I’ve been doing some self-exploration.
I’ve been chasing a musical career for a while now through schooling, playing, directing, and a little bit of teaching. Even with all of this knowledge in my head and the many years of experience, I’m not sure that it’s the right thing for me anymore. I love music. I’ve loved it since I was little and envious of my older brother getting to take violin lessons, while my mom and I listened from the next room. I loved music while playing in my school orchestra, and loved it even more when I bought a guitar and started playing rock music with my buddy. After studying jazz and classical music in college, and then spending a few years at a prestigious modern music school–where everybody was better than me, and great music was everywhere–I loved it more than ever. But now I realize that–while I love it–it’s not something I wake up every morning feeling inspired to do. For one reason or another, it’s a difficult chore when I set my creative mind to it.
Composing music is not something inherently inspiring to me. The inspiration comes from the craft, and seeing simple ideas develop into a well-formed, multi-layered, intellectually and emotionally stimulating piece. And it’s much easier for me to appreciate another’s craft than to do it myself. Maybe it’s just a simple thing like not having a proper workflow, where I can lay out all of my ideas and come back to refine them later–like I do with writing. There’s probably some of that, since music is much harder to pin down than the written word.
Spending the last several years planning weekly performances, practicing with several bands of varying skill levels, and feeling the drain it leaves on me at the end of the day–despite the moments of joy when the music finally comes together–leaves me questioning whether this is really the life I want. I will never quit music, and will keep getting better–albeit at a slower pace than those dedicated to the art–but, I’m finally discovering things about myself that may lead me to the next step in my life.
While it’s difficult for me to be inspired to create music on a whim, I don’t feel that barrier with writing. Since last June, when I started my foray into this medium, I’ve discovered that I really do love it–even when what I thought would be a half-hour writing project turns into a three hour one. I never hated doing it in school, but at the time, I felt it was a necessary chore just to pass my classes. Now I see that it’s a way to set the whirling, chaotic mush of my thoughts down into a fixed, permanent form. It’s a way for me to contribute to the never-ending dialogue of ideas. It was probably all the fantasy and science fiction novels I read during high school and the intense daily MUDding sessions which somehow seeped into my subconsciousness. That’s a lot of text I must’ve read.
I really enjoyed the last few months I’ve spent writing, blogging and self-editing. But now I have some new questions for myself: Why am I writing? Am I writing for the sake of writing? What is going to keep me writing for the foreseeable future?
I’ve been watching, listening to, and reading a lot of Ken Levine interviews these days, as written in my last post. This has me really thinking about exploring the world of game writing and development. Will it fit my personality and skill sets? Is it something I can be excited about doing every day? Is writing for and/or developing a video game something I will be passionate about?
Years of musical study–as well as a lover of books, films, and video games–have taught me to be observant of the craft of “time-based” artwork. These things have a beginning, middle, and end. They take the participant through a journey and the experience is often multi-layered. For a song, there is the flow of the musical composition, perhaps from a simple beginning to a climactic ending, both in the build-up of musical ideas and instrumentation; and there is the lyrical content which reveals the story piece by piece, oftentimes repurposing lyrics which emphasize the story–and sometimes even changes it–when repeated throughout the song. A film may build up a story through its actors, cinematography, plot development and music, all to create an emotional impact in the viewer by the time the credits roll. A video game can use the player’s involvement with the characters to make it a really personal experience, all the while engrossing them in the story and action throughout. No matter the medium, all of the interlocking parts must work together to create something transcendent of the individual components.
There is a certain pacing necessary in all of these mediums to streamline the flow of user experience to funnel the participant into the intended emotional state; the craft and insight to cut out extraneous content that detracts from this goal. The act of intense, purposeful editing turns what was once just a bundle of good ideas into a cohesive, immersive, emotionally satisfying–and even life changing–experience.
I love editing. Well, no. I love crafting. I love to chisel out what I have in front of me to create the final product that I would be satisfied if I were the audience. Can I combine this skill with my newfound love of writing and make something of it? Do I have a compelling and personal story to tell, and deliver it in a way that can be worthy of your time? How much will I be able to do myself, and how much will I have to collaborate with other talented people? What form will it take? What will be the central mechanics of the gameplay? The more I work on this idea and the more I flesh it out, the more I see the possibilities and the limitations. But I am excited about it.
Maybe these months of blogging was a preparation for something else. Grabbing an inspired thought from my head as I go throughout my day, developing it until it becomes something substantial, and then editing it into a focused product. I have developed a writing workflow that works for me; something that I haven’t been able to do with my music. It’s something that I can open up my computer before work and tinker with–add new ideas, develop characters and expand on storylines.
As a creator, I believe I have several things to offer: the love of great story; the awareness of the importance of an emotional experience and its delivery; a critical eye for great writing and great music; awareness of “flow”; the ability to self-edit and be flexible to changes; meticulous attention to detail; decent writing ability. As an amateur, there are other things I need to develop: the craft of writing, especially game writing; the awareness of the possibilities and limitations of gaming systems; coding; and probably much more that I will realize as I go on.
It’s all new and daunting, and I feel severely “under-leveled”. But at least it’ll be an adventure worth taking.