Tech, Now + Beyond

My cure to writer’s block isn’t what you think it would be

I get it, video games get a bad reputation.

Writer’s block.

It’s the Achilles heel of all writers and happens to everyone. It can be because of stress, distractions or even just a lack of creativity and inspiration. But one thing is for certain when it happens, it really sucks.

As a writer, I’ve dealt with writer’s block without a cure for most of my life. Whenever I got stuck on a project or simply couldn’t think of what to write about, I would just leave whatever I was doing until it fixed itself.

This meant days, sometimes months of little to no writing whatsoever.

When I was just a kid in high school this didn’t matter much. I would instead shift focus to my school and social life, which took up most of my time anyway. But when I decided to start taking my career as a writer seriously I had to think of something that would work well to get rid of writer’s block.

And that’s when I discovered gaming.

I was already into gaming in high school, and procrastination at university meant that I spent a lot of time indoors, eight hours deep into Skyrim side quests. At some point, my life literally revolved around gaming. I would wake up early, get in a few hours before class, come home and finish off the day with more game time before even washing yesterday’s dishes.

This isn’t counting the days when I’d miss class just for a few sessions of Age of Mythology and Civilization V.

And of course, I knew this wasn’t healthy behavior for both my brain and my wallet. So many hours in front of a screen playing games around the $60 range was not exactly the best way to spend those few three years of undergrad. I eventually staged an intervention for myself and cut down my play time to one or two hours a day. I went from numbing my mind with games to invigorating it with them.

The truth is that the more I drowned myself in games, the more I felt disconnected from the world. I was unwilling to move from my computer most days and spent way too much time reading other people’s gaming articles instead of writing my own.

But when I started to moderate my game time I would see spikes in my creativity throughout the day.

The stories I found myself in were breathtaking. From visually jaw-dropping games like Journey, to emotionally challenging ones like The Last of Us, gaming can take you down both an aesthetic and storied path which can be a delightfully stimulating form of inspiration.

It combines visual art and storytelling in ways that you, the player, can control. When we think about curing writer’s block, nothing could be better than being able to take control of a constructed reality.

A constructed reality is an experience very much like real life but was modeled and narrated by a developer; very much like a writer. In this, we have the perks of real life encounters but through the extra lens of the imaginary. When you are walking through villages in Skyrim, talking to strangers and hearing about their lives, you are experiencing something that was made for you, but that you still have some level of control over. You can choose whether or not to talk to that mysterious man in the bar, or you can participate in a drinking contest with the loud drunk in the corner.

When we write, especially fiction, we are doing the same thing; guiding the reader along a story that we set out for them, but that they can draw whatever conclusion they may from.

And I get it, video gaming gets a bad reputation for keeping kids indoors and destroying productivity and creativity.

But like almost anything, when used in moderation it can end up benefiting us in both.

Nowadays, I’ve learned how to take care of my writer’s block using video games.

I use short, fun bursts of entertainment to help me craft and narrate stories that might not have appeared to me before. I no longer use games to numb myself, but rather as something that can stimulate me into pursuing my dream of being a published author.

There are many ways we can cure writer’s block. Some people read books and articles, some sip on a glass of wine and some, like me, play games. In fact, many of us change it up and do lots of different things. But for those of you who haven’t found your cure, and have the wallet for it, why not give gaming a try?