Me — June ’18 Update

Well, here we are. I’d like to thank the academy for this astounding accomplishment. Spring 2018 semester is over. The Summer (and hopefully my penultimate) semester is fast approaching. I have big news (for me), too. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment in Oregon, after having flown for the first time in seven-ish years. This is the first “vacation” I’ve ever had to myself, but I’ll get to that.

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

Alright, I finally have some blog news: I will be resuming the weekly fiction portion of my blog! Every Sunday I’ll be posting a flash fiction based on an image writing prompt. I intend to also record them and upload these videos to YouTube around the same time they post to my blog, but we’ll see. I don’t intend to be posting chapter excerpts of anything, though. Just the weekly flash fiction. Plus, that way, you won’t need to have read anything else of mine to enjoy them.

As for writing plans, well… that’s why I’m only posting one thing of fiction a week. I’m still not really devoting any effort to any larger project. Lisa Stenton has once again found herself in a muck of irreconcilable conflicts too large for me to enjoy writing her stories. I just… don’t know how to make technology and urban fantasy marry without copying other writers or making it stupid, and frankly it’s hard to hit the exact right chord I was going for with her stories. I think “The Last Laugh at the Lake of Lava” was pretty good, though. Spear Gate’s new outline is still on the to-do list, but it’s honestly not that interesting to me anymore. ‘Cause, you know, that’s what new writers do. We love something until it’s hard and then find a new passion project. So, as for now, still no bigger project. Oh well.

Lately I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft. Less so HotS because I’m kind of burnt out on it, but I did calculate that in about 600 games (or about 200 hours) I’ll have reached level 10 with every hero in the game. Problem is, all the heroes that are under that cap are because I don’t enjoy them much. So instead I’ve been playing WoW, mostly as a way to pass the time while I listen to podcasts.

Speaking of podcasts, I’ve finally caught up on Story Break! This means I’m caught up on six of the eight podcasts I’m interested in. After that I intend to listen to podcasts I have no hope of being caught up on. Ones that have hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content. I also have some unread audiobooks on my phone, so I still need to dive into those.

As I said, the Spring semester is over. I’m almost done getting two Associate’s Degree’s though. I just need about six classes total, so that’ll be great. I have tentative plans for what I’m going to do after, but nothing concrete. So after the Summer and Fall, I should be done… ish.

Okay, so Oregon. I’ve only been here for about 18 hours as I’m writing this, and roughly half of that has been asleep, but oh my gosh. So many trees. Living in So Cal means that I’m used to sky lines being rocky mounds of… you know, rock. But Oregon is swarmed with trees, I’ve never seen so much green in my life. There’s just… so much. It’s honestly pretty much the same (it’s less than a thousand miles, after all), but at the same time, so different. I’ll talk about it more later.

One thing I didn’t account for on this trip is the fact that I’m introverted. Being around friends for nearly 72 hours straight is… well, let’s just say I’m tired and it’s taking a lot out of me. I want to have fun, but it’ll be a struggle to keep my mental energy running for that long without burning out.

Also, the Tuesday and Wednesday blog posts will be late. I won’t be back home until late Tuesday night.

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 — Procrastination as Efficiency

I’m a person mostly characterized by hyper-productivity. I have to be making the most of my time by multitasking 24/7, if I can help it. I listen to podcasts at 1.25x speed and when I’m relaxing, playing games or whatever because in a way, playing video games feels like a waste of time. Not that I mind, of course, because time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

So I like being efficient with my time. Obviously I can’t be multitasking when I’m doing more intensive things like writing. I can have a podcast on in the background of course, but I either won’t be listening to the podcast or, much more likely, won’t be getting any writing done. So if I’m writing, I sit, sometimes in silence, and write.

But I’ve noticed something, and that realization has led to something terrible. That is the fact that I use my time much more efficiently when I procrastinate my writing, whether its for school, my blog, or just personal projects I’m working on. If I’m working on a project when the deadline is a week or two away, I get distracted very easily, because I know there’s no pressure. Anything I get done now is ahead of schedule, so I don’t even need to work. This leads to me wasting a lot of time trying to write but not being able to work up the discipline to hunker down.

On the flipside, if I wait for the last possible moment to write, I can crank out whatever it is in minutes. Take blog posts for example. I have them set to publish at 5am, so often I’ll end up writing them at 11pm the night before, literally the last thing I do before I go to bed. It would put my mind at ease if I got it out of the way in the morning, (especially on Sundays like this one where I didn’t actually do much else), and yet I didn’t.

You see I’ve noticed that I’m far more efficient when I don’t get to work until there is only one time slot I have free between now and that deadline. No, I never let it get to the point where I’m chugging coffee as I vomit words on the screen at 3am the night before my 8am class, but when this happen it does tend to cut into my sleep schedule and it often makes the next morning harder to bear.

This has led to a strange moment where learning something about myself has actually been to my own detriment. If I never realized how much easier it is to write when I don’t have any more time to write, I probably wouldn’t let it happen as much as I do now, which is to say, pretty much always. When I wait for the last moment to write, I’m often tired and my priority turns into getting it done so I can go to sleep rather than creating a masterpiece. As a result, I do think it harms the quality of whatever it is I’m working on, but it’s a tough habit to get out of.

I’d like to come up with a solution that allows me to be efficient with my writing and proactive so that I can relax as the deadline approaches, but working up the discipline to complete a project well before it needs to be done is tricky, as I’m sure you would agree.

At the same time, perhaps it’s just a professional work habit I just need to learn how to live with and get better at. Maybe I can find ways to better prepare myself for working on things at the last minute, such as outlining or officially dedicating time slots in the day towards work. Who knows.

 

Me — Expanding My Breadth of Knowledge

I have a friend that I only see every few months, but when we do hang out we end up chatting for six hour chunks, and as you can imagine the subject of conversation varies wildly. We’ve known each other for years, but we didn’t get close until we found out we were both INTJ’s (or at least that’s how we were typed).

We’ve since started putting less and less stock into what the MBTI personality types really mean, but he still enjoys figuring people out via their “functions”, something I never cared enough to learn. Recently he used these functions to explain the core difference between us. Both of us like gaining and storing information. I obsessively take what I’ve got and put them in neat little boxes so that the office space in my head has files and folders and neat cabinets. He does the same thing, only he cares a lot more about new information than I do. He’s constantly looking up new things and having new ideas, but doesn’t hold on to them for long.

It gave me an idea, and this might end up changing up the blog schedule slightly (specifically Wednesday, probably). I sort of want to spend a few hours a week researching one completely random topic. Like, this week I’m going to learn all the fundamental knowledge about owls. What sort of ecosystems do they live in, what makes them different from other birds, that sort of thing. Maybe write a blog post about interesting things I learned. The next week I research different types of irrigation systems, both primitive and modern. The week after that I look up Voltaire, his philosophies, and what he was like as a person.

I think it could be pretty useful because some of that stuff is bound to end up in my stories sooner or later, and expanding one’s breadth of knowledge is never a bad thing. In fact I can easily see how all three of those topics might inform my epic fantasy writing by allowing me to implement richer ecosystems, more realistic cities, and more developed politics within those cities.

The biggest deterrent that’s keeping me from starting this right now is that I don’t know how to come up with random topics every week. I want a definitive and useful random topic generator. Something that has enough depth to require research, but not enough complexity to require context by researching something else.

I’m also scared to start this because I’m still looking for a job, and I’m already having a hard enough time finding the willpower to write as it is. I’m currently on Spring Break for my classes, and I should be using it to write the next Lisa Stenton story so I’m not up on Thursday and Saturday night writing while half asleep, but here I am not doing that.

So, while this idea is on my radar, it might be more of a fun summer project rather than a more immediate goal. We’ll see what happens.

Me — Daily Habits

Daily habits are a tricky thing. The bad ones are hard to break and the easy ones are a struggle to maintain. For me, my biggest problem is continuing because not seeing immediate results is discouraging. When 2018 hit, I wanted to hold myself accountable for things and not simply force myself to do things, but to do them so often that they became routine.

I had already been meditating for about fifteen minutes every day. It was something I had been doing since November. With this I wanted to find a more peaceful way to handle stressful situations. I’m one of those people that always has to be doing at least two things constantly. Even when I’m relaxing by playing video games I’m usually also listening to an audiobook or podcast. So meditation was supposed to teach me to accept tuning that part of me down a notch.

I haven’t meditated in almost a month now. Not because I can’t or that I don’t have the time or anything like that. Honestly, I just skipped a day and felt no difference whatsoever in my mood. My attitude didn’t change, my stress levels didn’t change, nothing. So I felt no reason not to skip the next day… and the next, and so on. Some time ago I also tried to start a habit of drinking more water every day, but the only difference I noticed was that I had to pee a lot more. So I just stopped.

Part of it, of course, is that these changes take time. You’re not going to suddenly feel great about yourself just because you drank an extra liter of water throughout the course of the day. But it makes me wonder: how much of that habit really changes you, rather than your outlook on the world and your day as a result of you having the fortitude to keep up that habit?

As soon as January started, I also wanted to get into the habit of reading every day. Nothing major, just one chapter every night before I went to bed. This one, of course, doesn’t change anything about your health or day. It’s just good (especially for a writer) to always be reading. But I’ve never been able to reconcile the fact that I’m a visual person. I have to look at each word and read it to myself in my head, and it makes for very slow reading. One chapter a night usually means over forty minutes of reading, and the first book on the list was Return of the King.

I’m starting to think that I’m not reading at the right time. Before bed is just not a good time slot, because that’s usually my relaxing time when I spend time with my brothers playing video games. I can’t do both (not really, anyway). I could perhaps make it the first thing I do every day, but that would only work on days that I don’t have school.

So, despite my attempts, daily habits still elude me. At least I can still be proud of the fact that I can write every day. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t beat myself over falling short — writing is by far the most important of the four habits I’ve mentioned.

I still hope to make all of these part of my daily routine one day. But just like Aragorn said: “Maybe tomorrow instead.” That’s the quote, right? I don’t know, I haven’t read the book yet.

Me — February ’18 Update

I have to say: I don’t feel as though my life is much different from where I stood a month ago, but now that I think about it, a good deal has happened. For one, the school semester started. It may seem like old news to me, given that it started four weeks ago, but my semester is still something I haven’t even brought up yet. At least, not in depth. So let’s dive right in.

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

No blog changes this month. For once, I’m (almost) 100% satisfied with my posting schedule. (That’s not to say that I expect it to remain like this forever. It shifts with my school/work schedule, and this one functions well for what I’ve got going on.) The one thing though is that the Wednesday whatever has just become more Me posts due to my uneventful life — particularly the lack of D&D lately. I don’t like talking about myself twice a week because I don’t really have anything valuable to say, but it is what it is.

The first Lisa Stenton story is out. It was about five hundred words shorter than I anticipated, but honestly my 6k word estimate turned out to be pretty spot on. I’ve gotten literally no feedback on it whatsoever, though (apart from two grammar mistakes), so that’s a thing. I’m not ecstatic about how it turned out, but I think I did a pretty good job overall. Expect another one on the last Friday of February! As a side note, I’m really enjoying the flash fiction Fridays I’ve been doing. Plus, narrating stories is fun, and even if nobody listens to them, I’m enjoying the process. I won’t narrate Lisa Stenton, though. Not for a while yet, if ever.

In other news, Spear Gate is growing harder and harder to write. It sucks, because I told myself I would finish the first draft of a novel, damn it. It’s been years since I’ve actually written an ending. But it’s just not fun anymore. And I don’t know what’s wrong. I have had an inkling of an idea, though… What if I write this book like Lord of the Rings, or other books. That is to say… separate it by “Book I” and “Book II” even though they really are one book. No plans to speak of yet, but it is an idea.

Video game news: I hit Diamond League in Heroes of the Storm. Go me! (For reference it’s one of the highest tiers of skill in the game. It goes Bronze-Silver-Gold-Platinum-Diamond-Master). I’ve been playing it a lot lately because it honestly just feels great to know you’re good at something and just relax while you do it. I’ve also been playing some Monster Hunter World. More on that later (next Tuesday, probably), but I like it. Only thing is I don’t really understand what I’m doing. I just make new armor and kill new monsters. No strategy, forward thinking, or learning going on at all. Doesn’t help that you learn the game by reading paragraphs and paragraphs of tutorial.

I’ve been reading Fahrenheit 451. Very. Slowly. As in, a month later I’m 30 pages in. I’ve just had a hard time reading at all, lately. I wanted to read a chapter of whatever a day, but I pretty much knew ahead of time it wouldn’t last. I’m about a fourth of the way through Return of the King, but it’s laid unopen near my bed for about a month now. Why are all the good habits so easy to break?

Okay: school. I’m on campus for basically 12 hours straight on Mondays and Wednesdays. First class starts at 10, last class ends at 9:15. (I had an 8:30am class, too, but it was cancelled.) And on Wednesdays, my only breaks are two half hours. So needless to say I’m exhausted. I’m also pretty busy on Tuesdays, so the beginning of the week just takes a huge toll. On the plus side, I’m generally free to work on writing, schoolwork, and whatever on the weekends, so it isn’t all bad. I like all my classes. I’m mostly taking classes all indirectly related to theatre (Costuming, playwriting, voice acting, etc), so it’s not as high stress a workload as last semester. High on involvement and participation, yes. But not stressful.

Lastly, I want to talk about the Writing Excuses scholarship. This is sort of related to writing plans, but doesn’t really have anything to do with the big projects I’m working on. My first personal essay was terrible, and I’m still working on a second. I want to put more focus on things I’ve already written the next few weeks, edit them, and just punch up the storytelling in general because I want to submit as strong an application as I can. This means I have to find my three best works and edit them a ton. Only problem is, I don’t know what my best works are anymore.

Soon I plan on individually asking people who’ve read a good amount of my stuff what their favorite stories of mine are. Problem is, a lot of their opinions would be outdated because basically nobody has read any of my 2017-2018 shorts. So we’ll see. But if I were to submit the application right now, I’d personally choose “The Girl, the Owl, and the Creek”, “Orn’s Legacy”, and an epic fantasy poem I wrote. I still don’t know if the submissions have to be prose, which is frustrating. Either way, I know all three of those stories need work, but I think they’re strong contenders.

Me — Deserving to Win

I’ve been working on my application for the Writing Excuses Retreat Scholarship that’s set for late September, and it’s gotten me to asking a few important questions. This isn’t the first time I’ve applied to the cruise, and (if it isn’t obvious), I haven’t won any scholarships… yet.

The application process is simple. You write a personal essay about your merit and why you deserve the scholarship, then attach three letters of recommendation and up to three writing samples (to a max of 10,000 words). I tried to be cheeky (and thus memorable) last year by writing my personal essay in prose, in which I talked to one of my main characters about myself and the book I was writing. His book, actually. Since that didn’t win, I’m taking a more traditional route.

My first essay sucked, and I wasn’t surprised when my writing group said so. They said it sounded as though I had already lost, which is fair, because that was pretty much exactly how I wrote it. I don’t know how many hundreds (or thousands) of people apply for the scholarship each year, but can I really expect to be one of the three best, most qualified applicants? Brimming with confidence as I may be, I wouldn’t presume to think I’m anywhere close to the best of the best.

So I knowingly gave my group this awful essay, and one person in my group said something that was really profound.

She asked if I thought I deserved to win.

And I didn’t have an answer. The more I thought about that question, the more I had to ask myself. Objectively, of course, a panel of judges will be reading the submissions and picking who is the most deserving. But on a deeper level, what does it mean to deserve something? Potential isn’t enough. Confidence isn’t enough. Tenacity isn’t enough. You have to have the exact right proportions of each.

Somebody too poor to afford a proper education is already at a severe disadvantage, for example. If they can’t afford the schooling, they won’t be able to write a strong enough essay, let alone the fiction to back it up. So a minimum threshold of disposable income is all but required. Writing isn’t simply an innate art, but a skill to be practiced and trained. Better training and teaching will simply yield better results.

Somebody too arrogant to think that they can have whatever they want simply won’t come across as deserving. Nobody wants to give a jerk money. Not even a smart one that can do a lot with it. But you won’t give somebody riddled with insecurities money, either. There’s no promise that they’ll grow into somebody that can work despite failure, which is something that this industry is practically characterized by. You have to find somebody that believes in themselves, but not so much as to bridge into arrogance. Somebody that can press on in the face of adversity and has the courage to keep going even though success is never guaranteed.

Somebody too stubborn to give up when they aren’t learning isn’t suitable, either. Rejection is a tough thing to handle, sure. A budding writer might hear about how writers get rejected dozens of times before they can be successful, and submit hundreds of times to compensate. They don’t understand that perseverance isn’t the only requirement. Sometimes, a rejection doesn’t simply mean that you’re knocking on the wrong door. Sometimes it means that you’re not selling the right product, and what a lot of writers don’t understand is that the product isn’t the book you’re holding. It’s the author. Products don’t sell if they don’t have a strong name to back them up, and it’s the same way with books. If you’re rejected, that could just mean you haven’t grown enough as an author and a person to be worthy of that sell. So a person that doesn’t realize this isn’t deserving, either.

I’d like to think that I have enough schooling to be competitive. I’d certainly expect my writing to be of a higher caliber than most people my age. I’d like to think that I’m confident enough to know where I am. I can see just how long and arduous this road is. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if anyone can do it, I can. I’d like to think that I’m determined enough to succeed in the long run. I fully expect failure, but instead of letting that stop me or ignore my failures for what they are, I’ll treat them for the learning experiences they are, for nobody has led a life of pure success.

Do I deserve to win? I really don’t know. But in the end, the answer to that question isn’t up to me. I just have to put my best foot forward, and if its not good enough, I’m going to have to find some new feet.