Me — Making Excuses or Biding Time?

A lot of people have this ideology that their life will get better If and When. “If I just got that job I wanted, I would have the money I need to buy that new car”, or “When my kids finally graduate high school and go to college, I’ll finally find the time to work on my hobbies”. They take the unhappiness they’re currently feeling and deflect the responsibility by saying they can’t fix it because of whatever situation they are currently in. That situation, of course, is always temporally locked, so the future is always brighter.

I’ve done a post about how happiness is a choice, and I still think that is 100% true. It’s just a mindset you have to flex, and virtually anyone can be happy in almost every situation they find themselves in. (I’m excluding the extremes here for obvious reasons.)

But even though I’m very aware of this argument, I still have a hard time feeling that my situation is like these things. For example, I desperately want to move to Oregon/Washington for a multitude of reasons, but first and foremost is the lack of privacy I have. I don’t really feel like I have my own space to work in, because I even share a bedroom (and have all my life). I can’t move out this second because I’m still going to school, but as soon as I’m done, the current Kollin has no intention of staying for a second, though some opportunities might encourage me otherwise.

This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy in my current living situation, as my unhappiness is an unrelated issue, but this significant and constant blow to my psyche of not having anywhere I can run to does put quite a damper on my mood. Even if I’m sitting at my desk playing video games, I have to be selective about the games that I’m playing if I don’t want to be visible to friends I may or may not want to interact with.

I’m doing everything in my power to make my space my own, though. Right now, I’m in damage control: I’m trying to be productive as mindlessly as possible so that I can maximize happiness while dumping out as much free time as possible (because free time spent not being productive stresses me out quite a bit).

No, I’m not under the delusion that changing my living space will solve all my problems. But I know for a fact that it would help, as I like clean, efficient uses of space, and as of today, the amount of people living/sleeping in my home went from 6 to 11. When your living room has to be converted into a mass sleeping mat, you’ve got spatial issues.

So while I’m waiting for this temporal problem to sort itself out, I’m working on the unrelated things. I’m trying out a new hobby that feels both productive and takes up a lot of time, and on that principle alone, it works well. More on that later, as I don’t want to talk about something after having only spent a few hours doing it.

Godspeed with your own endeavors and tribulations.

Me — Accepting a Less-Productive You

I never feel like I really have any free time, but honestly, that’s not true. The amount of free time I have is honestly pretty manageable. Most of the responsibilities I have outside of work, such as my blog, are self-imposed. I end up cutting corners on D&D prep or writing blog posts late all the time, simply because the time slot I have to do it is far more easily spent relaxing. The struggle of having stuff to do after you feel like you’ve spent the whole day doing stuff is something I’ve talked about quite a bit, but today I wanted to spin it on it’s head a bit.

I know what the solution is. I need to get up super early (5am) and get all that extra stuff done before work, so when I come home everything is already done. Getting into that habit is easier said than done, I know, but that is a solution that’s worked for me in the past.

Lately I’ve been thinking to myself that I need a vacation. Just three or four days where I don’t have to worry about anything. But then I realized something. I would probably hate that—especially if I stayed home for that duration. The reason for that is because of those self-imposed deadlines. They are easy to get around, sure. I could write a short post on the blog saying I’m taking a week off, tell my brothers that we’re skipping a week of D&D, and tell my friends in the passion project that I have to skip that week’s meetings to focus on me time. After all’s said and done the only thing I’d have left would be going to work 9-5 every weekday.

But the only moments in life where I feel justified in relaxing—the only free time spent truly feeling free, is when I’ve spent so much time being productive that there’s nothing left to really do. Relaxation is only really relaxing if I feel I’ve earned it, which is rarely the case even when I spend the whole day doing things.

It’s stupid. Society has put so much pressure on us as individuals to feel like productivity level is the only measure of human value (at least, that’s how I feel), that any time spent working on building up your mental capacity feels like you’re draining your own self-worth. We’re taught to look up to the people who can write tens of thousands of words every day or star in every movie ever made and idolize them because of how much stuff they can do. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors for a reason, after all, and his sheer capacity to churn out novels is up there.

People shouldn’t feel worthless when they’re not doing something. I can manage to convince myself that meditation is being productive for a number of reasons, but it’s part of the reason why I don’t really watch movies or TV shows. It doesn’t feel worth it.

The common inspiration of “you can do anything you put your mind to” and all the similar expressions only serve to fuel this broken concept. You don’t have to spend 14 hours every day working towards your goals. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy, but it’s a reminder that sitting down and relaxing with a cup of coffee doesn’t make you the useless mistake your subconscious tries to tell you you are.

P.S. Look at the guy in that picture. Don’t mess with him. He’s got too many arms and isn’t afraid to use ’em.

 

Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Me — Writer’s Block

I’m always excited about having extra time to work on personal projects, but I feel like every time that day arrives, I get nothing done and it just makes me upset.

I can’t articulate why, but my writer’s block has gotten so bad that putting any words on the page has become nearly impossible when it’s a personal project. Homework assignments being the exception, I’ve written one short story since July, and the shorts of that point and a few months prior were all meaningless little trifles.

It’s become a constant source of frustration. I have 5 things on my to-do list for this weekend, and the short story is my top priority, but instead of getting that done I’m taking infinite breaks and just being sad. I can’t relax and play games because I have stuff to do but I can’t just get that stuff done, so the days where I have no school or work end up being cycles of self-loathing.

I wrote the Act One to a full length play for homework in basically a month, and that was because I was told what to write and given very strict rules on what to do (write a scene where X and Y happens in one hour, GO.) I won’t say it was easy, but I ended up with 50 pages of content (that was actually not bad, all things considered!) that never would have existed otherwise.

The thing that sucks is that I obviously can’t impose those rules on myself, because there’s no consequence to me failing. If I take a break and go on Facebook or Instagram, nobody will be breathing down my neck, because the only thing I’m losing is my time (and my sanity, but who needs that?)

I did manage to get nearly 500 words of a short story done for the passion project I’m working on, but I hate it. Looking back on it I’m realizing it’s because none of my characters have established reasons for doing anything, and the story is just uninteresting overall. Which, unfortunately for me, means I need to scrap it and start from scratch.

People in my writer’s group often talk about how much they loved writing a scene or a character, and it never ceases to amaze me that people can just sit down and enjoy the process, because every time I look at the screen I just sigh and internally beg to be doing anything else. Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be), I’m on a computer where all of my favorite time sinks are.

If anything, I think this is the proof that I’m never going to make a career out of writing books. (I almost said why I’m never going to be a published author, but given the fact that I already am, that would be dumb to say.) I can talk about worldbuilding and story structure all day, but sitting down and actually writing scenes and dialogue attributions and character motivations is just a nightmare.

How do you people do it?!

Me — Holiday Free Time

Time budgeting is a very important aspect of my life. What I do with my day and setting a course for how to tackle it is vital because if I don’t get anything done, it affects my mood, and if I let that happen too much, it starts to really spiral out of control.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got so busy that I would be going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am to get stuff done. To be honest, and to my surprise, it was fantastic. I would get up early to finish homework that was due that day, go to class, then perhaps we would have a performance that night for my play, and then go to bed to wake up for the next day. On nights we didn’t have productions, I’d work on my final projects. Every couple of hours I had where I was comfortable enough to relax and play video games was a treasure.

But then, the production closed, and I got all my finals finished. I haven’t had a whole lot of hours at work lately, either, so suddenly I have a full week straight of nothing but free time. Then two weeks, then, three, and, well you get the picture. It didn’t help that I got sick on Christmas Eve and I’m still feeling the repercussions as I write this.

Let me tell you, the free time has sucked. I’ve hated almost every minute that I’ve spent to myself. I’ve tried writing, but I admittedly haven’t gotten a whole lot of that done. That part, I honestly can’t explain. Two months ago I would have been ecstatic to have all this free time. I was trying to get through a book, prep for a D&D campaign, and I’ve had a story rattling around in my head since July. Now that I have the time to do it, I can only shrug and thing “Sorry, not today”.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something fulfilling to do with my free time, but I don’t even have games I really want to play. With all the stuff that’s been going on at Blizzard my enthusiasm to play Heroes of the Storm has been shot. I recently bought a Switch but Super Smash Bros. isn’t the sort of game you could play for several hours at a time, and besides that, I don’t have anything I want to be watching while doing either of those things. Being caught up on Critical Role while the show is on a holiday break sucks!

For somebody that finds fulfillment in productivity, well, I’ve started to feel pretty terrible lately. That’s probably part of the reason why it’s taking so long to shrug off this sickness.

It’s not all bad, though. Classes start up Monday, which I’m very excited for. I did get an email saying that the schedules were moved around, and they put two of my classes in the same time slot, so I’m going to have to figure that out, but I’m not terribly worried.

I just need to start classes and getting more hours at work, because I’m dying here. I want to feel good about getting up at 5 instead of staying in bed because I don’t have anything to do.

Me — My Persistent Problem with Pretty Projects

I admire people that can just write because they enjoy it, and churn out books because they like telling stories, whether or not those stories are good or will ever see the light of day. I’ve never been like that, and to this day, I would consider myself to have only ever finished a complete draft of one novel. This was almost six years ago, and I was in high school at the time.

Ever since then, it’s been the same exact process. A new idea starts to interest me, and I mull it over for a few weeks. I may or may not outline it, but whether or not I do is always a conscious decision. After that I get to work, and about a quarter of the way through, the idea is no longer interesting. I start getting bored until it gets harder and harder to push myself to write, until one day I say it’s not worth it anymore. By then, I may have another new idea to jump onto, but not always.

Soldier of Nadu‘s second draft. White Tower/Kitsuki’s EmissaryDreamscapeRise of the Riftguard. The Lisa Stenton anthology. Spear Gate.

I’ve tried everything. From extensively outlining to no planning whatsoever, to writing a collection of short stories rather than a full book. It just doesn’t work.

And now I’ve got the Xelfure project churning over in my head. The more I think of it the more it’s starting to sound like the prequel to the central book series of Nacre Then. But when I first started thinking about it it was barely a short story. A novelette at most. But I thought, while I was dabbling in Nacre Then, why not throw in characters I was already familiar with? And take the opportunity to flesh out characters that didn’t have a solid place in the lore? Well, the idea has entirely outgrown the original framework of the story I had set up—a two layer narrative of past and future is now simply a novel with typical flashbacks, and I will openly admit I don’t like the sound of that. It’s just not what I want for this story, not to mention the size of such a project will never get finished given how I’ve tackled writing the past several years.

I don’t really know what my problem is, but I would hazard to guess that I worry too much about perfection right off the bat. I write good first drafts, I won’t short change myself on that, but rarely do I go back and edit, and I think the way that I write and the things I want to write are completely incompatible. I can only write a good first draft if that story is short, because if it’s too long the pieces I’m juggling get too hard to handle on one pass, and since I don’t know how to go back and make changes I simply lose heart and stop.

I do think that I just need to be okay with writing for writing’s sake. Very rarely have I ever had that mindset. Even the weekly short stories aren’t for me, it’s because I feel obligated as a writer to have an output and having something to show for myself. I don’t think that that’s inherently a bad thing, but it does mean I’m not enjoying what I could.

I’ll say it again—I don’t know how anyone can enjoy writing, but I respect anyone that does. I don’t like writing, I just like having written. It’s a subtle difference, but a big one.

Me — Work Environments

So, I’ve had my new job for a few months now. It was interesting, because when I came home from work the first day I had the thought of “Yeah, that was fun.” It surprised me, because all my other work experience has been a trade of money for services rendered. But with this job, it’s different. I feel like I’m part of a team working to achieve something.

Which is an amazing thing.

So, I’ll give a few comparisons my new job and my last job. I used to work as a Cart Attendant for Target, (which means I was the guy that brought the carts in, yes, but there was a lot more in my job description most people wouldn’t realize). Now, I work in Production for a small company that makes banners, vehicle wraps, real estate signs, that sort of thing.

Being Cart Attendant sucked for a number of reasons. One big one was the fact that I was also janitor, and oh boy am I not going to relate to you what cleaning public bathrooms is like. We’ve all seen the horribly disfigured stalls of some unholy ritual some person tried to conduct in there. Imagine being the person that has to deal with that.

Number one reason I hated working at Target though: it was hard work that went unappreciated, and on a given shift you have X things to do. A busy shift just means that you also have to do Y things, so you have to juggle more and work harder.

My new job isn’t like this at all. First of all, it’s clean and nice. The hardest part is lifting rolls of vinyl that weigh upwards of a hundred pounds. And let me tell you, this new job is so much more busy. There’s never a moment where I can sit down and think “Wow, I got everything done today!” But at the same time, having more things to do is meaningless. I’m always working, so having a longer list of things to do doesn’t make me more busy, it just means that I need to be more careful not to mess up, because if I did it could mean we have to start over from the beginning. Plus, being that busy is great. You don’t have time to be twiddling your thumbs and staring at the clock. There have been instances where I’ve looked at the clock and it was a full hour later than I would have guessed (which is remarkable because like with most jobs where I live you’re entitled to some sort of break every two hours).

Also, my new job I basically have anywhere between two and four coworkers (depending on how you define it). So since you’re in the shop working on things all in the same space, you really get a feel for the rest of your team. At Target, there were probably three dozen people on shift at any given point in time. I knew plenty of them by name, but nothing beyond that except for the occasional “is a working mom” and “is going to school”. I also felt pretty isolated because there’s only one Cart Attendant on shift, and that job is really the WD-40 that makes the cart run. You’re essential to the process, but you’re not really a part of “the cart”.

So yes, my new job is way harder, and in a few ways more stressful. My work station involves operating and moving very heavy things around machines worth tens of thousands of dollars, and even the specific things I’m making can be worth a comparable sum. But it’s way more fulfilling because you’re only working on a few things per day (as there’s half a dozen steps in making a vehicle wrap in between printing the vinyl and installation), and as you work you watch as it comes together.

Sometimes things work out.