Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Quit

Three weeks ago I quit playing World of Warcraft.  The only other time I have stepped away from that game since starting it in 2005 was a brief six month hiatus a few years ago because it was causing issues in a relationship.  That relationship ended and I returned to Azeroth with a vengeance.  In the five years that I played I saw friends and acquaintances come and go.  I had an amazing amount of fun, laughed until it hurt, screamed in nerd-gasms after victories over particularly difficult accomplishments, and do not regret the time, money, or memories involved with the game.

To put it into clear perspective:  I spent 365.25 days in 2009 on planet Earth.  You might have as well.  I spent 122 days during 2009 logged in to a digital realm filled with orcs, elves, cow people, demons, dragons, Nordic knock-offs from an Mighty Thor comic book.  I also slept and worked 40 hours a week.  Warcraft did not consume my life, it was my life.  It was how I wanted to spent my free time, it was what I wanted to talk about, it was the subject of most of my spreadsheets.  I was fine with that.  

But a voice, tucked away in the back of my mind, kept whispering to me.  It kept saying things like “When are you going to publish your book?”, “When are you going to rewrite the crap-venture that is your second book?”, “When are you going to write your third book?”, “When are you...”, “When are you...” and on and on.  And suddenly it was five years later and for the fourth year in a row I had let my “project” slide for the sake of loot in a video game.  

Worse yet, when I sat down to write...everything was garbage.  Complete drivel.  Crap my 12 year old self wouldn’t read, and that dork not only read a lot of Piers Anthony, but has signed copies of Dennis L McKiernan's Silver Call Duology.  The creative center of my brain had dumped everything in the quest to be an end game raiding Shadow Priest.  That pissed me off.  I enjoy writing.  I enjoy setting up twisting turning sentences that are almost but not quite run-on in their absurdity and still take you somewhere.  

In the past five years I have read all sorts of amazing novels and lusted after the skill it takes to craft something similar.  But that takes time and it takes practice, and I was not allowing myself either.  And so, when the opportunity for a clean, guilt-free, accomplished everything under the sun (except Heroic Lich King) in Warcraft break presented itself, I stepped aside and walked away.

When I told my best friend what I had done he was happy for me.  I am going to repeat what he told me here, because it was brilliant.  He said:
“Warcraft isn't a game, it is a substitute for progress. It activates the core motivation at the heart of every dominant species. Improve, acquire, explore, dominate, improve, etc.  Smoking cigarettes mimics the survival instinct, making it difficult to quit. Warcraft does the same thing, it tells your brain that you are making progress, that you are achieving goals. And that's all fine. Nothing wrong with that, it just makes it difficult to stop doing it. Especially if you're at a point in your life where you aren't making progress in other areas. None of this is judgment of people who play Warcraft or Warcraft itself, it's just what we're dealing with. So, the thing that helped me to quit smoking, was twofold. One, remember that the signal is a lie. "You need this!" is a trick. Fulfilling the need won't make it go away. You have to starve it out. The second, every time I want a cigarette, I repeat to myself ‘I'm so glad I quit smoking....’”

And so that is what I have done.  I don’t need it.  In fact, as soon as I quit I started filling my life with all of the fun things I had been missing.  I got my Tuesday nights back.  I went on vacation and didn’t have to log in.  I went on vacation and played board games and rpgs and crazy made up games.  When I came home from that vacation I started writing again, and I started making plans.  Real plans.  Plans that will joke this time...with my first book done and done and available as print on demand.

How did I quit playing World of Warcraft?  

I wrote the following in my comments when I closed my account:  
“Blizzard, thank you.  I had a great time playing your game for the last five years.  I will cherish the memories and I do not regret the time I spent playing.  But it is time for me to move on to other things now.  Thank you.”
And then I walked away and picked up my life where I left off with it five years ago.

What did I miss?

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About Me

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.