Where to Start
It’s the ultimate question in creating and often the hardest. It’s probably the most common question that people ask.
“Where did you start?”
The chicken or the egg? The music or the lyrics? The theme or the mechanics? Write an outline or just start writing?
The hardest thing for me to push myself to create is this - non-fiction, a blog about creating. It’s actually kind of meta - a creation telling about it’s creator and their creations. I ran into this issue a little when I started doing videos, the only other non-fiction work that I’ve done outside of what I was forced to do occasionally during the many years I was in school (technically, song-writing can also be non-fiction, but that’s a different story).
Well, I guess the best place to start here is a bit of an introduction. This blog is about creating. I am a failed creator, a semi-successful creator and a fairly successful creator. I love trying my hand at creating different things. I create in my job, though often in a more structured, less creative way, and I create for many of my hobbies.
I also live with creators. My wife’s primary passion is songwriting. She also loves to paint and works with me on board game design. My daughter (10) want’s to follow us in songwriting, is great at drawing and creating stories for those drawings, loves programming (Scratch, and is begging to start on python) and tends to prioritize video games like Minecraft that are focused on creating things.
As a kid, I was obsessed with music. I wrote songs (some of which are quite embarrassing to read), sang at church and school, and started playing bass around 16. This was probably my only real passion until my mid-twenties. I wrote, played and sang for a couple of bands and even made some money at it (not much, but some).
I often struggled with writing music, but there was a time when I considered writing lyrics to be quite easy. Of course, much of what I wrote, I no longer consider to be very good. There were a few songs, though, that I am quite proud of to this day.
Now, I write sometimes with my wife and often accompany her vocally. She is a phenomenal lyricist who has taught me a lot about putting yourself into the place to write, but I’m not certain I’ll ever really be a songwriter again.
Programming to me is a weird thing to consider “creating". But, honestly, I program to fulfill a part of that need to create. I love coming up with creative solutions to problems and hoping that I can improve some people’s lives in the process.
Programming has also been the spark that launched or helped guide most of my other artistic endeavors, especially fiction and board games.
I went to college in my twenties, originally planning to be a video game designer/programmer. The desire to make video games mostly subsided when I realized the lifestyle many of them lead (no thank you, 70-hour work weeks). This lead to my decision to start writing fiction, though, which I’ll get into in a minute.
In programming and board game design, what I have learned for one has actually often helped me with the other. I also write programs quite often to help with some elements of board game design.
I started writing fiction mostly because I wanted to work on stories for video games that I hoped to design. Also, not having much use for song writing while I was in college, I needed another outlet for that creativity.
Recently, I’ve begun reading quite heavily and writing some more, including something I’ve been working on, inspired by a board game design I started a couple of years ago, attempting to actually finish a long-form story.
I plan to post a mix of older short stories and new ones on here between blog posts (have already posted one, in fact). I may even post something a little more serial at some point.
Fiction will be one of my two primary blog focuses.
I picked up board game design in my early thirties, moving through a few large game designs that I wasn’t ready for, all while working on a small game that I just couldn’t seem to get away from. In 2017, that game won 3rd place in 2 categories in a solitaire game contest. In 2018, I signed a publishing contract for it with a well-known board game publisher. The game is currently expected to come out some time in 2020.
I do most of my board game design work with my wife now. We balance each other out quite well.
Honestly, this hobby feels like it is just starting to take off (though very slowly), and I expect it to be a heavy focus in my blog posts.
I’ve tried other creative endeavors, such as woodwork, that I’ve decided I either couldn’t do or just couldn’t get over the stress of the imperfection (or some combination of the two). Painting and illustration are good examples, though I do enjoy graphic design which I do quite a bit of when designing board games.
I did actually, at some point, create a couple of simple video games, including a bullet-hell shooter on Xbox that I never published and a doodle-jump style game, 2d and 3d pong all of which were published to Windows Phone back in its infancy (that’s right, I was a big fan of Windows Phone for the first few years it was out).
I also tried, for about a year, to create videos regularly (reviewing, previewing and demoing board games). Unfortunately, my videos are heavily edited because I’m not good at doing any of this in a single take, and this overlapped the time that my first board game publishing contract was done. So I had to choose to prioritize board game design over making videos (it wasn’t really a hard choice).
I guess that sort of fits into one of my earlier desires, to be a director. Not much came out of that after realizing that going to college for directing was going to be financially difficult. I did create a story, though, that I wanted to be the basis for a movie, that eventually became a video game idea and lead to me writing an outline and a couple of chapters for a book that I plan to revisit if my writing keeps up.
So, I guess that’s where to start. Or at least, that’s where I start… this time. Because ultimately, where you start is where you decide to start. Where you’re inspired to start. Where you start is with a desire to start.
Music informs emotion, and emotion informs music. Mechanics drive theme, and theme drives mechanics. Stories need details and details create stories.
Start anywhere and you can end up in the same place. Ultimately, it matters less where you start than it does that you start.