Dealing with suck

It’s been a pretty good day. I’ve knocked a few things off my plate today: finished up my technical review for Head First iPhone Development; got a workout at the gym with Karen, Nate, and Leah; got some personal research done on systems that are starting to get called by the moniker NoSQL; finished off the TV series Jeremiah on Netflix streaming; and most importantly – put down some serious thinking in my notebook.

My thoughts have been all over the place for the past several weeks and even months. Work has been hectic, and I’ve allowed myself to become a overloaded. Now I’m digging myself out of that, and in the mean time I haven’t been spending a huge amount of cycles on anything other than things I’ve already committed myself to doing.

Then about two weeks ago, for whatever crazy reason, I starting thinking about making a simple game. Something that 2-8 players could play together – turn based, with an iPhone interface/client. I routed myself through some self-inflicted over complexity because taking a hatchet to getting my ideas back on track. Put down some sketches and ideas for the game, even did a little research in how to represent the icons on the screen and thinking about what the user interface might look like.

Then last week rolled through, with some outages at work, overload and emphasis on monitoring systems and a lot of heavy contracts and the need for thorough, methodical thinking. That absorbed my time at work, and my time outside of work.

This morning after our workout at the Gym, Leah asked me “So how’s that game coming?”. Uh. crap. I’d forgotten about it. My otherwise interest and intent flashed away in a wash of other “more important” things in the past week. It was that “more important” thing that started me thinking. Looking at someone else in my shoes, I’d tell them to “lighten up” and spend a little time doing something fun for the hell of it. Diversity and amusement is as critical as anything else. I love the works of other authors, game makers (been playing Overlord again) – but when it comes to spending my own time, I wash it away almost any time something “more important” comes by.

After some time writing and thinking about it this afternoon, I don’t think my common recurrence of dropping these side projects and thoughts is with the intrinsic value. I think the problem is with “the suck”. In point, I’m not an experienced, well practiced game maker or author. Technical author, yeah – fiction and amusement? far from it. I’ve created stubs of work and effort, but nothing fully fleshed out. And I know the first round is going to suck. I get something down, and it doesn’t look like what I want it to look like. It sucks. At least by any stretch that I’d normally call it. I don’t want to create things that suck – I want to create cool things.

But you’ve got to learn somewhere. But I have to learn somewhere – or I’ll never get past “the suck”. I remember watching a video clip about someone talking about going through the learning and creative process. Wish I had the link to share – I seem to have misplaced it. The interviewer was talking about how because you had taste, it was hard to put forth new work which you sucked at writing. That you had to give yourself permission to fail, screw up, and learn and move forward. I seem to recall some vague mentions of research (how’s that for citing my sources!) about how “young people” bluster through because they don’t realize the level of suck they’re creating, how hard something else, etc. – and they just keep going until it’s done.

So I’m trying to give myself permission to create some crap. To write something once, twice, or many more times if needed and throw that shit away to remake it again with something better. It’s really harder than you might think. The lure to “play to your strengths” or to subvert and go another direction because “XYZ is more important” is always there. For me, it may be the very intentional thought “Ok, I’m creating to create some crap… just so I can see it and move on” that finally gets me past this hump.

Hope so. I’ll let you know what crap I’ve created later.

Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at

4 thoughts on “Dealing with suck

  1. Have you thought about doing NanoWrimo? That could be a good way to write the “shitty first draft” 🙂 I was thinking about doing it this year, but I’m taking TWO classes at UW Extension AND working (supposedly) on two 2nd eds. Ah well. Need 2 weeks for every 1.


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