My teacher in creative writing, the (assumingly) wonderful Pamela Jaskoviak, opened the course with the wise notion that humans are incapable of (or at least really bad at) being creative and self-critical at the same time. The process therefore demands that we first write mindlessly without judgement, without trying to be clever or even good. And then we edit, rewrite, master the chaos we have created, make it tight, make it tidy. I have learned this approach several times from several teachers, but it took my experience from this summer to realize the following without a shadow of a doubt: I am destructively self-critical at all times, incapable of (or at least really bad at) shutting that devil on my shoulder out of the creative process. Or any other process, for that matter. Whenever I get an excuse, I put myself in Performance Mode and worry what people will think of me.
Rewind a few months. For my birthday last spring, my parents offered me the summer course of my choice at Fridhem folk high school in Svalöv, Skåne. I soon found myself choosing between a course in creative leadership and an oddly tantalizing yet clearly unnecessary beginner's acting course. Having promised to make this summer a vacation, I found myself deciding in favor of apparent meaninglessness.
August came, and I stepped of the bus in a small town in a flat land. I suspected that the course would teach me little in the field of actual acting technique – I'd already learned most of that in high school and on my own projects. But I was looking for something easy, something that wouldn't put me in Performance Mode. For some reason I have always enjoyed myself on the stage, at least if I have a script to follow.
So it's day one. A group of strangers is sitting in a circle, and my self-presentation is looping over and over in my head. My name is Hugo Bille, I'm 23 years old and a student of game design in Skövde, but I'm originally from just outside Gothenburg. I've worked on theater projects before, but mostly as a writer and it's been a while since I was last on stage, so please go easy on me.Our teacher, the distinguished Morgan Andersson, looked at us one by one and said:
”We won't be doing presentations today. It will just tempt us into trying to categorize each other. In this room we will instead face each other as the fantastic human beings we are, free of prejudice.”
I was amazed. In part because he was right and prevented me from scaring people away with my nerdy background, and in part because from that moment I was out of Performance Mode.
I stayed that way for more or less the whole week. During our course it was forbidden to even try to entertain our classmates. We were given minimal time to plan, and instead instructed to act on our beautiful instincs. If it didn't come, it didn't, and we were acting solely for our own sake. In most of our exercises we didn't even realize we were acting until afterwards. I won't say that I was 100% obedient in this, but one thing I couldn't shake. A good actor – and, I now believe, a good practitioner of any art – is too busy focusing outwards, to focus inwards. We don't have the time to imagine what the audience might be thinking when we're trying all we can to make this fictional bouncer let us into the club to conquer the love of our lives. There is a time for self-criticism, but it is not on stage, just like it is not during conception. When you let it in, you lose your direction.
So that's what I'm going to try to do – focus outwards. I just need to figure out what that means in the games industry. Because as long as I hesitate, I will falter. My promise to Lili helps me along; we said that we are both too good at what we do to keep questioning ourselves. And our game will be amazing, whenever we get around to doing it. But promises and compliments are not enough, I need to focus outwards so hard that I don't have time to hesitate.
I write this in part out of fear that people around me will start to doubt my ability or commitment to the art if my blog stagnates and goes without news for too long. The same goes for creating the site in the first place. But I also do it to get used to other people's opinions of me, and learn to handle them casually. To make something transparent, unpolished and yet public; see if I can create something valuable simply because it is unedited, because it is raw. I'm not there yet. I don't even know where to go. But I think I will do it. If not else, I think the creative writing will force me.
Also, writing this has kept my mind off overplanning my meeting with the local game company incubator about Residue, to which I'm off - now.