A Life Like the Sims

The Sims Social

The Sims Social (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a confession. I am one of those annoying people who post game requests on their Facebook feed and expect our friends to click on them. It gives us a sense of achievement when we can say that we have achieved a goal, or completed a quest, or unlocked new scenes, or reached a new level in whatever Facebook game we happen to be addicted to at the time.

I am not a gamer in any sense of the word. I don’t play for the sake of playing. This means that I choose my games carefully, and to date there are only three that I have any kind of attachment to. The first, Scrabble, I am attached to because it is my life-long ambition to beat my grandmother hollow. She taught me to play when I was little, and mostly beat me, and then she moved back to England and there were no regular games. Now using Scrabble on Facebook, we have five or six games going at a time, and our skills are fairly evenly matched. We tend to win an even sort of a number, though I think I am creeping ahead a little… The second, Hidden Chronicles, I stumbled upon by accident and because I always think of myself as having lived in a large English country house a la Downton Abbey in a past life, the concept of building an estate with caretaker’s cottages and secluded pavilions appeals to me. But the first one that I played, that I play still, is the Sims Social.

I love the Sims because that is what I want my life to be like. I don’t know what the real Sims game is like – I’ve only ever played the social one on Facebook – but the Sims earn their money through literature, art, music and cookery. Of course I can’t claim to be proficient at all of these and it is highly unlikely that I will ever earn anything by cooking and all the art skills were appropriated by other members of my family, but I like to think I’m fairly proficient at the other two. Music is already how I earn my living – through teaching, as opposed to performance or composition, and it is my ambition to one day earn some money from writing. Or at least from reading – I rock at reading! The fantastic thing about the Sims is that it all seems so effortless. You earn enough coins to buy the next skill item and suddenly you are sculpting, or dress making, or singing karaoke or playing a magnificent grand piano. And when you’re done with that one, something new comes up. Oh that the creative life were really so effortless.

And then, instead of spending their hard-earned coins on frippery things like food and rent and bills, the Sims buy newer and nicer items for their homes. In the Sims, I have my dream home (well, sort of), where the garden is always immaculate, I never have to do laundry and I can spend all day at home! Having said that, I already spend all day at home – I have a teaching studio in my house so all my pupils come to me. Surely that’s an ideal world? We spend so much time and money making the kind of home we want to live in, and most of us spend all day in an office, earning enough money to live in the home we want. This is my second year of working from home, and I can’t imagine wanting to do it any other way.

So my sisters may think I’m wasting my time with the Sims, and my friends may get irritated by the stream of requests on my timeline, but I have learned valuable lessons from the Sims. Firstly, that good money can be earned from creative pursuits if you take the time and follow the steps, and secondly, when you don’t take the time and follow the steps, you can always have a Sim who earns that way. Lastly, and most importantly for the creative person, there are always new and improved ways to procrastinate!

Oh well…

Another one bites the dust.  NaNoWriMo has come to an end, and despite my rush of enthusiasm at the beginning, and my best intentions throughout the month of November, I did not finish my 50 000 words.  Instead I got taken up with music exams, choir practice and obsessively playing the Sims on Facebook in order to avoid having to think of something to write.

My animals have also been extremely helpful this month in encouraging me to not reach my goal.  The cat, Madala (‘old man’ in Setswana) has adopted my desk as his favourite place to sleep and chill out during the day.  This has made me feel that I can’t even get started until I have cleaned the layer of cat fur and cat-imported dust smattering off my desk.  But there are times, many times…most times, in fact… when I have lost the will to disturb him after I have been repeatedly mewed at to feed him, or pay him some kind of attention, mostly at 5am.  Not the time of day when I am most inclined to clean up after him.  Or get started with work.

Then there is the dog.  Nala, our delinquent Boerboel/goat sleeps on the paving outside my office window.  Every time there is a slight movement outside the gate, she barks suddenly, and I accidentally hit backspace and lose the last three sentences.  Or put down a word that I don’t want to in Scrabble.  Scrabble becomes a wonderful distraction.  I can justify playing Scrabble because it’s a word game and therefore it is working…sort of.  It’s the same with Word Chaos.  I tell myself that I am exercising my brain and my vocabulary by thinking of as many words as possible in 30 seconds, or making up new combinations of letters in Scrabble in an endless quest to defeat my grandmother once and for all, and then entering them in the Scrabble dictionary and discovering that my interesting combination is actually a real word with a totally obscure meaning.

So you see, there are real reasons that I didn’t finish my novel.  None that would make sense to to anyone else, or be meaningful in anything other than an ‘I just didn’t get round to it’ sense, but at least there are ways to justify it to myself.  And there is always next year.  So, oh well… And on to the next project – Christmas….

NaNoWriMo

Welcome to NaNoWriMo!  Or so it says.  I don’t know that ‘welcome’ is how I feel.  Daunted?  Yes.  Intimidated? A bit.  Motivated?  I’m working on it.

The idea is that you write a 50 000 word novel in the month of November.  So I signed up.  My sister is doing it too, so she’s my writing buddy.  Never mind that I’ve never wanted to write a novel particularly.  My leaning is definitely more towards non-fiction than fiction.  But the site asked all kinds of questions about my novel so I chose a genre (Literary Fiction), a working title (Kalahari Rain?) and a name for my main character (Phyllis).  And here we are on Remembrance Day, 11 days into the month, and instead of being my usual self who can happily write 1000 words an hour, I am now stuck on 2066 words in total with no idea where to go next.  Suddenly, even accomplishing 150 words a day has become a struggle.  My talent for procrastination, always pronounced, has achieved epic proportions.  The fridge is emptying at a rapid rate.  My desk has never been so clean.  And I have never taken quite so many turns in Scrabble on Facebook.  I find myself joining conversations and commenting on friends’ posts on Facebook when I haven’t seen or spoken to them since primary school.  I check Twitter obsessively.  I feel the urge to call people I haven’t spoken to in months, mostly because we have nothing to speak about, all in the name of avoidance.  And the part that scares me the most is that in pursuing this goal, I have become my mother!

My mother is one of the most creative people I know and an incredibly talented artist, but it takes more work to get her to paint than it does for her to actually finish the painting.  I have always wondered why it was so hard for her to get going, but now I understand.  And I find that I cannot blame her anymore.  Now I know just how bad it is to be disturbed during the day.  When I have laid careful plans and structured my time, the phone rings.  I get an email that’s not urgent or important but suddenly seems that way.  I have drunk more tea in these 11 days than I have for the past 3 months combined.  I am awash with tea.  And my blog has joined the list of possible distractions.  I justify it by saying, ‘well, at least I’m writing something’, but that isn’t really helping me achieve my 50 000 words.

I understand that distraction and procrastination are the constant companions of the creative person, so I’m working hard on being more disciplined.  In the meantime, I think my cupboards need sorting…