About a week ago, I moved into a new house. After 5 years spent in a little apartment in the city, moving out to a house in the suburbs is simultaneously freeing and a bit stressful. Regardless, the change in scenery has me looking inward a little more than usual. So, I thought it was high time to write about what’s been going on with my life and my projects this year.
There’s a lot that I want to talk about, so I’ll be breaking things up into multiple posts. For this first one, I’ll just give a general overview of what I’ve been up to and where I want to go from here.
So About That Content…
At the start of the year, I declared one of my goals to be “a much larger amount of much smaller content”. I think it’s safe to say that hasn’t really panned out. Old habits die hard, and while I do have a few projects to share I wouldn’t really classify most of them as ‘small’. Regardless, I think I’m on track to complete and release a couple of them in the coming months.
If I had to determine why my goal failed, I think I’d chalk it up to a couple projects snowballing in scope and getting out of hand. This problem seems to happen a lot with me, keeping my work tightly-scoped is hard. And of course, it’s hard to maintain motivation on a huge unreleased project so as the scope grows so too does the odds that the project will fail. It’s a vicious cycle that I find myself getting stuck in rather often.
I’d obviously like to break out of that cycle, so starting this month I’m trying to keep a “soft deadline” on my projects. The idea is that at the after a predetermined length of time, I must release something even if it sucks. My hope is that the time limit will help me avoid taking side paths and focus on getting the core of a project done. More importantly, that deadline doesn’t force me to stop working on the project–it only forces me to release it. Once a project is out in the wild, I can’t grow it quite as recklessly and I instead have more incentives to polish and refine what’s there. Hopefully this will lead to smaller but better projects.
Anyway, for now I’m aiming to run projects for 1-2 months before release. It should give me enough time to make something reasonably interesting without growing too large.
How To Keep Going
One thing that I’ve seen a lot of small creators like myself struggle with is recognition. I periodically run into folks lamenting their social media stats and the like, feeling like they can’t grow. When I see these things, I try to recommend working for self-satisfaction–but recently, I’ve begun to think that this is sort of a misleading thing to say. For some things, particularly “less creative” work like software, it can be enough to work for yourself. But it’s hard to be your own audience, and without an audience it can be hard to find value in the time you spend on a work.
Personally, after all these years I can still feel unmotivated if my work isn’t garnering any feedback or appreciation. This is, in part, why a lot of my long-term work gets derailed after enough behind the scenes work… a work begins to feel pointless without an audience. At the same time, these days the most obvious places to share (social media, art and game platforms, etc) are seriously competitive with thousands or millions of others in the same space. If you want to grow large enough to stand out and feel like you’ve accomplished something, you need to either be a true prodigy a canny marketer. And frankly, I’m neither!
However, this is not actually a problem because I’ve found a better(?) method of making my work feel relevant. The answer is simple: You change the locale.
One of the things that I think I understood subconsciously before, but only really realized this year is that it feels better to make something that is truly appreciated by a tiny handful of people, than to make something that is mildly interesting to many. By making what I make for individuals and small communities, I can accomplish my goals without needing to fight for relevance on a larger scale. It’s fine to be a tiny player, if you exist on a tiny stage.
I think this is part of what caused me to revisit Minetest. It’s at the size where the work of one hobbyist screwing around in his downtime can have a real and visible impact, and having an impact is the core of what I think most non-professional creators really want, but mistake for popularity. In the future I think I’m going to aim for more of this, finding small places where my work can have a personal impact.
Okay, but What About the Projects?
Ah yes, those.
You’ve sat through my ranting for long enough, so here’s a few tidbits before I cut this post off.
First of all, the bad news about my jigsaw puzzle app: I’ve been procrastinating on it. I lost a lot of motivation working on certain features related to piece grouping, and so aside from occasional dips back into it I’ve been mostly pretending it doesn’t exist. That’s not to say that I won’t get back to it though, I’ve been futzing around with some physical jigsaw puzzles recently and it’s been making me want to dive back into the project! If anything happens on that front, I’ll make a follow-up post.
Beyond that, I’ve been working on a few Minetest-based projects. The first game I tried to build wound up snowballing as I described above, and for the time being I’ve put on hiatus until I decide how to proceed. But all is not lost, some of the work that went into it has been split off into a second project! That project is a GUI library that aims to fix most of the issues with Minetest’s gui APIs. Previously I was gradually hammering away on that at the engine level, but not really getting anywhere–this is a simple library that fits in at the scripting level though, and it works better than I’d hoped! I’ll detail it in a later post.
The last Minetest project is a smaller game, using the time limit method I described above. I’m aiming to release something at the end of the month… I’m not really sure how that’ll work out given how much work is left, but there’s some interesting things going on with it at least. I’ll do a full write-up about that game once it releases (in some form or another) next week. Given the disruptions that moving caused, it’s not in great shape but I think I can wrap it into some sort of releasable form and spend another month or two expanding and fixing it up somewhat.
That’s all I have to say today. I’ll be making follow-ups for the GUI library and game soon™ (and maybe one about art? We’ll see how I’m feeling), but I’ve written enough for now. Time moves on and projects rise and fall, but I’m still here blogging.