Or, at least, quash the urge to discreetly spit into a napkin?
I’ve been really struggling with Cuthbert lately. Not with any particular problem on Cuthbert, just summoning the will to work on it at all.
I’ve spoken about this before – how, in choosing to do this hard slog of refactoring, I’ve effectively set the progress of the whole game sprawling backwards. How difficult it is not to feel deflated and put-off.
Other projects – all other projects – look infinitely more appealing. (The laundry is piling up – drop everything! The domain I bought for a book review blog three years ago is up for renewal – better install WordPress on there and write up all the books I’ve been reading, stat!)
And, despite my promises not to give into the siren song of a new project… Weeell… L. Whyte and I decided to dust off an old comic idea and see if we could make it work.
If I don’t stop working on Cuthbert, I told myself, it wouldn’t technically be switching between projects. I could split my time between them. It would be fine.
Then I promptly ground to a halt on both of them.
Now, part of this has been because of the sheer amount of work involved in a DIY wedding.
Part of this has been the excuse working on a DIY wedding provides.
If I spend my one day off a week painting signs or designing invitations or folding fortune tellers, I’m still being productive.
This is sheer productiveness, pictured here.
I can feel productive without having to look at the broken, mid-refactored mess that’s my Cuthbert engine, or the stalled and awkward script for the comic, and feel bad about myself for not being better at it, for not getting this perfect vision out of my head.
I’m conscious that that’s a big part of the problem. But being conscious of the problem, sadly, isn’t the same as being able to deal with the problem.
So it was quite a reassuring moment earlier this week, when I was listening to A Way With Words (an activity you might recognise as being neither an adventure game, a graphic novel, or a wedding), and I heard a quote from Ann Patchett’s book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage:
For me it’s like this: I make up a novel in my head (there will be more about this later). This is the happiest time in the arc of my writing process. The book is my invisible friend, omnipresent, evolving, thrilling… This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see. And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure the job is done I stick it into place with a pin. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing — all the color, the light and movement — is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book.
Knowing other people – people who have written books! – have this problem too is massively reassuring. Knowing other people don’t somehow pluck these perfect ideas from their heads and feel entirely happy about them really helps.
So. I’m pushing on with Cuthbert. And I’m pushing on with the comic. And I’m killing all of my pretty ideas.
Slowly. But surely.