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  • On Introspection: Why We Should All Make Time To Not Make Things

    - Sherveen Uduwana
  • Recently I went to Sri Lanka to visit family. I knew in advance that I wasn't going to be able to make anything so I made sure to notify everyone who would be affected and set things so I wouldn't need to work. For the first time in a long time, I would be unable to do anything creative and I remember being very stressed about it prior to the trip. While I was there, I saw a thread by Hello Games' Innes McKendrick that argued:

    Reading that, I realized that a part of me felt resentful for not being able to create for three weeks; and I wanted to address that feeling here in the hope that I can combat it going forward. I honestly didn't realize how much I needed some distance as a creative--some time to be introspective and look inward--and I feel that it's something we can all make more time for.

    In game development as well as other creative industries, there's a huge amount of pressure to be creative all the time. I know that I often catch myself during moments of downtime thinking "I need to find something productive to do". As creatives, we are constantly exposed to our colleagues' projects and successes, and it's easy to feel a sense of inadequacy about our own creative process. Plenty of people will tell you during your career that even when you're putting 110% into your day-job, you need to be pushing your own personal projects, showing people your work, and networking, or you're wasting your time. Of course there's value in that, but the opposite should also be discussed. So I'd like to come out and say to everyone: sometimes you should avoid making things.

    Rest a little; you deserve it.

    One of the things that was really nice about being home was the opportunity to be a little healthier in terms of food and exercise, even if it was just a couple of push-ups some mornings. Creativity is often likened to a muscle, and I think a lot of the same misconceptions concerning physical improvement are applied to creative growth. A common misunderstanding when going to the gym for the first time is that the act of exercising is what makes you stronger; therefore, the more you exercise, the faster you will improve. In reality, all that exercise does is damage your muscle fibers--it's when your body repairs itself during rest that you're actually improving. Very often, people see improvement during those first couple weeks of exercise, so they try and do more and more and end up overworking themselves. Overwork ruins both your performance and your enjoyment, and all too often it leads you to quit.

    When you work hard and see little improvement, it's easy to blame your own ability; this way of thinking is both professionally problematic and personally harmful. Overwork in creative industries harms creativity, and that can't be said nearly enough. As with physical exercise, creative work can be very exhausting. If you're always pushing yourself to create, your mind is not getting the time to reflect on the process and grow from it. Before my trip, I was really hitting a wall with my work: struggling to solve problems and running out of ways I could improve the game. By stepping back for a bit, I discovered a ton of ideas that feel really obvious in hindsight. When you're in the same creative mode everyday, it's easy to lose perspective. When you have time to de-focus and be introspective, all those creative problems filter into your subconscious, and solutions come more readily.


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