Tuesday, October 15, 2013


As I am aging, and somewhat conscious of being 50 next year, I'm coming around to the recognition that I have to live my life differently. Again.

That doesn't mean giving up things I love, such as D&D, or ceasing this blog; but I did mention last week that I was going to take the month of November off ... I thought I should talk about that again. The decision is all about this difference of which I speak. It is really an adaptation. The sort of adaptation one has when the day comes you realize you just can't party hard until five or six in the morning, put on a fresh shirt and go to work. It no longer works.

That's where I am. I have habits that are no longer working. And because I've survived and stayed passionate because I've been willing to change in the past, I have to take on that decision to change again.

Typically, I am sitting on a computer for between 14 and 16 hours a day. Not just work days. Every day. That's not a matter of compulsion, I choose to do this, because I thoroughly love computers. Rather, I love what I can do with computers. This blog, writing and publishing a book like Pete's Garage, maps and tables, communications, research, entertainment, reviewing intellectual property ... I'd have this thing plugged straight into my brain if I could. I realize that some people my age are frightened by computers, or don't know what to do with them. That isn't me.

Unfortunately, it is the ergonomics of computers that is starting to prey on the inadequate, crumbling body I still possess. I keep it fairly fit; I made a change in my diet that lost me forty pounds this year, so I'm noticeably thinner than my last video of myself. I've never smoked, I don't drink to excess and I've never done drugs. Hung around a lot with people who did drugs - once upon a time, since I mostly knew musicians - but kept off them myself. Still, my shoulders bother me. My wrists, my forearms ... my arthritis bothers me. I've had the arthritis since I was 20, but every year its a bit more of a challenge. Writing all the time has always meant a bit of pain, all the time, but ... of late that's getting to make me feel exhausted. Constantly.

So I'm recognizing that I need to rest occasionally. I need to stand down, get off the computer, and rest. Frankly, I've forgotten how. November is meant to be a little research into that.

For those people who talk about playing D&D until they die, I wonder if they can comprehend how performing intellectual tasks for extended periods becomes more difficult with age. This is why many older people wind up in things like fishing, knitting, lawn bowling and golf. Tasks that are involving, but can be done with muscle memory in time. The problem solving in golf - and some one will tell me all about how there is such problem solving - is way, way down the schedule of difficulty from the problem solving in game theory and design. They are not in the same course.

I want to go on problem solving. Lately, however, I've experienced a certain ... reduction in energy that's the result of 'fucking around' on the computer between doing real work. In the past, my default has been to play a game or do some mindless graphic design (drawing rivers on maps, for instance) when growing tired of serious writing, such as for the combat how-to. But now the mindless stuff is exhausting me as well, and I'm not getting anything serious done.

I want to see how much energy this blog actually takes. Is it part of the problem? Does it satisfy a need for communication that I need to retain? Is it - as I suspect - an encouragement towards creativity and work, or is it sapping energy that I could be using elsewhere. Most people tend to argue the latter, but most people always claim they haven't got "time" to do something ... which is mostly bullshit. We all have plenty of time. The question is how to spend it wisely.

I think this blog is good for me and my creative juices. But I want to see. I want to feel the difference it makes if it isn't there.

I think the knowledge will make me a better person.


Matthew Mantel said...

You've earned the time off. We'll wait.

Butch said...

There is problem solving in golf -- reading the subtle rolls on the putting green. Deciding whether to try to muscle up and hit a ball over the lake, or play it safe and hit it to the right of it. Which club to use. Etc. Same with fishing or knitting or anything else -- there are decisions to ponder, problems to solve.

But not only are they fairly mindless, but they are also all tactical problems. You can not only make a quick decision, but you can quickly recover if it's the wrong one. You try to it hit over the lake and it plunks. You just drop a new ball and continue playing. Sure, it costs you a couple strokes. But you get to move on and keep playing. In terms of time and effort, the loss is minimal.

But then think about the mistakes we make in designing worlds, writing books, making maps... not only tactical errors, but huge strategic errors that simply can't be undone or glossed over, requiring you to tear it all down and start again. Weeks or months of work thrown away.

I think it's easier to do that when you're in your 20s, than in your 50s.

Alexis Smolensk said...

That is a brilliant insight on solution/consequence dynamics, Butch. I thank you for that.

What you say about 20s vs. 50s is accurate; but I rush to point out that most great writers produce their best work in their 50s and 60s, when, after a lifetime of making mistakes, they're less likely to spend weeks and months on something they're more likely to quickly recognize as crap.

I am a better writer today than I was 30 years ago for this reason; but I also find myself applying that writing all over the map, where as I need rigor. Thus the recognition that I must change in order to produce better work.