Monday, April 6, 2009

Scheduling



Simon Ferrari asked me in the comments over at Popmatters about my schedule. Given how rare the opportunity to talk about yourself comes up in life, I figured I’d take up the offer. He also made an interesting point about my claim on the FC2 ending: if the purpose of the game was to create a frustrating ending as a moral to all the violence, doesn’t the fact that it irked me mean it succeeded?

Before we go into the details of how I produce all this copy I want to point out that this is kind of a fluke. I don’t have kids, law school has reduced my love life to being slightly more barren than the Moon, but I have huge amounts of a very odd kind of free time. My day is filled with little empty hours that I can get research and writing done in. I couldn’t really dedicate a whole evening to, oh say, my last couple of ex’s but on the other hand I certainly can chip away at this hobby of mine. So I don’t really recommend this for everyone but if you’ve got time to kill like me then this is how you can use it.

I originally had a long ramble about how to get by in law school but that seems a bit worthless in retrospect. So here’s a basic summary of how law school in America works: the first year is really hard because you have to learn a foreign language (legal jargon) overnight. After that…it’s not really that bad. It’s a bit like gaming, once you can do the basics the rest is just intuitive. For the first part of the semester I just need to get the reading done so I have a lot of time to work. While the Far Cry 2 article is fresh to you, I technically beat the game in January and wrote the column in early February. The Kael summary was written in December, same for the Half-Life 2 piece. Mid-semester I start cutting back while the final month is one ungodly study and read as fast as you can session. Which I’m currently stuck in right now, so I’m not doing much game writing.

I typically have several projects going on at once. I create a word document and will paste links into it when I see an article relevant to my interests. Then I go back and read it, pulling out quotes or taking notes when I see a good one. When ideas or insights occur to me, I also write them into the notes as well. I roll all of this into a Katamari Ball of random quotes, notes, and pictures. I take a break in the afternoons to go to the gym and read while I’m on the treadmill. That’s where I get all the book research done like the Jung or Kael pieces. Dinner at 6, then back to the library until 9 or so.

In terms of the actual playing of games, I just have to plan that out carefully. I play for an hour or two after I stop studying on a weeknight. Friday I go out to the bars and party, Saturday is my day of rest from law work. On those days I play games in the morning while I nurse my headache, go to the beach for the afternoon, and do whatever in the evening. Sundays are just sit in the library days. If I have to review a game all other work is put on hold until I grind through it. I have several gaming buddies who do co-op work with me over beers, so some Thursday and Saturdays are spent doing that. Short games, 5 to 12 hour ones, I go through in a week or so. I build up a couple of essays on these to make room for playing longer ones like Far Cry 2 or Ocarina of Time. JRPG’s are too damn long (Denis Farr does excellent work with them if you’re hunting for that kind of stuff). I take notes while I play games and these get compiled into the research stuff. I almost never watch T.V. or movies unless I’m Netflixing a particular series.

The key to making this whole lifestyle work, in addition to having no real personal life outside of drinking buddies, is being able to turn it off when I’m sick of gaming. For as much as I make it sound like I work constantly, countless nights I just say screw it and do something else. That’s where the whole Vapor Culture practice comes into play. All this copy I’m producing typically gets set aside for publishing on a later date. At the time of this writing, I have 9 blog posts written out and ready to go whenever. So basically when the Muse inspires me I produce copy BUT I create the illusion of being some hyper-productive writer by jumbling the publication dates. It also allows me to revise stuff and improve the essay in ways I couldn’t while it was still fresh. I’ve gone days without writing a word or even reading about games and I can do that because I build up posts to keep the machine going when I’m on break.

And that’s the gist of it. I’m crunching for exams for the rest of the month so I won’t be doing much actual writing. This summer I’m taking a full-time job so I probably will be cutting back once that happens. There’s also the problem that this semester has been tough on me in terms of workload for school and it’s starting to take its toll. Having had my friends, several strangers, and my landlady comment that I was more snappy than usual this year has gotten me to start reflecting on my habits. I wanted to produce a large body of critical work on individual games and I wanted to establish it quickly. 3 columns, 12 ZA’s along with plenty more incoming and I’d say I’ve accomplished that goal. I may pick things back up once the summer ends and I’m back on the school schedule, but I’ve got the BAR to start prepping for then.

Plus, I think I need to work on relaxing and maybe getting a stable personal life going at some point. I don't really mind it now because law school is what it is, but afterwards I hope to get a bit more balance. Otherwise I might start to fall into that classic trap: if all you do with your time is work, then when you’re ready to quit you won’t know how to do anything else.

6 comments:

Ben Abraham said...

I spent a whole month in October/November just playing Spore, Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2 after finishing my thesis and it took me at least a week to remember how to slow my brain down and stop trying to work.

Your output really is impressive, and it's cool to learn a bit more about the man behind the moniker. If I had more self discipline I'd prepare more posts in advance, but I tend to just leave them half-finished rather than actually coming back to them. Gotta strike while the hammer's hot and all that...

Daniel Purvis said...

Thanks for the insight into the way you work, L.B.

I find that the only time I write is when I'm truly inspired, hammer out a piece, spend a few minutes editing the throw it online, and then edit some more.

Maybe I should take a leaf from your book and line some up but then, knowing me, I'm not likely to return to them. Constitution: not sure I have it.

Burnout is a painful thing to suffer. Sometimes I want to play a game, or at least my fingers are keen to grip the control, but I simply can't bring myself to turn on the console. And during these times, I find it better to just lie down or go for a skate and work off the edge.

Regardless, L.B., I look forward to the next piece you choose to haul off your shelf.

Simon said...

Wonderful, if not equally depressing, breakdown L.B. I experience something quite the same. In a long distance relationship, so I do nothing but schoolwork and games during the week. Then Friday is drinking night, Saturday is girlfriend day, and Sunday is for reading.

I guess a sick part of me was thinking, "I have grad school and work and games, too, and it's hell... so he'd better not be able to escape from this crucible unscathed."

Your ability to stockpile writings, good writings, is something that amazes me. Plus, you manage to read at the gym? That's bad-ass. I'm steadily getting chubbier as I go through grad school, even though I bike to campus every day.

pixelvixen707 said...

Really fascinating. I love reading writers who admit they're not superhuman. Though with the law school thing, you actually still seem superhuman.

If you get hit by a bus, does anyone have the launch codes to post all the stuff you've stockpiled?

L.B. Jeffries said...

Huh, I never thought of that, I'll get my friend whose supposed to get get rid of all my p0rn if I die to forward it to Popmatters.

L.B. Jeffries said...

That was a joke, by the by.