I would start this out by saying “In the gaming world…” but the fact is the “Arrow to the Knee” phrase has fast become a cliche even among non-gamers. In Skyrim, just about every other NPC guard or soldier you pass by tells you, “I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow to the knee.” It’s become a joke, but with my recent disappointment in the Dragon Age fanfiction contest, I realized that the arrow to the knee is a pathetic excuse.
It started when I publicly announced my disappointment on my facebook, and friends were super-encouraging and told me to keep going; write for its own sake, follow my dreams, that sort of thing. The fact that I have such friends makes me feel truly blessed, and I know that they don’t just say those things because it’s the ‘nice’ thing to say. I replied to one, “Oh, I’ll keep writing, no doubt about that. This isn’t an arrow to my knee by any means. Right now it just kind of stings because I’d had such hopes for this.” I confess that on my way home from work I had a fair share of sniffles in the car. I moped about my apartment until now, and I’m still not feeling all that great. Even though I worked hard to write a well-crafted story, I felt almost ashamed of it for not making it. I briefly entertained thoughts of deleting my Dragon Age fanfiction and crawling into a black hole of shame and self-loathing and whiny blogging.
And then I realized that’s what the Skyrim soldiers did.
As an adventurer throughout the land of Skyrim I’ve been burned, frozen, and shocked, and those are just the magic attacks. I’ve been skewered with swords and hacked with axes and nommed by dragons. I’ve taken arrows to my FACE. And I keep adventuring. I keep fulfilling Dark Brotherhood contracts and doing numbers jobs for the Thieves’ Guild. I keep seeking out dragons to kill and words of power to learn. I chug healing potions and hide from enemies and sneak for miles after targets. If I gave up after one arrow to the knee, things would be boring, nothing would get done, and the world wouldn’t get saved.
Okay, so my writing, fan or otherwise, isn’t world-changing or on the level of saving the world. If I don’t write again, it’s not like the world’s doing to collapse. But my world might. Another friend who’d entered and fared the same as me said she was trying to remember that she wrote for the sake of writing, which is what I’m trying to remember. Who am I? I am a writer, pure and simple. Writing is an art, and appreciation of art is subjective in the end, even if there are objective aspects to what makes it ‘good’ or ‘contest winning worthy’. If I were to let one lost contest cripple me and take me down for the count, what sort of writer would I be?
So Skyrim soldiers? Screw your arrow. If one arrow to the knee is going to make you complain about how you can’t be an adventurer anymore, maybe you never deserved to be an adventurer in the first place.