Feeling bitter, jealous, stupid and uncertain

17 July 2013

Sometimes during a moment of low concentration when I’m sat at my desk, a cruel epiphany occurs. “Oh god, what am I doing? What am I actually doing? Seriously? I quit my job for this?”

And I feel very stupid and alone.

I’m working on various bits of software and websites related to interactive fiction, and there’s a vision behind all this.

It’s a vision of interactive storytelling becoming more of a mainstream art form - with people interacting via smartphones and tablets, and taking up writing interactive stories as a hobby. A vision of kids being introduced to interactive fiction at school, as a way of engaging them with reading and writing, and also for introducing them to programming. A vision of authors doing interesting things with technology. And a vision of me helping all of this to happen.

But at times this vision escapes me. It flutters off and leaves me with a different view of things. Perhaps my vision never becomes reality. Or, arguably worse, maybe it does - and I am nowhere to be seen.

An idle glance at Tweetdeck can be all it takes for my vision to vanish in a puff of smoke. I see others succeeding where I am failing. I see somebody talking about their successful project. I see people talking about interactive fiction, and my platform and website is not there. Sometimes it can feel like I have spent so long building my part of this world of interactive fiction, and yet to many in it I am completely invisible.

If I take a moment to calm down and think things through logically, I can get the vision back and have some confidence that I’m not completely wasting my time. I look on my forum and see people building things using my software, and helping each other out. I search Google for “text adventures” and see my own site comfortably at the top. I look at the number of people submitting games to my website. I think of all the teachers who have contacted me about using my software in their classes.

It’s like I can see two different realities, success and failure, side by side, and they are both simultaneously true.

I will probably always perceive things this way - even if I do manage to make a living out of this business I am building. There will always be people doing exciting things without me, and I will always have the worry that somebody out there is doing something similar, but better.

Feeling failure acutely is, I expect, necessary to succeed in the first place. If I thought I was successful already, what would I be aiming for?

There will probably always be times where I feel bitter, jealous, stupid and uncertain. The challenge is to harness these emotions instead of letting them get the better of me.