My dirty little secret is (sort of) out: I spend a lot of time on the Internet.
No! You didn’t know this? It’s not exactly a secret; I used to work in the IT field, so being on a computer for many, many hours at a time isn’t exactly out of the question. But this goes beyond logging into the network and doing whatever the hell it was I used to do. (Notice the use of the word “used”. It’s because I’ve been out of work for a few years, all thanks to the wonderful management of the country back in the middle part of the 2000′s.) No, this goes way beyond.
The real secret is that I belong to a few of the virtual world systems located here and there around the cloud. And in one of them I’m . . . well, not exactly important, but I do have a reputation as something of a builder of houses and rather large structures. And that’s been a rep I’ve had for a few years now. It’s waning these days, mostly because I’ve lost that fire I once had to spend hours and hours and hours putting together something that other people will enjoy.
Of late a few of my friends (from the sim where I “live” when I’m in-world) have been hard at work, if you may, in another of these virtual worlds, terraforming land and creating towns and cities wholesale. And, for about 8 months, they’ve been working hard to get me to come over and help them out. But I’ve been resisting–resisting a lot. It’s not that I don’t want to help, but . . . I don’t want to help.
So yesterday one of the people who’s been trying to get me to come over (by “get me to come over” I mean “bitching about why I’m not helping them”) asked me again about why I’m not keen about working with them, and I gave them the most honest answer I’ve had in the last 6 months: I don’t want to help because anything I would do would be spec work. I would be working for them, and I don’t want to work for them–I want to work for myself.
I pointed out that while I haven’t been busting my ass slapping up houses for them, I’ve been world building in other places, specifically in two games I’ve been involved with “off line in real life”, if you will, and with my writing. I told this person that in one game I put together the details of 10 solar systems–right down to where I figured out Goldilocks zones for different stellar classes and delta v requirements for most of the bodies–and in the last few weeks I’ve been helping another person put together the needs of a world for a forum-based RPG. And when you couple those with my writing, then it becomes highly obvious that I didn’t need to come about slumming for them.
The reaction to this: ”Oh, so you’re a bit like me–a megalomaniac.”
I wouldn’t say that–maybe slightly sociopathic would be better–but it does touch on something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately: why own part of something that was manufactured through the creative process when I can have it all?
Being creative is, at the best of times, difficult. A few people I’ve known over the years think being creative is easy because, well, hell, watch some TV or go to the movies–how hard can that be? Well, if you want to be on the 10% side of Sturgeon’s Revelation, it’s extremely hard. Sure, if you’re Micheal Bay, crapping out cinematic explosions on a regular basis is no big thang. All high concept is, for the most part, easy: give me your story in 25 words or less and make sure you sell it!
Taking something beyond high concept and falling down the rabbit hole into nitty-gritty world building will drive you insane. Turn a fictional concept into something very real is a pain in the ass. It takes a lot of work and a fair bit of time, and for even the best of us who do this, often you hit a wall where you throw up your hands, scream “Screw this!” and walk away from your work in progress because you’ve immersed yourself in a world that’s way, way too intricate for ever you, the creator, to figure out.
So why do we keep doing this shit?
I mean, it’s easy to walk away. It’s easy to be a monkey and work for others. It’s easy to say, “I can’t deal with this”, and spend the day filing papers for a boss who, outside of work, you wouldn’t waste time spitting on if their were on fire. It’s easy to walk the road everyone knows. If you’re fine with that, groovy.
I can’t be fine with it any more.
I like owning what I create. Yes, I find myself “building” things that only I ever see, but goals have become easier to set and I’m better at meeting them. I don’t possess a megalomaniacal desire to see my name “in lights”, but I do want others to see my completed efforts. I get that boost, somewhat, from gaming (but only when I GM; when you’re playing you mileage always varies), but from writing it’s even more so. It’s not only the worlds you want to bring to life, but the characters who live there, and the longer you put off bringing it all to live, the more it gnaws at you. You want to do this for yourself–you need to do it. Even if no one else ever sees it, you want to see it live.
So I’ll keep going, keep trying to be creative, trying to build my worlds, but with an eye towards sharing what I do with others. It’s fine to work in a vacuum, in that silence that is singularly yours, but at some point you want to fling it out into the light for all to see.
The silence has served me well. But it’s time to take my worlds and make some noise.