Getting unstuck

I've been listening to Leo Babauta's Zen Habits Podcast. One of the things for this "season" is to choose a project to work on. I have plenty of different projects but as I reviewed them I realized that many of them have some form of sticking point to them.

Here's a sample of the projects I was considering:

  • Programming an Atari 2600 game. I'm not sure how to do this, so I'm working through some books to get better at this. However I don't know what sort of game I'd make when I'm done. There's uncertainty around this,
  • Programming an Atari 8 bit computer game. I'm also not sure how to do this, and this mirrors the 2600 game.
  • Pepper&Carrot Fate-based RPG. I'll need to majorly rework this. Not only will the text need to change but it'll also require a layout change with LaTeX. I'm not a good designer with LaTeX so I have that hanging over me as one more thing to learn.
  • Playtest a record shop journaling game. This is almost done so I'm not sure it'll last the 4 months unless I decide (choose?) to try to learn layout in LaTeX. :) Also I don't have a group to playtest this with so I'd need to (shudder) be social.
  • Do layout for the other games that I have released (LaTeX again)
  • Work on an interactive storyworld. Problem is I'm not sure what, as the ones that I have tried have all had some issues along the way. I'd have to figure out a scenario / theme to work off and my creativity around this is a bit frazzled because of chemo.
  • Start up a solo RPG game with a system I've been crushing on for a while. I tend to do shorter one-shot campaigns. This would be stretching my skills out to longer-form stories.

Each of them had a feeling of being stuck around them. Either there was something to learn, something that was tried and didn't quite work out, or something that felt fresh and new but didn't feel meaningful.

The point of the exercise was to choose into rather than decide about which project I was going to work on for this exercise. But, like I told Leo, every one of them felt like canned peaches. I hate canned peaches, so I tended to associate that taste with all peaches. Now, peaches will never be my favorite, but I won't shy away from fresh peaches or peach cobbler or peaches on ice cream (in moderation). But canned peaches? Outta here. I wondered if there was a way out of this.

Leo suggested a practice, which I'll share here. He mentioned that past failures come with pain (like the canned peaches) and emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and so on. The pain and emotions get in the way of the potential excitement (actually good peaches). It keeps us "safe", protected from harm, but also keeps us away from being curious and exploring. He recommended letting those past failures go by feeling the heartbreak within those failures ad expressing those emotions fully. Once there are no more emotions around those failures then we can understand the lessons of those failures. What did we learn? How was it a gift? How did we have to go through those failures to get where we are now. Then recognize that we did our best in that moment and it was perfect just as it was. Flipping the script on past failures as something that had to happen to make this moment happen allows the possibilities to shine through.

I thought about it before heading to bed. When I woke up I thought about my projects. No longer did it feel like there was this heavy intractable weight around each of these projects; now I felt like each of them was a journey ready to be taken.

The one that I chose is the Pepper&Carrot RPG. It's been something that I've been working on since 2016 and has essentially stalled in the past year or so. So I decided to play around with the formatting in LaTeX. Consider it a last-stand, if you will.

Within minutes I had a grid to help me with layout. Within a half-hour I figured out how to make the two-column layout into one column.

LaTeX is not a hard layout system but it can feel intimidating at first. But there are literally thousands of folks using this system with excellent documentation and a robust community. I never stop being amazed at what folk can do with this system. Once again I'm going to tackle the beast and learn what I need to know in order to make this RPG the best I can.

Failure isn't forever, nor is it a sign of weakness. It took me a while to get unstuck on this project. But now I hod a powerful method for getting unstuck and choosing into whatever I want to focus on. That's a pretty big step.