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Hello, folks! I’ve been a terrible blogger for the entirety of my summer break. I think I’ve posted twice since finishing college. But my life has been a whirlwind of paperwork and packing. For those of you who don’t know, I accepted a job with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be starting a new life in the quaint little town of Mikawa where I’ll be teaching elementary and junior high students. You can read more about what I’ll be doing and how I’ve been hindered HERE. That’s probably all the shameless advertising I’ll do for my GoFundMe now. Within the next few days, I hope to start blogging about Japan and travel and adulting yet again. But for now, I’m going to chat about a few things that are close to my heart.
I’ve been writing since I discovered you didn’t need a permit to be creative. It’s one of the greatest outlets for venting feelings and exploring your imagination. Let’s face it; sometimes our thoughts run a little too rampant, and it’s healthy to organize our dragons, giant robots, and werecat vampires in our little journals or laptops or restaurant napkins. Unfortunately, writing tends to be a solitary occupation. I’ve hosted some writing clubs before and most of the time, those meetings are 80% discussion and snacking and maybe only 20% writing. It’s hard to be productive without the right group.
And unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to be productive by yourself. The world is full of distractions: Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the fire works currently blowing up outside my window…(Guys…it’s day time. You can’t even SEE the fireworks.) I might find my quiet place one day, write 3,000 words, and be perfectly content, but I might also open up a Word document and spend the next three hours of my life researching how to hide a body. Why? Because I’m weak. Okay? Happy? The Internet is often stronger than I am. But it’s more than that. My muse can be flimsy and unmotivated. I’ll start a project excited about a new world of possibilities and later find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt.
I started roleplaying in junior high, and I’m going to be honest and say, I don’t know why I started. I think I just stumbled upon a forum one day and decided, “I don’t want to be creative by myself anymore. I want to be creative with others.” And I don’t regret that moment at all. I’ve watched myself grow as a writer and a collaborator. Roleplaying forces you to work on a plot with someone else or many people. You have to build a world through your interactions and weave a plot around both of your wants and desires. Sometimes world building is easy because you borrow from a video game or TV, but other times you start from nothing more than an idea and watch it blossom as two writers negotiate the terms of the plot.
Roleplaying isn’t without its vices however. I’ve noticed that over the years I’ve gotten lazy. I roleplay simply to advance the plot, and I lose sight of important things like characterization and style. Sometimes I over-complicate things with horribly elaborate ideas and find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt even with someone (or many people) to hold me accountable. It’s still possible to give up even when two people are working on a project. On top of it all, even if you have a lot of creative control, you only control your part of the world. Attempting to control a character that isn’t yours is considered: god-modding. Limited control is part of what makes roleplaying exciting, but as a writer, it’s also a pain. Don’t we want to control everything?
With a few close friends however, I’ve started playing around with an interesting idea that isn’t quite roleplaying, but it also isn’t a traditional collaboration. I can’t take credit for it at all, but they’ve given me permission to share it here. They’ve deemed it “Word Count RPing.” Its very essence is simplicity and collaboration. At the start of a WC RP, it has little to no planning. You start with an idea (usually vague), and you go from there. Each RPer is permitted around 200 to 300 words each time he/she posts. It’s still RPing because it’s back and forth between two (maybe more) writers. You share ideas, but both of you control the world. There is no “mine and yours.” It’s always ours. Without the leader and follower dynamic there’s a lot more creative freedom involved, and it’s still surprising because there is no definite plot for both of you to follow. If I want to surprise my partner, I can. If my partner wants to surprise me, he/she most certainly can!
I think writers often get too absorbed in their own little world. I’ve seen a lot of creative people who can only think about “MY” stuff. Collaboration is difficult because you’re thinking about how things have to work out to feed “MY” desires. You find yourself buried underneath…..plot bunnies and selfishness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a selfish writer. Explore your ideas. Be proud of what you create, but don’t exclude other people and ideas especially if you’re working on a creative project whether that’s roleplaying or collaboration. Maybe if you let people control your characters, you’ll get to see how the world views them. Maybe you’ll find things you can improve, or maybe you’ll even learn something new about that little figment of your imagination. (NOTE: I do not recommend participating in a WC RP with writers you do not know very well. While it has its benefits, you may also become frustrated with a partner that isn’t familiar with your style and flow.)
Perhaps this is a bit of a radical change to suggest that god-modding can be healthy. Sharing a creative thought with another person or a group of people is kind of scary, isn’t it? But I love it. I work better with people urging me to create. Is it really so scary to work together with others?