Me — Temporal Issues

I’ve been dealing with a number of personal problems lately, each on a different level of magnitude. I won’t talk about the specifics of any of them here, but I will say that they are all, in their own sense, simply temporal.

I’m a problem solver by nature. I think about everything going on in my life so often that organizing and recalibrating everything is, in a lot of ways, who I am. So when I have problems, there is a reason—and that reason is probably because it isn’t within my power to fix. I’ve thought about every feasible solution, and have either tried it or otherwise deemed why it should fail.

That said, I’d say I’m pretty good at finding solutions to the day-to-day things that bother me. Lately, though, the things I’ve been dealing with are all things that just need time. For example, I’d like to move out of Southern California, but that just isn’t in the cards for me right now. I’d like to find my spark of inspiration so I can start writing cool stuff again, but I can’t simply manifest it, I have to wait for it to come back. Things like this.

I won’t lie. It is pretty frustrating to have issues that are not within, well, anyone’s power to fix. Sure, I suppose it’s possible that I’ve misdiagnosed the roots of my issues and I could find ways around them that I haven’t discovered, and I certainly don’t claim to know everything about my life situation or my psyche, but as I perceive things to be now, a lot of the problems I’m currently having in life will simply go away given time. (Of course, by that time I expect new problems will arise, but that’s a separate issue.)

Having spoken to a friend about this recently, he gave me very encouraging words in that he noted how positively I talk about my problems. I mean, blog posts like this are basically exactly how I talk in real life (which is why it’s so easy for me to churn posts like this out), so when he said that he could tell how upset I was based on my phrasing and general language use, but still noticed I was optimistic, I really felt good about that. It made me realize just how much it takes for me to get taken down to a level where I would be considered sad or angry. So good job, me.

One thing that I’ve noticed as well is that things are always way easier to deal with when you’re too busy to even think about it. Working full time has helped with that a lot, because I noticed that when the weekend hits, I get very tired and down simply because I’m (sort of) alone with my thoughts. Somehow, I can enjoy myself more coming home after work on a weeknight than I can having two full days to myself.

So while I am honestly doing okay, things bother me just like every other normal human person on the planet. I wish they didn’t, but if I’m right, this too shall pass.

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 — 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.

 

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 — Overcoming Doubt

I know the everyone gets moments of doubt. That feeling of uncertainty where you don’t know if the choices you’ve made are right, and you don’t know what you can possibly do to keep moving. I’m lucky in that those moments are rare for me. I consider my being a writer a given, and that someday, somehow, I’ll be making a living telling stories.

But after watching The Wind Rises, I had that terrible thought. “How can I be so arrogant as to even attempt to construct something to rival this?” The movie gave me ideas—amazing ideas I’m very interested in exploring—but ideas that end up being shadows of their origin.

It really makes me wonder. If people like Hayao Miyazaki exist, why bother? Even if I end up writing something amazing that is on par with the greats, the world will still be the same. It basically doesn’t matter in the slightest whether or not I do write anything worth experiencing. There’s no hole that needs filling—there’s no shortage of great writers, and it would be ridiculous of me to assume that I would be the person to fill it if there was a hole.

But at the same time, that line of thinking doesn’t help. When moments like this happen, it’s important to remember that you have not just had an epiphany that you’re the worst and will never amount to anything. You’re just not letting the optimistic side of the argument have their say. It can be hard not to give the nihilist the wheel when falling into that pit, because it’s so easy to just think of how much things don’t matter.

You’re right, nihilistic Kollin. The chances of you being successful enough to make any tangible influence on the world are minuscule at the very best. But there are two glaring flaws in your argument. The first is that giving up isn’t an option. It simply isn’t. So entertaining that is silly. You would feel way worse for not trying than you do for trying and failing. The second flaw is that you don’t actually care about making an influence in the world. All you want to do is tell cool stories people love. So really, nihilist Kollin, your entire argument is moot.

Well, somehow I sort of used logic to convince myself to feel a bit better, so that’s good. Good job, optimist Kollin. Thanks… also optimist Kollin? You can go now, me. Argument’s over. You got it, me.

I think everyone’s goal in life is just to be happy, when you boil everything down. What “being happy” means changes from person to person. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the point where I’m satisfied with the stories I’ve told or with the people that have read them. But pursuing that is the only logical thing for me to do right now. Otherwise, I’m just twiddling my thumbs and complaining about how unhappy I am.

You gotta work for it. Don’t let your nihilist steer the wheel, cause he/she will just steer you into calm waters, and there’s no growth or happiness to be found there.

Me — New Job and Feeling Good

I’m in a really interesting spot in my life in that I’m very content. It’s sort of strange that that’s the case, given that I didn’t win the scholarship and I was excited for the prospect of leaving the country for the first time (plus I felt I had a really strong application this year). I also intended to both get my own car soon as well as move out. I don’t think either of those two are likely to happen any time soon, and yet… it’s fine.

I really love my new job. Working around machines and materials worth hundreds or thousands of dollars is stressful, sure, but it suits me far better than my previous taxable job at Target. I’m part of a small team and the things that need to be done take a long time, so on a full shift, I’ll probably be doing a total of four or five things for the entire day. There’s a lot I need to learn, but once you know what you’re doing these things are pretty simple. (Plus having somebody always there to double check whether you’re doing something right is good insurance.)

So, my life is pretty busy right now. I’m at the college for 24 hours a week, and at work 21 hours a week. Not including the homework from all my classes, writing blog stuff, teaching improv, and going to my writer’s group, I’m busy 45 hours out of the week. Nothing to sneeze at, sure, but then you throw in the 10 page research paper due in two weeks (that I haven’t started), the One Act play I’ll need to edit soon, and you know, other things I want to work on… and well, there goes all my free time. I’m trying to get through Hollow Knight right now, but man, it’s a much longer game than I anticipated.

The weirdest thing about my contentedness is the fact that I’m not currently writing any fiction. I left Lisa 3 half finished, Lisa 2 needs to be completely rewritten, and I have interesting ideas floating around in my head that I’m basically not giving much attention. A few years ago I’d have been stressed out by my lack of writing, but right now I feel fine because I’m already doing so much other stuff, that I know my writing would suffer if I tried. Staying up till 2am writing a thing after playing video games because I felt I needed a break was super unhealthy, so not forcing myself to write has been nice.

Added bonus: my job has required me to get up earlier, and since I no longer have any days off during the week, I’m waking up pretty much every day. Yesterday I slept in and didn’t get out of bed until 8:45am! Not feeling tired and having that be the natural time I woke up was the best feeling in the world, because I suddenly had so much time in the day. I hope I can make that a habit, getting out of bed at 11am feels bad.

I also just realized that my 600th post was a few days ago. I’m probably well over half a million words posted on my blog at this point. Go milestones!

Me — Relaxation Allowance

I’ve recently started working on a new data-oriented Google Sheet. I mean, that sentence would probably be true if I had said it any given week in 2018. I’m really excited about this one though because it’s geared towards holding me more accountable towards productivity, and for the two days I’ve used it it’s been great.

Here’s the jist of it—I like not doing things, just like everyone else. Relaxing and playing video games is great, but if I do them when I know I have other things that need doing, it stresses me out. This Sheet is to help me quantify that line. Assuming I don’t have any deadlines (personal or otherwise) that need to be met that day, how much “stuff” do I need to do in order to feel justified in spending the rest of my day doing nothing?

Let’s take an arbitrary (but nice) number, say 10, and call that the number of points I need to achieve in order to allow myself to relax. What earns me points? Well, simple: anything at all that makes me feel better about myself as a Responsible Adult™. Getting dressed is 1 point. Vacuuming is 2 points. Folding laundry is 2 points. Writing Friday’s flash fiction piece is 4 points. So if I do all four of those things, I’m just about allowed to not do anything the rest of the day. (I realize that’s 9 points, not 10.)

The important distinction here is that these numbers are not solid, and this is not a rule. I am not restricting myself from doing whatever I want. Rather, I’m using it as a guideline to test the point at which I internally feel like I’ve done “enough” for the day. In terms of game design, these numbers aren’t supposed to be balanced, they’re supposed to accurately represent the amount of satisfaction I gain from completing certain tasks. If I look at the chart and see that I’m at 8 points, I can look at what I haven’t done and just do it.

This does a few awesome things. The first is that the chart is a good way to visualize all the things that I may or may not need to do. I don’t need to vacuum every day, but if I’m almost at that threshold of 10 points and I haven’t done it in a week, I might as well. The second is that because I’m literally racking up points, it encourages me to be productive I might otherwise not even consider. Reading, for example, is 3 points per hour. I basically never read, but if I genuinely don’t have anything else to do, it’s a good way to actually force myself to be productive.

The idea is that I will, eventually, get to 10+ points every day. Eating a meal is 2 points, so if I’m being a responsible adult that’s the majority right there. But this will actually encourage me to eat three meals a day, and doing nothing besides getting dressed and eating all day won’t be enough to earn me relaxation. Not to mention I’d have to be doing something in the time between eating those meals. Might as well use it to be productive!

So, this is a new thing. I expect the numbers to change significantly on a quarterly basis, but given a very short two days, it’s been awesome. Would recommend.