I’ve taken up knitting again recently. People had tried to teach me a few times in the past, and it never stuck beyond the most basic stitch, but this year I’ve decided I want to get good at it. I’ve done my first simple cables. I’m figuring out the concepts behind lace. I need to pick up stitches for the sleeves of my first cardigan.
Partly it’s really exciting to have a visual art that makes me feel competent (I’ve never had the fortitude to train myself to draw tolerably; I have so much respect for people who do), but partly it’s really soothing. It comforts the same part of my brain that likes level grinding in video games: do this process. Keep doing it. Do it some more. Watch the incremental progress happen. The major difference is that when I’m done knitting, I have an actual item to show for it! So THAT’s rewarding.
Well, okay, there’s a second difference, too; video games tend to have more story going for them (though some people manage to put an awful lot of meaning into their lace). But I’m less drawn to the stories video games tell lately. It might be partly the violent backlash of the Angry Straight White Gamer Boy who tries to pee all over the territory hard enough that nobody else can have fun, but that’s not the major issue. The problem is that I’m losing interest in Lone Warrior and/or Ragtag Band of Misfits doing the Save the World gig. I don’t care about shooter guy.
It comes out in the stories I want to write, too, which is tough in spec fic; sci fi and fantasy novels handed a lot of those tropes to video games in the first place, after all. But I don’t want to tackle “saving the world” as a theme. I’m not sure I can suspend my disbelief enough for it at this point, when the real world’s threats are so multivalent and amorphous. Drake and Gabriel don’t save anything but each other. Erik and Jacob probably won’t manage any better. Jennie and Kane? “Each other and a hotrod spaceship,” maybe. Kit and Elias might manage to save a small community.
But mostly I like the smaller scale better, honestly. I want to write stories that happen at the level of individual emotions and destinies; the world doesn’t have to be scoured of all evil for people to find happiness. I want to take that one little thread and follow it as far as it goes.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to make something beautiful.