Optimizing For Abandonment

Bear with me and this strange title for a moment. If you've read my previous blog post you'll probably remember that I proclaimed that I have a "Oo! Shiny!" problem. I start work on something, I do the thing, I get stuck, I move on. Kind of like this blog!

However, I read The Lazy Level by a very good friend of mine. And...

You know, it's funny. This part:

For instance, while attempting to write the introduction post for this blog, I was having trouble. My brain kept insisting that I should be able to write the post easily. Deconstructing this led to ‘I should be good at writing’, which led to ‘I should be a productive person’-and deconstructing that allowed me to leave the first post alone, finally knowing that I could afford to write the post later, and in the meantime work on something else. (Namely, this post.).

I started a lot of projects over the past year or two. But usually, whenever I leave a project alone, I considered it abandoned. Cancelled. Something like "I'll never get back to this anyway". And this usually held true - for the most part, I never did come back to them. But I feel like as my skills grew, my code reflecting all the knowledge about writing software that I've gained from not only writing finished projects, but also starting unfinished ones, I've subconsciously noticed things that make it hard for me to jump back into projects I've written before.

And so I've adapted.

I've realized over the past few weeks that projects like my audio-focused social network, my MMO RPG, my survival game, an ephemeral MUD I started working on with friends... the structure is actually there, and it's really not bad.

I could probably leave them for months, years, and if I eventually come back to them, getting back into them isn't as hard as it would be with something like RTR, or my platformer game that I tried to write ages ago, or the self-running shoot-em-up, or even the FPS I posted on GitHub.

I have reasonable confidence that at some point I will lose that burned-out status for the MMO, and I will come back to it, as it's a game I really, really wanted to make. I'll get to the survival game, too.

And this is good.

I've started to see these projects not as failures, but as tangible todo-lists if you will. Or more like, these projects already exist in some way, in different stages of completeness. I've already done some, or most, of the work!

Abandoned projects don't have to actually be abandoned. They're just on pause. And doing this as a hobby, I really don't think this is a bad thing. In fact, by pausing the survival game and focusing on the No Video Jam instead, I've learned a lot about .NET and C# and I'll absolutely be able to incorporate this knowledge into the survival game.

By taking a break from JavaScript and exploring another platform, I've gained valuable insight into, well, that different platform, and that has influenced my way of thinking or reasoning about certain problems which are transferable. So if I were to come back to the MMO, I'd come at it with a fresh mind, having done something new, and most likely being able to continue with knowledge I've gained from all these other projects.

Maybe, sometimes, I get bored or stuck because of something subconscious that I haven't yet figured out, so I had to go and explore to figure out what exactly it was. And if I don't directly know what it is, the only other way to get there is to explore. To figure out what exactly it is that bothers me. And since I'm not perfect, I won't be able to just outright tell you what that might be. I might literally just have gotten bored with the project. But there's always a reason.

Embracing this fact made it so much easier. I no longer call these projects abandoned. I'd like to think of it more as "on pause" indefinitely.

I make projects because I really want the end result. That doesn't stop being true. Sometimes someone gets to the result before I do, and honestly, that's great! It's one thing less I have to do to enjoy that thing. But most of the time, that doesn't happen. And I'd love to think that I still have time. That I don't need to rush.

Except the game for the game jam. I should really get back to that. But that's a post for another day! (or year, if my post frequency is anything to go by 😉 )