Professionals Have Standards

Courtesy Valve

I’m getting old.

There used to be a time when I let things slide. Mediocrity would slip right by me and I wouldn’t even notice. Or maybe I’d wave at it. My point is, I didn’t have standards. What I did was good, regardless of how good it actually was.

Looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised that my first attempt at a novel got so many rejections. For one, I now know that rejections are good. They show you’re doing something. But more importantly, it was crap. It was predictable. It wasn’t written all that well and I didn’t go to the pains I go to now to revise and edit things. I had help in the second go-round, sure, but it still wasn’t all that great.

I know, now, that the problem might be that I spend too much time revising. Trying to get my work to be perfect could consume all of my time. It’s not going to be perfect. It’ll never be perfect. The idea will be to get it to a point of “good enough to not suck.”

I approach role-playing in games the same way. I used to let myself get away with things like “my character is the son of a god” or “ye olde powerful dragons blessed me with immortality.” I realize now how silly, unnecessary and downright juvenile those ideas are, and I’ve ranted about it at length.

Like my manuscripts, I’m worried about my characters being good enough to not suck. This pertains to both their backstories and how I play the game. It’s a lot easier to avoid cognitive dissonance when the tank of the party messes up a pull and wipes the group, when their character’s description has them being a beautiful, all-powerful, liked by everyone and lust object of all NPCs Mary Sue. “So you’ve seduced the Queen of the Dragons and kicked the Lich King’s ass in single combat, but can’t keep the aggro in the first pull of this dungeon. Right.”

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe this is coming off as me being a bit of a dick. I know this is stuff some people don’t want to hear. They don’t like the notion of somebody disliking their special little snowflake of an on-line avatar. And I might get told that not sharing my knowledge with others who don’t have as much experience as I do with this sort of thing is rude, even mean.

But sitting down across from a struggling writer and helping them get a better idea of how to frame their narrative, breathe life into their characters and have the plot make sense is one thing. Dealing with strangers who can’t be bothered to use proper fucking punctuation is another.

Maybe it’s pretentious to have standards. Maybe I’m a mean-spirited puppy-kicking old man for not wanting to waste my time being forced to role-play with people who fail at it. Maybe I’m going to while away the rest of my life mumbling to myself as I pore over the 137th draft of my manuscript because I don’t feel it’s good enough, yet, and I assume everything I do sucks.

At least those damn kids will get off my lawn.

2 Comments

  1. Amen. We are our own harshest critics. I too revise probably more than I should…but, as we grow in our writing and mastery of the craft, we also learn to listen to the internal writing desk that signals us to just…let…go. It is finished. Release it. I believe that it is the natural progression of the writer.

    As far as roleplaying, I have been GMing since I was 12..I am known for my heavy back story and true roleplaying (vs Hack and Slash)..I believe that the essence of roleplaying is to write stories together. My gamers, still spin stories of our their past adventures (and love hearing/listening to them every time). Anyone can throw dice and read stats. That’s no fun (in my opinion).

    It’d be great if we could get a group going sometime. I’d GM. How far away are you?

  2. @Joe – My wife and I live in Lansdale, right on Main Street.

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