A while back I wrote a bit on the notion of whether or not someone is a writer, prompted by a mean response from Brian Michael Bendis. Even after posting it, I’ve mulled it around a bit. It sometimes takes me a while to process something, and the processing never really ends.
The thing that I keep thinking about is this: Harper Lee.
In 1960, she published To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a bestseller and won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. She published a couple essays after that, but that’s it. According to Wikipedia, she started writing a couple other books, one of them in the 1980s, neither of which she finished.
In 2011, a friend of hers shared the reason she gave for not writing again. “Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”
But she did start writing other stuff at one point. I wonder at what point she went from working on other projects to not writing anymore. Did she have writer’s block?
If Harper Lee had said she had writer’s block for 20+ years, would you say, “Maybe you’re not a writer?”
Not every writer is Harper Lee. Heck, some writers aren’t even Dan Brown. But if you hit a slump of any sort, at what point do you lose your ability to call yourself a “writer”? There’s no answer beyond the one you decide to believe in. The only real thing you can say that if you aren’t writing something, nothing is getting written.
[Edit: I felt inspired to write a followup post.]
So this thing happened on Tumblr, and everyone lost their shit. Which is the way of Tumblr, I guess. But it started with someone asking Brian Michael Bendis, “what advice do you have for someone that has had writers block for the past 6 or 7 years?”
this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer.
writers write every day. it’s ok, not everyone is.
but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write.
A few things I’ve had on my notes to write about, figured I’d jot down some thoughts.
I’ve been feeling kinda blah about gaming again lately. A big chunk of this is likely due to the fact that we haven’t been able to game much. Our attendance at games (or our ability to run our games) have been kaiboshed by our other social activities and travel. It’s really hard to maintain enthusiasm for a game you don’t play in for a month or two. Or three. It’s why I prefer “every other week” for a gaming cycle, as opposed to “monthly when we can manage it.” But when you are gone most weekends in a given month… well, that just screws everything up. =P
Beyond that, I’ve been pondering what it is I want out of a game. Part of this came from my renewed desire to play in a Star Wars game, but realizing I don’t have anyone I’d want to ask to run said game. And, really, I want to play. I’ve tried to think about what it was that was missing from my current gaming experience that I had in the past. Which came up with a more bizarre realization: More often than not, my favorite gaming experiences as a player have come from games where I thought the GM was awful. This isn’t to say there haven’t been exceptions. I’ve had great games with GMs I love. I’ve had soul killing gaming experiences with GMs I hated. But I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun with games where the GM just wasn’t doing it for me.
The things that were fun was that everyone loved their characters and people were really engaged. It’s what I loved about “Dragon Lines,” which I hadn’t really had a lot of in other games I’ve run. I have a delicate ego that feeds off of other people’s enthusiasm. Part of me wonders if the players developed such rich interactions with each other because they had nowhere else to turn to. Not having a plot they could (or wanted to) interact with, they turned all their energy into having fun with the other players. Not all the players did that, but enough so that it was fun and rewarding.
Now I just need to figure out how to pull that off with a GM who is good… ;)
I’d mentioned in my private LJ that I’d been feeling sort of frustrated and depressed by roleplaying games in general. Thoughts behind the cut. I have other things I should be doing. But this has been on my mind a lot lately so I figure I might as well get it out.
A week or so ago I picked up the newest $40 iteration of, “We’ve rewritten the d20 Star Wars rules again, give us money.” Mockery aside, I was really looking forward to this. The teasers the the WotC Web site made it look like the fixed some of my big gripes about the older systems. (Well, aside from the fact that it’s still d20.) Prior to this, I had been thinking that any future run I did of Star Wars would involve me adapting a lot of the concepts from True 20/Mutants and Masterminds to the old Revised Core Rules.
They’ve stripped out and merged a lot of stuff to streamline it a lot. Which I think is awesome for the most part. I like simple and elegant rules. But then I discovered that they stripped out what I’ll call the “fluff skills,” skills which provide little to no mechanical benefit. Craft, Entertain and Profession are all gone. Their practical aspects have been mostly absorbed by other skills or talents. You can’t have Entertain (actor) or Profession (lawyer) but you can take skills like Deception and Persuasion that emulate the benefits that come from those skills. I immediately grokked why they did that. Being able to sing well or paint a picture or build a house have no mechanical, measurable value in the game. This was confirmed by a game designer who happens to moderate the Star Wars mailing list, who felt that if someone wanted to be a great musician, they didn’t need to devote character resources to it. It could just be part of their background.
I’m of conflicting feelings about the subject.
One of the not-so-dirty secrets I’ve learned of being a good GM is you run what the players want to play, not what you want to run. Remember this rule, and, as the Umpa Lumpas sing, you will go far.
— John Wick, Play Dirty
Came across this gem in my PDF copy of Play Dirty, the collection of John Wick’s articles from Pyramid Magazine. I agree with that quote… mostly. I’ve had my fair share of games that have tanked because no one was really interested in the game in question. They signed on because I was running and… that wasn’t really enough to keep them interested. Or, worse, we headed in a direction that the players really didn’t like or the players constantly frustrated me by not really fitting well with the game in question.
The problem I really have with that bit of advice is that… it’s a little too cut and dry. And even the Wick indicates that he doesn’t follow that guideline to the letter. He makes that comment after saying that he is running D&D for some people, a game which he rarely has anything good to say about. But he follows his advice with, “The game isn’t your standard hack ‘n’ slash campaign, though. Oh, no. I’ve got something much more interesting in mind. At least, interesting to me, and hopefully, interesting to the players.”
And that’s where it gets a little stickier.