Fourth in the 1K a Day Motivational Series, in which I talk about something that happened in the previous week that could have or did prevent me from writing a minimum of 1,000 words on a given day, or possibly talk about something that provided support to get me through the day.
I have a history of playing massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). These are often just Skinner Boxes designed to dole out rewards in an addictive manner, and they’re incredibly effective when it’s hidden well. In my 20s I got sucked into World of Warcraft with a group of friends and played it on and off, with varying degrees of intensity, for six years. I’m not especially proud of that, but it is the truth. When I get deep into an MMO, all creative productivity goes by the wayside. Social life begins to wane if it has no bearing on the game. I’d exist on three hours of sleep so I could play longer and still keep my job. Most people have addictive personalities and I’m no different.
And I truly had fun during huge swaths of that time. I felt accomplished and accepted. So I kept playing.
I go back to MMOs every now and again. I enjoy them when I need a relaxing grind. It’s not particularly healthy behavior, but it’s not hurting much so I don’t feel too bad.
So during the last few weeks I picked Final Fantasy XIV back up. I have a love/hate relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise, but this game takes a lot of the best elements from their other games and mashes them together into a unique blend of RPG and social game. It’s one of the prettier games out there. I just like it.
When I’m not working I’m playing Final Fantasy. If I didn’t have productivity goals I’d be doing that in place of those goals. So thus comes the challenge, and it’s a mix of procrastination and battling addiction. Can I keep my thousand words a day and still enjoy some Final Fantasy?
Or will I “Just one more level” myself until I stop writing altogether? It’s happened before. I don’t know what’s different this time, only that the routine of writing is more important than the routine of gaming. I believe I have convinced myself that I am not allowed to play games until I have done my work for the day. And so I don’t. Just as I don’t let it affect my sleep schedule or interfere with my paying day job, I don’t let it interfere with my writing goals.
Is there some special method that keeps the eye on the prize, the goal ever in focus? I don’t think there is. It’s a matter of discipline and you have to work through it even when it’s torture to do so. I’m gonna keep coming back to some basic tenets in these motivationals, so you might as well get used to them.
If it’s important to you, you make the commitment, just as you do with exercise, with relationships, with school and your job and sports and video games and a thousand other things. If it’s important, you make the commitment, and if you make the commitment, you discipline yourself out of the bad habits by force of will. You can’t trick yourself because the mind and body are way smarter than that and it’ll only work in the short term. Diets fail, until suddenly you stop looking for that outside resource to help you, and you internalize it as a goal you can’t fail. Failure is not allowed, just like failing to show up for work is not allowed.
So when it’s time to write and I’m THIS CLOSE to finishing a mission, or quest, or goal in that game, I turn it off anyway. I have more important shit to do and I’m going to accomplish those things before I go back to that quest. Simple as that.
Writing is a skill, a discipline, a labor. You get out of it only what you put into it. So write the hell on, writers.