The starting line is a trip wire

The starting line is a trip wire. It’s a great, brutal song by a band called Armed for Apocalypse (saw these guys play live w/Crowbar a couple years ago; they kicked ass). And it’s also the brutal truth. Especially when you have depressive tendencies like I do, it just seems that failure is baked in. The starting line is where failure begins.

But dammit, you can’t let that stop you. Sure, you will always fail at something. But not everything. The only way to fail completely is if you quit completely.

I bring this up because for the last few months I’ve failed to keep FAR Western and the FAR System moving. I’ve failed, but I don’t intend to fail. I’ve been thinking about why I seemingly always let projects die halfway through, and how I can make sure NOT to do that with this one. Because this is important to me.

Well, I’m a sucker for personality analysis quizzes, so this article is going to go in that direction. I get a kick out of the notion of measuring and categorizing the unmeasurable. (Which, come to think of it, is kind of what roleplaying games try to do.) I like them (personality quizzes and RPGs) for the same reason that I have a love/hate relationship with theory in general. I love theory because it can give insight into how things work and why certain things happen (or don’t). I like using theory to make things happen; I hate theory as an end in itself.

Anyway, back in May, The Angry GM posted a list of creative personality types, exploring some of the reasons why he — we, as individual creators — so often fail to get things done even when we really want to get them done. And since I’ve been feeling guilty about letting FAR Western slide and not getting anything done with it, I that post came back to mind. And I thought I’d write a bit about the typology he uses, since it stuck with me.

Three types of creative personalities

Basically, you can break out people into three types, based on the way they approach creative and problem-solving work.

There are the Starters: People who tend to come up with ideas more easily and always seem to have some big new idea in the hopper. They get energized by new things, tend to get a lot done in the early phases of a project, and often produce prodigiously in short periods of time.

On the other hand, when the idea isn’t new and shiny and the work becomes dull and tedious, they’re likely to quit. They’ll drop it and go after a newer, shinier, more interesting thing. They tend to leave behind a lot of half-finished projects.

Starters are great at starting, but not as great at finishing.

There are the Doers: People who are focused, disciplined, process-driven, and good at keeping things moving. They often work to a plan and are willing to grind through it step by step until the thing is done.

The downside of being focused and driving through things to the very end, though, is that you can keep grinding away at something even when it’s going nowhere and you really should abandon it. Doers can have a hard time starting (through over-planning or reluctance to commit) and can also have a hard time finishing because there’s always something to add.

There are the Finishers: These people revel in finding gaps, holes, and inconsistencies, and polishing them up and fixing them. They’re really good at taking up existing or mostly unformed ideas and projects and making them perfect; basically, finishing them.

The downside is that finishers can become aimless tinkerers, never properly getting started, and paradoxically also failing to finish things they start because they’re following rabbit trails sideways and backwards instead of moving forward.

Spark, discipline, and polish

This heading is something I kind of stole from The Angry GM. (He’s always angry…how much difference can it make at this point?) 🙂

You can probably see that each of the three creative types excels at providing one of these three things. Ideally you’d have at least one of each type on any creative team. If you don’t, you’re going to run into problems in some phase of your work.

And if you’re a team of one, like me…well, unfortunately, I’m only bringing one-third of the ideal complement to the enterprise I call the FAR System. I’m trying to figure out how to conjure up the other two.

Side note: Even though my son is also involved, I call myself a team of one because he’s a great sounding board and co-conspirator, but he’s very wrapped up in his own writing and creative projects, so I provide all the momentum and planning here. He’s definitely a Starter. The guy’s brain is always bubbling up with some fun new creative idea — one of which became FAR Western after we started talking and the idea took hold of my brain.

That right there tells you that I’m probably either a Doer or a Finisher…and the fact that I’ve let this blog and the whole FAR Western project lie fallow for months now tells you that I’m not a Doer. I’m a natural Finisher (it’s a team role I fill very well at work) and that’s part of the reason why I got so excited about his inchoate idea for an Old West roleplaying system. I got really amped up about diving into the nuts and bolts of game mechanics and instructions and such, which he’s perfectly willing to discuss, but would never pursue otherwise.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said here before, it’s in the nature of a Finisher to want to be done. Which paradoxically gets in the way of ever getting done. It’s easy to burn out and give up. I really, really, really want to enjoy the finished product and see what other people do with it. But the long slog in the middle, between practicable theory and a playable result, aye, there’s the rub.

So have I given up? No. FAR Western still occupies my thoughts. It’s still a major life goal of mine to finish it. But burnout is real. There’s a lot of difficult, research-intensive work to be done now, and I haven’t yet summoned the energy to tackle it. I will…someday…soon.

Better worlds

In the meantime, this website/blog/whatever-it-is has almost died. I was on my way to starting a nice little following, but people don’t visit if you never post. So I’m going to make it a goal this year — by way of keeping FAR Western top-of-mind and keeping the creative juices flowing in general — to write regularly here at the FAR System blog.

I’m going to promise at least one post per week here. No promises on what it’s about, but there…will…be…one. Every week. More, if I can manage it, but at least one per week. There’s not a lot going on with FAR Western at the moment, but I do have other creative things in the hopper, so I’ll probably write about a variety of things here. (Maybe the FAR System is actually all the things, not just a roleplaying system.)

So here goes. At the starting line. Again. Keeping my eye on better worlds ahead (another great piece of brutality from Armed for Apocalypse, btw).

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