Reality and Narrative

Posted on Posted in Motivation

Creativity is painful. It’s hard to make something worthwhile, to put your name on a product, to cast your work out into the world for judgment by people who don’t care nearly as much as you. When your heart is wrapped up so tightly in what you do, the smallest criticism can feel like a kick in the chest.

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That’s Narrative screwing with you.

Broadly speaking, our experience of the world is a mix of what actually happens to us (Reality) and how we react to it (Narrative). As a metaphor, consider someone who is out of shape who starts running for the first time. During the 11 or 12 minutes in which she begins to run that first mile, she’ll feel a lot of pain – a burning in her chest as lungs struggle for oxygen, legs aching from muscles not often used. The pain is screaming “you’re hurting yourself, you’re hurting yourself!” That pain is Narrative. However, the Reality is that she’s bettering herself. For her to continue, she must realize that the Narrative and Reality aren’t matching up. If she wishes to succeed, she must react to Reality, not Narrative.

Before my second Kickstarter for War Co., I sent out copies of the game to over a dozen reviewers. Eight of them reviewed the game in time for the campaign, and seven were positive. In Reality, War Co. was at least enough of a crowd-pleaser to succeed at crowdfunding. Yet my Narrative was pre-occupied with the one mixed review. Yeah, it wasn’t even a negative review, just a mixed one. That’s absurd, isn’t it? From an objective standpoint, my Narrative was absurd, but I was reacting to it until I sat down and talked myself back to Reality.

You’ll probably start out naive and get your butt handed to you. It’s a rite of passage. You’ll eventually work your way up to where your Reality is far better than the Narrative you tell yourself. Once you reach a certain point in your creative projects, the biggest problem is quite likely to be your own inner demons – your Narrative gone awry.

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