Life — The State of Spear Gate

To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say today. I’ve had a particularly exhausting weekend, and with the first week of the fall semester happening just prior, I’m a little out of breath… not to mention the fact that I still don’t have a desktop of my own, and that isn’t likely to change until September. So, good on me for being a functioning human being without a real computer for a sizable amount of time, I suppose.

But anyway, I thought I’d talk for a little bit about the state the Spear Gate universe is in right now. There’s a lot going on, but on my blog the only attention it really gets is in the fiction section (obviously) and the little chunk in the monthly updates. That said, it occupies a huge amount of my time and thoughts, so where are we at?

The book just passed 10,000 words, which I’m pretty excited about. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s historically the point at which I get bored with whatever the project happens to be, so the fact that my feelings towards it have only shown the slightest hint of boredom (in regards to the rewrite) is a good sign.

Consequently, I am starting to plan a little bit further and further ahead. I intend to keep the vast majority of that to myself, but know that I am starting to look further than “what happens in the next chapter” as far as what the characters are doing. The strange thing is, they are starting to surprise me with how much depth they’ve naturally evolved with, and I’m scared I’m not taking enough notes! In fact, as of writing this right now I’m creating a Google Doc of stuff I need to not forget.

I have mighty big plans for this universe. A lot of it is too big for the book I’m currently working on, and require things to be established that aren’t. If it does upset me enough, though, I can throw it in anyway and blame it on a “first draft” thing, promising myself to foreshadow stuff in later. For example, ‘Death Warden’ is a special rank in an army unit that has a very specific job (use your context clues). However, Tebrein’s army has never been mentioned and, for where the story is, it isn’t important. So, I don’t know how to fit it in, but I have a cool scene envisioned. This example is one of many.

The Spear Gate universe is huge. Each planet is intended to be capable of comfortably housing several book series that may or may not be relevant to each other, so I can’t possibly fit all of my ideas into the first book alone.

Also, the more I write, the more I realize that I’m sort of accidentally emulating Brandon Sanderson. I don’t think anyone that knows the author would even put the pieces together because on the surface they’re so distinct, but there are points. Now, I realize this is a consequence of my very picky reading habits, but it is what it is. As I plan further and further ahead, Rozire is starting to feel a lot like Hoid. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it.

Life — The Three ‘Me’s

I measure a lot of my success based on the progress I’ve tracked for myself, and how much further I am from my goal. I have endpoints for three distinct things I want to achieve in life, and those endpoints are actually people. Figures whom I admire for very distinct and different reasons, but all who have become something that I want to match (or surpass) in the coming decades. Now, I’ve talked about all of these people before, so I’ll include links to previous posts where I talk about each more singularly.

The first person is probably the most obvious and the most distant goal, and that is Brandon Sanderson. Now, obviously he has achieved things in the sci-fi and fantasy world that is extremely impressive. Having such a name for himself and working on multiple highly anticipated book series is nothing to sneeze at, but the reason he’s one of my endpoints is that he has such a knack for worldbuilding and putting giant concepts into edible chunks. I doubt he’ll ever be as famous as J.K. Rowling because his world is so expansive, but success isn’t necessarily measured by a paycheck. I’m the furthest away from achieving anything he did because he’s so far out of my league professionally, but his ability to constantly write new and diverse worlds never ceases to amaze me. Brandon Sanderson is therefore my aspired “Professional” identity.

My aspired “Hobby” identity is Matt Mercer. Him being an endpoint represents everything I want to achieve in my free time. Not only is he an amazing dungeon master for D&D, but he is also an incredible voice actor. His status as one of my endpoints is a little more ephemeral, because I also attribute this to my career as an improvisational actor and teacher. I don’t really care about doing anything with my abilities as a voice actor, improv actor, or dungeon master, but these are all nonetheless a part of my life, and I want to be able to be awesome at each in my own right. In this sense, I don’t think I can ever achieve this endpoint by virtue of the fact that he does those things as a professional and not as a hobbyist, but they are aspirations of mine all the same.

Lastly, and this may or may not be the most accessible goal, is my “Social” identity, whom I attribute to Sean “Day9” Plott. He is a streamer that plays games like HearthstoneDota 2, and made his name for himself by talking about Starcraft. The reason he’s on this list is because I think his most admirable quality is his personality. When you’re watching him play, (and I think this is pretty rare for streamers), the focus of the content is not on the game, but on him and his reactions to it. He’s built a community with the people that watch his stream, and is very engaging with his viewers. Not only that, but he also loves to tell stories and give advice. Day9 is an extremely charismatic person, watching him would be enjoyable even if I had absolutely no interest in the game he was playing in. While I have no intentions to have any sort of ‘online personality’ (outside perhaps this blog), I want people to have that sentiment towards me, as well. I want to draw in people based on my social character, not my accomplishments or anything like that. This endpoint is the hardest to gauge because, while all it takes is a change in character, that’s by no means easy. In fact, it’s pretty contradictory to the way I’ve lived my life up until recently. I’m taking steps, but it’s difficult to say how far the path leads, and I doubt I’m on the most direct one there.

I think a lot of people might interpret this information and incorrectly conclude that I’m not happy with where I am. On the contrary, I think I’m doing okay. But I think it’s healthy for us as people to have goals, both short term and long term. And it’s okay to have goals you will probably never achieve, because you’ll still get somewhere by trying. I would be lying if I said I expected to actually accomplish any of these endpoints (except maybe one). But that’s not really the point. All of these are markers to help me find the path I want to take, and while I might not get where I’m going, I’ll probably be content with wherever I end up.

Life — August Update Pt. 2: What’s New

Last week I discussed the changes I was making to my blog schedule, which are all already in place. So this week, I’ll just talk about everything else I usually put in an monthly update post.

Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things. (Though I’ll skip the blog part, since I already went over that last week.)

My writing plans are fairly straightforward for the time being. My fiction output is purely focused on the Spear Gate novel I’ve been working on these past few months, and I don’t plan on that changing anytime soon. Of course, I’ve historically gotten bored with long term projects that get too long, and this one is nearing that point, but I’ve gotten no warning signs yet. It seems the tactic of “Only plan as far ahead as the next chapter” is keeping me pretty interested in the story so far, so let’s hope that doesn’t change.

As far as video games go, I haven’t been doing that a whole lot lately. My computer died a few weeks ago, and my laptop isn’t good enough to handle anything like that, so my gaming has been almost exclusive to Dragon Quest Heroes II, of which I already have over 70 hours of. It still doesn’t seem like much in comparison to how much time I’ve put into Dragon Quest VIII, so maybe the figure I told people (about ~300 hours) is a bit larger than I remember it being. But in any case, by this time next month I may or may not be back to my regular games. We’ll see.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and listening to media lately. I’m about three fifths of the way finished with Two Towers (and I hope to be done by August 14th), but mostly I’ve been listening to a good amount of Running the Game, a YouTube series on being a better dungeon master, and Critical Role, which I’ve already talked about a lot. It’s the D&D weekly stream of the adventures of Vox Machina. I’m still about seventy episodes (and therefore 200+ hours) behind, but maybe some day I’ll be caught up… I will say though, the original drive for watching Critical Role stemmed from me wanting to watch and indirectly experience more D&D. Now, because of some interesting story bits, I’m watching it for the narrative, because it’s actually getting very exciting. I just wish there was a faster way to get through it!

The fall semester hasn’t quite started yet, but my classes are all set up and taken care of. This time around I’m taking two theatre classes (which will be my first in years) and I’m overall taking more hours in one semester than I ever have before. This means that I will, once again, be busy (in some form) every single day of the week. I’m not excited about that, but it is what it is. I just hope I don’t hate all my classes. I’ll settle for only hating three of them.

In other news, the old leader of my writer’s group has moved away, leaving me in charge of the group. It doesn’t actually add much responsibility to my plate as far as what’s going on in the writer’s group, but I do treat it very seriously. If nothing else, it’s an acknowledgment of both my writing ability and my leadership skills that I was the one entrusted with it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like having people listen to my direction.

And lastly, I’ve decided to make some small changes to my outward appearance. As a consequence to my closed off personality, I historically don’t make friends. But this school semester I plan on changing that and reinforcing what I call the “Charismatic Introvert™”. A lot of people that don’t know me very well are surprised to find out that I’m a very introverted person, probably because I’m not socially inept like the stereotypical introvert is. So I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more amiable and introduce myself to people, and hopefully I can find people I share things in common with.

That’s all for this month. I’m excited to see where I stand come September. It’s my favorite month (for more reasons than just “It’s my birth month”), but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Life — August Update Pt. 1: Blog Changes

Technically, this is a week early, as I had reserved my monthly updates for being “the first Monday of the month”, but it seems strange to wait an extra week when August is tomorrow. I have a lot to talk about this time around, so I decided to split it up into two posts. This weeks will be exclusively blog changes, since they’re pretty extensive.

Like I predicted last month, I’m making some significant changes to the blog schedule this time around. I had been struggling with coming up with topics for my Learning! posts, but adding another “Prompt” day would have made them back to back, which didn’t sit well with me. I’ve been considering dropping days from my schedule and spending that time writing stuff I don’t publish immediately, but I decided against it for the time being. While I may have the discipline to trust myself to write every day, the idea of making more of those words go “under the table” makes me a bit uneasy. I like having new content accessible for anyone that wants it. If I made that sort of change, it would be adding ‘phantom’ words that don’t get posted, not subtracting the amount of content I post on the blog. But anyways, here is the new schedule:

  • Sunday — Long Story
  • Monday — Life
  • Tuesday — Prompt
  • Wednesday — D&D
  • Thursday — Wildcard
  • Friday — Review

With this setup, I’m making two big changes to the blog. I’m removing Improv 101 and Learning! from the weekly schedule. Why? Well, I’ve covered pretty much every improv game I’m familiar with, so while I do have more to say on the topic, it won’t be enough to warrant a weekly spot. I’ve also removed the Learning! posts because, as I said, I simply don’t know what to say in that category. In their place, I’m adding a new category: “D&D”. In them, I’ll talk about my experience in Dungeons & Dragons, including both tips and funny stories. As the months go on, the game is taking more and more of a focal point of my life, so I feel justified in this change. I’ve already sort of posted the first few in the guise of Learning! posts, but by the time this publishes the titles (and the sidebar) should be reworked.

I’ve also added a “Wildcard” category where I’ll talk about anything, even retired categories. (Maybe even a new chapter excerpt from the Spear Gate book, though I wouldn’t count on that happening often.) For example, if I have a new improv game to talk about, it’ll be on a Thursday. Truth be told, I still have about three more of those posts that haven’t gone up yet, so they will be the first few “Wildcard” posts. But rest assured it will be different afterwards.

To organize things more temporally, I’ve shifted everything over a bit. With this new schedule, every other post on this blog has the chance of being fiction, (and Tuesday is a better Prompt day for me, anyway). And last and least significant of these changes is the fact that I will now only be keeping track of posts in the multiples of 25. This means a post will only have a number tagged at the end about once a month. I don’t need the same amount of validation I needed a year and a half ago. At this point, I just enjoy keeping track.

So, that’s it for this week. Next week I’ll give the second half of the monthly update and talk about everything else that’s going on in my life!

 

Life — Technical Difficulties

Electronics has never been my strong suit. I know enough about them to be able to tell the difference between software and hardware, and can probably handle one better than somebody who saw the rise of technology in their adulthood, but as far as “Here is a problem what do you do?” goes, I’m pretty useless.

I have three devices I use daily. My desktop, my laptop, and my phone. All of them have had their problems, but rarely has it been as bad as this. I call right now my “technological dark age” (as I think is appropriate), because all of my devices are crapping out on me.

My desktop is officially dead. On it’s final day, it blue screened twice, and best I can tell, it’s motherboard is finished. I couldn’t tell you what a motherboard does, but suffice to say that the next desktop I have sole ownership of will have to be a new one. There’s no salvaging Frank. (Yes, my family has owned enough computers to name them.)

But it’s okay, though. I don’t need a desktop. All of my writing is stored on the Cloud, so the only thing I’m losing by throwing the old computer out is a few downloaded pictures. It does suck, because my wallpaper folder had over four hundred pieces of quality art, but it’s no big deal.

So lately, I’ve been deferring all of my internet use to my laptop. I don’t have to worry about maintaining the blog, but it has other setbacks. Use of my laptop has lead me to discover that it is also barely functional. You see, It has less than 30GB of storage space, virtually (ha) all of which is taken up by the operating system. This means that whenever I open a third tab on my browser, or when I open a Google Doc of any substantial size, my browser will crash because it doesn’t have the RAM to handle it. It’s a little frustrating because when I’m DMing a game of Dungeons & Dragons I sort of need to have three or four tabs open of all sorts of information I may or may not need.

It leaves me at a loss, especially since I’m under the impression that there’s nothing I can do to my laptop that will solve that problem. I just have to get a new laptop. Not really though, because it’s not nearly enough of an issue to constitute putting money away for it, especially when I get my new desktop.

As far as my phone goes, it’s simply up to its old antics. It will take several seconds to respond to input, and sometimes apps will crash while I’m using them. Again, not a big deal, but it is annoying, and these are all minor sources of frustration that can pile up throughout the day.

But in the meantime, it’s also sort of liberating. I haven’t been able to access a vast majority of the video games I usually play, and I’m not really upset about it at all, to be honest. Less internet is never really a bad thing, unless you’re procrastinating, so it’s nice. I’ve been reading more, and I’ve also been sleeping in much later than I normally do. The latter isn’t really a cause of my computer troubles, though. It’s just super hot and since I can’t be comfortable in bed, I don’t fall asleep until past 4am, like last night. If I were to change any one thing about my current circumstance, it would actually be my ability to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Had I the world’s knowledge to diagnose all the problems I have, I’m sure I could solve all of them within days, but I suppose that probably applies to a majority of people’s situations. All-in-all, I still think I’m doing pretty well. A little frustrated, perhaps, but not stressed or over-taxed. I know what that’s like, and I’m thankful I’m nowhere near that point at the moment.

Life — One Year Ago (450)

When a lot of people look back one year, they don’t see a lot of changes. For the most part, life rumbles on slowly. Usually only one or two big things will have happened throughout the year to make it memorable, and often one can’t say how a year really went without first coming up with a general emotion to describe it. In my experience, a lot of people will say they had “a bad 201X”. It could, of course, be boiled down to universal culprits, such as the bad economy, or a number of other issues many of us have to deal with.

But when I look back at my year, I try to look specifically at where I used to be and who I am now. Especially with my blog, I can now precisely track where I was in life at specific dates.

365 days ago, the blog was sort of a mess. It was organized, but it was mostly compiled into a lot of information that nobody cared about, not even me. Two reviews, two ‘Me’ posts, and two ‘Life’ posts every single week, wrapped up by a segment of Dreamscape, my second serious attempt at long form fiction. I remember back then I would occasionally write useless blurbs just to get my five hundred words in, and while I tried to avoid it, this ended up happening a lot. (You can only talk about yourself so much before you can’t even think about what to talk about anymore.) A lot of those older posts are thinly veiled vats of useless information, and while that is infinitely better than my zero writing output the year prior, I’ve grown a lot since.

Now, my blog is more refined. I’m down from four Me & Life posts a week to one, giving me much more breathing room to talk about life events that are more substantial. I introduced the Improv 101 and Learning! posts to add more variety. I also added a second fiction day, which is always great.

I think it’s important to look back constantly to make sure you’re going in the right direction. A year ago, I was super proud of the writer I had become. I was finally somebody that wasn’t afraid of putting the ideas on the page, and even when I inevitably got bored of them (as seems to be my curse with longer works,) I still stuck with it for months. A year before that I couldn’t even rely on myself to write five hundred words a week, let alone per day.

So while that jump was about changing the person I was to better fit the writer I wanted to be, the jump from this past year is more about sacrificing quantity for quality. I still have quite a long way to go before I hit that million word wall, but these days I’m not worrying about that as much as I am enjoying the words that I’m putting on the page. I was afraid to give up on Dreamscape because I wanted to at least finish the first draft, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, there were road bumps from the beginning. Problems I ignored because I couldn’t find solutions. I ended up spending the next few weeks being uncomfortable with what I was writing because I knew there were issues with the piece. I told myself it was just to get my “trunk novels” done before I work on real pieces of art.

But really, the art comes first. The very first step on the writer’s journey is to enjoy what you write, and while I’ve known this for several years, it’s a lesson that must be learned and relearned, at least for me.

I’m not the best writer in the world. The stuff I’m working on now probably doesn’t have the most interesting characters, or the most cohesive plot. But you know what?

It’s fun to write. And that’s all that really matters.

Life — Obsessive Organization

Lately I’ve been embracing the fact that I just love putting everything in figurative boxes. I use Google Drive for all of my writing purposes, and everything is neatly organized in folders inside folders inside folders.

If I told you to go to find an essay I wrote in English class of my senior year in high school, it would be pretty easy. You just go open the following folders (and sub-folders): School -> [Name of High School] -> Senior Year -> English -> “Essay”. If I wanted to open the folder of my current major project, the “Spear Gate” book, it’s the same thing: Writing -> Books -> Spear Gate. I’m a little neurotic about it, to be honest. Just for fun, I’ve considered drawing a visual stem of all my documents in Google Drive just so I can see just how deep and organized it really is.

But in recent weeks, I’ve done more. I’ve made a dedicated folder entitled “Data”, filled with lots of information I like to keep track of. That’s where I keep my list of books I’ve read, the books I intend to read soon, descriptions of the books in my brother’s Audible library, etc. About a week ago I made a spreadsheet I call the “Hype Tracker”. In it is all the release and premiere dates of all the games, books, and movies I’m anticipating, as well as other important future dates I don’t want to forget. Using that spreadsheet I can easily grasp how long I’ll have to play X anticipated game until Y game releases. It may sound pretty useless, but I actually open it almost daily.

Tomorrow, I plan on making another thing: a timeline of basically everything that’s happened in my life. I hate having to do math to figure out how old I was when something happened, so if I lay out a timeline, all I’ll have to do is graph the year and my age to put everything into an easy perspective. It’s probably going to be the highlight of my day tomorrow. Not because my life is (that) boring, but because I actually enjoy that sort of thing.

It makes me wonder whether I’m really meant to be a writer, to be honest. Not in like a “I don’t know who I am” sort of way, but in a confused “Why?” sort of way. I cannot in any way see how I can implement data entry into my writing, and the two seem to be as far apart from each other as it is possible to be.

There’s so much I want to do. I want to be an author. I want to compile the lore for video games. I want to perform and teach more improv. I want to get into voice acting. And I also like numbers and data. Sesame Street might say that one of these things is not like the others, I suppose.

But at the same time, it might not be that weird. I’d imagine the common stereotype of a writer and an actor are two very different things, one trapped in a dark room all day trying to catch a break, the other making bank as they sell their millionth copy (see what I did there?) The way I see it, though, writing and acting aren’t very different at all. Being a part of both of those fields, I would actually say they’re very similar to one another. Maybe I’ll talk about that next week, in fact!