I keep asking myself this question. Why is it so difficult to decide between art and writing? I’m strictly speaking about this from a side effort. Most of you know that I create art for a living on video games. So why is it that when I work all day on art, I can’t decide between writing or doing more art at home. So you know what I end up doing? Nothing. Completely frustrating, and there’s been seemingly little I could do to combat it. I love writing so much, and I can’t think of having more fun on a hobby as I did when writing Loose Ends. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first half of a novel I started a while back, but I completely stalled out on that project and it became dormant (I do still hope to finish it someday, though).
I launched Loose Ends in April of 2011. Around that time I was finishing up the Halo Anniversary project at work. Timing wise it worked out great because I was going into “crunch” a bit on that project but I had already released Loose Ends. I figured I’d finish up Halo Anniversary and move on to my first novel. It would give me plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do. Well, I came up with about a hundred ideas I wanted to use, so I ended up choosing one from the list and moved forward with it. I got about 40k words in and I got busy doing this or that and before I knew it, I hadn’t written in weeks, and the momentum I had gained was gone. “Well, I’ll come back to that some day, there’s a nice foundation now and I can pick it up again at a later date. Time to pick the next idea and run with it.” Except, that isn’t how it played out at all.
Work started to get a bit hectic again with our efforts on Halo 4 and I was feeling drained after work each day; creativity wasn’t exactly flowing in my veins. This lead to a couple months of doing nothing at home. I wasn’t inspired to do much writing (inspired is the wrong word, because I wanted to, and I desired to, but I just never did it), but when LoraJo told me that in 9 months we would be parents, that inspiration came running back! I was determined to get my first novel out before the little one arrived. Now to pick the new idea. Well I had the literally dozens of ideas I had scribbled down over several months of brainstorming, as well as probably a half dozen or more ideas I had come up with just in the time I started to get motivated to write again. So which one did I pick? None of them. I guess the truth is I picked several and started fleshing ideas out, but I never got far into any of them because my attention was split among all of them. But I had decided to write, I knew that…or so I thought.
Layoffs and studio closures in my industry are not unheard of, but it was also not something you heard every month. But in the last couple years it seems like studios are closing up shop or laying off by the masses each week. A few of those layoffs hit close to home and that sends just about every developer into red alert mode. The company I work for is quite stable (as stable as you can be in this industry, anyway) and while I have no reason to believe we will be laying off anyone anytime soon, it’s a game developer’s reflex to get some recent personal work up on the website so in case a layoff ever does occur, so you don’t have to scramble to make new work to apply for other jobs. It’s just something most of us do. Especially with a little one on the way. So I decided writing had to wait, I was going to do some art. Then, I was contacted by some different folks to do some freelance work for them. How could I turn down extra paying work? So I did that, which took an insane amount of time and effort; I totally exhausted myself. After that long stretch I was back to not wanting to do anything at home. Period.
Well, here we are, July 19th, my daughter is sitting in her swing 3 feet from me, I have no new personal art to show, and haven’t written much of anything. My indecisiveness on whether I should focus on art (my trade, my career), or writing (my hobby/passion, potential future career?) would ultimately cause a traffic jam in both lanes. It did me no good. While I will not at all say the last year was a waste (it was far from it), I feel I could have accomplished a lot more had I made a decision and just focused all my efforts towards it.
It’s hard. I love art, and I still am passionate about it, but I don’t see myself staying in the game industry my whole life. Writing seems like a good path for me to take, but it’s certainly a long shot for me in terms of it being a viable income. After talking to LJ about it, I think we are both decided that writing is something I should focus on, and if I am going to do that I need to make it my primary focus in terms of extra curricular activity. I still have plenty of things to keep me busy outside of work and writing. And with a newborn here it’s likely I won’t be able to do nearly as much writing as I would like to, but some is better than none. So my efforts will go into writing almost exclusively. I say almost exclusively because I still love art, and I do have cover art work I’ll be doing from time to time (for clients as well as my own covers). But I just can’t shake the author bug — nor do I want to — so I need to let it hit me full force.
Anyway, for those who made it through my long drawn out rant, thanks for reading. I know some of you probably remember me posting about this debate a while ago, and might be saying “AJ, I thought you had made up your mind about this months ago.” You’re right, I did. But when you are split between two passions, you may never be done choosing which one you want to go with. The best you can do is pick one and put as much energy behind it as you can to get momentum, and pray you don’t lose focus of your goals. 🙂 Like I said, I’ll still be doing both (obviously art will be a huge part of my life, I don’t see leaving the game industry any time soon). I know it’s slim odds that I will ever become a successful enough author that I could live off of my sales, but I will never know if I don’t try, right? I mean, after all, most of my friends/family said that going into the game industry was not really going to be a good career path (and there are times I might agree 😉 lol ) but their reasoning was a mixture of “if you could even manage to find a way to make it into that industry, how will you ever make money in it?” and both of those concern have already been put to rest as I go into my 8th year. So I gotta go for writing, and see what pans out. If nothing happens, I still got a job.
In closing, I’ll say this. To reiterate above, if you don’t chase after it, you won’t ever catch it. If you have ideas of something you want to do. Don’t let people telling you it won’t work or it won’t be achievable stop you. Just gotta lower your shoulders and plow through.