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Focus, Redux

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about focus. This is my update on all that, and my rationale for reviving a near-dead blog. If you don’t want to read this lengthy screed, I’ll sum it up here:

  • I have to start writing again. Regularly.
  • Newstalk is my chosen venue.
  • If I don’t write here several times a week, please harass me.

Back to three years ago: at the time, I delineated my then-current passions and projects, with this commentary:

As I identified, this is too much, and I’m making no real progress on anything. I need to pick one or two (or three or four? or five or six?) of these and focus.

After some more soul-searching, I decided that I would focus, and pour myself into Free Sky:

Free Sky: An experimental CRPG engine, emphasizing simulated social interaction and (constrained) freeform storytelling, and my own personal tribute to Firefly. ;) Some framework code written; stalled on graphics engine code.

All the other projects went by the wayside, including this blog. Three years later, I can report my status on this project: lots of framework code written; stalled on graphics engine code. This is… disappointing.

Of course, a lot more has happened than just three years of intensive coding. Thankfully! I’ve been learning how to be a good husband; I’ve become more involved with my church; I’ve started a new career in publishing.

The past three years have been full of these things, and more, but most of my free time has been poured into the Free Sky project. The bad news is, I don’t have much to show for it except for a sprawling, poorly documented, poorly tested code base.

The good news is, I’ve written a lot of code, some good, some bad. I’ve spent time with it, lived with it, refactored and improved it. I am a much stronger programmer than I was three years ago, and I have a set of useful tools for future development.

I have a lot more to say about Free Sky, what I’ve learned, and what’s next, but I will save that for a separate post. The important point for now: aside from emails and thank-yous, one poem composed for my wife, and a few random, late night inspirations, I’ve barely written a lick of English verbiage in the past three years.

This was easier to do than I would have liked. With my creative juices channeled toward the design of the game and its systems, my Muse lay dormant, only stirring occasionally in her slumber.

This past summer, it started to sink in: I wasn’t writing. I hadn’t been writing. I wasn’t sure if I could still write! This realization corresponded with a growing dissatisfaction with the progress on the game.

I was growing impatient with the rigorous structured analysis and problem solving that good programming requires. Finally, after spending a solid week chasing after an obscure but showstopping bug, I knew that I needed a break.

I closed Emacs and opened Scrivener. I dusted off my novel, refamiliarized myself with the characters and plot, and started writing scenes again. It felt good, but I quickly ran into problems. The same problems that first drove me to learn Perl and then Python. I had questions about the universe of my story that I still didn’t know how to answer. I started all my old avoidance routines again, using my time set aside for writing to do anything else but.

This story is getting long, so here’s the deal: I need to learn how to write again. That is, I know how to write. When I set my mind to it, it still comes out sounding good. But I need develop discipline, and write regularly, even when it’s difficult. Eventually, I need to answer those questions that have me stumped, and finish the novel. But until I can do that, I need a place to write.

So here it is. Newstalk is open again for business. My goal is to write regularly (let’s call it several times a week, several being three or more) between now and the end of the year. I’m going to try and narrow the focus a little bit, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’ll need some help from you, my friends and family and random internet people: if you don’t see new stuff appearing here several times a week, please harass me (nicely, of course). I’d really appreciate it.

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