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I guess it's sunk cost. No need to torture myself over what are effectively phantasms.

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A Hedgehog in the Fog

Thought I'd write a thing.

Managed to get an article published for a magazine. It feels good, slightly, for a little while, but I realize this sort of thing is something other people do reflexively. It's like climbing a mountain only to realize it's barely a foothill. Or at least come to terms with that; I knew this was nothing compared to what others do. Personally though, it felt like a milestone, like the first bit of flash fiction, the first time I edged out a bunch of entrants to make it into a contest collection, writing (briefly) for a game that never was released.

You have to wonder what it'd be like if writing didn't feel so cheap. Seems like the coherent written word is barely above ipsum lorem in esteem when it comes to filling up space. Wallpaperers. Images, moving pictures, sound. Those beat writing out. You have to close out the world in order to let the words come to life on the page.

Game writing is an exercise in humility. I joke about the ipsum lorem thing but in games the written content really COULD be ipsum lorem and people would likely still be able to play most games, like I did with Metal Mutant when the only copy I'd gotten a hold of was the French one and the only French I knew was the stuff related to English. There were a few language dependent moments in that game, but they were just multiple choice obstacles, pretty much, and weren't the reason I was playing.

Reading takes a bit of patience, probably because reading is relatively new to humanity. Takes a moment to spin the propeller and get the brain ready. But it had a good run of time as literacy skyrocketed, with newspapers and books becoming a dominant form of spreading information and entertainment. The image and the sound have found a way to spread themselves now, through recordings and data compression, and the word's being pushed to the side again. It won't leave, obviously, but it's easier to reach just about anyone with the louder media than it is with language-dependent scribbles, translation software not withstanding.

I used to be asked about my icon now and again. It's Yozhik, from Yuri Norstein's adaptation of the book Yozhik v tumane, a hedgehog trying to find his way through a foggy forest. That short film still holds a bit of magic for me, but the first time I saw it I didn't understand what was being said. No subtitles. That was freeing in a sense, I was able to impose my own understanding on what I was seeing. As it turns out, this was sort of like Yozhik's own experience. He interpreted what he saw with his own wild imagination, making things more beautiful, but also more frightening, than they would have been otherwise. I found a decent enough translation later and understood more of what was going on. It didn't diminish my interpretation, but it did change it, making it more precise.

We still read, but it seems like we only try to get the gist and move on (or leave angry comments!). I do the same, a lot of the time. Writing's a subtle art and it's astonishing when a compelling article actually keeps my attention all the way through, especially when it's a long one. The reflex is to figure out what's being said and stuff it into a mental folder. Part of the written word feeling a bit cheap is that there's so much of it, and many publications now have less editorial control, always having to keep up with each other and the near instant communication speed. The quality drops, and the esteem for writing drops with it. Vicious cycle, I guess.

This tendency, and venues like Twitter (the mutterings about extending the character limit to 10k make me wonder what it would become), tend to force us to compress our thoughts into an equation in order to convey information, diminish knee-jerk criticism, and get sufficient attention to justify the effort. This rush to make a word bullet kills the subtle art, and arguably lets demagogues get bigger audiences, though I think it does make some people better editors.

Wherever writing is going, I write because I have to. Writing helped me deal with growing up, helped me find a spouse, helped me find friends here and elsewhere, helped convince people I was more than I seemed. I wish I could say I now live off the writing I've done, but that's not the case. Not yet, at least.

Even if I'm deluding myself, I have to hope that some day I'll make my way through the fog. I may never, but I'll have left a trail words that others might follow, so they won't get lost.

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