It’s a cliche but it is true: the only thing we can do with death is let it make us better people. And remembering is part of that. And it is part of how we grieve. I can no longer tell Jason Sinclair how much he meant to me. All I can do is tell you. So we all get better.
A long long time ago, I wrote a short story about angels. One of the very first short stories I wrote. In it, one of the angels says he is currently employed as a muse. He clarifies this position: it’s not about being some beautiful object or ideal which inspires an author: his job is to find new, struggling artists and tell them their work is good.
This year has been the first year I’ve been okay with calling myself a writer, and a game designer. I’ve been therefore thinking a lot about how I got to that point, and how hard it was. About the enormous things that worked against me. And about the forces that worked for me.
I sometimes feel as if I never had friends until I found the internet. There were exceptions, but never people who supported me the same way. Maybe it’s easier on the internet to say you love someone. Maybe it was because I finally found some nerds, people who were like me. Not in an adolescent way, as adolescence was long gone. But artists and feelers. People who saw me as great. People like Keith and Jim and Isaac and Winna. People who put my quotes in their signatures and said my brain was amazing. People who wanted to hear me talk. Not stare at me like I was stupid, maybe even retarded. Not sigh at me for doing something they couldn’t understand.
Maybe the first of these was Jason.
I don’t remember the thread or the reason but I pitched my first silly idea for a card game, which was called Temple Tantrum. Everyone is playing a Jesus (one of many Jesii) and trying to do the most damage to the moneylenders in said Temple. Throwing over tables, hitting them with a braided cord. Scoring points for spooking a donkey. And then there was Jason who liked it. Like it so much he wanted to make it. SERIOUSLY want to make it.
Sent me emails. We brainstormed early design. I didn’t have the skill back then, nor the self-conception. Only just got the latter. And I’d written the pitch as a joke. But Jason believed, and never let it go. Every time I was down, he’d bring it up again. Maybe half-seriously some times. But sometimes very seriously. To him, it had to happen. It was the best idea, and it had to be made.
Belief can be dangerous. So many people want you to be who they see you as, do things the way you want them to do, and if you fail to do so, will decide it’s because you don’t believe in yourself. They use belief like a weapon. They believe in methods, not outcomes. But the shoe that fits them will never fit you. If you want to believe in something, believe in its outcome, not its path. In its total, earth-shattering world-conquering success. Don’t believe in people, either. People don’t really exist. Believe in ideas. In projects. In dreams. People are too complicated to believe in, and just need to be loved. Ideas need belief. Have esteem for people, confidence in ideas.
But do believe. It matters some much. At a very young age, I saw this moment on the Muppets and spent a long time waiting for it to happen, praying for it to work. But too many people believed in me in general, like “yeah, you can do whatever you want”. Which had the edge of demand in it too – you better do something great. And you can’t believe without support either, that too has a demand to it. You know that one thing you said that one time? Why isn’t it conquering the world yet? That’s “belling the cat”. Believing in an idea means giving to the idea.
I’ve come back to this a lot over the last year, but everything is about power. Never trust anyone who tries to take power away from you. Surround yourself with people who give you power. And give out power. Sometimes that’s just “this is idea is great, I want to see it”, over and over again. Sometimes that’s just “I love this”. Other times, it’s “what do you need from me?” or “Hey, this is how I want to help us make this.” Sometimes we’re worried about that taking away from ourselves, and that can be a danger. But collaboration makes us all grow and do more.
Jason was a man who understood about this rule. He gave power to those around him and to their works. Charged them up. Made them stronger, made their works stand firmer, reach higher. And I miss him terribly.