Life — October Update

The hiatus is over! I took a much longer break than anticipated because, I’ll admit: it was extremely relaxing to have one less thing on my plate for a while. It took no small amount of willpower not to continue, but because of last week’s promise to resume, I’m making myself return! You have past me to thank for anticipating future me’s thoughts. Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

The blog is in an interesting position. The hiatus has allowed me to think about my position as a writer, and what the daily upkeep really does for me. I’m far beyond requiring the self-discipline necessary, which was one of the blog’s primary purposes (aside from directly increasing the amount of content I wrote). In all honesty, I’m seriously considering dropping a lot of the daily posting of the blog in favor of streamlining and improving what I do produce. Especially since the production I’m in opens in two weeks and finals are just around the corner, I won’t have much free time on my hands. Resuming a daily 500 word minimum is the last thing I need. But nothing is set in stone yet (or online? Doesn’t sound nearly as good)—so stay tuned.

As far as writing goes, Spear Gate still has my full attention. I’m putting more focus on Upper Terrace and Varra’s side of the story because Maelys is less important at the moment. I have lots of plans of where I want the story to go, but some of them are a little conflicting. Suddenly getting arrested tends to have that effect. I’m definitely to the point where notes are very important, because I can’t afford to lose my ideas!

I’m sort of all over the place with video games at the moment. Mostly I’m playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, but also, depending on whether or not I’m playing with friends, I’m playing a bit of Overwatch and, more recently, Speedrunners. I’ve recently started playing Heroes of Might and Magic again, as well, and I was surprised to realize that I like 6 way more than 5. It’s far more intuitive!

These last several weeks I’ve been speeding through Critical Role. I had calculated how many hours I would need to put in it per week to finish by the end of the year, but I also wanted to watch the last episode as it was livestreamed. When I found out it was ending very soon, I started watching two or three episodes a day at 1.5x speed. Alas, I’m still on episode 91/115, and 115 was the last episode, having aired last week. I’ve still got 90 hours to power through, but at least I can rest easy knowing that their next campaign won’t start until next year.

As I mentioned earlier, school is pretty stressful. The show I’m in opens at the end of October (and I just realized I’m not sure if I’ve filled out the paperwork yet), and two of my three other classes require a lot of my attention. I’m debating a topic I barely understand very soon, and the unfortunate thing about that class is that I feel as though I’ve got a much better handle on the subject than most other people there. Really though, I just planned out this semester very poorly. It’s all I can do to conserve my energy and just tread water until it’s over.

Other things. On top of school, the next weekend on which I have no plans is over a month away. I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write, but I have to, somehow. Really, things just aren’t going the way I’d like them to be. It doesn’t help that it’s still hot over here. Even with the free time I have I don’t feel like I can relax, so I’m a little at a loss. I think maybe resuming the blog probably works against me finding comfort, but at the same time whenever I take a break it makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Here’s hoping the Daily Dose won’t take too much out of me in the coming weeks. But if it does, a longer hiatus may be the only option.

Life — September Update

September is here, and with it comes lots of new and exciting things. I don’t really have a preface for anything this time around, so let’s just jump right in! Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I’m actually pretty comfortable with the state of the blog right now. Despite having taken my first ever sick day and having a different post be almost eight hours late, I think I’m doing fine. The system has me publishing fiction on a regular basis, and the only thing I might have any concerns about is the fact that I don’t really have anything to review right now, and as far as D&D posts goes, I usually only play it once a week, and I don’t want the Wednesday posts to just be “what did we do last week”. At the same time, I’ve only been a real dungeon master for about a year, so I’m not all that experienced, so it feels a bit strange to do lesson posts on that front, but I’ll keep with it as long as I can keep content coming!

Spear Gate is still going strong. the current draft is over 12,000 words long, and that doesn’t include the short stories that don’t involve the main characters. I’ve been starting to think of the Spear Gate as something akin to a web comic that just updates weekly. I like the sound of that for a number of reasons, but of course looking at it that way brings pros and cons. If it is a “web series”, then there is no draft. When you post it, it’s done. But that also makes it easier to keep moving forward. Plus, if there’s a web series that posts a weekly, continuous story the way I’ve been doing it, I don’t know about it, so I can call myself original. (Side note: There’s no way it hasn’t been done, but still.)

I haven’t been playing a whole lot of games, as I still don’t have a proper desktop. I’ve been keeping myself busy with Titanfall 2, but I also recently reinstalled Hearthstone on my phone, in addition to the fact that I’m playing Pokemon: Go more and more. (It’s still not an amazing game, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of where it was when the fad died out.) If everything goes well, however, I should have my computer and everything set up by this time next week. And when Destiny 2 gets released on the PC, I plan on putting a lot of time into that, as well as returning to Heroes of the Storm!

Podcasts and audiobooks have taken a bit of a backseat lately, as the school year has just started. That said, I’m currently about halfway through The Martian, which is about as great as I expected it to be, and I’m also just over halfway through Critical Role. That means I still have well over 150 hours to go. Maybe I’ll be caught up by 2019, because they’re still adding 3 hours of content a week! One day I also plan on devoting myself to podcasts a bit more. In my Top 3 alone there is a D&D one, a voice acting one, and a story script writing one that I’ve barely started, if I’ve even gotten that far.

Fall semester, 2017. It’s the heaviest load I’ve taken since high school, though it’s still not as big as typical workaholics I’m sure. My schedule does require me to be in class all but nonstop from 8:30-2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though. My biggest gap is half an hour, which is barely enough time for lunch! Overall, the classes seem fine. I’m taking two theatre classes, and the others are lecture heavy, so there isn’t a whole lot of homework, which is a concept I can get behind. So, despite being in a state of perpetual exhaustion because of the schedule, and also slowly melting because of the heat wave, I think this semester will be a good one.

What else is there to say? I’m back to teaching improv again, which is a great feeling! The more improv in my life, the better. I also hope to start doing actual performances again sometime soon, but that’s still a ways away.

Anyways, hopefully it starts cooling down soon!

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 — April Update

April is here, and let me say I am ecstatic to see what this month brings. Lots of big updates for games I play, and a lot of big things happening with school, as well. A lot of things will be very different by the end of the month, and I’m really optimistic as to what’s coming. As usual, the order of things I’m going to talk about with my life: blog changes, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

As far as my blog goes, I don’t actually have any big changes planned (for once). I’m going to stop numbering the blog posts that end in ‘5’, because it’s getting tedious at this point, and I haven’t needed to feel validated through numbers in quite some time, so from now on the only posts I’ll number are by 10’s. (Maybe sometime in the distant future I’ll jump to 25’s, but at that point I’d probably just stop numbering the posts entirely.)

My writing plans are in a lot of flux right now. I’ve got a lot of current things I’m working on, and I’ve been pressing pause to start new things without actually finishing anything. I’m still only halfway through Windcaller, and only wrote the first half of the fourth Lisa Stenton piece “Answers”. I had the idea of Cyntheras’ story a while back and didn’t want to hold off on it for too long, so I figured I’d get it off my chest now. Her story may actually end up being the eighth novelette in the anthology Rise of the Riftguard, but that depends entirely on how the rest of the novelettes go leading up to that point.

I plan on finishing “Answers” next week, and especially since the first half didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, it’s already turned out to be more work than I’d have liked it to be. I plan on pitching it to my writer’s group this week to see what they think of the first half before I finish up with it. And as far as Windcaller goes, I need to make some adjustments to the latest part before I can continue working on it, but I plan on finishing Delanden’s story this month as well! Maybe I can move on to that Spark story I’ve been talking about once I’ve finished all of this!

My video games of choice have been fluctuating a lot recently. I’ve been playing a lot of Heroes of the Storm lately, and I’ve sort of embraced it as my go-to these past several weeks. I’ve also started playing a bit of League of Legends, too, but at this point I don’t like it nearly as much as the Heroes, primarily because there’s so many more moving parts that I can’t hold on to. What’s more, Heroes is getting a huge update later this month, and it’s changing the entire interface of the game in such a way that I can’t wait to get my hands on it! And also Hearthstone‘s latest expansion: Journey to Un’Goro, is releasing mid-April! Lots of cool stuff I’m excited for. I’ve also been playing Minecraft more lately, and my current project is to build the starting city of my Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It’s coming along nicely, I’d say, but the more work I put into it, the larger of a project it’s getting to be. And here I thought it would take me a week tops.

While I’m working on that, I’ve been catching up on the Writing Excuses podcast! I never got caught up with it back when I was giving it a lot of attention (in August I think?), and I’m currently on season 9, which spans 2014 (each season is one year). Since each season is a total of over 17 hours long, hoping to be caught up by May is a long shot for how much free time I have.

My spring semester is still going pretty well. I love my astronomy class because of how much cool stuff I’ve been learning from it. I did a post on Fraunhofer lines several weeks ago, and it’s just one example of huge scientific concepts I had zero knowledge of until I took this class. Especially since Nacre Then has a lot of astronomical phenomena going on, and another universe I’m working on has a lot of weird space stuff happening, this is easily one of the coolest classes I’ve taken period. (It just sucks that the class meets for four hours at a time. I don’t get how people I know can just take three of those sorts of classes in one semester. My brain would be fried!)

And while I’m talking about school– I applied for a bunch of different scholarships this year. The year prior I won the first scholarship I’ve ever tried, so technically I’ve won 100% of the scholarships I’ve applied for. This year I’ve sent applications for about seven-ish, one of them being the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. I don’t expect to win any of them (least of all that one), but winning a small $200 scholarship would be pretty neat, at least, and it cost me (almost) nothing to try. I’ll know before the end of the month if I did win any.

Last but not least, I’m going to start trying to publicize myself a bit more. Specifically, I made an official Reddit account and have been trying to learn the community’s ways as I lurk the Writing Prompts subReddit. I figure if I can write cool stories there and submit good writing prompts, I can get my name known in that community and maybe even start building a following. It hasn’t gone well so far. I try to submit a writing prompt every day, but nobody has ever submitted any story based on one of my prompts, and some of my good ideas were even downvoted a few times! I can’t take this to heart, I know. I just don’t know the community or what they like yet. We’ll see what happens.

So, that’s everything that’s new with me. I hope to bring even better news next month, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings!

 

Life — March Update

Lots of stuff on the horizon, and let me tell you I have a great feeling about the things to come. So, in the order I’m going to adapt for these monthly updates, let me talk about everything that’s new (or not) with me: Blog changes, writing plans, video games, and school.

I’m actually really excited for the blog changes I’m making today. First, I’m doing away with the “About Me” and “Life” posts. They will now be considered one thing. It’s always been a struggle talking exclusively about myself in one category and then exclusively advice in another. There’s always been a lot of crossover. So rather than have two different categories for it, it’ll be easier for everyone if it’s the same thing. So, in the future, Mondays will be “Life” posts and will be about me, advice, or anything in between. (As a side note, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with changing the sidebar in this regard, since I’m combining categories. I’ll sweep this issue under the rug for now.)

In addition to combining those two, I’m moving the Review section to Friday. Why, you ask? Because Wednesdays will be a second fiction day. The entire end goal for this blog is to get me to write more fiction, and I think I’m finally ready to challenge myself to write even more. I needed it in the Wednesday slot because I wanted the two fiction posts to be far apart in the week. As far as the content this will be, my current intention is to make the Sunday fiction focused towards my more important stuff, like the Nacre Then novelettes, Lisa Stenton, and the Spark novelette. Wednesday posts will be anything at all, perhaps random stories whose writing prompts I snag from Reddit. It’ll be my “unwind” day, and for Wednesdays I won’t stress over publishing a story that’s only five hundred words (whereas Sunday posts are typically well over a thousand).

Speaking of the things I’m writing, the third novelette, Windcaller, is well underway. In fact by the time this publishes I expect to be over halfway done. I am a little worried/excited, though. Part of me says there’s no way I can squeeze all the story I want to tell into the conventional ten thousand words these novelettes are targeted to be. I’m okay with this story going over that, but I don’t want it to get too long lest I run into the possibility of me getting bored with the story before I finish (which has been my biggest roadblock in writing novel length works in the past). It occurs to me that the best way to do this may be to cut Delanden’s story into two full novelettes, but that fuddles the entire structure of my anthology, and I don’t know how I’d handle that. I plan on jumping into Lisa Stenton immediately after Windcaller finishes, and then Spark after that, but we’ll see how it goes.

As far as video games go, I’m still playing the same old things. Mostly, this has meant Hearthstone and Overwatch, but lately I’ve also been playing Heroes of the Storm, and I don’t really know why. It certainly isn’t my favorite game, and it can be way more frustrating than the other games I usually play, but I’ve wanted to lately. Maybe it’s because I can listen to audiobooks and music while playing it, whereas Overwatch makes that a bit more difficult.

My semester is in full swing, including my late start classes, now. I have an astronomy class that meets for four hours at a time, which is as awful as it sounds, but luckily I’m learning a lot of interesting things that I knew nothing about prior. (Have you ever heard of Fraunhofer lines?) None of my classes are particularly difficult or time consuming, but this semester I haven’t managed to snag a class I’m excited about going to, either. I guess I can’t be lucky every time.

Lastly, in other news, I submitted some applications for some scholarships, towards my college and elsewhere. I don’t actually expect to win any, because I took a huge gamble this time around, but this was more of a bonus. We’ll see what comes of it.

That’s all for now, but let me tell you March is, inexplicably, one of my favorite months. I’m really excited.

 

Me — February Update (330)

January was a pretty great month for me. I’ve accomplished a lot, but I think the most notable things that have happened have been markers of what is to come. For one, I’m excited to tackle three stories right now, all of which unfortunately will require some more preparation.

First and foremost, I can’t wait to start writing the third novelette in Aftermath of the Rupture (the new, tentative title of which is Rise of the Riftguard). I have the opening scene, but I still need to find a place for it in the overarching story of the anthology, because as of yet the characters/events have nothing to do with The Rupture and its consequences.

Second, Lisa Stenton has been getting a lot more love recently. I just finished her third short story, and I really want to keep writing her stuff, but the stuff I have fleshed out is too far in the timeline for me to write it just yet. I love the character and the style of writing I get to use when I’m telling her story because its so different from everything else I write, but if I’m too hasty I’ll risk giving too much or too little intrigue in what needs to be handled carefully.

Lastly, I am still going to write a longer story set in the Spark universe. “A Big Discovery” gave all of us working on the game a much clearer view into this world, and as expected it made us ask questions we need to answer as we work on the project. So, going beyond this, if I write a longer story with more characters, worldbuilding, and background, we’ll find more questions and, necessarily, more answers.

I have no idea what I’m going to write next, honestly. All three of these projects are going to be longer than the conventional one to two thousand words, which means working on any one of them in earnest will occupy a few weeks of time. The best part about this is that I’m excited to write all of them, and me getting excited about writing is a luxury I rarely have.

Moving on from my writing projects, I’m making a few minor tweaks to my blog. Most prominently, I’m planning on making the Thursday Learning! posts focused on writing. That topic seems to get the most traffic, which isn’t surprising. I’ve studied writing for a while now (I’m an English major after all), so if I can use that knowledge to another’s benefit, that’s what I’ll do. Not every Thursday post will be about writing, but I’ll start making that the norm. Another change that I’m making to the blog is that I’m moving the publication of the audio recordings to Sunday rather than Monday. It makes more sense to provide the link to fiction at the preface to fiction rather than a post like this, so that’s where it’ll go.

On to everything else that’s going on with my life. Nothing super exciting is happening anywhere else. I’ve been playing a lot of OverwatchHearthstone, and, as of lately, Minecraft. I finally hit platinum rank in Overwatch, so I haven’t been playing it as much, and for the January season in Hearthstone I managed to get all the way up to rank three, which is apparently in the top one percentile in the region, and the highest I’ve ever gotten to. (It’s sort of ranked from one to twenty-five, one being the highest*). As far as Minecraft goes, it fills the same hole as Stardew Valley: the way my brothers and I play it is primarily for relaxing and building stuff. We’ve been playing it a few weeks, and I’ve got so many ideas for things I want to do, and I know I’ll get bored with the game way before I achieve most of them, but it is what it is.

While I’m playing, I’ve been listening to the Wheel of Time series again. I just finished Hero with a Thousand Faces, so I thought it was time to give it another shot, since I’ve never made it past book five. I’m on the third right now, but I don’t expect to have a whole lot of time to devote to reading (or gaming) in the next week or two.

As far as classes go, there isn’t much to say. I’m really enjoying my social psychology class, because I love the subject, but two of my classes still haven’t even started yet (they begin on the seventh), so it feels like I’m taking a light semester right now, when in reality the fun hasn’t really started yet. So, great start to the year, and I’ve got a lot of optimism for the future!

*There is a rank above One in Hearthstone, the “Legend” rank, so it’s kind of difficult to accurately explain how the ranking system works in a concise manner.

 

 

Life — Fending off Procrastination

We all know what procrastination feels like. It sucks when you run out of time to handle what needs doing and you’re forced to do everything at once, only doing a passable job with the time constraint. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has been given a major ten page essay to do months prior to it being due, only to write the entire thing in one sitting on what would otherwise be a relaxing Sunday. You tell yourself that you’re never going to let this happen again, and it probably isn’t even a full month before you rescind that promise.

I’m not going to say it’s easy to stop procrastinating. It’s a habit, and a rewarding one at that. You reward yourself early by relaxing when you should be working, so when the situation comes and goes, you can’t remember it being entirely bad because it started off so well. But you can’t train a dog to sit by giving out treats followed by directions. That’s just not how it works, and our brains are programmed the same way.

There are two ways that I’ve found out of this hole, and unfortunately, my experience says these solutions are only case-by-case, and not cures to the disease that is procrastination, but perhaps with vigilant and unyielding practice they can turn into habit. The first way is what I’m sure many people have heard, and that is to parcel out the assignment. Work on it for an hour every other day or so, depending on what the assignment is. Even if you end up getting to that fateful Sunday night with a half-finished essay, it still yields some success, because now you only have to work half as hard as you would have without trying at all. I’ve personally found this method to be the worst, because its hard to think “Oh, I’ve got free time today, I should spend it working on the essay.” Rather, you’d say to yourself “Oh, man that was a long day of work and/or school. I can’t wait to relax!” and you continue to do that to yourself until you realize that you’ve spent no actual time on it. (Plus, I personally have a hard time devoting only one hour on something, even if its video games! If I’m working on something, I’m giving it all my attention which means I need a good chunk of free time that day.)

The method that I prefer is what I call reverse procrastination: you get everything done immediately, the first chance you get. This gives you the most time to relax afterwards, and the feeling is amazing. I can only recall a few times I’ve pulled this off, because it’s incredibly difficult to jump on something like a ten page essay as soon as its assigned when you doubtlessly have other things to do, but if you can get it done, it’s incredible. You can sit down with your free time and think “Do I have anything I need to be doing?” and then remember you already finished the essay that isn’t due until two weeks from now and you get an extra sense of happiness and accomplishment every time you think about it. Rather than this essay being a stress inducer, you’ve just managed to make thinking about it a stress reliever, and it makes your life so much easier.

Now, I totally get that saying “Just do the thing,” is a terrible way to stop procrastinating. To make it easier on yourself, target things that you cannot procrastinate on. Let’s say you’re taking five classes in high school or college (doesn’t matter). Tell yourself whenever you get an assignment in specific class X, you do that assignment immediately. You handle the other classes like normal, but for that one class, challenge yourself to do everything as soon as possible. As you’re doing this, you’ll find that you probably enjoy that class more than the others, or at least more than you think you would have, because that class is not a source of any stress whatsoever. This advice doesn’t have to be school related. It could be something along the lines of your job, or housework/chores, etc. Take one piece of your life that is a constant source of stress, and tackle it ruthlessly, compressing all the air out like a plastic bag with a hole in it. If you can manage to do that, tackle two things. If this works, keep adding more until deadlines don’t stress you out anymore.