Overcome the Horror of Creative Freedom and Turn it into Fun

Posted on Posted in Motivation

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre, looking for the exit. (Spoiler: there is no exit.)
Jean-Paul Sartre, looking for the exit. (Spoiler: there is no exit.)

Even having written many posts for this blog and a novel’s worth of lore for War Co., the blankness of the unmarked page still gives me the chills. That blank page could be anything. Before you write on it, it is everything and it is nothing, the most perfect work of literature and the most grammatically defunct Internet copypasta shlock. Creative freedom is intimidating, even horrifying, because suddenly you assume the responsibilities of creating a cohesive product, testing and perfecting it so it reaches its potential, and sharing it with people who don’t see what you do.

Except that’s not really true, is it?

I’m not convinced that writer’s block, in and of itself, exists. What I do think exists is the fear of starting. When it’s time to get creative, throw out your preconceptions of right and wrong. Yes, game development, novel writing, music making, film production, and all the other creative endeavors require a lot of iteration and rigor. You have to find your destination by making wrong turns. It’s all too easy to take these feelings to heart and say “this isn’t good enough” when you’re making something.

Even if you get horribly lost on the way to your destination, you might find a good BBQ place or something.
Even if you get horribly lost on the way to your destination, you might find a good BBQ place or something.

My response to the gaping chasm of creative freedom is to laugh. I laugh because the flip side of creative freedom gives me one amazing privilege: failure in a safe environment. Your first draft can be as terrible or brilliant as you want. You’ll likely be the only one to see it, so don’t sweat the rough edges. As I see it, if you start doing something, one of three things can come as a result:

You make something brilliant with a few rough edges. A little polish and you have a readymade work of art. Something for the Spiel des Jahres.

You make something that’s shaky, but with sporadic moments of cleverness. From the cleverness, you build the connective tissue of your game. Trial and error. You’ll eventually have something.

You make something unabashedly terrible. There’s nothing redeeming about it. In that case, you don’t have those bad ideas in your head anymore and you can analyze your work for flaws. In essence, you purge yourself and you can make a plan to get better.

When I think of it that way, I feel better about the radical Sartrean freedom of the blank page. There’s no pressure. Anything you create opens doors.

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