I’ve been really unmotivated lately. Not just as a blogger, but as a gamer and a little bit as a person too. It’d be tough for me to narrow down a specific reason why that is. I just come home in the afternoons and I look at the games I’m working to finish and I think “nah, I don’t want to mess with that right now.” I look at all the books I could read and shrug my shoulders. My blog comes to mind, I realize I need to write a post, but no words come to mind and when they do I feel like they aren’t good enough to post.
It’s been a busy time. Most of you know that I got a new job a couple of months ago and that this job means increased responsibilities and more travel. The travel part would be lessened somewhat if we could find a place to live in the new city, but so far the places we’ve been really interested in haven’t panned out for one reason or other. This has involved rushing home after work, making the hour drive out of town to check out a place, only to get there by the skin of our teeth for the showing and find out that the place isn’t gonna work for us. It’s frustrating, it’s draining, and combined with the workplace stress I have felt weirdly unmotivated at home lately.
But here’s a weird thing about all that. Recently there was this article in Polygon about “worshipping crunch,” and there was an understandably strong reaction to the article in the game journalism community. Particularly in the WordPress blogging community. There was this really strong objection to the idea of forcing people to experience the crunch, of asking them to undergo all this extra work and stress and to totally ignore everything else in their life as a result. Living in a constant state of stress and endlessly pushing yourself to push out your product sounds exhausting and torturous, even meaningless. That lifestyle sounds AWFUL, right?
I love it.
I fought that admission when I first read the article, particularly when I read the amazing responses from bloggers like The Well-Red Mage. But I cannot deny that for me specifically, there is a weird sort of masochistic appeal to the crunch. I WANT to live in that state of busyness and stress. I WANT to push myself to complete an impossible task within a brief period of time. It doesn’t matter if the product of that push doesn’t even last as long as the crunch required to produce it. Because it is, in my mind, a form of art to invest yourself so deeply into something that is fleeting by nature.
In an attempt to see where the heck this comes from, what kind of circumstances could have taught me to be this way, I had to look back at my experiences in the theater. I studied theater initially as a minor but ended up majoring in the subject. Every semester of college my life was singularly devoted to a production. I spent all day talking about the theory of my craft in class, and all evening putting the theories to work in order to perfect my performance. In my free time I memorized lines or read more about my character or watched television shows that helped me to master the accent I needed for the play. I ate, slept, and breathed nothing but the production. So when the production was over, when my life was suddenly free to live how I pleased again, I often didn’t know what to do with myself. I jokingly referred to this phenomenon as “post-show depression,” the period of time after a production when I felt directionless. But there was always another production, a new thing for me to crunch.
If right about now you’re saying “that’s unhealthy, you can’t live your whole life that way,” you’re totally right. The effects of that lifestyle became crystal clear when I got engaged to the woman who is now my wife. We had this relationship to focus on and my schedule wasn’t allowing us to be together in the way we wanted to. Both of our days were consumed with school, but my evenings were gone too. Even weekends didn’t give us great opportunities to spend time together. I realized that for me to be the kind of husband that I want to be, to be there for my wife when she needed me and for us to have time to be together and be in love, that I needed to get out of the theater world.
The thing is, just because I left the crunch doesn’t mean the crunch left me. There still is and maybe will always be a part of me that was conditioned by my environment to be satisfied when I am in a state of stressfully overworking myself. That piece of me came alive during a period of time where I experienced a perfect storm of crunch – a crunch at work during my new job, a gaming crunch as I pushed myself to finish and create guides for Mario + Rabbids, and a blogging crunch as I finished out the Blogger Blitz. When all of those things wrapped up all roughly around the same time, the “post-show depression” set in and now I feel a little unmotivated because I don’t know what’s next.
“There’s always another production,” I find myself saying. After all, Mario Odyssey comes out soon. I can play that really fast to try and get some reviews and guides out. And I do want to do Charming and Open again before the end of the year. Work is about to pick up again as I have many end-of-the-year trainings and projects I am going to be extensively involved in. Yeah, the crunch is coming again before I know it, and I can embrace it and go back into that place where I am pushing myself too hard and yet weirdly satisfied with it all at once.
Am I a mess? I kind of feel like a mess.
“Ian, you’re kind of bringing us to an uncomfortable place here.” I do apologize, adventurers, if this post is a bit unlike what you normally come and visit Adventure Rules for. I haven’t been posting with consistency lately and I’m torn about it. I need to rest but I need to keep my promises on the blog but I don’t owe these people anything but consistency is for ME and so on and so on. These are the thoughts that kick around in my head. And now that I’m in this place on the blog where I don’t have a specific purpose driving me forward and keeping me busy, so I don’t know what to create.
These emotions are something that I think I will simply need to sort through for myself. Typing them out for you has at least been cathartic for me in a way. Recognizing that these feelings have a place that they come from, understanding that this mindset is a place that I have been to before and that I always come out okay on the other side…that helps me. Self-understanding cannot be underestimated, because that is the beginning of self-improvement. I know that there’s a person inside of me that hungers for the self-destructive crunch – in the future I need to be more careful not to let that tendency rise up and take over. Next time I run a blogging event or the next time I feel driven to finish a game just so I can review it or whatever, I need to take a step back and examine that those feelings aren’t coming from a good place. Next time work is putting me in a position of stress (probably multiple times in the next two-and-a-half months), I need to remember that it is okay to take a break from blogging or gaming or whatever I need to in order to experience time that is genuinely relaxing.
So now I turn the conversation to you, adventurers. Do you find yourself enjoying periods of heavy work and stress in your life? How do you balance that with living a healthy lifestyle? Do your hobbies ever become work to you? What allows you to relax and leave those feelings behind? Let me know in the comments and I hope that, in some weird way, reading this is helpful for you in the same way that writing it has been cathartic for me.