HOURS IN THE DAY (by Tom Russell)

Not to belabor the obvious, but running a games company takes work, and work takes time, and time is a finite resource. There are twenty four hours in a day (slightly less if we're being pedantic), and at least a handful of those need to be spent sleeping. Like most folks, I spend five days out of seven at work for at least eight hours, and like some folks, I spend an hour each morning and an hour each evening commuting from my home to my workplace. That leaves, on a weekday, a window of about four or five hours in which to eat my supper, to relax and decompress, to reconnect with my beloved wife and cats, to take in some culture, and to do the work: laying out counters, relaying out counters, designing box covers, writing blog posts like this one, answering queries on BGG, CSW, and Facebook, discussing our plans and timetables for the next few weeks and months with Mary, and maybe, just maybe, designing and testing board games.

Tom working

Tom in a rare moment of ease, double checking rules and components

Thank goodness for Mary. She handles the orders, the customer inquiries, the artists, the outside designers, the files, the website, and the layouts for the rulebooks, PACs, newsletters, and blog posts. I've often said I couldn't do this without her, and it's true: there's hardly enough hours in the day to do all the things I do now, so there'd be zero time for anything else.

So, how do I solve this problem? Well, sometimes I solve it by throwing myself into the work. In fact, I'd say that I do that most of the time. I like working. Work is healthy, work is good, work is holy and sacred. My own personal prayer: Help me be patient, Lord. Help me trust in you, O Lord. Let today be a day of work. Let today be made for me, or let me be made for today.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker sporting a spunky reporter hat

It's not just the end result but the process itself that is fulfilling. You may have heard Dorothy Parker's old chestnut about how she hated writing, but loved having written. I think that's bonkers, frankly. Writing is fun. Laying out counters is fun (and oddly relaxing). Designing board games, testing them, publishing them: fun. Moving furniture around our house - well, that's sort of the anti-Dorothy Parker, in that I actually enjoy doing it, but my back doesn't enjoy having done it.

But, like I said, all that takes time, and there is only so much time. And I can't spend every hour working. That's no good for the body, and no good for the mind. I kinda found that out the hard way back when I was editing a certain gaming magazine. It ate up all my "extra" time; I wasn't just burning the candle on both ends, because there was precious little candle left to burn. I was constantly exhausted, and wasn't as sharp as I needed to be - especially with regards to my last issue, where I made the mistake of sending the wrong file for the game's charts and tables. I didn't realize how close I was teetering on the brink of collapse until I had walked away from the mag, and suddenly found that I could breathe again, that I had my evenings back, that I had time again.

I spend a lot of that time working on our games, but I'm careful not to repeat my mistake from when I was working on the magazine. It was the same mistake I made years ago, before I stumbled into board games, which I wrote about before: being focused on working to the exclusion of everything else and pushing myself to the point where I was starting to crack under the stress. It's a bad habit that's easy to fall back into, and I think it might be something I'm going to be grappling with for all my days. I guess there are worse things to grapple with.

So, some evenings I spend rewriting rules or mucking about in Photoshop. But some evenings I fire up our Playstation machine and spend two or three hours running around in a virtual world. Or we watch a handful of television shows; lately, we've been watching that Breaking Bad everyone's been talking about for years, and we're eagerly awaiting the return of Last Man on Earth, which remains the best show currently on network television.

Sometimes it's just hanging out with Mary, who remains my favorite person, and the reason for everything I do.



  • And thank you for sharing as well, Fred. Take care.

    Tom Russell

  • Happy New Year to you and to your wife!!! I was like you in my jobs but I hadn’t stopped. Result? Burn-out/bore-in and severe nervous breakdown… I jumped into the hobby as a “medication” but again, I made the same mistake. This time I stopped at the right time and I am looking to find something to please me without these dangerous bad habits. I think that I will go to wargames too, first as a player, then as a player with PnP wargames and to finish as wargames designer (why not!!!). But no more I want to revive these long and dark stressful hours, these days without limits, etc. Yup. Thanks for your sharing!!

    fred manson

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