You get a new idea for a campaign, a character, or some game mechanics. A light comes down from the heavens, everything glows with a divine light, and your brain spins endlessly with more thoughts. Nothing has ever been better and it’ll be like this forever.
Except it isn’t. You slow down. The holes in your original idea start to surface. You executed the initial character concept and now it’s been done. The campaign has moved so far off the rails, you can’t see how to get it back. The game your designing has large glaring parts that just don’t work. The romance has died.
It happens. That initial beautiful manic creation phase fades and your left with whatever mess you created. It’s hard to know how to carry on from there and it’s been something I’ve struggled with A LOT in my life. Starting projects was fun. Working on projects wasn’t.
There is no sure fire way to deal with this, but I can at least offer some suggestions. This is just the nature of life with so many things. Your initial expectations and energy will fade, but that’s okay. How do you grind through it?
The first possible answer is you don’t. Yes, it’s true. You can just walk away. This can be a problematic decision, however. Examining your motivations can help.
It’s possible that a project/quest/character/game just doesn’t serve you any more. You only have so much time and energy and it’s totally worth spending it somewhere that brings you joy. If your gaming group has become problematic and you don’t enjoy the game, you can find a different one. If the quest you’re writing just doesn’t work, you can scrap it. It’s okay. There are other opportunities out there.
This becomes complicated when there are other people involved, however. Are you running a campaign and getting burnt out on it? Well, what about the players that come every week? There is a fine line between how much you owe your “audience” and how much you owe yourself, and it’s worth taking that into consideration.
So perhaps it’s best to soldier on. If you walk away from a project, it doesn’t get finished. Realize you’ll run into rough spots in most anything you work on and that in and of itself isn’t a great reason to walk away. If you decide to keep on with a project, great. Let’s talk about that.
While it’s perhaps overused as far as advice goes, but put yourself on a schedule. On this day, at this time, you work on your campaign. Putting aside structured time for it makes it harder to avoid. Your brain will also get more used to going into work mode if you train it to do so at a certain time. It’s just like working out. The more you work that creative muscle, the more that creative muscle works for you.
Location can work the same way as time. I find that leaving the house to do work at a certain spot also helps my brain shift into work mode. I’m also away from all the normal distractions of my living space as well. I can’t do the dishes or pick up a book. There are no excuses not to get down and dirty and do the work.
Another way to get that enthusiasm back up is to reexamine if you’re still working on your original concept. You had an idea for a character but now it’s getting stale? How can you delve deeper into it or what can you change? There is always room for growth. That’s true in a campaign or dungeon as well. If you’re original idea is not serving you any longer, what can you change it into? Perhaps the better question is, what has it already turned into?
Let’s take that example of a campaign that has gone off the rails. If it’s gone that far from it’s planned course, that means someone is driving it in that direction. The players have ideas with what they want. Let them go that way. Better yet, help them. Change the fiction to suit where it’s going.
If all else fails, take a break. Think of it like a vacation from the work of the project. Is it a campaign? Have someone run some oneshots for a while and play a character. Chances are, you’ll be jumping at the chance to GM again after a month. Making a dungeon crawl? Work on something else for a while and come back to it when you’re ready. I would suggest not to line up too many projects at once, however. If you’re switching back and forth between too many of them, it gets hard to finish anything. I might know this from personal experience…
Finally, nothing really beats just gritting your teeth and doing it. It might not end up pretty and you might not enjoy it, but it’ll be done. Write that next part of your campaign and run it. It won’t be your best work, but not everything can be. If getting it done is your only motivation, that’s still motivation. It’s not poetic and it’s not pretty, but you gotta use what you have.
Do you have tips you use? Or a routine that works for you? Drop a comment. The beginning is great, but you gotta love the grind too. It’s the only way things get done.