creative works for others to enjoy and get some value out of. So then, what's the harm in doing it?
Of course, there will be broad goals to always work towards, but I'll let my unconscious mind figure out what needs to be done about them (it knows way more than the conscious mind, anyways) and only let my conscious mind guide it as needed, make sure I don't get too far off track, and keep the weeds out, make sure no unwanted stuff crops up.
Since this new creative paradigm and productivity protocol hinges on the unconscious process of Creation rather than the conscious process of Production, I will not be able to accurately predict exactly what will happen or what I will end up doing. I can state what I want to happen, but I won't be able to accurately state what will happen. So that means no more announcements, ever. If I do "announce" something from here on out, that means it's either well under way, or it's done.
A Fool's Leap of Faith
As much as this new means of creation really excites me, that old habituated part of me that still clings to the comforting rigidity of orderly structured process is kinda scared, not gonna lie. This is so far beyond what I'm used to, so far beyond a lot of my foundational beliefs, and it's something I've never done before.
But isn't that how a lot of great works start? I mean, Thomas Edison didn't know the incandescent light-bulb was even possible when he set out to make it, the Wright Brothers didn't know heavier-than-air flight was possible when they set out to make it happen, Henry Ford didn't know the mass-production of automobiles was a feasible thing when he set out to do that... not that I'm comparing myself to any of those guys, I'm just trying to illustrate a point - that a leap faith is often the precursor to greatness. And this is mine.
This year, 2023, I hereby dub the Year of the Fool's Leap (for me, that is). This shall be the year by which I operate under a brand new creative paradigm and productivity protocol - that which actually facilitates the actual creation and actual production of creative works, whatever they may be. I will rely on the Unconscious Mind to guide my creativity, to follow my bliss, work on projects that make me happy, and trust that this is what my True Will and, by extension, the Will of Creation Itself, wants me to be doing. I will rely on the Conscious Mind to merely tend this Garden where appropriate to what Dreams and goals I have in place, and I will not impose the conscious mind's feeble will upon the grand and marvelous Will of the True Self and the Will of Creation. I will go with the flow of my own inner dynamo, and trust that it's in tune with what the Will of Creation wants from and for me. Wish me luck!
Here we go! Yahoo! See you at the landing spot, peace be and take Care!