Well. November has come and gone, and with it the deadline of writing 50,000 words as part of NaNoWriMo. A deadline which I hit, but without finishing the story itself. 50,000 words has barely taken us out of the first act, so I’m going to continue (after a short break, and at a slightly calmer and less regimented pace) until its done – which I suspect will be mid-late January.
November was also Amnesia Month, in which I took a step back from all of the games and culture nonsense and tried to put the events of the past year, and in particular the events of September / October, into perspective.
In the run-up to November, there was a perfect storm of strange decisions around me and a pile of criticism directed at me. The former I can ignore as I have no influence over much of it, but the latter is a little trickier.
As with all criticism, some of it was warranted, other parts not so much. And some of it was constructive, and again, other parts not so much. It’s part and parcel of both the process of building things and one of the costs of having a profile that allows you to create, or at least influence, change. Some advice was that I should develop a thicker skin, which is partly true, I think, but a particular danger of that is running the risk of losing sight of what can be learnt from such criticism, both why it manifests and in the more personal reaction to it.
Luckily, it wasn’t all bad. In the course of the month, I was published for the first time in book form, I got back into working on my own longform projects, I started a new paid project, completed others, and gave some (to me at least in researching them) quite interesting talks.
All of these things together, the good and the bad, reflecting on the criticisms, accepting what I thought was valid about them, looking at what I was enjoying about the work I was doing, allowed me to reframe my involvement with what I consider the gaming culture – and with my own ideas for the future.
And in doing so, I came to a realisation that I should probably, embarrassingly, have come to earlier.
I need to be focused on making things. And those things need to be tangible. And I need to have some degree of control over their construction, because, in the end, that is all I can have direct control over. The past few months have showed me that you can’t control the reaction of your audience; that no matter what you do, somebody somewhere will tell you to do it differently; no matter how much work you might have done, people will focus on the one clumsy mistake that you’ve made; and the things that change systems & cultures & institutions are driven by individuals who build things, not by criticism, and not by destruction.
NaNoWriMo reminded me what it felt like to make something personal; the criticisms showed me that it’s easier to take flak if it’s about something I have control over; decisions outside of my hands brought home the adage of leaving alone the things I can’t change; and all of these things together brought into focus what’s important to me.
Not entirely sure what this means for 2011 just yet, but there are plans and options. And in the meantime, there is always finishing off the novel I’ve started.