Me — Having Something to Say

For the longest time, the MO of this blog had been “write for me, and anyone that reads it is a bonus”. That’s sort of translated to writing regularly about what I’m feeling about so that future me can look back at how very specific events have affected me over the years. For instance, I can look read the post about my cat that died November of 2017, or when I went to Portland, Oregon last July and how I felt during that time.

Most often, though, it just means that every week I commit myself to writing a “Me” post, but all I can think about is stuff I’ve written about in past weeks. At this specific moment, roughly three things come to mind: weather, and how I deal with the cold, getting up and being productive in very early mornings, or just general stress, and how the combination of an ever strengthening writer’s block and an omnipresent feeling of loneliness are working together to make insecurities more and more prevalent.

I’ve already talked about the former two, and the latter isn’t really something I feel is a good topic of conversation, even for a blog post. I’ll say this much, though: I’ve always imagined myself as having a bottle of emotions, and once every several months I rant to a friend about all my problems and then I feel nice and empty for a while. Recently, though, I haven’t managed to empty that bottle, and what worries me about that is that I’m starting to crack. In all honesty, I’m one serious tragedy away from a full mental breakdown. Not that I would wish it, but maybe that’s something I need—a traumatic yet cathartic release of emotion in order to reset my emotional balance.

But anyways, every week I’m struggling with finding a subject of conversation to go into. I really want to talk about my new D&D campaign, but that seems better for a Saturday post for arbitrary reasons. I don’t really like the idea of reviewing games or movies at the moment—the purpose of that was so that future me can look at my first impressions at all this media that may or may not end up being anything—but really I only go back at archived blog posts for references, and when I link them in new posts I don’t reread them. Part of that problem is that the current me isn’t far enough removed from any of those posts, so I know I haven’t changed, but still.

This is a long way of saying that Tuesday posts will no longer be restricted to “Me” posts, because I’m a boring individual and I don’t even have enough to say to interest my own writing muses, so nobody, not even future me, should be subjected to reading that sort of crap. (The preceding paragraphs that are only tangentially related to each other are a good example of this.)

That said: here’s something that doesn’t deserve a full post but I want to mention anyway. I got two pairs of nice cotton pajama pants for Christmas and they are so cozy I love them. One of them even has tea cups on them.

That is all.

Me — My Ideal Weather

I like the rain. I don’t particularly like the wet.

I like when it’s cold, but I don’t like feeling cold.

My feelings towards weather and temperature is very nuanced, and perhaps more than a little contradictory. They make sense to me, though, so maybe just consider this a weird love letter to the rain.

First of all, I really do not like the heat. As soon as it gets over 85°F I stop being able to function as a human. I can’t think straight, so I can’t be productive in any capacity. I just want to sit there and be hot and miserable. Given the fact that I live in Southern California, this means half the year can really suck.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that that singular fact is why I love the cold and the rain, but it’s certainly part of it. But at the same time, my opinions require specificity in this case.

I don’t really know what cold weather is like. I’m not sure I’ve been outside when it was less than 30 or 40°F. Perhaps my opinions would change if I did know what that was like, as living in those conditions would definitely change my lifestyle significantly. What I do like is a slight chill. I like bundling up in three layers, feeling the brisk breeze on my hands and face while still feeling comfortable without a coat if I did need to go without. (It’s worth noting that I’ll wear a black coat on a sunny 80° day if I left when it was cooler that morning. Do with that information what you will.)

Being cold when you’re unprepared does suck, but I generally pride myself in my forward thinking, so that’s rarely an issue. Heat just tends to feel more oppressive than cold to me.

But I never get tired of rain, as Southern California never gets enough of it. I remember standing in the rain during lunch in high school and just letting myself get drenched. I’m sure the teachers in the next class weren’t too happy about that, though. I love the sound of rain and the feeling of the air when it’s lightly drizzling—right at the point where it’s not uncomfortable to walk in without an umbrella. When it’s pouring, that’s a different story. I’d go out in it if I’m wearing boots, but my normal shoes don’t have very high… what do you call those…  crests? Water gets into them easily if I step into a puddle, you get the idea.

Because of that, I don’t like actually being outside when it’s raining proper. I don’t like getting so wet that I’m inconvenienced once I’m out of the rain, so as long as that’s not an issue, I love it.

If you asked me what my ideal morning would be, the weather would be one of the first things that came to mind.

A slightly chilly overcast day. Possibly drizzling, or maybe it’s just a fog, but the day is painted with the muted grey of vibrancy without sunlight.

Accompanied by a hot cup of tea, as always.

Me — Committing to Writing

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Not trying to brag, as I don’t think that it’s even all that impressive, but at this point it’s nearing half my life. I’ve written loads of things, listened to podcasts on how to write, read books and blogs on how to write, and I’ve been attending a writer’s group for roughly three years as well. Throughout a lot of my journey, one specific post stands out: Jim Butcher’s last Livejournal post about writing.

I’d recommend reading the whole post, there’s a lot of gold in there, but out of everything, these words have been in the back of my head for years.

In fact, the vast majority of aspiring authors (somewhere over 99 percent) self-terminate their dream. They quit. Think about this for a minute, because it’s important:

THEY KILL THEIR OWN DREAM.

And a lot of you who read this are going to do it too. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just human nature. It takes a lot of motivation to make yourself keep going when it feels like no one wants to read your stuff, no one will ever want to read your stuff, and you’ve wasted your time creating all this stuff. That feeling of hopelessness is part of the process. Practically everyone gets it at one time or another. Most can’t handle it.

But here’s the secret:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO CAN KILL YOUR DREAM. *NO ONE* can make you quit. *NO ONE* can take your dream away.

And for me, 2018 was pretty much the year of failure for me. I started a very ambitious project—12 Lisa Stenton novellas, one a month, with the intent of publishing them as one book around this time. Well, I wrote one good one, one bad one, and got halfway through the third before I ran into that roadblock the Lisa Stenton universe still has. (The huge question of “How does the supernatural work really?“)

A few months after that I stopped writing short stories altogether. I did a few neat things, but I’ll leave it at that. As you probably know I even stopped writing the blog for the last months of the year. The only writing I was doing at that time was short scenes of plays for school.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, with Jim Butcher’s words rattling my brain. Am I doubting myself because it’s natural for a writer or because writing isn’t my path? I genuinely don’t know. I think, as a creative person, I have some good ideas.

But I have never enjoyed sitting down and writing. It’s always a chore. A chore I can feel accomplished for doing when I’m done, but it’s more of a necessity out of needing to put the ideas in my head onto paper than a love for the craft.

That said, what I do love is those ideas. I never get tired of playing around in a world and coming up with cool ideas, whether it’s the infinite, soundless tunnel of the Passway or the enormous interplanetary structure of the Spear Gate system. I love squishing inklings of ideas and molding them into sculptures of “Whoa, that’s cool”. I recently joined a collaborative project with some friends that have a lot of that, and after every meeting I’m left driving home with a stupid grin on my face because of all the cool new pictures and scenes that are now floating in my head.

I have never enjoyed the act of writing. It’s very difficult for me to envision myself as an author a decade from now. But a developmental editor, or somebody who does the story writing for a game or some such… Well, I don’t know what that job would entail, but I think I could sit in meetings doing brainstorming for 8 hours a day.

Me — How to Find Your Energy

I had a really heavy workload last semester of school, as you might have guessed by my unprecedented absence from this blog. I was working a lot, directing a play I wrote, and doing what I would simply describe as a mini dissertation for one of my classes.

Towards finals, I was starting to get really stressed. I would get home from work or class, and based on the schedule I outlined for myself, I would often have a single two hour chunk of free time to get work done before it was due in the morning. Problem was, I would get home with no energy to do any of that; the only thing I’d want to do is sleep.

This problem was surprisingly and miraculously solved when I watched a video from one of my favorite “public” figures: Day9. He’s a streamer (known for Starcraft) that I’ve talked about a while back, an old post of which I did not re-read, so browse at your discretion. He has a very casual and sociable persona, and he’s one of the people I admire most because of that.

That video was a snippet of one of his streams; just a conversation where he’s talking about this very thing: How do you structure your life in a way that allows you to get the work done with the time that you have? You can watch the video with that link, it’s about 9 minutes long (he does occasionally curse, though). But I’ll also just talk about it in my own words.

The solution is actually alarmingly simple. You can start tomorrow, in fact, and you don’t need to prepare. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but let me tell you, all it takes is the discipline to commit to your own promises and the ability to restructure your day to day.

All you gotta do is wake up early and do all the extra stuff then. If you’re trying to learn a language, write an essay, whatever doesn’t matter, don’t set yourself up for failure by pretending today will be different. It won’t. You’re going to get home from work exhausted like always and then you’ll hate yourself for looking at Instagram or Reddit for two hours after you get home.

But let’s say you have work at 9. Here’s what you do: You get up at 5am. Yup. 5. You cry a little inside, maybe take 20-30 minutes to get up and you curse me for convincing you to do this, but then you get up and get ready for your day. By 6am you’ve showered and eaten, you’d be ready to walk out the door now if you had to. But now you have 3 hours to just do stuff. The house is quiet, nothing going on, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and now that you’ve woken up you’ve got the energy to work.

That’s when you write that essay, or go to the gym, whatever you want to be doing more. You devote some time in the early morning, and by the time you get home after work, you’ve already done the stuff you want to, so now you won’t hate yourself for wasting the rest of your night. Maybe you’ll go to bed a few hours early, but who cares? You’ve already done the things you need to. Plus, if you go to bed early, it’ll make getting up earlier that much easier.

I tried this in the middle of a work and school week, throwing caution to the wind, and it changed the way I did my day-to-day. I’d get home with so much more energy because I wasn’t dreading the work I’d still have to do after work. And because I got up at 5am every week day, sleeping in on weekends meant getting up at 7-8am. I felt like every day suddenly and magically had 3 extra hours.

So, that’s it. Watch that video if you’re not convinced. Give it a shot. Trust me, I know waking up that early is awful. But if you can do it, you’ll feel better, and every day after that will be easier and easier. Especially if you’re a morning person like me, sleeping in until even just 10-11am feels terrible because there’s no morning left.

I wish you the best of luck, and as a farewell note, I highly recommend doing things that wake you up immediately. Shower and eat right after you get out of bed because there is no being tired after that. If you jump out of bed and immediately start working on an essay, you’ll just fall back asleep and you’ll hate me all the more.

Improv 101 — Being Somebody Else

Every year, when I meet the new class of high school kids I teach improv to, I always give them a lecture. Most times I’m teaching it’s a gauntlet of “what game is he teaching us this week”, but the first week is always different, because I mostly just talk. About me. You might think that’s asinine or narcissistic, and well, maybe it is, but I think my story with improv is important.

I was always the introverted kid in class. Okay, I am the introverted kid in class, but in high school it was even worse. I was so bad I would be reading fantasy novels in my theatre class any chance I could, as long as the teacher wasn’t talking. And yeah, I got my book taken away by multiple teachers over my high school career. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly fast friends with anyone I met.

But then my soon-to-be improv coach started coming into the class as a guest teacher. He’d teach imrpov games just like on Whose Line is it Anyway?, and I loved when he came because then we’d get to play improv. You’d think the story ends there right? I jump on stage, come out of my shell through improv, then I started teaching, right?

Well, no. It took a lot more work than that. I wouldn’t even go on stage to play games when he asked. I just liked that he was there because I enjoyed watching improv, not because I wanted to do it myself. Me? An actor? Yeah, okay buddy.

A few months go by, and he eventually states that he’s recruiting students for an improv team. Nothing school related, but we would be joining a non-profit that helps high school kids perform on stages (most often by singing, but well, that part of the story isn’t really important). Against my better judgment, I signed up. I could watch more improv that way, at least.

And so, Kollin the audience member was forced to become Kollin the improviser. I’m not going to pretend I was the best on the team, (in fact I would argue against it), but my best moments tended to last the longest in our minds.

After a few years of our improv team doing great and going strong, old faces leaving and new faces joining, our coach told us he was moving. We had two options: hold our own or quit while we were ahead. We made the mistake of trying to hold our own. The only people that were left were just out of high school, after all, and neither of us had the resources nor the charisma to lead a team of teenagers.

But, I did accept the mantle of improv coach. And so Kollin the improviser became Kollin the teacher. Freshly graduated, I started joining my coach as he went into the high school to teach, and when he did move, soon it was just me.

A few years of that and here we are. An introverted Kollin standing on stage talking to a bunch of high school freshmen about what improv is. This is only the first half of the lecture, but I think it implies a lot about what improv can be. Yes, I’m still the introverted guy who won’t speak to a stranger unless spoken to. But through improv I’ve gained the ability to don a mask. The mask of who Kollin would be if he was extroverted. I wear it well. It suits me, in a way, and though I can’t wear it for long, people are often surprised when I tell them I’m introverted. I’m still working on being able to pull out that mask in non-teaching environments, but it’s the only time that version of me is really comfortable.

Improv really helped me find myself. For some people, it takes them out of their shell and they blossom into an entirely new creature. Sometimes it’s just a confidence shift. I think I might of changed the least of all the people from my improv team, but the new skills of being able to pretend I’m slightly different versions of Kollin would make people think I’ve changed a lot.

Improv changes you, but it’s always positive. I’ve never seen anyone negatively impacted by the experience, and though I’ve certainly seen people so embarrassed they’ve cried, they really did learn a lot and had some profound personality growth because of it. Improv is one of those things that I think everybody should try for a while. Even if it’s just a simple college class later in life.

Me — Holiday Free Time

Time budgeting is a very important aspect of my life. What I do with my day and setting a course for how to tackle it is vital because if I don’t get anything done, it affects my mood, and if I let that happen too much, it starts to really spiral out of control.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got so busy that I would be going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am to get stuff done. To be honest, and to my surprise, it was fantastic. I would get up early to finish homework that was due that day, go to class, then perhaps we would have a performance that night for my play, and then go to bed to wake up for the next day. On nights we didn’t have productions, I’d work on my final projects. Every couple of hours I had where I was comfortable enough to relax and play video games was a treasure.

But then, the production closed, and I got all my finals finished. I haven’t had a whole lot of hours at work lately, either, so suddenly I have a full week straight of nothing but free time. Then two weeks, then, three, and, well you get the picture. It didn’t help that I got sick on Christmas Eve and I’m still feeling the repercussions as I write this.

Let me tell you, the free time has sucked. I’ve hated almost every minute that I’ve spent to myself. I’ve tried writing, but I admittedly haven’t gotten a whole lot of that done. That part, I honestly can’t explain. Two months ago I would have been ecstatic to have all this free time. I was trying to get through a book, prep for a D&D campaign, and I’ve had a story rattling around in my head since July. Now that I have the time to do it, I can only shrug and thing “Sorry, not today”.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something fulfilling to do with my free time, but I don’t even have games I really want to play. With all the stuff that’s been going on at Blizzard my enthusiasm to play Heroes of the Storm has been shot. I recently bought a Switch but Super Smash Bros. isn’t the sort of game you could play for several hours at a time, and besides that, I don’t have anything I want to be watching while doing either of those things. Being caught up on Critical Role while the show is on a holiday break sucks!

For somebody that finds fulfillment in productivity, well, I’ve started to feel pretty terrible lately. That’s probably part of the reason why it’s taking so long to shrug off this sickness.

It’s not all bad, though. Classes start up Monday, which I’m very excited for. I did get an email saying that the schedules were moved around, and they put two of my classes in the same time slot, so I’m going to have to figure that out, but I’m not terribly worried.

I just need to start classes and getting more hours at work, because I’m dying here. I want to feel good about getting up at 5 instead of staying in bed because I don’t have anything to do.

Me — Jan ’19 Update

It’s been some time since I’ve done anything with the blog, but I never intended the break to be permanent. I thought 2019 would be a great time to jump back in. I have several pieces of news to share, so let’s go.

As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

First things first, blog changes! Pretty simple, for now. I’m going to ease back into the updates, so I’ll only be writing two posts a week. Tuesday I’ll be posting ‘Me’ stuff, like this. I have a few months of things to catch up on, (I directed a play I wrote last semester, for example). Saturday I’ll be posting other stuff. Reviews, D&D, Improv things, etc. It may turn into three days a week, depending on how this Spring semester goes. We’ll see.

Unfortunately I don’t have much writing news to share. All my writing has been focused towards school (exclusively playwriting format these past few months), and that’s going to continue this semester as well. On that note, while I haven’t been writing prose lately, I do hope to get back to that soon, as I did enjoy writing the weekly short stories. In other news, I am in the composition process of putting together my second short story anthology! Unlike my first book which was published specifically as the first stories I had ever written, this new book will actually be a set of my best stories from the last two years, so you know, actually enjoyable. Stay tuned on that, I plan on an early summer publication, if not earlier.

Video games. This is going to need a longer post, but I’ve been a little all over the place lately. Most recently I bought a Switch. The joy-cons are definitely on par for the weirdest controllers ever, but their versatility is undeniably innovative. I’ve only got two games for now, but it’s a good console. Expect a review on Smash soon.

I’ve been slowly easing back into audiobooks lately. I recently finished Skyward, Brandon Sanderson’s newest novel. I have thoughts, so expect a review on that soon, too! Oh boy, I have more to talk about than I realized. Maybe twice a week isn’t enough… I’ll figure it out. Other than that, I’ve been reading lots of classic literature and plays for my classes. I have three books that are on my desk to be read, though, and at the same time I’ve also been trying to read the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide cover to cover. I don’t do a lot of physical reading to begin with, so I have no further comments at this time.

The Fall 2018 semester was… a lot, as you might have guessed with my unprecedented absence. I directed my own play, and a wrote quite a lot of new stuff for some other classes, too. Some of it might even end up in my second anthology—it certainly won’t all be prose this time, I’ll say that much. What’s more, another play I wrote is being produced this semester, though I’ve elected not to direct this new one. The play I directed was about capturing the nostalgia for gaming culture in the early 2000’s. This new play is about forgiving yourself for loss, so while I think it will have just as much emotional impact, it doesn’t require a very specific kind of person to helm the production. Plus, I want to see what somebody else does with it, so I can’t wait to see how it turns out without my having had a hand in it.

Also tied to school, I’m hoping this semester, Spring 2019, will be my last. By the end of this semester I will have two AA degrees as well as a playwriting and a teaching certificate. I have no immediate plans for continuing a formal education, but you never know. So, 2019 is bound to be an interesting year.

Lastly, I think the thing I’m most excited for is the new D&D campaign I’m DMing for my brothers. I’m really excited, and I’ve already put dozens upon dozens of hours into prep already. Three maps, multiple pages of character descriptions, and a list of encounters complete with the music associated with each. I’ve also spent a big chunk of money on miniatures so that I have monsters to throw at the party rather than using dice.

So, excited for a lot of things. D&D campaign, production of my new play, last semester of school, and a new short story anthology. And good to be back!