The best things we create are made in moments of passion. What creates that passion, and how can we tap it consistently?
This might seem obvious, and it may in fact be. But so often, when we're pursuing a deadline and money is on our minds, we push each other. We push ourselves. And when we push, two things happen. First, we produce a lower volume of work. This happens because there is a cost in the form of extra mental effort to keep ourselves on task. We have a limited pool of self-discipline each day, and a limited pool of mental stamina.
Second, and more importantly, when we push ourselves the quality of our work is degraded. We may be passionate about our creation, but in that moment we are not drawing from our passion. We are drawing from our reserve pool of mental energy, or cognitive load, and it tires us out. Of course it takes a lot of work to create a game, or even just part of a game, so it is very important that we are disciplined and productive. But if we work like this every day, we will eventually find that our work tires us out rather than rewarding us through the joy of creation.
The good news is of course that there is another way. Sure, there will be times when we must use our self-discipline to get important work done, but if we can engage our excitement at the time of creation then we will not only create more, but we will also grow as creators at a faster rate. Let's do a quick exercise:
First, open your project, whether it's code, art, music, sound, or any other aspect of creative work that needs to be done. Next, close your eyes and imagine the full experience of your game when it's finished. Really get into it, following the play in your mind as it unfolds. Imagine details, vividly. Follow the character through some of their trials.
Now, imagine some of the possibilities for your current work, and how that will impact the final game. Breathe slowly, one count in through your nose and three counts out through your mouth. See yourself in the act of creation, and hold in your mind the pride you'll feel when you've completed this task.
When you're ready, open your eyes and focus. Draw on this little story you've created in your mind, and channel those ideas into your work.
I use this exercise each time I'm feeling disconnected from my work. It helps me clear my head and focus without needing to force myself to complete important creative tasks. I hope it helps you, too!