The Craft: Writer’s Mind, Warrior’s Mind

[This is part of a continuing series on writing fiction.]

A writer, like all craftsmen, is constantly looking to elevate his game. There are a lot of things you learn just by writing and editing your pieces. But sometimes you learn something from a wholly different field and bring it back to enrich your writing. In fact, I’ve learned something about writing from playing video games.

A while back I picked up a copy of Rome Total War. I quickly became addicted and lured in a few of my friends too. It’s an amazingly frustrating game at times. Especially when you start playing online and get crushed.

So, in desperation I searched and found some battle tutorials on YouTube. One guy immediately stood out, Prince of Macedon.

Cool under fire: The Prince of Macedon’s Greatest Victory?

I watched more and more of his vids to hone my RTW game and one day stumbled upon a quote of his about perseverance, encouraging a new player to play online every day. [Note: I haven’t been able to find the quote, but will post it here when I do.]

It may sound cheesy, but that really struck me. There was something about it: how all you needed to do was play each day, record the battle and play it back, analyzing where you went wrong so that next time you wouldn’t make the same mistake.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that little piece of advice. It kept coming up out of my subconscious and I didn’t know why. Suddenly, I figured it out. For me, it was really about writing, so I scribbled this down in my journal.

…writing is not a passive art, but an active profession. It is not for weak, lilting intellectuals, but warriors. It requires the warrior’s sturdiness, his resolve and valor. He is tried in the crucible of experience, of doubt and uncertainty. He does not dwell in the dreams of intellectuals or the certainties of academia, but in the murk and dangers of real life. And like any good commander, he learns and gets better from sometimes painful experience. He is able to learn what techniques, strategies and tricks to use by experimenting, by changing approaches, and most importantly, by failing. He is engaged in a venture with an uncertain outcome and will hear from his critics even when he succeeds admirably…

It [writing] is for a warrior in the game of life: unstinting, courageous, undaunted by failure. A man that wants to move forward through adversity to the glorious uplands in the distance. That is what a writer is.

Since then, I’ve really tried to live up to those words. I realize that not everything I’ve written has been a success. I recognize that even my best writing has gaps, issues, clichés, lazy writing. But I give myself a break and realize that even the best general loses some battles. After all, even Caesar lost horribly at Gregovia (a playable battle in RTW, by the way).

In the end it’s all trial-and-error in writing just like it is in RTW. Some stories come out well, some don’t. Some writing days you kick ass. Some writing days you’re lethargic, uninspired and nothing comes out right. But in the end, the more you write, the better you’ll get. Just like a general in those RTW battles.

So, what became of Alexander of Macedon? Well, after a brief hospital stay in January he’s back online playing games and kicking ass, just like he should be.

And like the rest of us RTW fanatics, he’s waiting for the October release of Rome Total War II. I hope it will be the greatest war game ever, just like its creators envision.

RTW II: from good to great?

I’ll be there too. I’ve already told my girlfriend that for an as-yet-to-be determined weekend in October I will be MIA.

I hope to see some of you readers and writers out there too. Look for DariusWrit or something like that (I’ll let you know here). I may even take a writing break that weekend. Who knows? But even if I take a break that week, I won’t give up writing. Not now. I’ll just come back chastened, wiser, ready to take the battle to the blank page once again and determined to come out a victor this time. Isn’t that what all warriors do?

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