Friday, August 21, 2009

52,560 Turns

Today is the one-year anniversary of The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope. Back in August of last year, I started this blog after becoming aware of other forums dedicated to classic style of D&D that I was first exposed to. I hoped that I might be able to contribute to the “old school” scene in some small way, perhaps by chronicling my attempts to get back into a game which I had been long-absent from. I thought there might be room in the blogosphere for a few more wry commentaries, a handful of deranged home-brewed ideas, and maybe a little bit of humor. That was extent of my plan.

I plan and the universe laughs, it seems, because somewhere that idea went completely off the rails.

What was meant to be an occaisonal diversion has become a regular part of my daily life. Every day, I find myself writing something concerning this hobby of ours, whether it is a blog post, an article for submission to a fanzine, a new quadrant of Stonehell, or some notes for my own personal use. In addition to the 261 posts that have accrued here since the Society first opened its doors, I’ve had five articles appear in various magazines, written my first professional RPG book, almost completed my first self-published supplement, helped found a creative fellowship, served as a judge for the One Page Dungeon Contest, and created a smattering of free .pdf releases. A drop in the bucket compared to many, but far beyond what I ever envisioned when I first posted here a year ago.

I trust that, in spite of these other diversions, I’ve managed to maintain a credible signal-to-noise ratio on this blog. I know not everything that has appeared here is an instant classic or a spring-board for deep thoughts, but I believe that I’ve accumulated more hits than misses, and hope you feel the same. The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope isn’t one of the biggest blogs in terms of audience, but the number of regular visitors to this site each week is enough that I feel indebted to my readers and I sincerely hope they enjoy their time here each week.

With a full year of the blog behind me, I find myself contemplating the future. If I’ve learned nothing else over the past 365 days, I’ve discovered that divination is a fool’s game: one can never be sure where the course of a year will take you. I want to think that I’ll still be here a year from now, carrying on my efforts to make a small mark on the walls of history, but I can’t be sure. If I’m not, however, it won’t be from a lack of effort.

I’ve learned that I need to rediscover the word “no” and use it from time to time. In my enthusiasm to reenter this hobby, I agreed to anything that came my way. The result was a very heavy workload which actually conspired to diminish my enjoyment of this recreational activity, thus undermining the whole point of having a hobby. With the release of the first Stonehell book, I’m going to take some time off from accepting new obligations. I still have promises which I intend to keep, but I need to scale back my workload for a time and gather both my thoughts and energy. I miss having to work on only one or two things at any given time.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I feel very lucky that this blog has opened a few doors and allowed me to share my ideas with a broader audience. That’s the dream of most referees and I know some people would love to have my problem. I just need to find the perfect balance between creating and playing so as to not burn out in either regard.

What that means to the blog, I’m unsure at this moment. Part of me is loathe to stop doing my regular schedule of M-W-F postings, as that might be the first step on the road to this blog going dark. Another part of me argues that a less strict schedule would result in an increased quality to the posts that do see the light of day here. I’m holding off making a firm decision as of yet, but I mention it just in case I decide to switch off of the schedule I’ve maintained for the last year.

In the meantime, I intend to keep doing what I do here. While the Society is not unique or ground-breaking, I seem to have found my spot on whatever threefold model we’re using this week. A place to celebrate creativity; to turn over a few stones in search of odd ideas; to indulge in humor so as to remind us all that this is a game we’re playing, not “serious business”, and to share my long-standing love for this weird little pastime.

Thank you all for your interest in this electronic birdcage liner and encouragement you’ve given me throughout the past year. Without you, my regular audience, I’m just another oddball yelling into the wind. I much prefer it when the wind occasionally yells back.


JB said...

Heh, heh...I can only hope I'll match your longevity one of these days. You've given out a lot of good ideas...thanks!

word verification: "rockn"

How I feel about being a member of the TPR Society!

Alex Schroeder said...

I recommend not sticking to any schedule when blogging. If you take a few weeks off, so what? People will remain subscribed via RSS feeds and out of the blue, a new post of yours will pop up. (Although the RPG Blog Reader Survey seems to indicate that more than half the readers use RSS feeds rarely or not at all… uhm, I guess that disproves my point? Damn.)

My main point: I enjoyed the Stonehell read-along a lot! Thanks for all that.

Personally I fear that taking something like Stonehell and professionalizing it (rewriting, editing, art, submissions, etc.) is such a draining process that there is a significant chance of burn-out.

If you found somebody else in a similar situation, what would you tell them given your experiences with The Dungeon Alphabet and Stonehell: Go for it? Or: Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Or warn them? Too much work for too little gain?

I'm coming from the free software world, where I do stuff for free, and I also work in IT for money. I've always found deadlines and the question of money a big drain on my motivation. As long as I had no money and no deadlines, I really enjoy working on software. Everything else is draining and I only ever want to do that for (lots of) money.

Timeshadows said...

Always worth reading.

Take some time off, come back refreshed. :)

Be well & congratulations on Stonehell.

Ragnorakk said...

Take it easier on yourself when you need to - thanks for all the great stuff you've done already!

Michael Curtis said...

Personally I fear that taking something like Stonehell and professionalizing it (rewriting, editing, art, submissions, etc.) is such a draining process that there is a significant chance of burn-out.

There is. Perhaps I was being naive, but I didn't anticipate the sheer amount of work that would be required to make the first Stonehell book something I wouldn't be ashamed to put my name on. One of the goals that Sham, Chgowiz, and I aim to achieve with THM Games is to produce materials of the best quality we can given the resources we have to work with. We're all aware that our initial stuff isn't going to be slick, professional jobs, but we're trying our best and learning as we go.

If I had to do it over, I might have started with a slightly smaller book, just to learn the ropes. On the other hand, diving into the deep end has taught me a lot about what I'm capable of and instilled a great deal of self-confidence in me. That is, when I'm not wracked with doubts that I suck.

Michael Curtis said...

If you found somebody else in a similar situation, what would you tell them given your experiences with The Dungeon Alphabet and Stonehell: Go for it? Or: Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Or warn them? Too much work for too little gain?

That's a good question; one with a highly subjective answer. I'm hardly an expert in these matters, but speaking from my own experience, I wouldn't discourage anyone from turning down the opportunity to produce or have something produced of one's own. The caveat to that would be that you should be prepared for a very different experience than the one you're used to creating stuff for your own personal use. The standards are higher, the format and style can be different, events will occur that are completely beyond your control to alter, and the only easy day was yesterday.

If you think you can handle that sort of situation and thrive in the face of adversity, do it. As the old adage states, "nothing worth doing is ever easy," and being able to point at a finished product, especially one that you know other people are going to be using and (hopefully) enjoying, is well-worth the hassle of getting it done.

Michael Curtis said...

I just wanted to say that it wasn't my intention for this post to be a downer and I really don't have any plans of going anyplace anytime soon. Looking back on it, I can see how it could be interpreted as a preamble to a farewell post. That's not the case.

I do feel a little frustrated from having to spend most of my efforts on the SH book and not being able to explore some other thoughts or write posts similiar to my wild ideas and crazy chart ones I've done in the past. I'd also like to apologize if it seems that I've been harping on Stonehell or giving it the hard sell lately. If so, it's only because it's foremost on my mind and getting it completed so I can play around with other ideas and/or breathe a sigh of relief has become my own personal Gatsby's green light. This too shall pass.

E.G.Palmer said...

Mike, I love your blog, but I have worried that you might burn yourself out. Even from the stands I could see you were taking on quite a work load. I just post on my own blog when I've got something. It's usually twice a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I very much appreciate the comments and feedback I get, but I'm not selling anything, so I don't owe anybody anything. You just work at your own pace and do projects you enjoy.

AndreasDavour said...

If you feel a bit stressed out I'd urge you to talk it easy. I love your blog and wouldn't want to see any burn out happening!

Personally I have a fairly regular schedule of a post every other day, because otherwise I loose momentum (and I really hope to regain it, after having taken time off!). Having gone on for a year I think you probably have far less to prove than e.g. me.

I'll read