In every life, there's always that handful of stand-out years that mark events which go on to be catalysts for great change. As I look back on my own, it's not hard to recognize them. In 2011, I hit rock bottom and spontaneously traveled halfway across the world to rethink where my life was going. Seemingly unrelated at the time, I also started a blog which would eventually evolve into the website you're reading right now. In 2014, I pivoted from writing about the creative industry to becoming a creator myself. (And also contracted a chronic illness I'll have to live with for the rest of my life, but that's a story for another time.)
In 2017, I took everything I'd learned, reorganized from the ground up, and published my first new product in over a year: the world's most advanced consumer visual novel engine (yes, really!).
As 2017 draws to a close, I think it's safe to say that this year will be included in that list of pivotal moments in life. Not to imply I've arrived yet—far from it. But the seeds are planted, and I bring with me into 2018 a work ethic that I'm confident will produce a harvest if I keep at it long enough.
And that's really the moral of this post.
Sure, even smack in the middle of the holidays my work goes on (I had to force myself not to respond to business emails on Christmas day... and sort of failed!). And these past two weeks have brought some major fundamental changes to VNgen's core framework. But we'll talk about all that next time.
This weekend—this month-end, this year-end—I want to leave you with one thing. One thing from my 2017 that I hope you'll take with you into 2018 and beyond.
Whatever you're doing, wherever you are in life, and wherever you want to be: work hard for it.
I know that phrase will come across cheap to many readers. But anyone who's been in the trenches knows: hard work doesn't just mean more work—staying busy in today's modern society is easy. It doesn't just mean uncomfortable work—pain is a part of life. No: true, genuine hard work is something much simpler and much more complex than that.
Real, genuine hard work means always reaching to become a better version of yourself and what you do.
Dreaming big is easy. Everyone wants to change the world somehow. But dreaming too big often breeds inaction. The gulf between where we are and where we dream to be is so great that we can't imagine ever getting there, and end up either burning ourselves out or giving up without even trying.
But hard work lives where you are right now. It exists in the mundane, the everyday, the ordinary. To anyone else, it may appear as if no progress is being made. They may even voice their belief that you'll never reach your ultimate goals. They may even be right... but only if you don't prove them wrong.
But the hardest voice to ignore won't be other people's:
...it'll be the voice in your own head telling you to play it safe and let your vision go. You may even be wondering right now what happened to this devblog and why this post is just a bunch of motivational hogwash. And that's fine—there's certainly enough of that out there to warrant discernment. But don't let doubt become an excuse to stay where it's comfortable. If you don't believe it, try me: whatever your passion is, pursue it in 2018 and beyond, and start by changing yourself.
Programming is a skill I acquired almost by accident. It started with HTML and CSS on free web hosts, then moved into modding my favorite videogames, then slowly migrated into writing my own logic, math, functions, and commands. So it's doubly serendipitous that programming also taught me one of the most valuable life skills I currently possess: the art of breaking down big problems into smaller ones.
But you don't have to be a programmer to learn that.
Instead of a New Year's resolution, start 2018 with a list of small changes you need to make to work towards greater goals, and then execute on them throughout the year. Hard work usually doesn't produce results overnight, but it will produce them faster than you expect.
It's an interesting thing I've discovered, that as a self-proclaimed chronically unlucky person, the longer I've worked towards my current goals, the luckier I've become. Sometimes, this phenomenon can't be explained. Other times, the explanation is simple: I simply found opportunities I would've missed had I not worked to put myself in the right place at the right time.
If 2017 was a catalyst for change, 2018 will be a year of opportunity. I take nothing for granted and work through each day as it comes, but I believe that enough to say so publicly a year in advance. And if I'm wrong, I'll pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep at it for 2019—because that's what hard work does.
Of course, you can stick around and find out with me! Next biweekly Friday's post will return to the usual updates on VNgen and whatever else 2018 holds in store (I have some ideas!). But until then, thanks for being a part of my journey this year, and I hope you found this post valuable for yours!