Writing with an Addiction

I have a problem. I admit it. Well, I probably have more than one problem, but for now let’s just focus on one at a time. Admission is probably an important step on overcoming it. So here we go . . . let me name it, get it out in the open and I can dissect it.
I’m a closet gamer.
I know, I know. It isn’t very glamorous. Real writers are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or something gritty worth writing about. Not me, my addiction is not in anyway productive for me as a writer. I’ve heard say alcohol is used as a lubricant for creative flow, drugs too. I little bit here and there and it might work a treat. Too much too often and you are a train wreck with productivity down the toilet. On the upside, if you manage to get the train back on the tracks, you’ll have something to write about. I don’t do drugs and rarely drink a drop without falling asleep, lame perhaps, but uppers and downers just don’t excite me.
For me, gaming is the shizzle. I have a big rig and an appetite for RPGs and Strategy. Been hooked on PC games since my Dad gave me a go of his TRS80. Back then I was illuminated by simple green pixels. What hope do I have against the graphics I am spoilt with these days. There are brilliant games that I have played in my time with better stories and higher writing quality than that of some of the books I have read. I could justify why gaming is good for me with a long list of defences. But, I wont because deep down I know that whilst I get a lot out of gaming, most of it is an illusion of achievement.
When I game I get an instant reward for the time I put in. I can gain wealth, beat back armies, save the innocent and vanquish evil. If I fail, I just reload a saved game and try again. No blood, No sweat, No tears. Well, to be honest, maybe a little of the latter two.
Writing is a joy and a curse. It takes me to wonderful highs when I think it is going well, then drops me in a ditch and kicks me when the right words don’t come. Diligence and persistence are needed for the long haul. There is no instant reward and in all likelihood very little long term reward even if your works are published.
You pay for gaming with your time. There is never enough time, you always want more of that instant reward, that gaming success. You get good feeling now compared to the vague chance of good feeling in the distant future with writing. How could my primal pin brain with short attention span focus on writing? Truth is, not very well at all.
Gaming trashes your post gaming concentration for tasks like writing. I tried gaming after I had done my days writing targets, but I would cheat, write less so I could game sooner or put gaming first priority. I’d game today for longer and write tomorrow for longer. Ha! Lying bastard! My addiction reneged on solid deals so many times I had to work out a new strategy. For two years I had no rig of my own to play. That worked well, but I was building a house and not writing much at the time. I thought, surely I can get over this addiction without going cold turkey.
I did it! I conquered my addiction. Actually, not really, that is a lie. I think I have circumvented it. I know it is still lurking in the wilds of my mind calling to me still. Most of the time I tell it to bugger off, but sometimes it compels me. I assure you, only after a decent weeks writing.
So how did I tame the gaming addiction?
I made my writing a game, with instant rewards and punishments.
Now this might not work for everyone. I analysed my reasons for gaming and found that I was motivated to game by the instant accrual of whatever the game required to win. Gold, resources, power, quests, that sort of thing. I transferred that to writing my first novel, Dragon Choir. Instead of the illusory rewards of the pc games I logged my writing activity.
Yes, I used a spreadsheet. Yes, there are pretty graphs. Yes, I am a nerd.
I was sceptical of my experiment at first. I thought it wouldn’t work. But, dangnabit, the writing log has fooled the addictive gamer in me. Being a primal beast that it is, it sees a challenge to write more and increase those hours on the board. There is instant gratification when my daily hour count goes up, pumping the averages higher. I also get a slap on the backside when logged hours are low or heaven forbid I log a ZERO DAY. That is the equivalent of having to reload to an old save game and sort out a new strategy. I use a timer and challenge myself to increase my output for every hour. I have made the writing game my game of choice.
It works on another level by making my writing a professional activity whereby I can analyse my output and improve. As I have already drafted Dragon Choir and am currently working through revisions, to polish it all up, I am using hours as the measure of output. When I start drafting my second book I will set up the log for word count.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *