Very Late/Early Tea: A New Newsletter!
On The Tools We Have On Hand
Hey, there! Join me for some tea!
As a creator, there is always an expectation that one should be an early adopter of tools that make it easier to communicate to their audience. In that sense, newsletters have swiftly become the new blogs.
I like newsletters; some of my friends and favourite creators alike use them to great effect and tell wonderful stories using their format.
But I am neither particularly timely nor particularly witty, if I'm being honest. I can mostly offer the cute pictures of cats that I play with in phone games, the occasional line of poetry (whether mine or my peers'), the music I'm listening to, random game design musings, and lots of rambling thoughts about media that would probably benefit from the structure of being in a separate text space than just piling up on Twitter.
But those are still things to offer! And hopefully, by making a separate space for them at all, they can promise to give a useful lens into how I perceive and try to reconstruct the best parts of the work I read, watch, and try to write.
The cats, however, are just cute and low-maintenance. I can't offer you much else.
As a game designer—and one who still feels very much like a novice compared to many of my talented peers, especially in the visual realm—I’ve been thinking for a while of gathering resources that would help me level up my skills. So I asked my mutuals, and got some really juicy replies:
If you're into visual design, I imagine you will find the replies as edifying as I did, but among them Blades in the Dark designer John Harper shared a link that struck me outside of the realm of the question.
Not only did it suddenly dawn on me that I've never used a grid for any of my docs and should probably feel ashamed, but I couldn't stop thinking about design systems, and how at the core they were about more than how you prepare your workstation for a project. They were about what you prioritise in your mental workspace—what you always have, or want to have, on hand when you work.
My personal IRL creative space is… somewhat of a shambles at the moment. There are things I know how to find—my mechanical pencils are always within easy reach, as are the squared Stalogy notebooks I take most of my design and writing project freehand notes in. But my computer desk (read: my repurposed space saver) has no writing space, so I can’t leave them there or else they get lost underneath things that have no work purpose. It always requires an extra step to ready them for work. They are never easily on hand.
Dedicating energy to creating is a system process. It requires a series of reinforcements: having your tools, each one right for the job, and knowing how to use them in tandem. In Affinity Designer, the program I use to make my game documents, that means preparing the colour swatches and paragraph styles I like to use so that they’re on hand when I need to call upon them. What does that mean in the act of writing? Simply having a pen and a pad? Or having an intuitive awareness of the genre conventions, tropes, style elements, and techniques that you personally prefer and rely on to tell your stories?
I don’t know yet, but thinking about it this way has been particularly inspiring. I’m challenged now to think about what I need to be a part of my system, and why. It may be a while for me to get to the point of full understanding, but still.
In the aftermath of a still very long, tiring, draining, mentally stagnating quarantine season, I have been wrestling with my interaction habits for a bit.
I like being alone for long stretches of time. Always have. It isn’t that I am so introverted that I can just forego being social—there are folks I actually terribly miss right now. But when everything feels like a lot, I can rely simply on my work and some TV and the rarest spurts of voice chat.
But I also wish I had a chance to break out of that for a moment and do something simple and social. A movie, a chat over tea, going out for dinner. And what has been making the question of that social experience even more fraught is that how that happens was already a bit shaken before quarantine—again, I’m a big Alone person, and I’m not saying I want that to totally change.
Anyway. Aesop Rock dropped an album last year and it’s heat, as usual. And among its gold is ‘Kodokushi’, which nurses lyrics like this:
I pageant wave from my shallow grave
Patch me in from that astral plane
Ain't ring the bell, I pass through the walls
A cool burgundy in both tooth and claw
Midnight manage an incredible feat
A GPS collar on the neck of the beast
It go, beep-beep, any neck of the reef
Put a reaper on a second week of medical leave…
It, like a lot of Aes’ latest work, wrestles with but ultimately revels in a kind of aloneness—it acknowledges some of the pain inherent in it, but also some of the freeing joy of being beholden only to your own whims, however stunted they may be by grief, confusion, depression, and exhaustion.
As you go about the rest of your week, I’d love to hear your answers for these:
What resources do you always have on hand for your own work?
What song are you listening to a lot lately?
Until next time (which is hopefully very soon), I hope you enjoyed the tea!
How exciting! I’m especially interested in learning more about your thoughts on game design, as I would love to getting to the making of games myself.
So excited for this, Brandon! Great first issue!