DISCLAIMER: This is a tale, my friends, to be taken in stride. Remember, we are all different. We are all affected by media, entertainment, literature, and the like at different levels, at different times in our lives. In no way do I mean that this particular situation is likely to happen to you. Unless it is. And then I’m right.
When World of Warcraft launched, I was in grad school, working crazy hours as a Huge Bookstore Chain and trying to finish my first novel. Or, rather, rewrite it. Though I’d certainly played plenty of games in the past, on all sorts of systems (PC and console alike) I had bypassed all of Blizzard’s past creations, somehow. When WoW landed, and my husband and I started playing–mostly to do something with my sister and her fiancee who live on the West Coast–I truly wasn’t prepared for the impact it would make.
And I don’t mean on me as an individual. I mean, on my imagination.
I can’t deny that I enjoyed playing. I loved it. I still love it. It’s a wonderful idea, a thrilling ride, all that. I made friends. I had a blast.
But there was a problem, something I noticed early on. The more I played WoW, the less I wrote. In fact, the less I even thought about writing. The problem? It was too convenient. Someone had written the stories, set up the scenes, and all I had to do was wander around dumbly and interact. There were no late nights bashing my head against the wall figuring out plot, there was no need to contemplate structure and form, there were no instances where I’d painted my character into an impossible situation.
Instead of building a world myself, I let the world be built for me.
For some reason, WoW satisfies a part of my brain that typically fuels my writing. What’s scary was that I wasn’t even aware it was happening, until I pulled back and realized: crap, I haven’t written anything in over a year. A year!
Making the decision wasn’t easy. Michael wanted to keep playing, and for a while I tried to balance the two to little success. We quit, we returned. We quit, we returned. Then, we came back and realized, simultaneously, that really, that first time ’round had been “the golden shot”–i.e. we were doing the same quests now ad nauseum, just at higher levels, and we never could compete on the higher levels because in spite of giving all the time we could, we couldn’t give enough to do the high-level raids, etc.
For some people, MMOs are great. I can understand this as an ex-MUSHer. Finding people you can share worlds, real or imagined, with is extremely exhilarating.
I realized that either I would wander around someone elses’ world (and let me say, I adore some of the stories within the WoW macro-narrative… awesome stuff) or I’d wander around my own.
Sure, I can’t get those days back I lost writing. Writing takes airships full of discipline (and hot air, HA!) but I’ve never been particularly disciplined. So, in a way, I’m grateful, because the experience taught me a valuable lesson I still apply today.
About two months ago, Michael and I started a D&D campaign here at our house with some local folks. And I tell you, that trumps WoW any day. And it still gets me time to write. And there is real, genuine, social interaction! It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing games.
That said, I think the moral is something like this:
If you call yourself a writer, if you are passionate about it, and yet you’re not actually writing, examine your life. Are you working on things or participating in things that are sapping you of your creative essence? Are you misplacing your energies? Sure, it might be fun. But eventually you’re going to have to decide where you want to make the impact. Worlds don’t build themselves. Well, they do, if other people build them for you. But if you want your own world, and not one pre-made… ah, you know what I mean.
Just think about it, is all I’m saying.