Monday, July 31, 2006

Feature Creep

There's too much to do today, so I'm stuck doing nothing while my brain fizzes round trying to prioritise. I am not sure if this is a symptom of mild OCD (if indeed there is a sliding scale of such things) or of mild indecision, or if this kind of Brain Clog (clog as in blockage, not clog as in wooden-dancing-shoe-of-Swedish-cliche) is something everyone gets.

Oh well. Like extra-thick bleach or summer cloud or writer's block, you just have to wait for it to clear. Actually, now I think of it Brain Clog and Swedish Cliche are both good names for a band.

This aggravating brain state is something that often assails me upon completion of a project. The last time I finished a novel (last November, a dark and strange political/science fiction/personal saga/thriller-type entity called Living Things, for which I'm casting round for representation) I was in a daze for weeks until I had settled on the next thing, which unfortunately was three months of Morrowind and internet pizza, from which I gained an obsession with Iceland which I'll have to explain another time. For the last couple of months I've been working on a videogame, a falling-blocks-puzzley-casual timewaster called Cascade (yes, I know I'm not very good at pinpointing genres. I span the genres. I'm a genre spanner) written in Java primarily as an exercise - I've been learning Java at work between Helpdesk calls for about a year, but database apps lack a certain cachet (despite my attempts to jazz them up with elaborately artistic About screens) and I'm all about the glamour, baby. Anyway, it is finally done and quite gorgeous to behold, bedecked as it is with beautifully GIMP'd backgrounds and music remixed from a mildly embarrassing effort at dance tuneage I made a couple of years back, but as I foist hastily-burnt CDROMs of it upon my put-upon friends (the primary testing ground for all my creative endeavours, and also the cockups) I feel a void.

Not for long, though. I started another novel in January which I've only intermittently worked on while trying to grasp the intricacies of threaded programming, a romantic comedy (hey, that was easy to classify) to which I look forward to returning. Living Things was heavy on research, what with cloning and anencephaly and sixty years of future history to work out (Lib Dems in government! Told you it was scifi): the current work is a bit closer to the here and now, something comfy and cheerful and light. Nobody dies in this one, promise.

Then again I still have lots of other stuff on my interlinked ToDo lists (I have a palmtop just for ToDo lists: I've been an obsessive listmaker since childhood) - an ever-expanding list of Amazon Rental DVDs, a bargainous £7.99 copy of Fahrenheit to play through, some Stilton in the fridge I have been meaning to experiment with (I am not a cheese person on the whole - I reserve my pretention muscle for tea - but one of my characters in the book is: I like to try for myself all the little habits my protagonists have, most recently (and pleasurably) including Bulleit bourbon and Johnny Cash), an email to write to an old university friend with whom I haven't caught up in six months, another friend's manuscript to finish reading, Casanova's memoirs (heavily abridged, which two hundred pages in I find myself regretting - Giacomo makes fascinating company), a server diagram for work, a Java applet for a colleague for which I am to be paid in Twixes (I like a good Twix, me) and all the usual day-to-day nonsense of sleeping and eating.

There's a reason I don't play The Sims: my Sims will starve, go mad and wet themselves while I try to decide what to do first. And now I'm starting to think of optimisations I can make to Cascade, ideas for the next game (an RPG set in a prison, details unclear but probably closer in tone to that episode of Max And Paddy's Road To Nowhere than Prison Break), a long-delayed plan to make a bamboo flute... is it normal to be so driven to do stuff?

Maybe this is a writer thing. To be a writer essentially means working and working and working with no promise of a reward at the end, writing because that's what you do, struggling to get published and not giving up until (a) you succeed or (b) you die, and therefore stop caring. None of these creative/less creative/downright pointless endeavours will necessarily lead anywhere, but they might, and the chance is enough. Anyone who knows me personally will laugh, doubletake or possibly choke on the idea of my being an optimist, but there it sits.

I'm not kidding about the flute. I bought a book.

1 comment:

Kavey said...

"Brain Clog (clog as in blockage, not clog as in wooden-dancing-shoe-of-Swedish-cliche)"

:) Love it.

I am also an obsessive list-maker.