Motivating the Muse: Listen to Lizard Brain

3D and UX Design for Games, VR and Animation

Motivating the Muse: Listen to Lizard Brain

November 20, 2011 Uncategorized 8

You’ve got to do what scares you.

Listen to your body. When you feel your throat constrict and your heart start to pound and your breath comes in short sharp gasps you know you’ve found it, the thing that truly terrifies you.

And that thing is the key to making real progress towards your dream of going indie and making a living doing what you love.

Fear is there to tell you to protect yourself. This brilliant evolutionary signal kicks in to help us prepare for the unknown.

When you feel fear you know you’re on the threshold of adventure!

You’re about to leave your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before and that fear is there to keep you alert. To give you the adrenaline and the focus you need to survive and thrive in the new world you’re constructing for yourself.

Let fear guide you out of your comfort zone (image via iStockphoto)

This fear evolved to give us a fighting chance as we moved into new territories; helping us survive the risks we needed to take to evolve as a species. Then as now, it is the key to progress.

As I experienced two weeks ago.

From my diary:

I started indieBits because I knew I wanted to help people make great games and earn a living doing what they love. That drive has built in me for years, ever since the first conversation I had with my Dad about the experiences he would create if he could quit working for big publishers and go indie.

A year ago I decided it was time to start doing what I couldn’t stop thinking of doing and actually start a business. I knew I was going to need an online space to share information and resources and connect with developers to work out a better way of making games.

So I registered indieBits, bought the domain name, started building the website and got the ball rolling by running events for local developers to share business tips and playtest games.

It’s been a year now and as I sit at the dining room table in my jammies, heart beating a million miles a minute, I finally know why I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere at all. I started a business with the sole purpose of providing great content on how people can go indie, live well and make great games – and I have no content.

At this time of writing my website still has the same test article I posted to help me learn how to build a website with WordPress.

Why? Because that’s what I’ve been most afraid of. Writing content. Putting myself and my words out there for the world to see.

I’ve convinced myself I needed so much more before I could start writing.

Surely I needed forums, a place where indies could exchange ideas and support each other!

I would need tools to help them collaborate remotely on projects!

That means I’d definitely need pages where they could advertise and recruit for their projects!

The website needs so much more work! I can’t possibly sit down and write today when I have so much WordPress work to do!

See what I did there? I built a solid wall of defense against the unknown. All of that would need so much time, so much research, so much trial and error before I got it JUST right…

And figuring out how stuff works and finding better ways of working is something I can do well. It comes with easy personal wins, and lets me justify putting off the stuff that scares me.

I was working hard in all the wrong places instead of learning how to do what I really needed to do for indiebits to get off the ground. I needed to learn how to write great content.

Forums are great to have, and I want to implement them eventually, but there are plenty of other great forums on the interwebs already.

Collaboration tools are critical to getting projects done. How great is it that so many are available for little to no cost?

A space to advertise and recruit people for projects is going to help immensely. I’ve used Elance for that for years and the service is amazing. That’s also why I created and started running Bits & Pieces in Sydney and will continue to do so. I’ll even write-up a guide for how to run similar events for indies in other cities!

I don’t need to recreate all those services, which are already so widely available, to help people go indie and create great games.

What I do need is to start sharing what it’s taken me years to learn and understand about working with people, getting stuff done and building a community. I need to find and connect with successful indies who want to help other developers make a living creating great games.

I need to trust myself, my experience and start writing. Because the only way I’m going to learn how to create great content is by doing it.

Listen to your body and think carefully about what you haven’t been doing. About what you’ve pushed back and putting off because you’re not ready for it yet. When you feel your skin start to crawl and those brilliant evolutionary signals going off you know you’ve found it.

That’s the thing you need to do before you can leave the comfortable world of your old life and start a new chapter as the hero of your own story.

What is Lizard Brain telling you to do?


Article Links

  • Google Apps for Business: Mail, documents, calenders, project management, bug tracking, contact databases, invoices, etc. All through my Google account for $50 a year. Beautiful.
  • Elance: I’ve hired all my outsourced talent through freelance. Post jobs, manage the project and process invoices all through the same site.
  • Indiegamer Developer Discussion: The most frequented indie game developer forums I’ve found. Chat with other developers about most aspects of indie life.
  • Last night’s IGDA Sydney Bits & Pieces: Thank you Tamara Van Zal for your wonderful post! Can’t wait to see some of your flash games at future Bits & Pieces events!

8 Responses

  1. Hey Poni, this is exactly how I felt before starting Eidolon. If I spent too much time thinking about how much work there was to be done it overwhelmed me. Instead I just chose to focus in on little bits, and thereby conquered it piece by piece. I didn’t push myself to a schedule, I just wrote when inspiration and time permitted.

    I let whatever captured my interest in a given time be a point of reference for me to write about. In the end, I’ve ended up with a project that is far beyond what I originally conceived. It changed how I thought and in turn I updated it as I changed thinking.

    • Epona says:

      How do you eat an elephant?
      One small bite at time.

      All those little bites add up. At some point you’ll look up and realise you’ve tackled something bigger than anything you thought you could do on your own.

      Can’t wait to see a Facebook Update from you saying “First draft finished!”

  2. After having quite a few conversations with you and having read through a lot of what what you’ve written, I can honestly say that even in the spur of the moment, you’ve yet to give any bad advice and in fact have given me much advice that has driven me further than anticipated. You needn’t be so concerned about what you write, when everything you say is pure gold!!!

    I hope to see a lot more splurges of info up here from you, as I’m sure it’ll all be worth reading 🙂


    • Epona says:

      Thank you Toto!

      Insecurity is such an insidious thing! It affects all of us, completely disregarding accomplishments and experience, totally disarming.

      Perfect example of the dangers of over thinking. We can rationalize ourselves into making all the wrong decisions.

      Which is why that lizard brain reaction, that gut instinct, is still so critical.

      There’s a great chapter in How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer, on how over-thinking leads us to make consistently WORSE decisions.

  3. SpAE says:

    This is a fantastic article – and congrats on conquering your own fears and getting more great content up 😀

    • Thank you Spae! 

      I am very lucky to have a wonderful partner who can spot when I’m bullshitting myself. 

      He’s the one who helped me see the busy-work defenses I was building up to protect myself from having to do what scared me, what I really NEEDED to do, which was write content. 

      Tell everyone who cares  about you about what you want to do, what your driving goals are. They are your support network and will give you a solid reality kick when you need it 8P 

  4. Tim Howard says:

    Good article, I’m contemplating stepping off into the deep end of indiedom at the moment, and you’ve definitely captured the sense of having too much to do in too many different areas at once, and the uncanny knack those ancillary tasks have for stealing focus.  It’s that heady mix of fear and exhilaration that needs to be harnessed to start a business, I suppose.

    Keep it coming, the website’s a fantastic idea and all the articles I’ve read so far have been very useful.

    • Glad you’re finding them useful Tim! 

      Oh man, finally sitting down and focusing ONLY one that one thing I needed to do (create content) has been the biggest turning point for Indie Bits this year. A month ago I felt overwhelmed with things that needed doing…but seemed to be doing nothing at all.

      Now that I’m putting all of my focus into creating the core of the business first, everything else feels like it’s just falling into place. 

      I’m going to start a new series of articles next week around the many ways you can make a living as an indie, how to find the right one for you and creating a path to get you there.

      Hopefully they’ll help make the deep end of indiedom look less scary. More like a shallow end. a warm, pleasant shallow end you can wade through and take moving into the deeper pools at your own pace 8P

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