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Pair of Queens

Hey there,

Some of you who are likely going to read this will know that my previous career was as a corporate trainer. In the decade and a half that I was that, I spent a lot of time observing people and striving to understand why, in the same environment and with the same training, some people succeed and others fail.

It's a complicated business, and the reasons can be very individual. But, I do believe there are things that a person can do which will always improve their chance at success. (Nothing guarantees success by the way, that's a myth.)

One of those actions is practising with the intent to improve. This is something I am personally a particular fan of. It isn't just about doing things multiple times, but doing them multiple times and striving to do them better each time.

Did you know that TEDx speakers are recommended to practice their talk 200 times before delivering their public speech? Think about that - 200 times! The organisers understand that repetition, with the intent to improve, makes someone better at something.

I think this is applicable whether you are learning carpentry, giving a speech or, as in my case, you are a creative seeking to make a living through your art.

These last seven days have seen me work on a side project as a means of improving my skills. As card decks are becoming a key part of many of the games that are being put out from The Grinning Frog I thought it would be educational to go back to school and create some pure playing card decks from scratch.

I mean, I figured, how hard could it be?

Well, that was lesson number one. And, as my mother likes to say, humility is good for the soul so I write this suitably humbled. Turns out that designing a playing card deck is quite hard. See the design below on the left for the sci-fi deck? That's the seventh version of that card design.

Five of those designs went back to scratch and were rebuilt before I reached the finished item below (a test deck is being printed at the moment). I am extremely pleased with the outcome but it took some real work to get there.

The queen of spades on the right? As I wanted to maximise the learning opportunities I decided to go to the opposite of the space deck and have an open, full-frame image with rugged letters and symbols. (It's a fantasy deck and at an early stage.)

It took me over an hour to hand construct the four suit symbols - Hearts, Clubs, Spades and Diamonds and I used three different software programs to produce them. Then the picture wasn't correct, the symbols needed further amendment... and so on.

Do I have other things to do? Absolutely, and over the time we are talking about I also worked on Starship Scavengers, Hal and Roger's Creature Compendium 2 (a lot of time on that), The Oracle issue 47 and 48, consulted on a Kickstarter campaign that was in trouble, finished several fantasy locations for The Arcane Index and did a bunch of business things such as view a potential new office space, arranged new courier options and talked spreadsheets with an accountant.

All in all, I'm pretty busy at the moment and doing the above wasn't necessary in the sense of 'doing the business' but it was necessary in the sense of improving my skill set. And without a strong skill set a person will struggle to succeed in business. That is an absolute.

Hard work only gets you so far, good connections can help but ultimately your skills make all the difference. And, as a creative, I'm selling the output of my skills. If they aren't as good as they can be, then how can the products?

I offer this advice to anyone thinking of publishing their own work in the RPG or game space. Review, rework, review and rework some more, because not only will the final product improve, but you will.

That was my last seven days and it has been challenging and fun in equal measure. I trust everyone else has had a good start to their June.

Until next time, keep creating.



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