I just finished reading Adam J. Kurtz's book Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives[1], which I was lucky enough to snag at work. It's a helpful little book and I intend to keep it with me as a sort of "creativity first aid kit" that I can use when I'm feeling unmotivated or scared. Or both.

There's a nice two-page spread towards the beginning that I like a lot. The first page sort of echoes my sentiments from this previous post on the book Big Magic. The second is just good general words for life.

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I don't think there's such a thing as groundbreaking advice. Every so often, especially around NaNoRenO, I and other visual novel creators get asked "What advice would you give first-time VN creators?" The advice is usually along the lines of:

  1. Start small.
  2. No really—start small.
  3. However long you think it'll take to do something, triple that time and plan accordingly.

I'd argue that advice is applicable to lots of different fields, not just making VNs. Still, a lot of times this goes unheeded. Your tiny NaNoRenO project turns into a game with 5 love interests and then you release a very alpha demo for NaNoRenO before the whole thing self-implodes and never sees the light of day. I imagine it happens a lot. I don't think anyone who gives the advice "start small" started small, themselves[2]. So it's not the advice that's so important as how it's received or, more often, when it's received.

For example, I've heard the phrase "done is better than perfect" so many times that it's almost lost meaning for me. I have struggled with perfectionism all my life, so being told "done is better than perfect" often felt the same as being told "just be happy" when I was depressed. "I know done is better than perfect, but tell that to the louder part of my brain that says 'Perfection is the most important thing'!" At this point in my life, having struggled with carving out time to write, seeing what kind of life I don't want to lead, and discovering anew how important writing and game development are to me, I can finally, truly believe that "done is better than perfect." Nothing I've ever released has been perfect. But all of those efforts created me. They created my aesthetic and writing style, as well as introduced lots of people to what I can do. That's the most important thing, not perfection. The advice didn't change—my mentality did. That allowed me to finally take the advice I needed.

I've found that a lot of advice I give friends nowadays sounds eerily like things my parents told me growing up. I don't regret making the mistakes I made to get here, but it helps me understand them a little better. Once, my parents were young fools like me. They regretted things and wished to pass along their wisdom accumulated through suffering. I just wasn't ready to hear that advice yet. And maybe the people I'm giving advice to now aren't ready to hear it yet. But if I keep being positive and repeat the advice, maybe one day they will be able to heed it.

Progress is a process. Done is better than perfect. You are enough.

As I repeat the advice, it becomes more solidified in my own head. After all, it's still advice that I need to take, too.

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  1. I wrote a little review of it here on Goodreads. ↩︎

  2. I sure didn't. ↩︎