A piece of advice once told me, I think it was a couple of years back, that if I was going to do better at creative endeavors, I might have to read less.
Like I was going to believe that. Read less? How was I supposed to learn anything? Figure out more of the parts of human nature that I’m still not entirely sure I quite understand? Pick myself up a few new cultural details so I wouldn’t accidentally a two-dimensional cardboard facade behind which crouched a bunch of modern mindsets playing dress-up?
And yet here I am, ten minutes to deadline. The block was bad; it’s always pretty rough. Every now and then I think that maybe I need to give up Monday nights, switch it with Tuesday perhaps (though that’d be dangerous this semester), or even drop Friday and… anyway. But I don’t think it’s the block that brought me to ten minutes before midnight. It was the reading. The usual round of webcomics, just to ease into my normal evening routine. Then there was a link from something that would get me to a new source of chapter by chapter snarks (my new guilty pleasure). I considered writing a review of another system (which would work better if that wasn’t one of the systems whose game died halfway through), went to try to avoid a repeat of last night’s “wait a minute, I wrote this post months ago!” shock by looking to see where I’d mentioned the system in question—and that got me posts I’d written on fighting styles and failure mechanics, on cute things and non-combat rewards, even on the many mechanical penalties that could be justified with “There’s a koi on your nose!” I read, and I kept reading, hoping to talk to myself, that something would kick loose a topic.
Quarter to eleven. Eleven. Eleven fifteen. Wait a minute, I have to get up for work tomorrow. …all right, try a different character, maybe they’ll get me something I can spring from? Eleven thirty. How much of this reading really is looking for something? And how much is just holding patterns, boredom, trying to avoid the work of thinking?
Given how important the written word has been to my writing and my gaming, there’s something profoundly disturbing about having to admit that it’s true—approached the wrong way, my reading does tend to hold me back. And recognizing it? Gets me done just in time.