I picked up Dragon Age: Origins because I’m a sucker for both fantasy role-playing games and BioWare’s writing. Sure, they’ll dump extensive write-ups into your journal (or Codex in this case) at the slightest provocation and some of the conversations can be a little long-winded, but the writing is so good and the character stories so interesting that I take those things in stride. However, sometimes the game system can be a little weird. The first major hang-up I’ve encountered, however, is entirely my fault. It’s something of a case of Did Not Do The Research, but I’ve been building my mage character wrong. I’m 7 levels in, and some of the time I spent on the first attempt can get shaved since I know my way around the system a bit better. But the point of me bringing up this little bit of geekery is so I can discuss something we’ve all indulged in since childhood: the do-over.
You remember do-overs, right? Someone would throw the dodge ball incorrectly, or you’d forget to fill your water pistol before shooting at a sibling. “Do-over!” would be the cry. “Do-over!” The previous attempts would be wiped away in the nascent young minds and play would begin again as if the last block of time never happened. It’s something that’s found its way into gaming in general. If a title has “replay value,” you can basically leave one save-game alone and start over, making different choices and experiencing the game in a different way.
You can pull do-overs in your writing, as well. I’ve done it on more than one occasion, most notably with my first novel, and every time I’ve declared a do-over, the resulting writing has been a marked improvement. I’m not saying you should always wipe out what you’ve written if a better idea comes along. I’m merely suggesting that you should never feel restricted by your previous efforts. If you want to try something new, try it. Nothing’s stopping you.
And it goes beyond that, as well. I’m going to wax philosophical/religious for a minute, so if you’d rather not think about it you can jump ship now.
Still with me? Fantastic.
A lot of people in authority, from conservative pundits to religious leaders to your boss, might tell you that everything in your past defines who you are now. You need to pick a career and stick with it, says the prevailing capitalist sentiment. It doesn’t matter how much pigeon crap is in the hole, this is where you belong. Credit scores and employment histories are just a couple of examples of how we like to track where people go in their lives to show that they don’t change.
But people are not generic, hot-swappable modules. The only thing all people in the world have in common is that they’re all different, and all of them are capable of change. You’ll be called a failure or a quitter if you try to change, but I only really see someone quitting if they either commit suicide or convince themselves that what they want in life is impossible to attain or not worth pursuing.
Guess what? You are the only You in existence. In all of Creation, only you can do the things you dream of doing. Your stories haven’t been told by others and they won’t get told if you don’t tell them. Sure, other people have climbed Everest or swam the English channel or split the atom. That doesn’t make what you want to do, what makes you passionate, what gets you out of bed in the morning and propels you through a generic hot-swappable day job any less unique than the things that do that for me. If you change jobs, or pursue a dream, people may think you’re a quitter. I tend to think you’re just the opposite – you’re starting something wonderful and you can’t really fail at it. You might fall short of the ultimate goal, but you made the attempt, and probably learned a few things about yourself and your place in this world along the way, which is more than a lot of people can say.
It’s one of the things that maintains my faith in Christ. Outside of the rhetoric of televangelists or the stoic zealotry of pro-life clinic bombers or the “God bless us and nobody else” isolationist tendencies of some congregations, the message of Christ is really pretty simple.
You weren’t meant to suffer. You shouldn’t have to bear the burdens of a daily life plagued by self-doubt and self-recrimination. And you don’t have to. I’m more than willing to help you with your struggles. All you have to do is ask. If you have the courage to admit that you can’t make it on your own, and the open-mindedness to appreciate this world and acknowledge that there’s more to it than what you can see, I’ll let you in on a secret. Your entire life is a do-over. Pick up the dreams you thought were shattered. Mend the heart you felt was broken. I can’t guarantee you’ll get everything you desire, but in following Me, you might just find something you were seeking without ever knowing you needed it.
I know, I know. I’m a dew-eyed optimist and the cynicism of the world is going to try and grind me into a fine powder for an unfeeling corporate master to snort off a hooker’s cleavage while sitting in traffic contained in a luxury car on his way to a meeting on the greatness of his company.
But until that day, I’ll keep believing and keep writing. Even if I have to call a do-over now and again.