When the blank page isn’t blank

by Mhairi Simpson on October 27, 2016

I’ve been wondering for a while what I want to do. What I want to talk about. I know I’m a writer, a painter, a generally creative person. I thought for a while I wanted to help people get their own stuff done but now I don’t think that’s the case.

I mean, it is, but it isn’t.

This made more sense in my head.

Okay, so, the thing is, I think creativity is the most important thing in the world. I also think it can be trained, like a muscle. Like anything, the more of it you do, the better at it you get. I thought I was going to help people get their creative projects done by being there with them, every step of the way. Handholding and buttkicking, I called it.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

If someone’s going to get their work done, they’ll do it, with or without me. So why with me? Why bother hiring me? I’m not going to go the way some online folks do – “THE ONLY WAY IS THROUGH ME”. Yeah, no. Fuck that. Everyone is perfectly capable of doing their thing. I have no special sauce. No one does, actually, but that’s another subject.

And if these people aren’t going to get their thing done, that’ll happen with or without me, too. So why waste everyone’s time and their money? No point.

I specialise in throwing out really bizarre ideas. Mad, kooky things that get the brain juices flowing. It really is what I do best. Anyone who’s seen Be A Bard can attest that that game covers that base admirably. I must have played hundreds of games by now and even with the same group, you never get the same story twice. I’ve found with editing an anthology, you can give ten writers the exact same prompt and you’ll get back ten VERY different stories.

(Which is awesome, by the way. I love this.)

I think I’ve been hiding from what I should really be doing. Or rather, not exactly hiding. More…thinking it wasn’t enough. Because Bard really does tick all my boxes. I get to draw silly pictures (although that takes up far less of the process than you’d think, or I’d like) and then tell utterly batshit crazy stories with fun people and end up belly laughing for hours, usually accompanied by awesome snacks.

Cos you can’t have a games night without snacks.

If you do, you really need to rethink your philosophy. Seriously. This is…very important.

Anyway… Where was I?

Right. Bard. Creative stuff. Fun with friends. What’s not to love about this? But it’s a game. A game. That fits in a (fairly) small box. It’s…frivolous. Isn’t it?

I’m good at making people laugh. It’s why (apart from the very first panel I was ever on, which I’m sure the organisers regretted greatly afterwards) I’ve only been on silly panels. Although, come to think about it, they were rather more serious until I got involved.

But no one has complained and Bristolcon has put me on another panel this year, bless them. (It’s at 6pm, Storming The Castle – bring your best shots.)

So, yes, good at making people laugh (sorry, keep losing my train of thought – another reason I love Bard. The stories will never make sense so it really doesn’t matter if you get confused and start again somewhere else.) I’m also good at giving people ideas. Again, see Be A Bard.

And it’s just so much FUN seeing people come up with the most random stuff, things I would never have thought of. The other day the tornado turned into a water slide. It was awesome. I was actually in awe. Almost as much as the time it was a ham playing table tennis. That still wins the Batshitcrazyasfuck Award.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not a coach. I’m a creative person who is good at getting other people to be creative. This, to my mind, is the highest possible calling I could aspire to. And Be A Bard is the perfect tool.

Even though it’s a game. Games are worthy things. They get you thinking about stuff without the pressure of someone waiting to be paid or hovering over you pointing at stock values. They teach you strategy and cooperation (or backstabbing) and maths and yes, creativity.

I’m a game developer with one game. I don’t need any other games. Bard will run and run – I want to do expansions – more cards, more images, more chaos cards, more chaos. The Kickstarter is coming and I have finally realised this isn’t a hobby. Well, it is, I guess, for now. But this is exactly, EXACTLY, what I should be doing with my life. So keep an eye out. A not-so-blank page is coming. It’s got pictures on.

You get to add the words.

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Does it get any easier?

by Mhairi Simpson on September 19, 2016

The question is both rhetorical and not. In many ways I’m more settled now than I’ve ever been, but it’s been a tough day, and it really shouldn’t have been.

All I had to do today was give blood. Yes, there’s writing and blogging and dogwalking and so on, but the only pre-scheduled thing I had to do today was bleed. The dog woke me up before 6am and I didn’t go back to sleep, so we didn’t get off to the best of starts. When I got to the blood place (half an hour before they were technically open) I discovered they had no walk-in slots available – the internet had lied to me.

So I got about fifty minutes’ exercise which I didn’t need to do (walking from where I parked the car to the donation centre and back), but I suppose exercise is exercise, right?

That being said, I was upset that I couldn’t give blood. Last time I tried I couldn’t donate either – they couldn’t find a vein. The time before that I didn’t even make my appointment as I’d fallen off a kerb and they won’t take you if you’ve got an obvious wound which is still healing up.

Mine was obvious, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and a lot of work on Bard. The Bard stuff has been more in terms of marketing – there was a get-together for the game last night in Brighton. About fifteen of us were there, which made it a really nice group – we had to run two separate games, which is a definite first! Not that Bard can’t be done with fifteen people but everyone needs to be able to hear what’s going on and have reasonable access to the draw and discard piles, and that’s hard when you’re sitting at a long table. Next time I’ll have to see if I can find a venue with round tables…

I know it’s a very first world problem to have: “waaaaah, I couldn’t donate blood when I wanted to waaaaah,” but I’m pissed off about it, all the same. I guess I wanted to do something tangible to help people, you know? And maybe I attach some of my self-worth to just how much I do help people.

Which is silly but not as silly as if I attached my self-worth to how many dog poos I’ve picked up in a single day or something like that. Mostly because I only have one dog and he’s a goddamn monster whose craps are fucking HUGE.

Where was I?

Self-worth. Right.

I don’t know why I’ve taken this one little thing as a reason to get all down. Maybe because I’m tired. Maybe because I’ve done a lot of writing over the last week and on current showing no one will ever read it. Maybe because Bard: The Kickstarter is approaching and I don’t know what to offer as rewards for pledges apart from cards.

And maybe because I feel like I spend a lot of my time biting my nails about stuff. My writing. Bard. This creative writing workshop I’ve got coming up.

I suspect my latest challenge-to-myself, the 100 stories in 100 days, may be at least partly rooted in my desire to ignore all that other stuff and just bury myself in writing.

And on the one hand, it’s a great thing to do. And so very tempting. And on the other, I need to balance myself out between writing (which is, admittedly, VERY NECESSARY if I’ve ever going to improve) and other things, like the coaching and getting Bard out into the world.

Sometimes I feel like there isn’t enough me to go around, and yet I don’t have to go out to work and I don’t have kids. How dare I complain?

Hence the post title – no matter where you’re coming from, it’s always going to be hard.

If you would like to join me in my Hundred Days of Stories, please do! You can find me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll be tweeting at #100DaysOfStories (I thought about it and I think that works as a hashtag, so there you go!). If you’re curious about my mentoring services, please feel free to check out this page. Any questions, you can get in touch with me there or via social media at the links above.


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This week has been crazy. A lot of stuff has happened, but mostly the craziness is from something clicking for me, psychologically, which meant I finally realised that I really can do whatever I want. As in, I’m capable. Not that I’m a psychopath (although I’m sure some people have their doubts). Went to an […]

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