Playing Catch-up

Hello, friends! My time has been being devoured by both finals and work over the last few weeks, as you could probably tell by my late (or even absent) posts. I’m happy to finally report though that finals are now over, so my work schedule will resume to a simple 9-5! I’m very excited to slowly start getting my weekends and weeknights back, but with that excitement comes cleanup.

As I stated before, my job recently lost a full time employee, and I’ve had to fill in the gap as best I could, even while going to school (and, of course, finals). So aside from all the extra stuff I’d like to be doing, the shop just needs to be straightened up and organized. Scrap material has been piling up in the corner for weeks, and my partner left a ton of stuff in disarray! (Or at least, not to the nigh-obsessive level of organization that I would like to keep it at.) I went in to work for an extra 6 hours yesterday just to clean and I still have what I would predict to be another 4 hours of work. (It’s not as though I’m simply sweeping up wads of paper, after all. These scrap pieces are still 4′ x 8′ sheets of material.)

If I could get the shop in tip-top shape, finish all of the extra stuff I’d like to do, I would estimate it would need about another 12 hours in total, though a lot of that would just be normal maintenance like mopping the floors, which should be getting done more often than it is.

That leaves me to well, my actual room. I like to think I’m an organized person, but there seems to be a certain point in every semester where I just can’t be bothered. I get home late with various loose papers in my hand, and I just put it down on my desk sitting atop the rest of my various papers and then don’t bother to look through it ever again. I’m starting to seriously run out of desk space because of it, but the amount of time I’ve been able to spend just relaxing at home is so sparse as it is, then when I am here I’d rather just watch YouTube videos and play Magic than do more work. Obviously that’s a self-perpetuating cycle, but I’ll get to it soon. Along those same lines is the fact that I’ve been contemplating doing a deep cleaning of my room (yay purging!), but if I did that it would take all day, and the last time I had a full day to myself was probably January. As much as I want to, I’m not sure I can spare that kind of time.

As far as I’m concerned, summer can’t really start until both the shop at work and my room are completely clean and primed for living in. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do that.

I’m coming for you, summer. I have games I want to play and books I want to read.

Rambling — The Lack of Long-term Goals

I was talking to a friend the other day (a game developer who’s been working closely in the industry for a few years), and I told him that if I had had my way, my ideal career would be writing up the storylines to video games. My thought was that I could be the lead writer for an indie company, because that avenue has been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. It wasn’t his intention, but he said something that was really disheartening, which was the fact that the project that he’s currently working on has over forty developers and zero of them are just “writers”.

Now, the thing is, I’m not sure how well his situation translates to my ambitions, because the project that he is on is unannounced, and therefore he can’t tell me about it. It sounds to me like the thing that he’s working on is very mechanic-driven, with little to no narrative. (I’m struggling to avoid using the term ‘game’ here, even if that is almost assuredly what he is doing). You don’t need a narrative for a game like Chess, after all, and for all I know he’s just making Super Chess.

I don’t like facing the fact that he’s probably right—there’s very few careers for a writer in the video game industry, meaning they will be hard to get and more than likely, none of them would be exclusively writing. (I love brainstorming, but there’s no way in hell anyone would pay me to sit in an office 40 hours a week to brainstorm with people and string story threads together.) But the problem with that is that I have no other marketable skills for that industry.

The vast majority of the time I do a pretty good job at not worrying about the future and just live in the present. Building towards and preparing for my life in two years is all well and good, but looking much further than that doesn’t tend to yield very accurate results.

What concerns me here is that I have no real passions. I’m sure that’s not uncommon with a lot of people my age, and so I should count myself lucky that I tend to be competent at most everything I pick up, but what I don’t want to do is be sitting in the same spot 10 years from now wondering when I can start calling myself an adult.

It’s stupid, I know. I’m already an adult and my life started decades ago. Some people live their whole life waiting for it to start, but if nothing motivates me into kicking myself into gear, what is there to do?

I used to think I’d be a published author by now, well into the first few novels of a fantasy series, but as it turns out I get bored with long-form writing and burn myself out. I have this irrational (if commonplace) fear that every aspiration I turn to will yield the same results.

They say not to make your hobby your day job, but my only hobby is D&D, and I already consider it a load of work. Ho-hum. Rambling over.

No Saturday Post!

Hey everyone,

I apologize for the lack of a Saturday post (and the fact that I’m just now telling you this the day after). I went on a long hike that day and it destroyed me! I’ll try to throw in an extra post this week to make up for it. Maybe on Thursday!

Me — The Magic Castle

I recently had the privilege and honor to visit The Magic Castle, and being uncultured I had no idea what I was really getting myself into or what to expect. By far, this is the fanciest event I’ve ever been to, with only a couple weddings even approaching.

What I was told (by somebody who had also never been) was that it would be a dining experience with live magic performed right in front of you. It’s also invite only, and the formal dress code is strictly enforced. “Okay,” I thought. “Fancy dinner, sounds cool.”

Well, folks. That is not how I spent my day at all.

As it turns out, The Magic Castle is a lot of things, not just a restaurant. I would describe it as a convention where several live shows are being performed at once in any of several small theaters, and where you can meet and talk to professional magicians. I would describe it as a museum where every painting, every decoration in every hall, has a history that spans decades. A history the seeps through the floorboards so thoroughly that the very atmosphere is an experience all it’s own. The building is so famous that even it’s construction and how it was made is a story all its own. (I can’t emphasize this enough. Even an innocuous, if lavish, bar would be revealed to me as from the set of Hello, Dolly!) But most importantly, it is also a school for magicians—the school for magicians. Basically every famous magician since 1963 has been a part of the building’s history in some form or another.

Suffice to say, I was a bit shocked. There was so much to do, so much to see, and so many people that were all dressed in their best attire that it is a social gathering unlike anything like I’ve ever experienced. To say that I felt out of place would be an understatement. I mean here are all of these high class people that all “know a guy”—because you have to be that type of person to even get through the door! Perhaps not everyone was like that, as I’d imagine there were several people like me, but when even the ground you’re walking upon is worth tens of thousands of dollars, the people that use it must be worth millions. And yet, the things they talked about were pretty normal.

But to say that I was uncomfortable at any point would be unfair. Each of the performances we saw were spectacular in their own, unique ways, and seeing lots of magicians performed showed me a lot about how much charisma can carry you through and enhance a performance. I couldn’t help but try to solve a lot of the tricks, as I imagine it’s only natural to do, and most of the time when I could see their tactics (even if I couldn’t unravel them), it still impressed me with their ability to execute on them every time without messing up.

I found that my favorite performance was not the one that kept me amazed, but the one that kept me laughing the whole time. (For those wondering, it was Mike Pisciotta. Here’s a video of a few of the tricks he showed us, though it isn’t very high res.) He did a great job at telling you what you thought he was doing and then proving you wrong, as well as teaching a bit about the philosophy of magic. It was funny, informative, and impressive all rolled into one, and I found him to be absolutely charming.

It’s hard to really roll up the day all into one post. But I will say this: though my brother and I are very similar people, we both independently had the same thought. As cheesy as it is, there was no word to describe the experience other than simply “Magical”.

Me — May ’19 Update

My free time has been getting shoveled out the window the past few weeks, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The last time I got home and was able to just relax before 7pm (including weekends) was last Thursday, and even then I got home at about 7 and had work the next morning, so it wasn’t as though I could sleep in.

I’m not complaining, though. According to my happiness chart things have actually been getting slightly better (probably because I’m too busy to be stressed or lonely). It does mean that I forced myself to get up at 5am to write this, though.

So, that said, I’m adding something to the monthly topics: work. Because of that, I’m changing the order by moving things around a bit. Here it is:

Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

Despite my lack of time (and the fact that I didn’t post anything this past Tuesday), I’m not making any changes to the blog. I don’t want to take another break because any period of time where I don’t hold myself accountable for updates and posts gives me a tiny source of stress. I don’t like having that little voice in the back of my head that asks when I’m going to start writing posts again. Plus, I think two posts a week is a nice goal. It requires me to keep writing without having to be on my thoughts each and every day.

do have writing plans, which makes me very excited. Over the summer, I’m going to write the second half of the Lisa play I started back in February. I don’t know what I’ll do with it afterwards, but it is definitely still a first draft. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to find time to write a short story for the passion project (which for now is still nameless). The thing is, neither that story nor the Lisa play are ever likely to find their way onto the blog, unfortunately. Play format isn’t conducive to blog posts, and the audience of the short story is written for the other people on the project, so it isn’t very inclusive. Still, I’m optimistic about my writing situation, (plus, I have a few inklings of crazy weird things I want to try out, but that won’t be for several, several months).

Work is getting rough. As I wrote about recently, my job used to have me, who is part time, and somebody else who was full time. Even in recent weeks he and I had been struggling to get everything done one time, and then he left. I can’t just start working full time again because I have school, which means I’m driving to work immediately after school, hence the not getting home until ~8pm most days. Luckily I’ve been getting some help from other people so my work load hasn’t been as daunting as it might be, and I’ll be looking forward to being able to start saving money again, so we’ll see.

That said, finals week is really soon. I have to have a lot of things done by next Thursday for one of my classes, and I’m worried that there will not be enough time in the day to finish it the way I want to. The solace I do have is that as far as school is concerned, this is the only thing I’m worried about, as all of my other classes are relatively laid back. If my project does turn out the way I’m hoping, maybe I’ll even make a post about it and include some pictures.

The Aleor D&D campaign is going great. We just had a surprise boss fight-ish in the streets of Craydon, and this was the first real session we’ve had since they finished a dungeon. This fight took two hours and had so many pieces. I should have taken pictures, I had three books open, 70% of my miniatures were on the mat, there were 4 allied parties (not including the players) and 4 different types of enemies. The session ended up being 5 hours long (and our usual is 3). I’m gearing them towards some major story arcs because up until now they’ve been flailing around at low level doing random, insignificant stuff. Mostly I can’t wait to write about this scene in the campaign diaries when I get to them.

Video games? Who has time for those? Well, recently I downloaded Magic the Gathering: Arena, which I may or may not have mentioned on the blog. It took several hours to start enjoying, but it’s slowly starting to feel like just another card game which is nice. I don’t really have any time to play it, which means I don’t play often enough to acquire my own custom deck, but the decks that the game gives you are at least halfway decent/fun.

I’ve been falling behind a bit on Critical Role, which as I’ve stated before is 50% of the media I consume, so that feels a bit bad. I do like being a week’s behind because then I don’t feel obligated to watch the stream on Thursday (as usually I should be getting work done if that time slot is free), but at this point I’m multiple episodes behind so I’m no longer safe browsing the subreddit and looking at fanart and whatnot. Oh well.

The only other thing I have is that I’ve started to go to my writer’s group again. It feels somewhat like a waste of my time because I don’t have any writing to present, but if nothing else it’s nice to see a lot of those people again. Maybe I’ll start bringing stuff I’ve already written and start editing it.

That’s all, folks! Next update should be interesting because with the end of the Spring semester my schedule should have calmed down quite a bit. I’ll be working full time, be done by 5pm, and if I don’t have something to do that night (like writer’s group), then I can go home and just relax/get work done! Never a moment’s rest, but maybe that’s the way I like it.

Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

D&D — Why Do You Play?

Dungeons & Dragons means a lot of different things to different people. It might mean wish fulfillment of getting to be your own Mary Sue. Maybe it means number crunching and being as powerful as you can be (which is wish fulfillment in its own right). Maybe it means escaping reality by doing good and saving the princess. Or maybe it just means hanging out with friends.

I think everyone comes to role-playing games like D&D because it’s the ultimate sandbox in a lot of ways. Depending on who your dungeon master is, the only think limiting your abilities is your creativity—you can do what you want, as long as it’s not impossible within the rules of the world (which may or may not coincide with the rules of the game). “Choices are infinite—consequences are mandatory”.

For me, D&D is about two things. I love the escapism it provides in allowing me to pretend to be people wildly different from myself, and since I’m a storyteller at heart, it also lets me feel like I’m part of a crazy adventure in a fantasy novel than simply writing one.

I feel as though I’m in a weird minority in the community. The vast majority of people I’ve interacted with in regards to D&D aren’t (particularly) interested in the story, or when they are, it’s always in the framework of their character. For me, the story and the character are often two separate entities entirely. I built a character that is fun to pretend to be, not one that has an intricate backstory that has strong connections to the world they live in.

I have a few friends that with whom I share D&D stories on a regular basis. I’ve certainly considered inviting them to the game that I run, but deep down I know that they wouldn’t have any fun. At its current state, the Aleor campaign is a lot of talking to normal townsfolk rather than an epic adventure of heroes and villains, and I can’t accommodate a player who wants to be a Jedi.

Finding the D&D group that you mesh with is tough. Since everyone’s playing for different reasons, the obvious, most accessible group to you may not be the best one for you. It may not even be the right one, and since the type of person to be playing the game tends to be the sort of person who doesn’t make a habit of socializing with strangers, it becomes very difficult to find the perfect fit, because for you that perfect fit might only be online with the help of meetup groups like Roll20.

For me, Critical Role is the pinnacle, most ideal version of what D&D could be. Other streams are entertaining, but in my experience, none of them are stories being told the same way that Critical Role is. If I wanted to mess around and goof off at a table with a bunch of friends, there are dozens of different board games we could play with way less effort. Dungeons & Dragons is the only one that allows me to alter my identity.