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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing Lists: Don't Get Lost Inside Yourself!

More than anything else, the biggest problem I have with writing a list is focus. Not focus in the sense of "I'm not sure which direction this list is going," although sometimes that's an issue; rather, I mean my focus, as the writer of the list. As you spend more and more time working on something, you start to lose perspective on it; this is a problem for artists and engineers of all stripes, but also affects us as part of our hobby. Once you have gotten past the initial hurdles of understanding how to assess units and how they fit together, the biggest threat to you creating a good list is actually... you.

The problem, I said, is perspective- or more specifically the loss of it. In working closely with a list, editing it and revising it, tweaking it and altering it, looking to find every possible advantage, it is easy to lose sight of the original goal of the list and to dilute its strengths with myriad needless changes. While all these alterations are doubtless a good idea in the end, as rarely does a list simply "fall together" in the best possible combination immediately upon being written, they can also be an insidious threat to its overall stability.

I find that the best way to break free of this trap is simply time and distance; once I have written a list, I leave it to sit for a day or three before coming back to it and looking at it with a fresh view. More often than not, something about the list will jump out at me, often an obvious solution to a problem I had been struggling with before or a heretofore-unnoticed problem in the list that required solving. Thus, I feel that an important part of writing any list is time- if you're putting your army together the night before the event, not only are you not going to have any practice with it (very bad) but you're also not going to have a chance to look back over it and revise is (also very bad.) You should be finalizing your list at LEAST a week or two before the event, and probably quite a bit earlier than that to give you a chance to scour it for any minor issues that can be fixed (as well as any errors) over and over again before the actual tournament takes place.

If you haven't experienced this problem of perspective personally, it can be difficult to know exactly what I mean, but for those of you that have, you probably know what I'm talking about. Many have been the times when I had a fantastic idea for a list, wrote it down, tweaked it until it was "perfect," and then came back to it a day or three later to discover it was absolute garbage. This is the fundamental issue of perspective- you don't have it while you have enough focus to be writing a list, but lacking that focus it's nigh impossible to actually do any list-writing.

So it is that writing any list, but especially any kind of unusual or experimental list, will usually result in a whole lot of dismal failures and maybe one or two successes. This is just the nature of the beast and shouldn't really be surprising at all; indeed, looking back at your old lists a year or two from now, they will doubtlessly all look clumsy, ill-designed, and poorly fit for their purposes, but this also is part of the learning process.

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