The last couple of months have not been very productive on this front. Much of that has to do with my PC falling apart on me, as well as work picking up. I spent the last month basically living offline. I checked my email now and then with my phone (which is the oldest, cheapest model I could buy, since I only use it for work), and that was about it, with a single notable exception. Every day I would visit r/writingprompts.
I have not written fiction in many years. I hardly wrote at all for a long while. But my recent experience writing the Dark Souls Let’s Play has given me a great boost in confidence. Not about the quality of my writing specifically (I still can’t bear to look at most of what I write), but about my ability to actually finish something I start.
Growing up, that was my greatest obstacle when it came to writing fiction. My teachers all encouraged me, but I couldn’t help it. When I was about 7 or 8 years old my teacher gave everyone in class a small notebook with huge line spacing. Once a week we would spend about an hour writing in them. We were supposed to write a simple little story. Really, we were practising our printing and spelling, but it allowed everyone to be creative. As you might imagine, these stories were simple things. Kids filling up a page or two with giant, awkwardly spaced words about finding a purple dog or flying to the moon and back on a dragon. Everyone had a great time.
Except for me. That was torture for me. I could not finish a story even then. Not even something as simple as whatever an 8-year-old kid might dream up. I would start, and then there would be a flood of ideas, or possibilities, and I would freeze, unable to make decisions about where to go next. That stuck with me. It’s one of the few things I remember from school, as I have a memory so lacking it boggles the mind–the only other thing I remember from that class was a spelling test we did every week in which I would fail to spell “boat.” While my spelling did improve–only barely, though, as anyone who knows me can tell stories about how terrible I am at spelling–my ability to finish stories never did.
I have a problem with endings in general, which I may get into at another time. When it comes to writing, my problem is pretty simple: I bite off more than I can chew, and keep at it until I’ve broken my jaw or I spit it out. I’m unable to have a simple, concise idea without cramming it full of everything else I that comes into my head. Which may not seem so bad on the surface, but my other problem is that I’m kind of lazy. There would always come a point in a project or story where it would spin out of my control, where it would expand to the point that I decided I couldn’t even if I wanted to, and I would drop it.
I wrote a few pieces of short fiction and stuck them into the Dark Souls Diaries. They were there to take up space and keep me motivated, but when I finished them I looked back and realized that they were something I almost never done before. Whether they were any good was hardly relevant. What mattered was that I had managed to scale them back to a degree that was manageable, and then write them to a point that felt something like completion. I wanted that feeling again, and as I was going to be spending my free time trying to relax, and I’ve got a bunch of pencils and a nice notebook, I decided to finally get back on the horse.
The key, I figured, was to let someone else do the parameter-setting heavy lifting. Working with constraints can be liberating, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. With Dark Souls I was writing about a world and characters that weren’t mine, that I had no claim on, that I couldn’t expand on past the limited lore I had access to when I started them. That’s the sort of thing I needed if I wanted to continue writing. Only, I didn’t want to do fanfic, because I don’t much care for it (despite what I wrote, I know), and because most fanfic is designed to not have many constraints. Through sheer luck, I found the writing prompts subreddit, and after reading a few, I realized that they could be what I was looking for.
Writing is painful for me. Sometimes literally, as I’m left-handed and never learned how to write in a proper lefty style. I sat down with my pencils and scribbled until they were all dulled and my hand was cramping up. It was a lot of fun. I’ll probably keep doing it, whenever I find a prompt that stands out to me. You can read what I write, or not. I’ll be doing other things as well, as I slowly rebuilt my PC. My video card and most of my RAM were fried along with my motherboard, which sucks, but once I’ve replaced them I can get into the next game. I’ve got a bunch of other gaming-related articles I want to work on as well, all the sort of thing that seem to be interesting to me when I start them, but that I know I will hate by the time I finish them. But I’ll write them anyway, because that’s what it takes.
Anyway, enough rambling. Here it is, the first of many (hopefully):