I Wanted To Be The Bill Bryson Of Video Games

I see no reason to beat around the proverbial bush: I’ve been considering not writing anymore.

I was inspired to write about video games because of Game Informer and a few specific editors. I was inspired to write, period, because of authors who moved me, namely Bill Bryson. He has the perfect composition for writing (in my opinion); he is concise, informative, entertaining, witty, amusing, and drily touching. When I think of my favorite contemporary authors, he’s right there at the top.

And, yes, he may be primarily a travel writer, but I thought if I could bring even a little of that to my own writing, perhaps I’d do okay.

For the record, I was never trying to emulate him. I only ever wanted to foster my own style, whatever that style might be.

Please bear with me, this may be a scattershot piece. I assure you, this is all connected in my thought place.

I think about writers with style (e.g.: Bill Bryson, Raymond Chandler) and I invariably wonder if I have a style. I don’t think I do. I’m more than willing to admit I may be too close to all these words to see the forest from the trees, but I don’t think I have a style, and certainly not one I like. Alas, I can only be me, for better or worse, and this conversational tone is apparently how I write.

When I started writing about games, I did so because I wanted to connect with other people. I think games have this incredible power to bring people together, and I love engaging in conversation with people about anything gaming related. Shoot, I just like connecting with people. I think people are remarkable creatures, and to be able to connect on any level feels like a privilege.

As someone who has been ignored or talked over most of my life, it’s not remotely surprising I’d turn to writing at some point. In writing, I can think about what I want to say, how I want to say it and, regardless of who might read it, I’ve said my piece without interruption. There is something calming about that.

Lately I’ve been asking myself “fun” questions like: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Am I even enjoying this? Do I feel obligated to continue doing this? Does anyone get anything out of this? Do I get anything out of this? To be really honest, sometimes writing makes me feel bad. It makes me feel bad that I’m not better at it, it makes me feel bad that I haven’t gotten anywhere with it, and it makes me feel bad that I’m not likely to ever be able to make a career of it. To keep at something on a regular schedule for a not-insignificant chunk of years and to be no closer to “making it” than I was when I started is thoroughly disheartening. In fact, not only have I never made a cent from this endeavor, I continue to pay for my website and domain. Just last week I was reminded my renewal is coming up and I sighed out loud at the dog park when I read the email on my phone. I actually said out loud, “What am I doing?”

What am I doing?

On one hand I feel like, well, someone has to make it; why not me?

On the other, I think about the droves of people out there, far more talented than I am. I think about their respective degrees and their real life experience. I am just a 40 year old female who loves games and thought she might be able to write about them and somehow, somehow, make that into something.

I’ve felt pretty defeated for a good long while. I feel defeated right now. I feel deflated. I feel like a very flat and small person, nearly invisible to anyone else.

I know this probably sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself but, really, I’m trying to be honest with myself and, through this piece, each of you.

I know I’ll never be the Bill Bryson of video games. But could I make a living and a place for myself as the Rebekah Lang of video games? What would that even mean? What would that entail? I think about all the people I know who write, who want to write for a living, and I can’t even necessarily get them to read what I’ve written. I take that to heart. If even people I know aren’t interested in what I have to say, what does that say for people at large? It feels borderline hopeless.

And yet I keep going. It’s like my persistence works independently of me. I just frantically scramble along for the ride and try to figure out what the hell I’m doing. Failing at something for four plus years isn’t terribly fun.

I mean, to be real, it sucks the hardest.

I am genuinely not sure I bring anything interesting or useful to the table, and that gives me pause. In my heart of hearts, my first passion is and always will be musical theatre. One might say this is an awful lot of rouse to keep myself away from what I really love. But I don’t think that’s it.

The first friend I ever told I wanted to write about video games quite literally laughed in my face. We had gone out to dinner to catch up (he also loves video games), and when he asked me what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to write about video games. I can still remember that pause where he looked at me like he couldn’t gauge if I was serious, and when he must have decided I wasn’t, he was beside himself with laughter. I told him, “No, man, I’m serious. I really want to write about video games.” He just stared at me and said, “Seriously?!” And that was the end of that conversation. I remember explaining why I wanted to, but I kind of think his response has been the same response I’ve been getting from life. Life keeps laughing in my face while I sincerely explain how much I want to be a good writer, a writer with style, and life is like, OH HELL NAW.

Or, rather, SURE YOU CAN WRITE ABOUT GAMES BUT WE (life) ARE GOING TO MAKE IT D*MN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO REMAIN POSITIVE ABOUT IT.

I’m not sure I can improve to get to the nebulous place I want to be. I’m not sure I have a style. I’m not sure there is a place for me in the world of writers who can make money. I’m sometimes not sure I even still want to try.

I let my renewal go through.

I must be very, very stupid. Or secretly optimistic. Or an idiot.

I can be more than one thing.

8 replies »

  1. Rebekah, I don’t know you except through this website, but even online I can tell that you’re someone that never gives yourself a break!

    Let me offer this: write about games because you enjoy it. Build your site because it’s a fun hobby or a pastime or because you enjoy the WordPress community.

    If you’re looking at video games journalism as a serious career option or are looking to monetize your website or anything like that, frankly it’s going to be extremely difficult. Not impossible – there are paid games journalists still for sure. But journalism as an industry is being squeezed out of existence – there’s too much free content. Look at all these games blogs! I’m amazed that professional games sites still exist.

    From my conversations with people on here, most folks have a day job. Very few, if any, have any expectation of becoming a full-time paid games journalist, with a salary they could live off and support a family. And that’s OK.

    If you’re investing everything in becoming the Bill Bryson of games journalism, I can only offer a career thought/perspective that came from someone I read once – as a kid you dream of being an astronaut, but when you grow up you realize that not everyone will be able to study, train, sign-up with NASA, and get the chance to go into space. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become a scientist, or an astronomer, or a wildlife photographer, or marine biologist. There are other options!

    Like

    • People write about things for all different reasons. They don’t always necessarily enjoy it every step of the way. Some things are like rungs on a ladder; you do them to get to a different place. You put your time in and grow and learn and keep trucking to that other place.

      For some people, to write because it is a fun hobby or past time is great, but that’s never been my goal. I’ve been writing with a goal in mind: to make it a career. Period. If I wasn’t going for that goal, I wouldn’t have kept at it the way I have for as long as I have. I’ve treated it like a job from day one. I’ve never missed a day of my schedule. I’ve increased the frequency of my schedule. I’ve always had the goal.

      I am all too aware of everything you said about journalism and games journalism. If you were under the impression I was unaware, I’m not sure what to tell you.

      I’m not doubting those people exist. I am not one of those people. Again, I set out to do this professionally. I created this site and treated it like a job until I could land a job of my own.

      I believe I addressed it in the piece that I wasn’t actually trying to become the Bill Bryson of video games. I was aiming to bring something of similar value to writing about video games.

      I understand you are trying to help, but your last paragraph reads a lot like: Give up on your dreams and temper those expectations. And I can not do either. All the great things I’ve done in my life I’ve done in the face of people, my own parents even, telling me it couldn’t be done. My goals have always been my roadmap. Yes, there have been failures along the way, but my nature is to persevere. It’s just hard as hell sometimes.

      Like

  2. You are not a failure. Not by a long shot. Not as a writer at least.

    The only thing you are failing is the expectation that you make money from writing.

    But as a writer, you are succeeding! You have been succeeding for 4 years. Writing.

    None of us can control what society decides to monetize and reward. But we CAN decide what we choose to do, and choosing to spend some of the precious little time we have doing something interesting and rewarding and difficult is both beautiful and admirable.

    I know how discouraging it can be, truly. But I’m so proud of you, for keeping all this up. Hopefully your brain will let you feel some of that joy you deserve for doing it, and the joy I feel for reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I very much appreciate that, thank you. I do definitely feel like a failure, though. Perhaps if I can keep on trucking I can become less of one. I suppose time will tell.

      Well, on that scale, yes, I suppose I have been writing for four years. I would like to be better at it.

      You are certainly right about that. And when you put it that way, it gives me pause. In a positive sense.

      Thank you, truly.

      Like

  3. I think it is safe to say that all of us believe in you.
    Please, believe in yourself and keep up the good work.
    I’ll raise a glass to your intelligence and your sass, keep up the good work.
    Cheers!
    Steven

    Liked by 1 person

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