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.

Life — Making Friends

So, the problem came up in my life recently that I literally don’t know how to make friends. I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid talking to people for so long that I’m not comfortable if I’m not in a very closed off position. It isn’t that I’m shy, just that when I’m with friends, they are very specific (and almost always planned) parts of the day, so every other time I’m alone, usually with headphones in staring at my phone.

How does one solve this issue, you might ask? Well, if you look carefully, I already did. “When I’m with friends, it’s because it’s a very specific, often planned part of the day.” So if I’m trying to meet new people, the easiest way to do it is during planned parts of the day, certainly not at random times while I’m at the school. This means I have to find social situations in which people are already going to be friendly and open towards other people, (not during lunch or other times where they’re already hanging out with the people they want to). In other words, I need to join a club, or some sort of gathering that involves other people my age.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come to that answer, simply the first time I’ve been able to definitively say why it’s such a good idea. Think about it. When you’re in class (specifically college), most people will be there to learn, and even if the class is a boring one, it’s not the best place to make friends; at least, not if you’re introverted. Of course, some classes will be more conducive towards meeting new people, but for the most part I’ve gone through my college career being friendly with my fellow classmates and then disappearing off the face of the Earth when the semester is over (though who is the one disappearing has varied in each circumstance).

I’m well aware that “not having enough friends or people to talk to” isn’t a problem most people would ever consider. In our current world of social media, regular conversations with people across the globe, even regular meetings, isn’t even far-fetched anymore. If I tried hard enough. I could see (or at least communicate with) virtually anyone I’ve ever met on any given day. Even the first friend I had ever made (somebody I met before kindergarten) is a Facebook friend of mine, even if we don’t talk anymore.

So, if you’re lacking a substantial social circle like I am, there’s ways to get around it. Parties, bars, clubs (whether they involve DJs or books), etc. are great ways to meet new people, but really, the only thing you really need is to find people that are genuinely open to talk to strangers. A passing “Hello” certainly isn’t enough. Heck, getting a job could work out just fine, because coworkers are a great way to make friends.

If you don’t have easy access to any of those things (which I would doubt), my recommendation to you would be to go online and find groups in your area that physically meetup and talk about or do something you’re interested in.

And hey, making friends isn’t easy. But it’ll never happen if you’re not open to it.

Me — Being Unapproachable

(This week’s audio recording: “My Father’s Eyes“, a flash fiction piece that’s about two and a half years old at this point.)

This post may or may not sound defeatist or self-deprecating, but I don’t intend it to be that way. Most of the objective of Me posts is to talk about myself and in so doing, learn about my personality and perhaps solve some things by shedding light on my own issues.

A good friend of mine told me the other day that I’m unapproachable. It wasn’t meant in the context of “I don’t feel I can talk to you about my problems,” though. It was said to mean “You don’t make yourself available for strangers to initiate conversation with.” Simply put, I avoid all social interactions whenever possible.

This isn’t an accident. I grew up disliking people and being largely uninterested with what they have to say. It was probably learned behavior to always have headphones in, listening to music, or audiobooks, or simply be doing something that makes it difficult for somebody to talk to me without seeming like they are imposing on me.

This is the way it’s always been, really. I don’t really make friends, and the ones I do aren’t because I shared a class with them. More likely, it would be because they were mutual friends with somebody else I knew, and by hanging out with certain people I would be hanging out with a lot of people.

Now that I’m not in high school, “hanging out with people” simply doesn’t happen. I go to class, I take notes on the lecture, and then I leave to walk straight to the next class where I stare at my phone until I have to start taking more notes.

Lately, though, I’ve felt pretty lonely. It’s not the same depression I had a year ago, by any means. This is simply the desire to have somebody to talk to consistently. The number of people I’ve met in college whom I would consider a friend reaches a grand total of zero, and I’m starting to think it’s because I’m so habitually distant.

Going into the spring semester, I’ve made it a point to take my headphones out when sitting in class, and to have a more open body language as well as keeping my head up to make eye contact more of a possibility. I find it pretty much impossible to initiate conversation, simply because that’s never been who I am, so now I’m simply waiting for somebody interesting to come along and strike a conversation, and getting frustrated when that doesn’t happen.

At this point perhaps my real gripe is that I have never felt that I needed more friends, so I’ve never tried, and now I’m woefully inexperienced in social interactions. The sense of loneliness is probably enhanced by mere virtue of the fact that I am now actively seeking attention and not getting it. I notice everything now. The few friends I do have don’t text back, the short story audio recordings get (almost literally) no views even when I advertise them in the same areas I do normally, and my blog seems to be getting less attention than it used to, a feat I didn’t even think possible.

Friday I talked about the bumpy road that is actually an air bubble in a bad tire. Right now, this is my air bubble. I know it’s not the road that sucks, its a personal issue I have. I don’t know how to fix it, but at least I’ve identified the problem, and I know that’s a good start.

Me — January Update

The holidays are over, and that means the Spring semester. That’s probably the biggest news I’ve got, which is pretty sad. But, as a monthly tradition I seem to have inadvertently started back in November, here’s an update on all the things I’m doing. What games I’m playing, what my future writing plans are, and how my life is going in general.

In December I finished the second novelette, now titled “Change in the Winds”, in the Nacre Then anthology. I also recorded an audio version of it, and you can listen to it on YouTube here. The third novelette will take place in Zephira, a nation of monks that live amidst the clouds. While I already know what the main conflict is going to be, I’m not planning on jumping right in any time soon. I seem to have been having a harder time getting into “writing mode” lately, so I want to try to sort that out and take a breather before I take on another larger project.

As a side note to this, from now on, every Monday I will be releasing another audio short story on YouTube. Today’s reading is the first two Lisa Stenton stories: “Spiritwalkers” and “Suicide Note”. The two stories are about eighteen minutes total, and you can listen to them here! That being said, I do want to write another Lisa Stenton short story soon, but no promises.

I’m also excited to write quite a few Review posts! I recently saw Rogue One, and I’m starting to get into Path of Exile. On top of that, Diablo’s twentieth anniversary is coming up, and I’ve also been playing the original on the Playstation recently. All of these are prime candidates for reviews, so it’s a little frustrating to suddenly have too many things to talk about on that front! I plan on writing these reviews in the order in which I mentioned them, so stay tuned.

While I’ve been playing a lot of Path of Exile, I’ve also recently putting a little extra effort into hitting Platinum rank in Overwatch. I’m inching there ever so slightly, but it’s pretty hard when you play alone on a laggy computer, and your main character is somebody that requires a lot of team coordination! I consider myself a very positive person when playing video games in general (getting mad only makes victory harder), but it can really be hard to remain optimistic in such playing conditions. That’s why it’s taking so long!

As far as reading goes, I’m about halfway through The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book of the Kingkiller Chronicle. So far this one hasn’t sucked me in the same way as the first, but it’s still quite well written in every regard. After I finish it, I plan on actually reading Hero with a Thousand Faces (I’ve read the first quarter of the book twice now.) Perhaps after that I’ll give Wheel of Time another chance, but I’m not sure I’m willing to give it one just yet.

Last, but certainly not least, the next semester begins on Tuesday for me. I’ve registered for five classes, but I don’t know if I’m going to be taking all of them. I got an email from one professor and he sounds like a real piece of work, despite his good reviews. (He doesn’t even allow used versions of the newest edition of the mandatory textbook.) So I’m a little tentative about the classes for this semester. In general it’s been kind of messy, but we’ll see.

I hope you’ve had a great head start to the new year. I’m pretty optimistic about where I’m headed, personally. I can’t wait to see what the months to come bring. If you feel like you’ve already fallen behind, don’t sweat it. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you want them to, but a good opportunity is never far ahead if you keep putting one foot in front of the other.