Me — July ’18 Update

With the onset of summer comes a few disappointments, mostly in plans that didn’t come to fruition. It’s all good, though. The heat wave hasn’t quite reached, (though it’ll be over 100° F next week) so I haven’t yet hit the threshold where it’s too hot to hurt my productivity.

So as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Okay. Minor blog changes! I touched on this a bit ago, but I finally have a plan. Posting all of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday isn’t working for me anymore. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have zero free time to be writing, as I’m either at work, at my writer’s group, or at D&D for basically 100% of those days. I was originally going to rework the schedule entirely, but really it’s only the Wednesday posts that are troublesome, given my lack of free time the night before. So while I’m not going to change the content of what I’ve been putting out, I will be pushing the Wednesday posts to Thursday. That way I can use the free time I have on Wednesday nights to write instead of twiddling my thumbs. That’s it. I also can’t promise I won’t continue being late on the fiction posts. I still don’t have that spark of creativity that makes writing compelling, so it’s hard to actually force myself to write. I will continue to try my best to post fiction every week though.

Speaking of that, it hurts a little bit to have writing plans be one of the main categories of things I talk about in these monthly updates when I have had no writing plans for months. I don’t intend to remove it from the list, though. I think it’s important for it to stay there.

Video games are also pretty simple: I’m still playing Heroes of the Storm almost exclusively, but in all honesty I don’t have a whole lot of time to be playing video games right now. Working full time means that when I do finally get home I’m super tired and I either have to write or go do something else. As much as I’d like to be playing stuff, it just doesn’t have priority. Not to say that that’s a bad thing.

When I do have free time, I’ve been listening to a new podcast I’m not sure I’ve mentioned on the blog before: No Such Thing as a Fish. It’s a weekly British podcast where all the hosts each bring a fact on any topic, and then they each spend ten minutes talking about things tangential to that fact before moving on to the next topic. The useless information is interesting, and their commentary can be really funny. As a side note, I’ve also been watching West Wing with a friend. We just finished the first season, and I might do a review (on just the first season) soon.

Also, some unfortunate news about school. My summer semester class was cancelled, and since I was taking a big fall semester, I was planning on graduating at the end of the fall. Without that class I needed, I’m going to need to take another spring semester—something I was trying pretty hard to avoid. But, when all’s said and done, it’s only a few extra months. So, not currently in school, but hope to be mostly out of it soon.

Other things. Well, the only other thing I have to talk about is D&D and all my plans that never happened. I intended to run a new campaign just over the course of the summer. One with super weak commoner characters, but that never happened. I do have an entirely new idea for a campaign, but this inkling is small and needs time to grow. I also intended to write a weekly journal of my character’s adventures in this new campaign, but in all honesty that would be a lot of writing I’m not all that interested in. Instead, I think I’ll keep the tales of Taldarrin of the Twiceborn in my back pocket until I have some good ones to share.

P.S. When looking for the picture to post with these monthly updates, I always just type in the month name and find the first picture without words I like. With July, though, it’s all America and fireworks. Did the USA single-handedly commandeer the month of July because of one national holiday, or do search engines base searches off of country?

Me — Writing at the Last Minute

I’ll admit it. To the surprise of nobody, I’ve never been amazing at writing these posts in advance. There have been occasions where I wrote the next week’s worth of post all on Sunday, but the last time that happened was (I don’t know how many) months ago. In fact, for the past two weeks or more, every single post has been written at most 6 hours before it’s scheduled to post, and multiple times I’ve been late on posts entirely.

Probably, the fact that I’m working full time is to blame. I’m not home and showered before 6pm, and usually not settled before 7. By that time, I’ve been out and about for nearly 12 hours and writing is not the first thing on my mind. I want to unwind and take a break, and this ostensibly leads to me relaxing for the next 4 hours and suddenly I need to go to bed and haven’t written yet.

It sort of sucks because this means that all of my posts have been “Oh my gosh I want to go to bed but I need to churn out 500 words”. Not all of them have been bad, of course, but with these normal blog posts especially I don’t usually even know what I’m going to write until I write it. Free form isn’t bad, necessarily, but I do think it leaves the quality of my work at a tier below that which I expect of myself.

With posts like this, I don’t mind so much. I mean, this post is my 635th on the blog (remembered when I tagged them in multiples of 5? Yeesh.) So with all the subcategories and these random, general posts being the most common, there are 3/400 like it. What I don’t like is that, for the Sunday fiction posts, I usually don’t write those until Saturday night, and even then I probably don’t get started until past midnight because I’ve been up playing games with friends. It’s really hard for me to commit to writing a longer piece (even if it’s only 1,000 words) the morning after a long week of hard work.

What this tells me is that a reorganizing of the blog schedule is in order. Especially since Wednesday posts are tough—with my writer’s group I rarely get home before 9pm, and at that point I still need to shower and eat. It’s doable, sure, but I just wish my schedule would gain some consistency and that all the weekly things I want to be doing all happen at the same times every week! (The troubles of being a working college student, I’m afraid. You take the classes you need at the times you can afford.)

I’ll try to give all this some serious thought before Monday, when the monthly update posts. I don’t like making bigger changes outside of those posts if I can help it, especially if they occur near the beginning of the month. So, stay tuned. I don’t expect my post frequency to change, but maybe I’ll take a look at my fall semester and figure out a neater blog schedule that doesn’t frontload my work week and can be consistent for the rest of the year.

Me — My Love for Brainstorming

So, even with my conspicuously missing spark of inspiration, and my consequential lack of fiction writing, there is quite a lot of aspects to stories I do enjoy, which is why I’m so confident I’ll find my career somewhere in this giant field. I’m pretty good at editing when I’m really doubling down on it, and I’d say I have a pretty solid grasp on story structure.

What’s weird is that as much as I dislike outlining stories I plan on writing, I love outlining and brainstorming stories. A friend and I have been working on the plot to a story for a few months (totaling to about two and a half real discussions), and the outline is coming together very well.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, listen to an episode of Rocket Jump’s podcast Story Break. For those of you that don’t want to take the time to do that, I’d describe it very simply as taking a simple idea and fleshing it out into a story, randomly spitballing until you get that spark of “Oh, that’s cool”, and then writing that down and spitballing again until you find something that thematically ties in to what you’ve already got. You repeat this process over and over and by the time you’re done you should have a full story plot complete with strong themes, recurring symbols, and dynamic characters. Or at least it looks like you do on paper. Then you write the first draft and it turns out to be crap.

But that part’s an altogether different story. Right now I’m just talking about being in the headspace of brainstorming. The mental office in which you have no clutter, no restrictions, no rules, no anything. You just have a blank piece of paper and a giant bowl of primordial essence with which you can create this masterpiece. Plus, since it’s all just in your head, it’s automatically perfect. Converting concept to product is never as simple as fun. At least, not for me. When I’m creating something new I don’t want to spend time thinking anything other than what’s cool and shooting for that.

And you know, the funny thing about writing blog posts like this is that you sometimes discover things about yourself. I often tell people that creativity is the ability to justify things under constraints, and that it’s pretty much just a muscle that you need to train (you know, just like literally everything in life). But writing about this now has me realizing that the thing I love most about creating something new is the lack of restrictions other than the ones I impose on myself.

With most larger concepts I start with the one idea I like and then throw in the opposite of it. “The Cool” and “The But”, as I’ve begun to call them. (Maybe I should do a dedicated post on finding the Cool and the But sometime in the near future.) Once I have those two things, I spend the rest of the time marrying them in a way that looks like they were meant to be together from the start, and often I’ll find some neat things along the way.

So, I don’t know if there’s any occupation that is literally just brainstorming, be it plots, scripts, worlds, whatever, but if there is, I could totally see myself doing that all day every day for a living.

Me — Still Not Writing

I have a confession.

It’s been two months since I stopped writing both Friday fiction posts and Sunday Spear Gate stories. I intended for that to be a temporary break while I got acclimated to my new job and finished the semester of school.

Well, the semester is over and I’m acclimated. So, why haven’t I gotten back into it? I’ll be honest, I don’t fully understand why, but I just… don’t feel compelled to write right now. Everything worth writing requires pre-writing (like the outline to the thirdish draft of Spear Gate), and I don’t find the idea of that appealing. I have another story that I want to tackle, but that requires even more planning, because I don’t want to dive into it head first the same way I did with the last project.

Part of it is that I don’t want to go back to vomiting out a story the night before it needs to be published. I lose sleep and end up with a subpar story, so it’s just a waste of my time.

This leaves me at an interesting position. I’m still leading a writer’s group, but I don’t bring anything anymore, and everyone (lovingly) gives me crap for it every time. It hurts, but I don’t want to bring something that I know I won’t edit just to have something, which is honestly most of what I do when I go.

I’ve tried adopting a lifestyle that doesn’t revolve around mass productivity, because I shouldn’t be in as much of a hurry as I am. Ideally, I’d like to publish an anthology of short stories every year (along the same veins of my first book, Nacre Then’s Beginnings), but it might turn into an every-other year thing, given the fact that I’ve written no short stories in two months.

I’ve talked to a friend about this, and the advice I’ve been given is just to take a break. My response to that is that I’m literally taking a break right now, but she claimed I was just putting it on pause. I don’t like the idea of just stopping, but she may be right.

I have so many plans for the summer, and it doesn’t look like any of them are going to happen. I was going to start a new D&D campaign (apart from the one that starts tomorrow), learn to cook, binge watch a bunch of shows with a friend, collaborate on a bigger project, work on the new outline to Spear Gate, and… well… it looks like most of the next few months will be taking summer classes and working instead.

This should content me. I’ll be super busy, but… I don’t know. There’s something I’m missing and I don’t know what it is.

So, I apologize if you read my blog for the stories. It is my full intention to resume both a regular short story and an established universe section every week. I can’t do that now, but I hope that these weekly updates are interesting enough to keep you occupied in the meantime.

If nothing else, it’s insight into the head of another “aspiring”, yet struggling writer.

Me — Editing My Own Work

I’ve never had an easy time revisiting my own work after it makes it past its first draft. I would say that it’s probably one of my biggest flaws as a writer. In fact, rarely do I even go so far as to reread my own work before I publish it to the blog. I mean, I’m sort of reading it as I write it, so I don’t make too many grammar mistakes, but it does happen.

But once I actually finish something, the only reason I’d go back and read it again is if I was either recording it to post it on YouTube or because I need to familiarize myself with the stories and characters before I continue writing. Pretty much anything anyone has ever read of mine is going to be as I wrote it, with almost no edits. If you’re reading it here on this blog, then that’s doubly true, though I may have gone back and fixed typos.

I actually find it pretty difficult to go back and change my writing. I’ll receive edits and know what I want to change, but this often means cutting and adding larger chunks. I was recently given notes for my one act play I’ve been working on (for a playwriting class I’m taking), and instead of changing the ending, I just took out the last paragraph and added two more pages. I hardly touched character motivation, character dialogue, or anything at all. I just added.

To some extent, I think that’s fine. But here I am thinking about the second draft to my Spear Gate novella and I’m not even considering editing. I feel like it needs so much work I might as well start it from scratch (after making a real outline, of course). I think the biggest hurdle is that two of the three main characters need better motivations for their actions, which is no small fix. Especially with how I operate, going back and editing each and every line just isn’t feasible. It wouldn’t be worth my time. Still, I’m not sure rewriting it from the beginning is a good idea, either.

It’s sort of funny because I edit naturally as I read other people’s works. I can’t even turn it off, editing is the only mode I have as a reader (which is why I read so slow and often fall asleep), except when I’m reading my own writing. I don’t know if you can train yourself to use it only when you need it, but I’d certainly like to learn. Writing a bunch of first drafts of several different Chapter Ones can get tedious, and though I usually like how those short stories turn out, I want to write books! If my theory that Mary Sues are just protagonists that need to earn their perfection, then I need to write in the same story a lot more. I’ll never earn any level of awesome if I only hold on to characters for 2,000 words at a time.

Me — May ’18 Update

Technically it’s not May yet, but it would be weird to post this on May 7th when I could just post it on the last day of April. The Spring semester is almost over, and with it, new goals and new challenges. So here we go.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I still have no plans to going back to writing fiction every week. Maybe once summer starts in earnest I’ll get going, but in all honesty I might very well be as busy over the summer as I am right now. I hope to be able to write more, but I don’t know. One thing I will say, though: I wish I was recording more audio narrations of my flash fictions. I just started doing that again and I don’t want to have recorded 5 and then stop. Ideally I’d be posting one short story a week to YouTube. I’d like to try to catch up at some point by doing two a week for a while, but I honestly doubt that’ll actually happen. Plus, if I did get into the swing of that again, I’d have to actually write a short story a week again. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not a high priority right now, given how busy my week is.

Along with that, I’ve got no writing plans on the forefront. With Lisa 3 half-finished and no direction and Lisa 2 needing to be rewritten completely, I’ve sort of been derailed entirely at this point. I would consider myself two and a half Lisa stories behind at this point, so there’s no way I’ll end up with 12 cohesive stories by the end of the year. There are just things about the urban fantasy genre I can’t satisfactorily reconcile without copying other books. I know, I know, “Good writers borrow, great writers steal” and all that, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to make technology and magic incompatible “just because” like everyone else does. I’ve also been seeing a lot of flak for the sarcastic hero archetype Lisa fits into, so it does my inspiration no favors. Apart from Lisa, I have no immediate writing plans, so without an interesting project I’m itching to tackle, I’m still okay with just not writing for a while. Maybe I’ll work on that outline for Spear Gate soon.

I haven’t been playing Heroes of the Storm as much lately. I haven’r really felt compelled to. Instead I’ve been trying to tackle things that have been on my mind for a while. I played through Hollow Knight recently, so expect a review on that maybe next week (not tomorrow). Apart from that, I’ve picked up World of Warcraft again, but this time I’m playing it completely differently. I’m tackling roleplay. And before you ask—no, not sex. That’s really not as much of a thing in video games as the media would like it to be. No, with my more recent playing of Warcraft I’ve made a new character who I’ve made a backstory for. You talk in character with other players. I’d equate it to a live, in game chat room sort of like D&D if you were only speaking to and acknowledging other players. Also, my character is a pacifist, so she’s trying to become a powerful adventurer and find herself without hurting a soul. So far I’ve accidentally punched one guy for 2 damage, which breaks her perfect track record, but oh well.

I haven’t had much time for podcasts recently, apart from listening to the newer uploads of the ones I’ve caught up on. I’ve listened to a good third of the Story Break episodes (a podcast which I would recommend for any writer, especially a screenwriter).

The school semester is almost over for me, and luckily I’m only taking one final on finals week. All my other finals should be done by then, I’m mostly just procrastinating. And given a busy summer and fall semester this year, I should have two AA degrees: one in English and one in Theater. Fingers crossed.

As I’ve briefly stated before, I’ve recently got a new job as well. I won’t say much about it other than to say it’s a smallish place where I’m the hard labor. It’s not physically intensive, but it’s nice in that the work takes long in that it’s both diverse and extensive. Every new project is different and most take several hours to see through to completion. I’ve only been there a few weeks so far, but I love it. Working with and getting to know a few people is much better than having dozens of coworkers you’ve barely met, and since it’s not repetitive I’ll never get bored. So fun stuff!

I had hoped to announce today that I’d be going to the yearly Writing Excuses Retreat this year. I worked really hard on making my application for the scholarship outstanding. I didn’t win, obviously, but there’s always next year. I considered actually buying a ticket to the cruise, but at this point part of me considers winning the scholarship as proof that I deserve it, and buying a ticket myself would be cheating. Plus, they’re expensive!

can announce that I’ll be traveling a bit more anyway this year, though. I’ll be going to Oregon with a friend over the summer, and I also plan on attending WorldCon in San Jose in August. Almost every time I’ve traveled long distance has been with lots of family, so these two occasions should be fun adventures and good learning experiences for me.

Alright, that’s all for this month. Stay tuned for more fiction stuff soon!

 

Me — New Job and Feeling Good

I’m in a really interesting spot in my life in that I’m very content. It’s sort of strange that that’s the case, given that I didn’t win the scholarship and I was excited for the prospect of leaving the country for the first time (plus I felt I had a really strong application this year). I also intended to both get my own car soon as well as move out. I don’t think either of those two are likely to happen any time soon, and yet… it’s fine.

I really love my new job. Working around machines and materials worth hundreds or thousands of dollars is stressful, sure, but it suits me far better than my previous taxable job at Target. I’m part of a small team and the things that need to be done take a long time, so on a full shift, I’ll probably be doing a total of four or five things for the entire day. There’s a lot I need to learn, but once you know what you’re doing these things are pretty simple. (Plus having somebody always there to double check whether you’re doing something right is good insurance.)

So, my life is pretty busy right now. I’m at the college for 24 hours a week, and at work 21 hours a week. Not including the homework from all my classes, writing blog stuff, teaching improv, and going to my writer’s group, I’m busy 45 hours out of the week. Nothing to sneeze at, sure, but then you throw in the 10 page research paper due in two weeks (that I haven’t started), the One Act play I’ll need to edit soon, and you know, other things I want to work on… and well, there goes all my free time. I’m trying to get through Hollow Knight right now, but man, it’s a much longer game than I anticipated.

The weirdest thing about my contentedness is the fact that I’m not currently writing any fiction. I left Lisa 3 half finished, Lisa 2 needs to be completely rewritten, and I have interesting ideas floating around in my head that I’m basically not giving much attention. A few years ago I’d have been stressed out by my lack of writing, but right now I feel fine because I’m already doing so much other stuff, that I know my writing would suffer if I tried. Staying up till 2am writing a thing after playing video games because I felt I needed a break was super unhealthy, so not forcing myself to write has been nice.

Added bonus: my job has required me to get up earlier, and since I no longer have any days off during the week, I’m waking up pretty much every day. Yesterday I slept in and didn’t get out of bed until 8:45am! Not feeling tired and having that be the natural time I woke up was the best feeling in the world, because I suddenly had so much time in the day. I hope I can make that a habit, getting out of bed at 11am feels bad.

I also just realized that my 600th post was a few days ago. I’m probably well over half a million words posted on my blog at this point. Go milestones!