Among my game dev friends I have the reputation for being the one who reads a lot, and among my writer friends I’m pretty damn average. I look at other writers’ bookshelves and feel underread, but amongst my indie game dev friends I am a Highe Intellectuelle.
Growing up, I read loads. And then at a certain age I just kind of… stopped. It was around the time I was burning out doing A-levels (16-18), and I simply did not have the energy to read. It was my secret shame. I was going to Oxbridge, and I didn’t read!
After dropping out of my first degree and going back to uni the second time I really fell off the bandwagon. I was exhausted, mentally unstable, and tech-addicted. Reading academic stuff for uni was painful enough. Reading books was out of the question.
I started “recovering” when I decided that I wanted to be a writer more seriously in my last year of uni. I started reading trashy gay romance novels with the aim of becoming a prolific romance writer (ironically leading to another cycle of burnout… you starting to see a pattern here?). They were easy, fun, and frivolous. Gradually, my attention span and taste increased, and I was even reading Adult Books again.
The thing is, though, after several years of mental clarity and writing habitry, I still feel like I have to force myself to read.
I secretly hate long books. Anything longer than 80,000 words just irritates me. Especially if it’s literary fiction. And yet a lot of the books I want to read are lengthy, which leads to frustration. I’ve dropped so many books, but I’m trying to avoid this habit now. Still, I have to dedicate an hour or so to reading each day, and it frequently gets pushed off for other interests or simply because I’m too tired.
A large part of the blame rests with Mr. C – that structural system we all know and love, Cappy T’Lizme. Books require a deep, soulful engagement, and can provide rewards befitting that depth. I might sound like a nerd, but I believe that books can transform and challenge in a wholly unique way. They can also bore and baffle, but that’s not unique to the form.
Aside from Mr. T’Lizme, I’m starting to worry that maybe I’m not really that much of a novel person. When I read engaging blog posts, great non-fiction, or play a really good video game (including narrative fiction), I feel much less friction.
I’ve been thinking about all this because I’m sory of having a creativity identity crisis. Should I work on my novel? Write more stories for learners of English? Go in hard on blogging? Make more Bitsy games? Twine games?
I posted a similar question on Twitter and my friends told me to just follow what I’m interested at the moment, to half several asses at once, but the ambitious part of me feels hopelessly dissatisfied by that. I need a view of the horizon! A stable rudder! Validation!
I don’t think goals are very effective. Habits and processes are what will take you somewhere, and I do some kind of creative work every day. Problem is, where is it taking me? Until recently I was dead set on novelling, writing monstrous queer stories from my heart, but before that I was dead set on mass-market romance…
What’s my ideal lifestyle? I don’t know! I don’t want to a full-time teacher, novelist, game dev, blogger, podcaster etc. etc. But equally, I know that flitting between them won’t lead to a stable income in future. Given that stable Jobs are going the way of the dodo, and that full-time teaching is a one-way ticket to burnoutville, I don’t want to rely on just teaching and do the others as unpaid hobbies.
Maybe I just need to trust in serendipity. This blog has already acted a kind of therapist, and I feel like by typing up these tumultuous thoughts my mind is already starting to clear.