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Help! I’m Growing Complacent!

Trophy on a throneI’m ahead on my work. Not ahead-ahead but ahead of what I’ve ever accomplished since starting to keep track. I’m 166% up on my best yearly fiction word count. I’m at 104% of my best yearly number of submissions and at 84% of my best total yearly word count and it’s only May.

I’m going to break all my records this year.

Except that if I keep going like I am, I’m not going to.

See, I’ve started to become complacent. I’m not comparing myself to others (did you know that Lazette Gifford wrote a 50 000 word novel in 7 days? did you know that Reiner Knizia designed over 450 games?), I’m comparing myself to myself.

And I’m kicking myself’s butt.

Which is the problem. My competition is too light.

I never tried to really, really find out what makes me tick creatively until I started taking writing and game design seriously about two years ago. And I found out that I don’t take too well to set goals. When I’ve got a set goal I tend to A) make it waaaaaaay to ambitious (I’m going to write a novel in three months, I’m going to design and polish ten games and I’m going to start a game designer gathering, and next year we’ll double that) and B) get scared by it even if it’s rather modest (don’t get me started on comparing myself to others, that kept me from writing for years…).

So goals are out, but measuring stuff is in – if I don’t measure I just meander. Which makes it imperative that I compare myself to something or the measuring becomes rather pointless.

So I compared myself to myself, looking at a year-on-year improvement. Which wasn’t very hard as I didn’t do that much creatively for the past years. So when I really started to go down on my writing this year (and, I might add, I’ve got one game finished and polished already) I started breaking records like a moral majority in an ACDC van.

And I started to feel that, hey, been there, done that. I’m the greatest there is.

I now it’s not true (just looking at my submission stats confirms that) but I’m growing complacent with what I’ve accomplished, and on the grand scale of things it’s not that much. I’ve got to work way, way harder if I’m going to become a pro before I retire.

So, what’s the way out? How can I kick complacency without stressing myself into a creative hole?

I haven’t got the faintest idea.

How about you – what do you do to keep motivated?

Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover


  • I try to schedule regular monthly playtest sessions with other game designers, and attend a Protospiel event every four months or so. That way I always feel motivated to have something prepared and/or updated for the next such meetup. I find this in my day job too: the best way to motivate myself to get working on a document is to go ahead and schedule the review session for that document, _before_ the document is written.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      I’m dreaming of going to a Protospiel event but there’s nothing here in Sweden. I’ve been to Göttingen twice, which was really great, but won’t be able to go this year and it’s a bit of a trip (about a day each way). But I’ll definitely go next year.

      And I’ve still got “start a Protospiel in Sweden” on my bucket list… 😉

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