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In the latest years, i've developed my two main writing-related hobbies:

  • "Conventional" writing: short stories and a wanna-be novel, far from being completed
  • Roleplaying in a forum

Roleplaying, aside from being fun, has helped me grow a lot as a writer and meet people interested in storytelling, and that's great. But I feel the two activities are inherently in conflict with each other.

Posts in a forum are shorter, easier and they don't usually require a large scale plot or a larger view of the events to be written. Also, social interaction is a big plus, since other players can give you input.

My problem is: I feel RPlaying is draining what little creativity I have. I always dreamt of being a writer, and even if I scaled down those dreams to size, I'd like to finish writing a story. Beginning to end. But my own story seems less-rewarding, less interesting than the stories I can make interacting with other people on the forums.

So, aside from motivational issues (that I may have):

Should I stop roleplaying, even if it may be a good writing exercise? In general, what are your thoughts on the matter?

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    I wouldn't stop, but maybe take a break. Don't sign up for new games for a while, and as the ones you're in come to a conclusion (unless they're very long-term things), you'll have more time for writing.
    – Michael
    Jun 21 '17 at 14:15
  • Raymond E Feist's Midkemia was born from Roleplaying, as was the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson (and the off-shoot Ian C Esslemont series) as well.
    – user18397
    Jun 21 '17 at 22:37
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First of all, I would argue against your assertion that your creativity is in limited supply and that when you exercise your imagination through role playing you are somehow diminishing the quantity of creativity which you can apply to your writing. In my experience, creativity is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

What are in limited supply are your time and your attention. If your writing is hungering for more time and attention than you can give it, that is great. It means that you have the bug and that no matter what happens from here, you are a writer. The addiction to craft stories is incurable, so get used to being frustrated about not having as much writing time as you desire. Add a little discipline to your time-management and find a way to feed (though never satisfy) your need to write.

It may be that what you are experiencing is purely attention based. Every time you engage in role playing, you become focused in someone else's creation, that of either your game master or the game's publisher. It could be that your current story is jealous of the attention that you aren't spending on it. There are times in any writing projects when I have to put down my nightly novel habit, fall behind on my tv shows and give every free moment to the story I am crafting. That is the nature of being in any relationship. Sometimes they are demanding and sometimes they are not. Again, this is a good thing.

It sounds like you are just starting out as a writer. In that case, practice writing is probably more valuable to you than focusing on your far-from-complete first novel. Short stories are a great way to start, but their brevity offers little opportunity to practice plot-development and scene-organization. Your role playing doesn't suffer from that brevity. Most quests go on for months and contain more details than can possibly fit into a single book. Why not practice your writing by becoming the unofficial chronicler of your role playing adventures. After each role playing session, scribble down the major events which occurred as a brief outline, then arrange that outline into a scene list and then flesh out each scene with artfully crafted prose. What you end up with, may not be publication quality, but it will exercise your writing skills and may exorcise (at least temporarily) your need to write.

Not everything which you write needs to be bound for publication. Everything you write, if crafted thoughtfully and carefully, will ultimately make you a better writer. ...and the same is true for creativity in general. The more you use it, the stronger your imagination will become.

Keep Writing!

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    ...creativity is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets... Ditto on that.
    – Lew
    Jun 21 '17 at 14:58
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I really doubt these two have to complete, except in the sense of time management already covered by Mr. Taylor! Are you aware of the role playing system »Das Schwarze Auge«, called »The Dark Eye« (TDE) in English? They have published well over 200 novels set in their world! All writers that I know of are players as well. Some excellent stories clearly originated from role playing. There is even a series of short stories called »Der Kristall von Al'Zul« , that I found particularly inspiring, for each story is narrated by a different character and none but two are written by the same author. Those authors wrote the books after they played together, thought I can't check how exactly it happened, since I lent the first volume to a friend.

Role playing is the best way I can imagine when you want to test which ways a story could go. Players consistently succeed in surprising even a seasoned game master! The only problem I see is having to share intellectual property rights if other people's ideas are more than just a fraction of the whole...

Several German fantasy authors whose work is set in their own worlds have been greatly influenced by TDE. One of these is Richard Schwartz. He even used some names of TDE deities for completely different ones in his own universe. To my (considerable) knowledge he never got into any trouble.

Ulrich Kiesow, the inventor of TDE, wrote three books of which I know, though one, I believe, was published after his very early demise. Two of these are excellent. In short, you can become a great writer even if you develop the role playing system with the most detailed meta plot I have seen!

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    excellent points. FYI... The various World of Darkness role playing games from White Wolf are also supported by an active author community, however in their case, I think the game publisher holds idea contests where players can earn publishing rights within their intellectual property. Jun 21 '17 at 19:07
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Not at all! Those two are just two different ways of expression, two styles, two writing environments if you will, but they share the same background of creative story telling! They are not in competition at all. Moreover, I would suggest to practice them both, as the two different approaches complete each other. By fulfilling one you can learn more about the other! Many writers do that! I'm not a professional writer at all, but I managed to write for RPGs with friends and write my personal stuff.

What I can totally understand, and I sympathize, is that you might not have enough time for both - following my case, I had to reduce some of them at one point. It might become crucial to make some choice and have some priorities. No one but you could suggest the "right" way there. My suggestion is to focus on what gives you the most pleasure, not what is your ambition: the "I want to be a writer thing" is a very strong but vague concept, that has little to do with reality. You risk to trade one passion with something that is not real. If you have what it takes to "become a writer", you would do it even while cultivating your hobby/passion. So try your best to balance both, and each of them will find their way. Remember, it's about you, not about the "art".

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It is a relatively common experience.

Roleplaying, coding, writing... they all exercise the same mental muscle. That muscle gets fatigued, and needs to rest before it can be used further.

A well-known metaphor is the metaphor of the well. As you are doing any of these activities you are drawing water from the well, and at some point it will start to run dry. You have to give the well time to refill.

There are a couple of ways around this, but I suggest you look into the related (but better documented) problem of programmers who write, for more information.

  • Do not write and roleplay on the same day. Even though the well is finite, it refills with rest. Sectioning off these activities by day will generally give you a full well to work with each time.
  • Do not take an active role in planning roleplay sessions or designing the roleplay world. Be a participant, not a god. This still strains the muscle, but minimizes the impact when you're not actively involved. You otherwise risk doing 'background work' on the roleplaying when you want to be writing.
  • Do your writing for the day BEFORE you start roleplaying for the day. If you drain the well a bit too much, at least you are draining it on the thing you want to accomplish. I find an off-day roleplaying does not matter nearly as much in the long run.

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