• Member Since 16th Jan, 2012
  • offline last seen Jun 17th, 2019


More Blog Posts135

  • 324 weeks
    I feel like I should write something.

    Dunno what, not a continuation of any of my stories yet, just something to prime the pump. The plump pump. The pleasantly plump pump of doom.

    6 comments · 678 views
  • 393 weeks
    On the art of Not Writing.

    I've been in a weird limbo for the last couple of years. The simplest, and maybe even the most honest thing to say is that I've lost interest in writing, but that doesn't feel right to say. I have lost my interest, but I still want to be interested. I've wondered if maybe it's time to move on from MLP, but I don't know what I'd even move on to.

    Read More

    15 comments · 1,001 views
  • 409 weeks
    I like to ride my bicycle, I like to ride my bike.


    Yesterday I decided that I wanted to take my shiny new mountain bike mountain biking. I obtained it through perfectly legal means (no, really) about two months ago and so far I'd only really used it for grocery shopping. Yeah, there was that one trip in the mountains about a week after I bought it, but that was only one trip and I'm getting fat.

    Read More

    6 comments · 628 views
  • 411 weeks
    My goal is to write 5,000 words by the end of Saturday.

    Just letting you guys know because I gotta be held accountable for my work. Wish me luck.

    5 comments · 502 views
  • 411 weeks
    It really is.

    Twilight Sparkle was humming to herself as she placed the last skull at one of the points of the pentagram on her basement floor when Rainbow Dash walked in, surveyed the candle-lit scene, said “Uh...” and backed slowly out again.

    Twilight looked at the empty doorway, looked down at the pentagram, looked back up, connected the dots, and scrambled to catch up with her friend.

    Read More

    14 comments · 539 views

Extra Credits, Productivity, and maybe Patreon · 11:54pm Aug 5th, 2014

I was watching some Extra Credits videos last night, and that got me to thinking about how learning the principles of video game design is useful to anybody because it teaches you how to craft a system that inherently shapes behavior the way you want it to. For example, in FPS's players will adopt very different play-styles depending on how they regenerate health, through healing items, not taking damage for a certain amount of time, killing enemies, or not at all.

Then it hit me, "Wait a second, why am I daydreaming about how I would explain this stuff to other people when I can use it?" Then something else hit me, "Crap. I'm not getting any sleep until I work something out, am I?" So I set about brainstorming with this strangely satisfying mixture of giddy excitement and grudging resignation.

Why do I have such a hard time publishing? For the longest time, I thought it was because of a host of personal issues that I have, external problems, stress, anxiety, and something on the bipolar spectrum (I disagree with my doctor's diagnosis, but he's the one with the medical degree and the meds work regardless). That line of thinking has a major flaw though—there is very little correlation between when things go downhill for me and when I actually buckle down and write. Circumstances and state of mind are inextricably intertwined with my productivity, but but they are not the core of the problem here. When it comes down to the line, things are much more simple. I don't like writing.

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a writer. I love being creative. I love making stories. I love letting my imagination soar and sharing it with others. I love the thrill of anticipation and apprehension of putting up a new chapter or story. I love getting real, useful feedback—both positive and negative—as well as the hoards of little "This is awesome" type comments. I love the ego-boost that comes from knowing that other authors I admire read and enjoy what I write. I love watching my numbers crawl slowly skyward. And I love the feeling of a job well done. The actual nuts-and-bolts, though, the "press the keys and spell those damn words" part of writing... not so much.

It's not fun. I don't feel any sense of accomplishment or pride during, or even at the end of a writing session. The work involved is too abstract and too subjective to really look at and say "Good job, CDRW." Instead, I just feel tired. I guess most people would just push through that and write anyway, the rewards are definitely worth it after all. But I'm a very "here and now" type of person and that kind of self-discipline is difficult for me to muster. After watching those videos and a little thinking, however, the answer was obvious. I needed to make some sort of system that gives me an immediate emotional reward for writing. Turn it into a game.

I've tried rewarding myself with things like food or free time in the past, but it never worked. Those rewards always felt arbitrary, not connected to writing in any way, shape, or form. After all, I'm a grownup. I can get a burger any damn time I want, thank you very much. No, what I needed was something inextricably linked with the act of writing itself, a reward that I can't get unless I write. That, unfortunately, ruled out any physical rewards. The need for immediacy ruled out any social rewards as well. What did that leave me with? Not much, aside from numbers.

Numbers are lame, though. Right? There's a reason most video games don't do score anymore.

Not so much though. People actually love their numbers, if those numbers are meaningful. Kill count in Halo, damage per-second and healing per-second in World of Warcraft, cookies in Cookie Clicker.

Dear Celestia, the cookies...

Anyway, numbers actually work really well for what I want. They're immediate, they're concrete, they're inseparable from the act of writing, and it's actually not all that hard to make them meaningful. All I had to do was assign scores in such a way as to reward certain writing practices. In the end, I decided to use wordcount and completion goals for the base score and pre-reader reactions as multipliers. I'll probably have to tweak the math at some point because I want to keep the numbers low enough to still have meaning, but so far things are looking up. My spreadsheet is telling me that I have a score of 106.6 for the Zecora one-shot that I'm writing right now, and that feels good. :3

I don't want to stop there though. It's entirely possible that the charm will run out, or that I'll start seeing score-keeping as a hassle, so I've been trying to find other ways to work meaningful rewards into my writing process. One thing that springs to mind is to set up a Patreon account. It's not so immediate as score-keeping, but has the benefit of adding concrete social and monetary rewards to my writing process. Money especially is a huge stressor for me; school loans, credit, rent, all that crap. I'm not sure I have a large enough reader base to justify it though.

Anyway, I just thought I'd let you guys know what's going on and that I'm still here and working. If you have any ideas or insight about how to make this all work better, I'll accept it with both gratitude and relief. I like talking to you guys, and most of you are smarter than I am anyway.

Have an Octavia, because I couldn't think of a picture that fit with the blog post, and Octavia is awesome.

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Comments ( 12 )

OR, hear me out, or you could just do a livestreme/ put it up on google docs so people can watch you write in real time and prove to be a tremendous distraction so you get nothing done.

Almost all of us are loath to actually DO the writing. You are hardly alone. :eeyup:

2346662 Unless you're Penstroke. Then, not only do you finish an entire story, your legions of followers will propel it to the top of the feature box. :applejackconfused:

...I absolutely hate writing. I should clarify, there is no greater feeling than having written, but the actual sitting down at the computer and writing is usually a particularly heinous experience.

--M.A. Larson

You're not alone, me boyo.

I was watching some Extra Credits videos last night, and that got me to thinking about how learning the principles of video game design is useful to anybody because it teaches you how to craft a system that inherently shapes behavior the way you want it to.

Fun fact: you can generalize this to just "game design".

And then further generalize it to "design".

And then you realize why engineers end up getting hired to do so many random things - design is a ridiculously broad subject matter, and knowing how design works, and then being able to apply the principles of design to everything else makes your life much easier. In the end, all design has a lot of similarities.

Incidentally, while gamification can work, there's actually some severely negative repercussions to it that a Extra Credits neglects to mention because, well, they're kind of hacks.

As it turns out, they've done studies on rewarding children for doing activities like chores, or for doing well in school. As it turns out, these rewards actually have a negative consequence; the child ends up associating whatever the activity is with the reward, so once the reward goes away or becomes less meaningful to them, suddenly the original activity you were trying to encourage also becomes less meaningful to them.

Though I personally find numbers going up on FIMFiction to give me a lot of satisfaction.

There's a reason people run Progress Quest, after all.

I'm up to 1.2 septillion cookies baked :pinkiecrazy:

You could also use a voice to text program, too :p

Regarding the ACT of writing, I feel like it's painful for everybody. It's a slog for me, certainly. All of the enjoyment of writing comes from having written, I've found, and not from the act of writing itself, so I don't think you're alone there.

I admire your determination, CD. That in and of itself I think guarantees your eventual success in these matters. And personally, I think the mark of a good, or even just a true writer isn't someone who enjoys all aspects of the process, but someone who writes despite very much not enjoying many parts of that process. Someone who continues despite difficulty. After all, who do you truly admire more: the athlete who runs the Iron Man without breaking a sweat, or the athlete who struggles through with cramps and sores and the endless temptation to give up? Virtue lies in overcoming challenge, not in never being challenged at all.

And I'm happy to hear that for now you've found yourself a good system. Woo! :yay:

2346662 Wait, what? I wouldn't mind company, but why on earth would anyone want to watch me write? I can't think of a more boring way to spend a night.

Although... Actually, a skype-based writing circle could be really fun. A couple of people sign on to skype for some group writing time. Talk, laugh, bounce ideas off each other as they pop into our heads.

2346815 Lol, that's awesome.

2346819 That makes a lot of sense. I think the key to overcoming that problem is to find some method of transference. Switch out rewards often enough that instead of associating the activity with anything in particular, you just associate it with good times. Then start to wean off the rewards so that the activity itself becomes the good time. Of course, that's much easier said than done. It's definitely something I'd like to do for myself though, to train myself to like writing.

2346843 Probably wouldn't work for me. I'm much better at expressing myself through text than I am through speech.

2347129 Ha ha, definitely not alone.
2347140 Thanks! Yeah, I'm hoping the system works out for me. I'll almost certainly have to do some major tweaking for it though, because I just started assigning values as I thought sounded good. The math is complicated enough that I can't really get a sense of how it will work out in practice yet, if it balances my priorities the way I'd like or accidentally incentivizes something way more than it's worth.

Search for 'Write or Die'. It's a word processor program that keeps track of your word count on screen - and if you stop writing for more than a few seconds it turns the screen blood-red and makes hideous shrieking noises at you. It's brilliant.

(Of course, I've STILL yet to finish anything even with its help, but that's just me.)

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