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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Winning Conditions


Nerdcon:Stories was an excellent convention.

There is much to be written about this weekend, and much will be. (The whole schedule can be found here, and should be studied by anyone considering becoming a Nerdconner). But there's always a thing that sticks with me. A thing that got thought about when I woke up to blow my nose at 1:30 am, and the spin-cycle of thinking kept me awake for another hour (yes, my son very generously handed me his cold to carry home for him).

This was that thing:

There was a panel called No Pressure : How to Keep Creating Once You've Technically Succeeded, and it was moderated by Patrick Rothfuss, so yeah, I was there. Fortunately, it was on the main stage so I didn't have to use size and determination to get a seat like I did at the Is That a Kissing Book? Writing Sex panel, which is a thing for another blog.

The panel was a good one, with surprisingly honest shares from people like Dessa Darling and John Green. It was also moderated as if it was a story itself, with Rothfuss directing his questions in an organically linear way through the beginning, middle and end. The few notes I took included a quote from Dessa about commitments that "Distinguishing the urgent from the important becomes crucial," and from Pat about book deadlines that "It (a book) can only be late once, but it can suck forever." The piece that stuck with me, the piece that became the thing, was something Pat Rothfuss said about winning conditions.

For the gamers in the audience, he referenced table top games including Settlers of Catan, which my twelve-year-old and his friends play. He talked about linear gaming strategy, and massing the elements (victory points, for example) that lead to the win. He looked at his life through the same lens sometimes. What were his winning conditions? If it was to spend every waking moment writing his stories, he was working at about 10% effectiveness. If it was to spend quality time with his kids and his family, he was probably about 40% effective at that. But if his winning conditions were to travel to great conventions, play games, meet interesting people, and create fascinating opportunities, he was operating at about 70 or 80% effectiveness in that game.

There's a strategy to identifying our winning conditions - they may not look like anyone else's, and they may surprise us, like the white picket fence John Green thought he didn't want. There will probably be some honest sharing needed to figure out our winning conditions - if not with another person, then certainly with ourselves.

My husband's work takes him away from his family for months on end. He'll be home next week, and I know we'll be having honest conversations about our winning conditions - what his are, and how his work feeds or impacts them, and what mine are, as impacted by my habits and commitments.

For example, I shut myself away in my room for hours on end to write, but then this happens:


And when I finally hit a groove with writing, I invariably get frustrated when my kids need help with homework. If my winning conditions are being home with my kids, and meeting my writing deadlines, I can do better.

When we define our winning conditions, we can create strategies and opportunities for ourselves to achieve them. It takes real honesty to admit 10% effectiveness or 40% effectiveness at things one feels they should want in life. But the game I'm playing determines my effectiveness in achieving my winning conditions. It's very hard to win at the writing or family game when one is on the road, unless the family or writing comes, too. Just as it's nearly impossible to win at the meeting interesting people and going to fascinating places game when I'm bunkered at home with my work or my family.

So, yeah. Winning conditions. It's a conversation I'm already having with myself, and one I look forward to having with Ed after he has finally kicked off his shoes and reminded himself what home feels like. It's a conversation to keep having, because the game is always changing, and half the fun is just figuring out what my empire is and how to get the most victory points in the game I'm playing.

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