Me — Tempering Life Expectations

I’ve been working my way out of a depression the last few months because of a few things, but central to it was an increasing feeling that I’m never going to have my life where I want it to be. (Don’t worry, I’m okay now, for reasons I’m about to get into.) I still have a bad night every week or so, but a few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine, and he commented that life is just always bad and people have to make their own happiness amidst the bad. We all have stuff to go through. It’s a conversation I’m sure we’ve all had in the past, but I guess it was the right time for me, because it sparked some thoughts.

That “revelation” might seem obvious, I know. Life is always a constant battle as we try to position it on a precarious pedestal and hope the slight breeze doesn’t ruin that balance, and that’s after you find the right life and the right pedestal. I’ve started to think, probably realistically, that there will never be a moment in my life where everything is exactly how I want it to be.

Sounds sad, but tangential to this is the opposite effect. Life might never be perfect, but it can get pretty good, so its imperfections shouldn’t disallow you from appreciating the times when it actually is pretty good. And for me, that’s right now. I’m doing great, all things considered. I have two passion projects (sort of three, if you count the play I’m working on), I’m hosting a D&D campaign that is going really, really well, and my school and work lives aren’t tearing me apart, even if they are a constant source of struggle.

So just because I don’t make as much money as I’d like to be, or my living situation isn’t ideal, or my social life needs a ton of work, doesn’t mean I haven’t made any progress. This time last year I had no job, was actively struggling with friendships/relationships, and my writing block was just starting to take hold. I’ve made some good strides since then.

I think it’s time to stop putting unrealistic expectations on myself. I’m not going to fix my financial situation or my social life by this time next year. They might improve, but the problems won’t be solved. But hey, I’m doing fine where I am now, and I can’t discredit that. Of course, we should never stop striving for more, trying to make things better where we can, but being disappointed when perfection isn’t achieved is just going to ruin things at every turn.

Also, if you’re no longer satisfied with being in a good position in life, waiting for it to get better, maybe that’s also a sign that things haven’t been bad for quite a while, and if that’s the cause, you should be thankful for that. It’s easy to forget harder times when you’re living in a period of mediocrity.

Me — My Goal in Life

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how often people reformulate what they want their life to amount to. The end of the road. The “I’ve made it”. I’d never really had concrete plans, as for the longest time the goal had just been “get real good at worldbuilding and then write some books”. Well, if you really know me then you’d know that I don’t have any real, serious dreams/hopes of ever writing books as a career. I’m just never as interested in the characters as I am with the scope of the world itself.

But even at that point of my life, my true goal has always simply been ‘happiness’. I mean, I’d say that’s everyone’s goal whether they realize it or not. To me, it doesn’t matter what my life ends up being as long as I get to a point where I’m not twiddling my thumbs wishing things were different. Do I expect to ever get to a point like that? Maybe not, but I’d like to get as close to that as possible.

Still, I had never thought about what that life looks like. Obviously, I can’t predict the future and I know my life will change in unimaginable ways, but I think it’s still worth exploring the ideal future the current Kollin would like, and for all the introspection I do in my day-to-day life, it’s a little surprising I had never given it more thought until now.

So here it is.

I have a stable career working on story structure and planning for some big game a la Overwatch or World of Warcraft, or perhaps I’m the main story writer for some smaller company. Maybe the story I’m working on is in a world I helped build from scratch. It’s a steady job, something that keeps me living well within my means but doesn’t allow for extravagances (I’m never going to be the person that takes yearly vacations around the world). I probably also live in Oregon or Washington, because it’s gorgeous up there and doesn’t get nearly as hot.

I’ve got a wife and maybe some kids (2 or 3 or none at all), and every week we invite my brothers and maybe one or two other friends to our awesome game room (where most of my expendable income goes) and play Dungeons & Dragons. I have appropriate monster miniatures at the ready and have been playing the game and practicing long enough to tell crazy cool stories with fun adventures, complete with interesting character voices I fully commit to. Perhaps I even play D&D twice a week so I can play with all the people I want to play with (or heck, I might even be running the fabled West Marches campaign.

I wake up just past dawn every morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, because I go to bed earlier than most people. I enjoy the privacy of every quiet morning with a hot cup of tea.

That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m not optimistic I’ll ever have half of those things all at the same time, but hey. Ideals.

Me — Accidental Cleaning

Okay, I know that being two days late on a post seems incredibly lazy when I’ve cut my content all the way down to twice a weak, but I realized something. For the entirety (9am-9/10pm) of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I am booked. Every week, and the longest break I have on any one of those days is about an hour, which is reserved for lunch and breathing.

That said, when I got home from work today, Friday evening, I intended to write out the detailed descriptions of a few D&D magical items that have been twirling around in my head. But in order to do that I needed to clear my desk a bit to give me more room to work.

This turned into vetting every single document that seemed important enough to hold onto for the last year and a half, and then managing all of the past year’s worth of writing group critiques, and then I thought “Hey, if I’m going to be sitting in my room cleaning stuff, I might as well also have laundry going,” and, well, to make a long story short, my room is now spotless, my desk is nice and tidy, and my Friday evening is gone. I somehow managed to spend five hours just doing more and more things I hadn’t planned on working on, but had been piling up.

Funny thing is, I’m not even done. There’s a writing thing on my to-do list that’ll take about two or three hours, and I’ve been trying to find the time to write that for weeks. And my original plan—writing magic items for D&D—never even got around to it. But now that I’m making a list of all the things I want to have done, it doesn’t look so bad anymore. I’d guesstimate it at about 13 hours total, which means that if I’m disciplined enough to spend all my free time on those things (spoiler: I’m not) then I should just about get it all done in about a week’s time.

I’ll be honest—I’m surprised to find that I’m more disappointed that I had no free time today than I am satisfied that I got a lot of chores done. I don’t know how Saturday night Kollin will feel about this, but he had better be grateful that he can just forget about everything when he gets home from work. Well, everything except those 5ish things that still need doing. Oh well. I just want to be able to relax without things hanging over me, but there always seems to be an innumerable amount of things, even when you spend the day getting rid of them.

I guess this is what adulting is like. I don’t know whose idea this shroud of responsibility was, but I am not a fan. Days like this are probably to be expected over the next few months. The hours of free time I have every week are threatening single digits, which hasn’t been too bad so far. Part of me likes to brag about how I don’t have time to just “do things” like everybody else seems to. And yet…

Me — Dumping Boring Projects

You may or may not have realized that I’ve been really bad at posting regularly the past few weeks. The Sunday fiction posts are almost always posted a day late, and the last two posts were missing entirely, including the most recent Thursday post.

Some of it is genuinely my lack of time. The last day I had any amount of free time to really work on anything was Wednesday, and I spent it relaxing (which, I’ll add, I do not regret). But coinciding with that is the fact that the free time I do have I don’t want to spend writing. I’ve said it a thousand times, but its relevance bears repeating: I don’t actually like writing, I like having written.

Having said that, I think it’s time to, once again, shorten the amount of output the Daily Dose has, at least for a little while. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened on my blog. It certainly won’t be the last. When this happens, I don’t like forcing myself to write subpar content, because not only does it feel bad, but it reflects poorly on me when anyone reads something I post and is disappointed in the quality. I’d rather just post less and make each post worth reading.

To put in a bit of perspective here, I have eight writing projects I’d like to be working on right now. Two of them are large scale, two are short stories, two are little personal projects that will never be posted online, and two are other, miscellaneous stuff. Ignoring the large projects, I’d tally the other stuff to be about 7,000 words. And I’ll be honest—I’d rather do the large projects than any one of the other ones (except maybe the D&D Dialogue I haven’t finished).

So, I’m just going to, discreetly, push those standalone short stories off my plate and into the trash. Prioritizing them is a waste of my time, especially when I’m thinking of it as an obstacle to climb before I can get to stuff I’d rather do.

I usually write posts like this with an air of defeat and shame. That I’m not good enough to do what I used to be able to. Not this time. It would be unfair to say that I’m taking a break from writing, or that I’m just being lazy—next week I’ll be going to school and work full time, and though The Wave™ isn’t as huge as my initial predictions, I certainly expect to be more busy than I am now.

What I’m going to do, effective today, is post twice a week: a ‘Me’ post (like this one) on Mondays, and an anything post on Thursdays. It could be a Review, a short story, another ‘Me’ post, whatever. That last one will probably end up being the most common, but who knows.

I don’t know exactly what the next few weeks will bring, but whatever happens it will be productive and efficient—just the way I like it.

See you soon!

Me– Aug ’18 Update

With the onset of the fall semester comes The Wave™, and I’m pretty scared that I’m tackling too much at a time. As I’ve already talked a bit about last week, I’m expecting to count hours of free time in the single digits every week, but I’m thinking of it as setting up for an awesome 2019.

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

Currently, I’m not planning any blog changes. I expect I’ll be able to churn out blog posts in between classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I’m not that worried about my ability to post nonfiction three times a week. It’s the short stories I’m more concerned about. As it is, I’m already posting them six hours late (usually), and I expect my restrictive schedule to make it even harder to post those on time, if at all. So while I don’t want to stop writing fiction for a few months, it might be an inevitability. Especially considering I’m even going to miss a few months of my writer’s group because of scheduling conflicts, and thus won’t have any real reason to write.

I’m also a bit nervous about writing plans. I won’t get into it now, but for the past few months I feel great about my stories whenever I’m away from my computer. In fact, when I’m in the shower thinking about the story I intend to write in the next 20 minutes, I can’t wait to sit down and get going. But as soon as I stare at the screen, suddenly I need to vacuum or do laundry, or check my email. Anything to get me away from the screen. What’s worse, Xelfure’s story is getting bigger and bigger in my head. What was once a more dedicated short story is now threatening to be the prequel spinoff novel to the Nacre Then trilogy I’ve refused to think about for years, and that terrifies me, especially since I’m going to be the busiest I’ve probably ever been in my life very soon, and thus won’t have time to focus on anything big like that. So, stay tuned for what may or may not ever become a thing.

New video game news, for once. I’ve still been playing lots of Heroes of the Storm, and I have plans for reaching level 10 on every hero by October (though that may be a bit optimistic). But when I have larger chunks of free time I’ve been playing NieR: Automata, and I also recently bought Pyre because it was on sale and I’ve been looking at it ever since it was announced. Haven’t touched it yet, but it is downloaded!

I’ve finished all the audiobooks I’ve had backlogged, and have recently been binging Welcome to Nightvale. It’s a bi-weekly radio broadcast of a fictional town called Nightvale, and the podcast is basically just Lovecraftian horror. Imagine a regular news broadcast of Innsmouth if it was actually a comedy. It’s been interesting, and I intend to review it once I’m caught up. Maybe next week.

Oh boy, school. My semester’s going to be pretty busy, but not as busy as I had anticipated. I found out today (yesterday, as of this posting) that a class that would have taken 16 hours a week is redundant on my schedule, so my weeknights are now mine again. My current tentative schedule has me on campus about 24 hours per week, with me actually in a class for most of that time. If all goes well, I might actually also be directing a short play that I wrote, but that’s a bigger thing, so more on that later. So, with that in mind, I’ll be on campus a lot, so who knows what else that might lead to, time commitment wise. That said, I’m hoping this will be my second-to-last semester, so if that’s the case these super busy fall and spring seasons are almost at an end.

As far as other things go, I don’t have much to say. I’m tentatively hyped for the near future for a lot of reasons, but most of those are tenuous or too distant to be relevant for me to mention now.

Eyes on the horizon folks, and hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll cool down before November.

Me — The Wave™ Cometh.

My fall semester is starting to look very scary. I’m taking 5 classes and I’m still going to try my best to be working full time, and it’s starting to look like—without factoring in writing time or any homework—I’ll be either in class or at work at least 65 hours per week. If I’m also actively playing Dungeons & Dragons and weekly binge watching shows with a good friend of mine, that cuts down any “me” time I have to about 6-8 hours a week.

Fall Availability (Censored).png

I might die.

I’ll probably die.

I hadn’t thought about it until now, but that novelette/novella I’ve been outlining is now in a very dark spot. I haven’t started writing it yet, and at this point, when that 3-month long tsunami of business hits, I won’t be able to get anything done. I’ll still update this blog as often as I can, but I’ll be impressed if I can come up with any short stories during that period. Heck, I literally have to stop going to the writer’s group I’ve been leading for over a year now just to be available to take some of these classes. (It’s only for a few months, but still.)

It’s starting to dawn on me that right now, these next few weeks, will be the most open my schedule will be until next summer. If I want to get any substantial writing in, it needs to be now.

Transforming into a machine is going to be tough. All my brothers/friends will be playing new games soon, and I won’t be able to. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth comes out two days before The Wave™ hits. (It will be henceforth referred to as The Wave™.) So while I wanted to play, that’s just not happening. Dragon Quest XI comes on in September, and I’m super excited for that, but I’ll have to wait for winter break to get a chance at it. At least it’s a single player experience and I’m the only one interested in it, so there’s no risk of spoilers. Speaking of spoilers, it’s going to be really hard to follow Critical Role during that time, although maybe I can somewhat keep up via podcasting at work.

It’ll be tough, but I have high hopes for the future! If all goes well, by this time next year, I’ll have two AA degrees, enough money saved up to afford my own car, and I’ll be finally stepping into the crushing weight of adulthood where you have no idea what you should be doing with your life and by all that is holy, you had better figure it out soon because you don’t want to be that guy that lives with his parents for too long, even though the economy of Southern California doesn’t allow for any alternative at your age, and if you don’t somehow win the lottery you will never enter you’re going to be stuck like this for the rest of your life because good things come to those who aren’t you, and with the acceptance of that fact comes the existential dread that life will only get worse from here on out.

So you know, fun stuff!

 

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.