2014 in retrospect

So 2014 is over! Looking back, a lot happened this year but there’s still a lot that needs to be finished, as well. Since the two of us are a team, it would follow that we should do a post together to wrap up the year, so that’s what we are doing! ♥

From Lore:

2014 was a year of many changes for me. I also failed at a lot of things this year. I broke up with my boyfriend of two years and ended two friendships with people I’d known for the better part of a decade. BCM still hasn’t been released. I still haven’t finished my bachelor’s degree. My sleeping schedule is in shambles and I’m still not as in shape physically as I’d like to be.

However, it’s been a year of great growth for me, as well. Over the summer I worked full-time for the first time in my life as an executive assistant to the CEO of a start-up company here in Dallas. The experience was very trying and stressful, but I’ve learned so much that I’d never trade the experience for anything. I learned that my so-called limitations were nothing but BS. I learned how to better manage my time in order to get more things done. After expanding my social life offline (read: making actual friends that I actually hang out with on a regular basis), I had to learn how to juggle a social life with a digital one. We released Taarradhin and I’m very nearly done with writing the script for BCM at last. On perhaps a less epic but nonetheless important scale, I wrote scenes out of order for the first time ever and it didn’t kill me! I got to meet a lot of other Ren’Py devs again this year at AnimeFest and it was a total blast.

The two big things I’ve learned this year are as follows:

1: If I want to do something, I have to make time for it. I, like many others, often fall into the trap of saying “I would like to do ___ but I just don’t have the time for it!” The thing is…if you really want to do something, you’ll find the time for it. I used to write a lot in huge bursts. I’d write 10 or 20 thousand words over a weekend and get a lot done by staying up all night. This year, however, that simply wasn’t possible. I had to study a lot to pull my GPA up and my newfound social life has generally kept me from having entire weekends to myself.

The last few months, I’ve gotten much more done by writing consistently day by day. This month I have written more than 30,000 words simply by keeping to a goal of at least 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I’ve stumbled or had a day where I was actually too busy to write anything, but I made up for it later. Once I committed myself to getting something done, I found time. You can get quite a bit of writing done in 15-20 minutes if you focus. Focus has never been my strong suit, but I’ve found that it’s something that you simply have to practice to get good at, just like anything else. You have to stop making excuses for yourself and just get things done.

I realize that this sounds like pretty basic advice… But for me it was something that I didn’t truly understand until I experienced it for myself. When I had to work full time over the summer, I actually had days where I would get home from work at 11PM after working overtime and then be too drained to do anything after I got home. There were mornings I woke up and found a screen full of “kkkkkkkkkkkk” because I’d fallen asleep with my head on the keyboard. I didn’t get any writing done when I first started work, but as work went on, I figured out a schedule for myself. I woke up early and wrote a bit before I went to work, then wrote some while I was on lunch break. Even though I don’t have that full-time job now, I utilize the same system. I went on a trip this week to visit relatives and woke up early every day to get 2 hours of writing done before everyone else woke up. The script won’t write itself; if you want it to get done, you have to really truly want and work towards progress.

2: Things will always take longer and more effort to do than you think. I don’t know how many times I’ve said “BCM’s script will be done FOR SURE by X date!!” and then had a bunch of things come up. I’ve gotten sick so many times in these last few months of the year, but even beyond that… I underestimate things! I said for sure that the last chapter of BCM, chapter five, would only be about 30,000 words. It would for sure be “much shorter” than chapter four. 35,000 words later, I’m still finishing it up. Sometimes a heavier-toned scene ends up taking me the entire day to write. I can’t compare BCM to anything else I’ve written. It’s a uniquely difficult process because of the subject material and scope. I’ve had to learn that progress can’t be predicted with a simple formula. Yeah when I’m 100% focused and ready, I can write 2,000-3,000 words in an hour. But how often am I at that level of focus? Noooot as often as I would like.

When people say “triple the amount of time you think it’ll take to do something and that will probably be how long it actually takes you” they are not joking. Understand that and plan around it or you’ll find yourself in dire straits.

These two lessons seem to contradict each other, but it’s really all about finding a balance and knowing how to get things done while also not overextending yourself. If it’s 2AM and you’re tired, perhaps it is possible for you to squeeze out a bit more writing (with the help of your good friends caffeine and loud music). I certainly have done so. However, it’s also possible that if you sleep and try again after you’re better rested, you’ll have much better work to show for it. Knowing when to push yourself and when to give yourself a much-needed break is super important. Celebrate your small accomplishments, but don’t always use them as excuses to not get your tasks done.

I’m going to apply these lessons to 2015 as best I can while continuing to grow and get things done. I already know that this new year is going to be a great one. We’ve got a lot of awesome things lined up (like releasing BCM at last!!) and I’m so excited to finally share the fruits of our labor with you all. Thank you for a wonderful 2014 and I’ll see you again soon! ♥ (BONUS: here is a copy of my monthly writing spreadsheet for everyone to use and benefit from.) To Auro: thank you so much for being my friend and partner in crime for another year. Thank you for being so supportive and inspiring and awesome. You mean more to me than words can express. ;w; Let’s have a great 2015!

From Auro:

I remember saying that 2014 would be a year of change and boy I was not wrong. (By the way 2015 is gonna be the year of travel just FYI). I moved across the country by myself at the end of 2013 and by the start of January I was a complete mess, both physically and mentally exhausted. It took me months and a couple trips to the psychologist to put myself back together so a great part of 2014 was spent figuring out a lot of things and how I needed to work my life. I am VERY happy to say that I am in a much better place now and the year ahead looks promising. I have set myself up, I’m comfortable in my new office, I have new friends and a brand new city to explore. Life is great!

So while I was putting my life into some sort of order my VN work was not given the attention it needed and it was a rather unproductive year, especially since I had a bit of a hiatus at the beginning of 2014. I did get to take part in Nanoreno for the fourth year running and released Taarradhin and I helped make Saving Zoey for Asylum Jam. I also worked on bits and pieces for a number of random projects like Lovely Little Thieves. BCM was almost completely neglected. I did a number of sketches for CGs early in the year but I put everything on hold until the script is finished, both because it makes sense for production and for my own sanity. I haven’t worked on it since July.

Much of 2013 and 2014 were a bit of a crisis of faith when it came to VNs in general. The work requires a lot of dedication, time and effort. You need to be able to handle the strain of a long term schedule. You have to be getting something out of it to keep the passion needed to be that committed. And I wasn’t getting that anymore. The feeling that all my work was pointless and never ending was adding to my stress tremendously and contributed to my overall breakdown at the beginning of 2014 and continued to be something I struggled with for the rest of the year. I was very close to quitting everything on a number of occasions.

I guess it sounds weird that I let a hobby get to be to that extent, but making VNs is extremely important to me. Not only because of the games I help make, which is super awesome to be a part of, but also because it’s pretty much the only online community I’m a part of. I have friends here. I felt that if I stopped making VNs then I would also lose all those friends. While I acknowledge one day I will have to stop because I will have other things to do, I didn’t want it to be like this. Handling the level of stress and frustration I have making VNs is something I’m still working on and so I can’t really say it’s a lesson I have learnt completely. What I can say is that the community is amazingly supportive with some really great people in it and the best thing to do if you are feeling this way is to talk to people and make sure to step back and gain perspective.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I feel like I am in a much better place than I was before! Making VNs is something I’m going to try wholeheartedly again. Once the BCM script is finished I will be devoting most of my free time to working on the CGs remaining for the game. I’m going to work my butt off. My art is all over the place for that game, but the important thing at this stage is to just get it finished. Hopefully I will be able to have a bunch of updates through January and February!

We have also started chatting about Nanoreno and it looks like another person will be joining the team this year. I’m very excited for the theme of the game, it should be great fun to draw~ I’m going to have a lot going on this year, including a trip to Europe, but I will do everything in my power to make it a very productive year for the VNs I work on. I really love doing it and I want to make people happy with the stories with every fiber of my being. I want to get back to being super excited about my work and being able to believe in it fully!

For Lore, you are my partner and friend. A big part of me being so stubborn about not quitting was because if I did I wouldn’t be able to work with you anymore. When we work well together I feel like we make something pretty special. I have every faith that this year will be a good one for us!

To everyone else, I hope the new year brings you all that you hope for! Make it the best year you can make it~

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