Disconnect to reconnect

I've felt really disconnected from my work lately. I haven't done anything with my projects and questioned whether I wanted to be a game designer at all. I decided to take this week off around the Thanksgiving Holiday to just relax and take a break from doing much of anything. I allowed myself to be curious as much as I wanted. I took a walk around the neighborhood and had the weather cooperated more I might have done that more than a few times (it's not raining mad outside today so we'll see if that happens, but it's certainly cold out). I needed the space to let my mind unwind and tell me what it wants. I've realized that I'm very impatient when it comes to finishing projects. I want everything done right then. If it's not done then I get extremely irritated and frustrated with the project not being complete that I want nothing to do with it. That's left several projects hanging while I figure out the parts that I don't quite understand yet. It also didn't help that when I turned 50 I felt I needed to be further along in my career and projects. (Milestone birthdays are the worst, so if you can I recommend skipping them. Sure, you'll be 56 when you're technically 50 but you'll have saved yourself 6 years of fretting in the interim. I consider this a net-win.)

So what's been weighing on my mind? There's been a few things:

  • Feeling I should be further along with game design and having a portfolio of game designs to show people that I can be proud of.
  • Feeling I should be a better programmer so that I can easily turn my ideas into code and not feel like I'm always struggling.
  • Feeling like I can tackle larger, meatier projects that require knowledge I don't already have but could learn if I applied myself.

etcetera, etcetera ad nauseum.

The rub is that none of these feelings is inherently true. I've got a portfolio of games that I've been working on over the years, and some of them are shaping up to be quite good. Each year I'm getting better at programming. And I have tackled larger projects and turned out some interesting code. None of these feelings are 100% true, but they're the areas that can turn my mind inside out and make me just sit and ruminate until it's time for bed. Add to that a teeny bit of exhaustion and the mental chemical reaction solidifies my brain until I don't want to do much of anything. What's the point?

Taking the time off has allowed me to reflect on what is true and what is nonsense. The truth is that I'm still trying to compare myself with other folks, which (as I've stated earlier) is the thief of joy. Being better is just continuing to apply oneself to the task and continue learning. That's it. And complaining that you should be further along in whatever it is that you're pursuing is foolishness. It's like saying that you want to be further East. I can guarantee you'll never make it. All I can do is keep tackling these projects when I can and give myself permission to fail when it is needed. Not every project needs to be released.

Last night I also realized that one of the things that I haven't made space for lately was learning older programming languages. I've been "learning" C for decades, along with trying to understand older computer hardware. I pulled out "Making 8-bit Arcade Games in C" and sat down with the SDCC compiler and compiled a quick "Hello World" that worked under UCSIM. Even that little bit of code felt like magic because I also looked at the assembler sourcecode for it and somewhat understood what was going on. That also uncorked some of the joy that I have for my other projects. It helped reconnect me to that magical time when I was learning computers and getting the computer to do something simple but novel to me.

I'm going to keep exploring in this arena. Perhaps I'll make it a learning challenge to blog about my progress, but for now it just exists as something that I'm curious about. I'll blog more about it in the coming days.

Sometimes we just have to disconnect a bit in order to find out what's true and reconnect with that. For me it's a continual struggle to stop comparing myself to others or some fanciful version of myself. It's tricky, but I'm hoping to stick with it some more.