An unexpected end to writer’s block

I’ll be honest: I haven’t done any writing lately. I’ve been out photographerising a bit. I even entered my city’s Lord Mayor’s Photographic Awards (my shot is here). I find out on Monday if I did any good with the official judges and then the People’s Choice judging opens next month. But as far as writing goes, there’s been nothing.

I’ve barely been able to muster any enthusiasm for writing and on those odd occasions when I managed some interest, sitting down at the keyboard instantly extinguished it. I reached the point the other day where I was seriously considering whether or not I should be a writer at all.

Everyone has down times and creative dry spells and, according to other writers I know, they can sometimes last a really long time. But for some reason this one made me question whether I had the drive and determination to actually be a writer at all.

Also, a writer friend of mine (who should have known better) introduced me to Guild Wars 2 and that’s been taking up an awful lot of time. I’m not a huge or regular computer gamer but when I find a game I like I tend to get obsessed for a really long time. And this one’s a pretty good game. It’s got awesome graphics and storylines and mythology and puzzles and challenges. You get to customise your character’s appearance, skills, weapons and clothes/armour. And you get to team up with people from all over the world to fight giant monster jungle wurms, shadow demons and dragons. I know, right?!

I’ve got a bunch of different characters because I wanted to try as many of the options as I could, which involves hours and hours of game play time. So, yeah, I’ve spent a lot of ‘writing time’ playing this game. And then the other day I realised that, even though these characters are just avatars for me to interact with the game world, I was making in-game choices based on the personality of whatever character I happened to be playing at the time. My computer game avatars had developed their own personalities and back stories well outside of the parameters of the game. They had come to life in my head and had teamed up as a semi-classic fantasy adventuring party.

And that made me realise that my creative, story-telling well had not dried up. It just needed a break from the gloomy post-apocalyptic world of my storm chasing story. Instead it seems to be vacationing in the violent and deadly digital world of Tyria. Go figure.

Has anyone else experienced their game avatars taking on personalities and lives of their own? Or is this something I should see a professional about?

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When a wizard dies…

Like many people, I read a lot. However, there are three authors who have had a huge impact on my life.

My childhood was defined by Enid Blyton and the Famous Five. I collected almost the complete set and spent hours marvelling at the maturity and audacity of those kids and the amazing grown-up adventures they had.

When I was eleven I discovered Tolkien–first the Hobbit and then Lord of the Rings. I was blown away. A whole new and detailed world was opened to me, so totally unlike anything I had ever experienced. Tolkien gave me my absolute love of fantasy, magic, the natural environment, language and linguistics. And possibly also my enduring fear of what lurks in the dark–those Black Riders scared the bejeezus out of me.

The thing about Tolkien and Blyton, though, is that they both died well before I was born. I never felt a truly personal connection to them. Unlike them, the third author–the one who had the greatest impact on my life and self–lived during my lifetime and so was a part of my world. As you probably should have guessed by now, that author was Terry Pratchett.

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I discovered Pratchett’s Discworld when I was 13 or 14, just when I was beginning to strike out on my own, develop my own personality and question the world around me. Pratchett taught me how to think for myself, to question generally accepted knowledge and, most importantly, to laugh at the beautiful madness that is humanity and the world. I read his books over and over again every year from the moment I found them. I even met him once at a book launch. He read part of his new novel, Carpe Jugulum, and afterwards he signed a book of mine and spoke briefly to me.

When I found out yesterday that he had died, I cried for a while. At first I was surprised that I was so affected by the death of a man I’d only met once for a few minutes. But then I realised that I had spent so much time over the years with him through his books that he was like someone I was close to–even if that wasn’t who he was in real life. Not to mention the impact his writing had on me as a person.

As sad as it is to lose such a skilled writer, it has also made me more determined to become a published author myself. Not because I believe I am in the same league as Terry Pratchett, but because (to paraphrase the man himself) what makes us human is that we are Pan narrans, the ape that tells stories.

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