Write it Down: The secret to solving your creative roadblocks

write-it-down-orlando-espinosa1One of the biggest benefits of designing with a partner who doesn’t live in the same city as you is that we are constantly writing things down on our private forum. It could be to communicate new ideas or to let the other person know how our playtest session went last night. But the actual act of writing it down has such huge benefits for the creative process.

I recently started to see if I could design some games on my own. Whaaaa? Scandal in the board game industry? No, it’s just that my free time to design is more than Sen’s so I felt like I could handle working on a few of my own designs as well! Sen and I will always work together on games – no worries!

The challenge I faced was that since I didn’t have to communicate my playtest session to anyone else, I didn’t bother to write it down. This has proven to be a big mistake! I have found that as much as I think that I will remember everything they’re telling me during a playtest, I do not. So step one of writing it down is writing notes during your playtest. We’ve talked about the importance about this before but it seems that I thought I was above that and didn’t need to write it down…ahem. I do.

The second step of writing it down is writing down your thoughts on what to do next. This can often be daunting but it’s so vital. Often ideas get stuck in our head and we don’t want to spit them out until they’re perfect – which means that they stay up there for a long time – possibly forever. We have to get these ideas onto the page or onto the screen so that we can see them and react to them. I often treat this part of writing like a conversation with my future self. I type out actual questions like “Should money and points just be the same thing?” I put the word ‘maybe’ before a lot of points because I’m not confident enough with my ideas. I imagine someday that I’ll drop that and realize that everything is a maybe and therefore it’s redundant.

Every time I have a game stuck at a creative roadblock, I start to think about it and I can’t quite figure out what to do next. I think about the game during my free time and sometimes I come up with an idea – but the frequency of solutions is very low. Every time I start to write it down and make notes about my ideas, I always start to come up with solutions. It weird that I sometimes still forget how powerful it is to write it down.

Writing it down isn’t just to help you with your memory. Game design (and other creative endeavours, I’m sure) is a complicated beast that has so many moving parts. It’s almost impossible to keep them all in your head – with each of the parts still moving. Writing it down lets you see how things relate to each other. It gives you a different perspective and it makes it easier for your brain to make connections.

Some good tips to help you start writing that might solve your game design challenges:

  • Ask yourself questions – don’t just ask them in your head – write or type them out!
  • List all the possible variables that can be affected
  • Identify the fun parts and the parts that are the least fun

Whatever you do, just start writing! It’s an integral part of the design process.

-Jay Cormier