NB. This is filed under RPG Design Tips because I don't have a category for 'emotional outbursts'. You have been advised.
How does his famous quote go - to be a writer all you have to do is sit at the typewriter and bleed?
I never knew it was true until recently.
You see, it turns out that doing something for fun, even when you are deeply passionate about it, isn't the same as doing it for a living. Now that might seem obvious. The kind of obvious that goes with 'your life will change when you have children' but those who are reading this with children of their own will fully understand that 'obvious fact' in ways that childless readers simply cannot.
You see, the universe demands that you experience some events to truly understand them.
As Robin Williams states when Matt Damon's character in Good Will Hunting is showing off his encyclopedic knowledge of everything - "I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seeing that. If I ask you about women, you'll probably give me a syllabus of your personal favourites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman... and feel truly happy."
I write this in a humbled mood as the rain hammers down outside, a grey cloud having moved in to extinguish a pleasant English afternoon in a quiet village not far from York.
I've worked really hard in recent months. Oh, and I know the perceived wisdom - never let the audience know how hard you work. Let them just experience the magic. So if you want the fairytale then look away now. Things are about to get real.
I was in a new job, a departure from a life in executive recruitment as a trainer and coach, I was Business Development Director for a small enterprising design studio. I'd done the market mapping, made the initial bank of approaches and partaken of several client pitches. It was going well. Moving forward positively, then a meeting got postponed, then delayed, and then cancelled.
Then with a horrific slow-motion inevitability, they all got cancelled... and then the furlough conversation and the unlikely resurrection of the role in the future. My new career direction was slain in its infancy by Covid. The company, owned by friends of mine from way-back-when was on life support, then suspended animation.
And the Great Pause came in.
My wife's business, frozen, closed and shuttered, my youngest son didn't sit his exams, my daughter was furloughed, my eldest son - he got to keep working! That factory job coming unexpectedly good for him! A small positive in a sea of change.
And the Great Pause continued.
A family tragedy happened, a rushed flight, an even hastier rush back to beat quarantine restrictions and then sickness rampant in the house.
And the Great Pause continued.
But whilst it continued, whilst the world as we knew it was holding its breath, and no one knew for how long, I was thinking, then typing, writing, designing and sketching. Could I turn a business of £50 a month into something viable? Was that the madness of desire, desperation or the hail mary long shot that Captain Kirk would have done, or the Avengers or Doctor Who?
How do you judge such a thing?
Well, the reality is you think about it, you do some maths and you look at all the sensible options first. Sure, I know that's not very romantic but anyone who doesn't is a dang fool!
So I did that, and in reality, given my age, very specific skill set and where I live, the best chance of making enough money to pay the bills and have a life is this slim, narrow creative bridge that I am now building one word at a time across the chasm of doubt, uncertainty and bills that surround me.
And that's why Hemingway drank. Sometimes to allay the demons, sometimes to awaken them - because sometimes our creativity needs the harsh guttural tongue of our demons to spark it into life. And when we do create, somehow shouldering that burden of doubt and uncertainty which I can sum up by saying - 'why should anyone read what I write and good god - that work over there by the other person - that's bloomin' amazing and I'll never be that good.' Somehow, despite that, you manage to produce something. Something new, original and yours.
And then, oh yes, because we aren't done yet, and then you need to think about packaging it upright, polishing it so the quality shines - and not just for you but for all your potential readers. All those people who don't know you, don't have any reason to care and have every reason to buy the other person's material.
And I'm not even talking writing now, I'm talking layout, design, typefaces, fonts, art, social media... all the things that everyone else can make look easy whilst you stand at the foot of the mountain looking up going - seriously...how...?
And even if you have those skills or some amount of those skills... do you know how easy it is to find other people with greater skills in them? At least, perceptually? It's so easy.
But I labour on, as the rain continues to hammer down outside... let me cut to the chase.
You go through all that, you get to a point where you have produced something and a few people have seen it and said 'It's amazing, you are so creative etc.' Although, it's oddly hard to hear them say that, even when they say it to your face. it's like your self-doubt muffles your ears. I digress.
You get through it, you have your publication ready to sell. And the final hurdle is the day it goes on sale.
Now, for me, that's usually Kickstarter. And, since I've been typing this piece thirty-two minutes of my latest Kickstarter have ticked by without me checking the amount. Because I wanted to write this. I wanted to write this for everyone who is a creative and for everyone who is a purchaser. I wanted to try to explain just how much it means when you actually back us. When you choose us and put your hard-earned money down.
It means the world. And it humbles us. And it amazes us.
That anyone would have faith in my writing... I would hug each of you if I could. I would sit you down and pour you a drink and tell you the above, and I would do it for the next person and the person after that.
Because it makes this path possible. It makes the all-night writing sessions, the wrong starts, the drafts that burn in the fire - it makes them all okay.
And it makes me think that just maybe, this crazy hail mary throw might work. I might get to live the dream through bloody hard work and thanks to discerning customers, clients and patrons.
So the Kickstarter has been running for an hour, the rain has stopped and my family will be expecting to see me shortly.
Let me, therefore, bring this to a close, this unplanned, letter from the heart to anyone who ever backs a Kickstarter, mine or anyone's, or anyone who supports a creative in any way. Hemingway drank because both success and failure in writing (and creating) is deeply emotional - it burns us, freezes us, lifts us up and crashes us down. It's a wild emotional rollercoaster and it would be all for nought were it not for you.
So thank you, each and every one of you.
Stephen Hart, August 2020
P.S. Okay, so I've got to the bottom of that and feel, better. The demon is quiet for a while. And in the quiet I should really put my business hat on and share the Kickstarter link - you know, because you might like what is on offer. So here it is. And thank you - whether you back it or not. Thank you for getting this far. For sharing the journey.
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Manipulation: The Grinning Frog team