I began last year like most bloggers: a promise to keep blogging more. And like most bloggers, I did not keep my promise. Life happens, work gets busier, you lose and gain motivation at the drop of a hat to keep doing what you're doing. Last year I was not in a good place creatively and it really showed.
I didn't really branch out too much in game design. I tried working on small projects such as tower defense games and updating more of my farming sim RPG, but after forcing myself to work on them more, the more I ended up hating these projects. The year ended with me feeling worse about myself and with no new projects to show for it. I just felt like I wasn't in the place that I needed to be to make the games that I imagine so I decided to take a conscious break from this and focus on book learning.
I picked up several books including Level Up!, Video Games Storytelling, and a few other books that deal mostly with User Experience ideas and communication skills. I also picked up 642 Things to Write About from the San Francisco Writers' Grotto. This book has nothing to do with game design, but I saw it as an opportunity to help regain my confidence in my creative skills. I did a lot of the prompts in the book over the course of 2 months. During my prompts, I found myself using it more for therapy instead of creative exercises. From here I decided to just journal whatever came to my mind. What I wrote showed to me that I was hurting emotionally. I was depressed, angry with myself, and I still had things I had to deal with internally.
I didn't magically fix myself and started making games again, but I feel that recognizing this was the first step. During this time I asked myself what I really cared about and what did I think was missing from my growth. I realized that I was missing obtainable goals. Things that I can do daily / weekly / monthly that would still keep me on track for learning more about game design. I bought a second yearly planner geared towards goal setting. In my planner, I write down small goals that I want to accomplish like: "Finish <x> game design course by <this date>.", "Read this design book", or even "Play <insert game here>".
In a way I am turning what could be a monotonous list into a digestible and easily obtainable goals for myself. Even if it's just 'play a game' for one day, I am using this time to experience new game designs and stepping out of my comfort zone for certain game genres. Here I am learning more about other game systems, what makes it fun, what do I feel is lacking from this game, and what is keeping me wanting to play more.
Since I've been doing this, I feel like I've been able to accomplish more than I think I could with my current schedule. Seeing a visual breakdown of my time throughout a day really helped me identify times I could do what I wanted to do uninterrupted. And in turn I have been more productive. As of this month, I have completed 2 books, finished a big game I never thought I would get far into and enjoy as much as I have, completed 2 certified game design courses from Rochester Institute of Technology, and started to keep up my game design practices.
I'm still learning what is working for me with my Passion Planner and scheduling time for myself. I've skipped out on my scheduled learning or play times to do something else, family or work needs have taken priority too, or some days I'm too tired. I have to accept that interrupting my routine will happen and that I should do my absolute best to keep my promise to myself, but I can't keep beating myself up for wanting to take a nap for an hour or take some mental health time. I believe that loving myself and accepting that I am human has been one of the hardest lessons I have learned in the last year.