Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

On television, gaming and writing

Last night I made a post commenting (among other things) on the potential for budding writers to get lost in MMORPGS. I want to amplify this.

I'm not on about the evils of gaming (and I'll throw television in here too). I don't think there's anything the least bit evil about it. I first played D&D during the brown book days, which practically makes me an OG (though Chainmail would certainly do that), and I still have both the brown books and the blue book around here somewhere, along with the very ratty first printing of the Dungeonmaster's Guide that I made an eight mile walk to buy. (Through the snow, uphill, both ways.) And pretty much all the rest of first edition AD&D, including the recalled original printing of Deities and Demigods with all the copyright violations, and the original Monster Manual. I've been there, people, both in my teen years and later on. Gaming has been a deeply satisfying part of my life at various times over the years.

And here's what I've learned. No one but me, and possibly my immediate circle of friends, cares what quest I completed or how high I've levelled a character. Likewise no one cares how many Space: 1889 miniatures I own or how well they're painted. If I care, that's enough for me. But if I want to have my words read, my thoughts enter other people's heads, to be known to people who will never meet me in any other way, then I need to be a writer before I am a gamer.

Gaming is not an essential. Neither is television. Both come out of the same slice of the pie that writing comes out of. In other words, they're not part of making a living, eating, sleeping, or taking care of your family. They're discretionary activities. For some people, gaming and television are ways of refilling the well. In which case, excellent. But every single hour you spend with dice in your hand or in front of the television is an hour you're not writing.

Are you comfortable with that?

Because if you are, enjoy with my blessings. But if you add up, honestly add up, all the hours you spent on one or both of those activities in the past week, month, year -- how much writing would you have gotten done? And which would you rather have at the end of the day? A book on the shelf at your local library and favorite bookstore? Or detailed familiarity with the works of Joss Whedon?

Because it is a choice, between being a creator and being a consumer. Both are fully valid. Without consumers, creators would not have an audience. I've got the spark and the will to be a creator, so I have severely cut back my consumption to pursue that ambition. I no longer game regularly, or really much at all. I haven't watched television in 12 years. I don't go to a lot of movies, and rarely if ever rent videos. Instead, I write.1

Because I write, I've won the Campbell award, been on the Hugo ballot, am up for a World Fantasy Award this year2, have sold 200 stories and 5 novels.

If that's something you dream of, turn off the television, log off the MMORPG, and write.

1 Yes, I'm perfectly clear that many people have strong writing careers while watching their favorite shows and regularly playing games, not to mention pursuing many other normal social activities. If I wrote full time, I'd probably go back to gaming and might even go back to television. For me, as for most aspiring and new writers, it's a second (or even third) job. Same slice of the pie as television and gaming, as mentioned above, and it's a pretty damned small pie for me personally. My solution is fairly absolutist, but it gets the job done. If you're happy with your writing career and your productivity, party on. If you're not happy with your writing career and your productivity, have a look at your time choices.

2 Yes, the WFA nom I share with deborahlive is for editing, not writing. But it's work in this field with my name on a book, so for purposes of this discussion, I say it counts.
Tags: personal, process, writing

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