Lack of experiences kill your creativity

It’s very easy for us humans to fall into the trap of sticking to what’s familiar. We like it because of how it make us feel. Comfortable is the word to use here. After all, who likes to struggle every day of their life?

I definitely don’t. But I recognised that it had crept up on me. I grew comfortable with what I’m doing with my life that my blog is suffering from lack of content. Comfort leads to writer’s block and that leads to no content created.

So being comfortable is bad.

Right?

Probably…

By allowing yourself to grow very comfortable and remain status quo, it’s very easy for you to find you are unable to think out of the box or come up with new solutions fast enough. It’s just a fact. Similar to how you keep doing the same set of exercises and your body has grown used to it, comfort leads to strengthening of existing neural connections that you have already established, and after a while the brain stops doing that because there’s no more necessary changes to the signalling.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Comfortable sometimes could be you have reached the pinnacle of whatever skill you are developing. That means you could do that thing faster than before.

However, the key here is moderation.

New challenges and experiences forces the brain to create new connections and reshape existing ones. And when you keep doing that, the brain is constantly changing and reinforcing certain connections that ultimately results in its ability to come up with new ideas. This is where you can think out of the box when the time comes. If you keep practicing doing that, it can also make you more confident as a person when it comes to dealing with new problems as they come.

For those who are neurotic, constantly worrying about stuff or have low self-esteem, they would probably go like, “Are you crazy? Take on new challenges? I’d rather kill myself.”

I know. I can relate. It’s very difficult to get yourself to experience new things. Personally, I have this issue because of my innate desire for stability and consistency in life. I’ve lost count of how many times I need to will myself to do something different just so that I expand my knowledge and experience.

This is why you won’t see me asking someone to do something drastic just to increase or revive your creativity. For example, there is no need for you to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just so you can jumpstart your creativity. You won’t see me doing that either.

Yet, it’s not good either to leave the “lack of experience, can’t create” situation unresolved. Not if you want to grow any further.

Instead, what you probably could do is find and know where is your comfort zone. Then ask yourself if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone by just one or two steps. If you do, then do it. And if you do manage to go out of your comfort zone by three to ten steps, then it’s even better. If not, then it’s better that you don’t complain about your situation and just live with it.

And you know what?

Sometimes, the new experience can come from simply changing up where you stand or sit when you are riding the train to work or to go back home. Or having a drink at your local coffee shop. Or maybe just take a different route to go to your usual places.

Resident Evil 2 Review (2019 Remake)

Ever since the announcement of Resident Evil 2 remake last year, I had been waiting for its release with great deal of angst. Then I shared my thoughts on why the Resident Evil 2 remake is the best survival horror yet.

Alas, the wait is no more. On 25 January 2019, the game was finally on the shelves of video game stores. I went to buy the game after work that Friday and couldn’t wait to start playing once I got home.

Now for the price tag of nearly $80, it does feel expensive considering that Resident Evil 2 was originally released back in 1998. But this is a remake and not a remaster. Capcom spent resources to re-create the whole game that not only gave it a fresh coat of graphics but also re-imagined what the game could be given the technological advances we have experienced since 1998.

After playing it over the weekend, I’ve got to say it’s definitely worth it.

It uses that 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder view pioneered with Resident Evil 4. That view make the whole gaming experience much closer and intimate while enabling you to see more of the world. The first-person view of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard though definitely increase the horror factor you experience because you can’t see what’s behind you, it doesn’t offer the same amount of tension. Just imagine what’s it like to see what’s coming at you but you can’t do shit about it because you ran out of ammunition for your weapons. Your only option was to run. In first-person mode, well, if you can’t see it, you aren’t scared of it.

To add to the tension is the game’s effective implementation of limited resources and require you to ration. There is no way you can shoot your way out of every situation. First, it takes a lot of bullet to take out a zombie. You can attempt to shoot out their limbs (looks like it takes a page out of the Dead Space playbook) to limit the zombie’s mobility but it takes up to five shots to take out a leg. Three to five head shots can take down a zombie but it doesn’t kill them. And it’s really down to chance if you can make a zombie head explode with just a single shot. For other enemies, it require a bigger weapon to take them down and ammunition for those weapon are actually even more limited. So you are better off running away.

The game also had great audio in terms of implementation and quality. Take Mr. X for example especially in the later part of the game. For those uninitiated, Mr. X is a humanoid bio-organic weapon whose sole purpose is to kill you in the game. Due to its size, every step it takes actually generate fear-inducing thump. And even if it is not in the same room as you, you can hear it moving around. There was this one situation where I’m in a room on the first floor and it is in the room directly above. I could hear the stomping sound and made me want to stay where I was, not wanting to go up for fear of encountering him. Not only that, you can also hear the groans and moans of zombies through the walls when they are hunting you. Furthermore, the music is done very well to shape the feelings you get as you move from a safe room to an open corridor.

As for the graphics, the RE engine has definitely allow for a much more realistic world. Now, the key to good graphics is lighting just like in photography. The placement of lights, how they reflect off surfaces and how they make objects look affect how you feel about a particular scene. In Resident Evil 2, the way lights are placed and how they light the world up actually make you feel like you are truly in a place where dangers lurk in every corner. If not that, they did a great job of setting the scene to make you feel like it’s a bad place to be in.

Not only that, weapon damage done to enemies are also visible and make you feel like you are making an effort to kill or injure your enemy. Let’s take this image of me having killed a zombie after dropping it to the ground with headshot and slicing it with the knife until it’s dead.

Look at the slashing damage on the body. Look at that arm. It has fallen off. This is the kind of realism that I look for in a game like Resident Evil 2. I want to feel like I’m doing something to my enemies.

Last but not least, the cutscenes are also well done in terms of fluidity, how it showcases their vulnerability and how well it transit from gameplay and back again. The characters’ voice actings are also pretty good by how they interact with each other and how they show that they are afraid in real time. There are quite a lot of times when the game character, Leon, was cursing and swearing as he tries to take down enemies or when he was being chased.

Even though I spent only a few hours on it, I’m glad that I was right that it’s definitely the survival horror game to play. There are so many times when I actually just want to put down my controller because it got all wet from my excessive sweat due to all the tension and anxiety. My heart was actually thumping pretty hard in certain area of the game and I lost count of how often I didn’t want to enter a new room because I’m not sure what I would expect. Yet, I still want to play the game despite my fears based on how often it’s hanging around in my mind. I’m always thinking about the game, having the urge to pick up the controller again even though I’ve put it aside to do other things.

If you are a pantser, here’s a useful tool for planning

There are two kinds of writers. One is a planner, also known as a plotter, while the other is a pantser.

To the uninitiated, planners or plotters don’t start writing until they got all the details about the story they want to tell down in a massive mind map or something. It is just as the terms meant. And there is nothing wrong with that as it’s just what they do. Pantser on the other hand doesn’t really plan and simply just write, allowing the story to take them anywhere. They are literally flying by the seat of their pants. Planning for pantsers is just not something they do.

For me, I’m a pantser and really hate planning. The very act feels very unnatural and boring.

But today, I was introduced to something that I thought could be useful as a tool to help pantser. It’s known as a Fishbone diagram or officially known as Ishikawa diagram. From the outset, it look like a really simple tool that doesn’t seem to boring when used.

Now, I know it is really a tool for product design or quality defect detection. It is also used in certain kind of investigative purpose like incident investigation and resolution. So you may wonder how it can be applied to planning out a piece of writing.

Here’s how I thought it could be used...

Fishbone Diagram

For the purpose of this discussion, we will be using the fishbone diagram above for illustration.

Let’s say you are going to write a piece of fiction that has some kind of conflict or problem to resolve. You can put that conflict or problem at the fish head.

Then draw the ribs out from the spine. The purpose of so call bones of the fish is to allow you to identify the causes that ultimately lead to that conflict. You can treat each rib as a category. The boxes at the end of each rib could be used to list the categories such as characters, location and/or incidents. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use it really.

Once you have the categories identified, you can draw horizontal lines out from ribs where you use them to create just enough detail for you to write your story.

And that’s all.

After that, you can refer to the diagram if you do happen to encounter some kind of writer’s block while writing. And since it isn’t so detailed, you get to have the freedom to change your story on the fly while it also ensure you stay somewhat grounded and have some kind of reference material.

Lastly, because it’s such a simple diagram, it doesn’t really bore you to death as a pantser.

I also didn’t forget about you planners. You guys can also use this as a complementary tool to whatever they are using now to write.

With that, I hope it’s helpful to you.

Updated 2020-May-22: Parts of the content was rewritten and fishbone diagram added.

Should you recycle your stories? Yes or no?

If you are a writer who’s any good, you’d probably accumulate a huge pile of writings. And maybe up to ninety percent of those have been published somewhere.

Then there comes a day when you realised the message you wanted to share with the world is really done. Done as in you have said your piece and there’s nothing more for you to share. Or maybe you are just suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.

Now, during your journey as a writer, you’d probably also come across the suggestion of recycling what you wrote in the past and publish them again. I’ve seen other writers done it. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

From a practical standpoint, it make sense. By recycling it, you allow your new readers to get new content while you don’t need to put in any effort to write anymore. At least until you found another message to share with the world. That way, you remain relevant in today’s highly noisy world in terms of the amount of content created and published online. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. You put in barely any effort but you get the maximum reward because you could get new followers and you remain visible.

Isn’t that a good trade?

But from a moral or ethical standpoint, it’s probably doesn’t feel right. I know because I’ll definitely feel that way. It’s like selling people old stuff. So unless you are at a thrift shop or a place that sell pre-owned goods, chances are you want what’s the latest or new right? Well, in hindsight, I suspect it’s probably the only valid reason that one have when trying to justify to oneself they shouldn’t do it.

However, we should all remember that people do have very short attention span. There’s just so many things in life to distract us. Our memory can get fuzzy too. Unless the readers are your number 1 fan, or with a lot of time on their hand to dig out all your old articles, no one is really going to notice you put out a piece of old content. Hell, I didn’t even realise I read an old post that was recycled until I notice the comments in the comment section is several years old. And yet, I realise if the person hadn’t recycle that content, I won’t have known such a great piece exist.

So the answer is yes. Recycle your old stories whenever you feel necessary. It’s also a useful course of action to take to fill in the lull period until you find your groove back.

P.S. In fact, I almost wanted to do the same thing because I don’t have anything else to share for now, but the realisation that I didn’t write any decent piece of content in the past that warrant me recycling them forced me to find something to write about instead. So I shared my thoughts about recycling old content.

Focus on playing the infinite game

There are two kinds of games. Finite and infinite. Finite games are games that we all know about. Sports for example are finite games. In each sport, there’s a set of rules and end goals. Once you follow the rules and meet the end goal, you win the game. Failure to do so, you lose the game.

And what about infinite games?

Infinite games are games that have no end goal. It just goes on and on until the players in the game drop out because of the lack of resources. And by resources, it could be anything: mental energy, money, time. Some examples of infinite games are the game of life and your personal growth.

You might be wondering how is personal growth an infinite game. For the uninitiated, it might be a finite game.

Let’s take the scenario of you deciding to go for a quick course to get a new skill. It has a set of rules. You need to sign up for the course and that is the most important rule. Then maybe there are terms and condition you need to follow. And what about the end goal? Completing the course and get the certificate.

But, it’s mostly an infinite game because you don’t stop at that one course, right? Everyday, you will be experiencing new things and then learning something from those experiences. It doesn’t stop. There’s no end goal. You don’t win the personal growth game. If you have the slightest of growth mindset, you just keep growing personally until the day you run out of resources. By that, it means you are either too sick to continue or drop dead.

And that lead me to the next point.

In one of my previous post, I talked about the importance of knowing your ‘why’. It’s especially relevant now. Not only does it helps to reduce the odds of getting situational depression, it’s your anchor in this world. It enables you to play the infinite game because you have now found your purpose. So whatever you do from there will be to fulfil the purpose. Now, that is an infinite game.

Furthermore, knowing your ‘why’ will give you strength to ignore all the noise that you get from people you meet, especially now when there’s always something telling you how to behave, what to wear, what to eat, and who you should be.

When you focus on playing the infinite game of fulfilling your ‘why’ through actions, you will be happier and you also frustrate the people around you because they realise they can’t seem to influence you to do the thing they want. With that, they will lose out. And you will also command respect from people who understand the game you are playing.

However, that’s not to say it will be all bright and rosy. On some days, you will lose some, and on some days, you will win some. It’s frustrating. And that’s the nature of the game. Just do not give up. By giving up, you are dropping out of the infinite game.

Even then, it’s also important not to forget about the finite games of your life because they can affect the quality of your life in the short term or block you from progressing. For example, getting a house for your family, getting that degree that you always wanted, or finding a job to feed yourself. Just don’t make the finite games the only game you play in your life because they lead you nowhere good.

I know you might wonder what could you do if you don’t know your ‘why’.

There’s something else I believe to be an infinite game; identify and put your strengths in play whatever you do. Don’t focus on fixing your flaws because they only serve to take away your energy from the things that truly matter. Just acknowledge your flaws and get someone who can hide them for you in both your personal and professional life.