The Creative Stack

The word “Blog” appears at the top of an otherwise blank sheet of college ruled paper. It is the top sheet of five such pieces of paper. The rest aren’t labeled “Blog” of course. They have labels like “Tabletop Game Design” and “Fiction” on them. And while each sheet represents a distinct creative activity, they are all part of a larger experiment: the Creative Stack.

For the past few months — well, actually, for the past few years — most of my time and mental energy has been consumed by school. I am a middle aged man with a degree in English Literature and a gnat’s level of focus, so you may ask why I am in school. I am doing what all middle aged people do in the modern economy: changing jobs before my job changes me — irrevocably. I am moving from “surveyor by trade” to “civil engineer.” I know what you are thinking, and no — I did not decide to become an engineer just so I can level up from geek to true nerd.

Ok. Maybe a little.

Anyway, all that background is to get to this: with classes ending for the summer, I find myself with free time. I could squander it on video games and extra sessions of D&D (and rest assured, I will to some degree) but I also want to ensure I use the time I have wisely before going back to school in the fall. I tried to pick a project, but realized that the whole “attention span of a gnat” thing was going to cause me no end of trouble in that endeavor. So, instead, I am writing an entry for this blog because that piece of college ruled paper told me so.

I call it the “Creative Stack” and I honestly don’t remember if I came by the idea listening to a podcast or dreamed it up myself. If it ends up working, you can be sure I will claim the latter, so we will go with that for now.

The Creative Stack consists of five sheets of paper. They bear the following headings:

Tabletop Game Design, for serious efforts toward board and card game design with an eye toward eventual production or publication.

Game Prep, for convention games and other “serious” role-playing Game Mastering circumstances.

Fiction, for prose storytelling.

RPG Game Design, for professional work in the RPG arena, including freelance writing and part time development.

and, of course, Blog, for this thing here.

(There area couple of blank pages in the stack at the moment, too, in case I get a bug for something in particular.)

The way the stack works is simple: Whatever the top sheet is, I work on for some period of time, maybe an hour or two. When I finish for that day, I write down what I did and when I did it, and then move that paper to the bottom of the stack. The next day (presuming I don’t procrastinate) I work on whatever is next in the stack, even if that isn’t necessarily the thing I would want to be working on at that moment. I don’t get to move on until I have put work into whatever is on the top of the stack.

The system is intended to both keep me working on something creative daily, and help me avoid both burnout on one project and also avoid randomly dropping a project out of disinterest or a simple failure to get back to it. In the best case scenario by the end of the summer I have reams of completed projects, and a creative stack that has turned over a few times. In reality, I will be happy if I manage to complete a single project within each category.

At the very least, it should mean that every 5-days-ish, you should see a new blog entry from me. If you like that sort of thing, I mean.

-I

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