Life — Technical Difficulties

Electronics has never been my strong suit. I know enough about them to be able to tell the difference between software and hardware, and can probably handle one better than somebody who saw the rise of technology in their adulthood, but as far as “Here is a problem what do you do?” goes, I’m pretty useless.

I have three devices I use daily. My desktop, my laptop, and my phone. All of them have had their problems, but rarely has it been as bad as this. I call right now my “technological dark age” (as I think is appropriate), because all of my devices are crapping out on me.

My desktop is officially dead. On it’s final day, it blue screened twice, and best I can tell, it’s motherboard is finished. I couldn’t tell you what a motherboard does, but suffice to say that the next desktop I have sole ownership of will have to be a new one. There’s no salvaging Frank. (Yes, my family has owned enough computers to name them.)

But it’s okay, though. I don’t need a desktop. All of my writing is stored on the Cloud, so the only thing I’m losing by throwing the old computer out is a few downloaded pictures. It does suck, because my wallpaper folder had over four hundred pieces of quality art, but it’s no big deal.

So lately, I’ve been deferring all of my internet use to my laptop. I don’t have to worry about maintaining the blog, but it has other setbacks. Use of my laptop has lead me to discover that it is also barely functional. You see, It has less than 30GB of storage space, virtually (ha) all of which is taken up by the operating system. This means that whenever I open a third tab on my browser, or when I open a Google Doc of any substantial size, my browser will crash because it doesn’t have the RAM to handle it. It’s a little frustrating because when I’m DMing a game of Dungeons & Dragons I sort of need to have three or four tabs open of all sorts of information I may or may not need.

It leaves me at a loss, especially since I’m under the impression that there’s nothing I can do to my laptop that will solve that problem. I just have to get a new laptop. Not really though, because it’s not nearly enough of an issue to constitute putting money away for it, especially when I get my new desktop.

As far as my phone goes, it’s simply up to its old antics. It will take several seconds to respond to input, and sometimes apps will crash while I’m using them. Again, not a big deal, but it is annoying, and these are all minor sources of frustration that can pile up throughout the day.

But in the meantime, it’s also sort of liberating. I haven’t been able to access a vast majority of the video games I usually play, and I’m not really upset about it at all, to be honest. Less internet is never really a bad thing, unless you’re procrastinating, so it’s nice. I’ve been reading more, and I’ve also been sleeping in much later than I normally do. The latter isn’t really a cause of my computer troubles, though. It’s just super hot and since I can’t be comfortable in bed, I don’t fall asleep until past 4am, like last night. If I were to change any one thing about my current circumstance, it would actually be my ability to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Had I the world’s knowledge to diagnose all the problems I have, I’m sure I could solve all of them within days, but I suppose that probably applies to a majority of people’s situations. All-in-all, I still think I’m doing pretty well. A little frustrated, perhaps, but not stressed or over-taxed. I know what that’s like, and I’m thankful I’m nowhere near that point at the moment.

Life — Writing Mode

Over a month ago I had plans for what I was going to do over the summer. With no school or job, I have pretty much free 24/7. So, I decided to utilize it to implement Stage Three of the “Productive Me®”. After Stage One and Two (overhauling my work space and my physical appearance), Stage Three was to be a full, set in stone schedule I would adhere to day by day. It included set times in which I would be eating as well as specific break times in between a six hour writing session. I had everything planned.

And I had the self discipline to adhere to it exactly one day.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated with myself, but I’m not surprised. The heat always makes it difficult to be productive, and while I don’t want to diffuse the blame from my own lack of willpower, I really do feel like I could be doing more than what I am if I were in a different situation.

I’m not trying to make excuses and say “Woe is me, I would be great if only…”, but rather I think the way I’m forcing it isn’t right. That isn’t to say I’ve learned what does work, because I wouldn’t be having any issue of I did, but I’m still missing something.

I think about this a lot. I go to bed and wake up later than I’d like. I’m a morning person, but I rarely have any mornings because I don’t go to bed before 2 am. I’d go to bed sooner, only my room is loud and that path isn’t likely to bear fruitful results.

If I had the means, I would move. I’d find an apartment or condo in northern California or Oregon where the heat isn’t so oppressive, and just existing isn’t quite as expensive as it is here. Somewhere where things aren’t so busy.

Am I lazy? I would argue against that. So much of my thought process is driven by my desire and need for independence. Every time I need help in anything it weighs down on my soul, and so I strive to be the best at anything I do.

So when I can’t find the strength to sit down and write, even when I know I’ll feel great when I’m done, I’m at an impasse. I sit there staring at the blank screen for over an hour. Maybe a few paragraphs, but “Writing Mode” never comes. That elusive trance where the minutes float away as I’m lost in thought writing. I can’t force it, no matter how hard I try. But I know the conditions when it comes the easiest. And those conditions aren’t easily accessible at the moment.

It’s times like this that I wonder. Is this a writer’s problem? Or a human problem? Perhaps it’s something unique to creators, but I can’t help but feel like every day that I let slip without writing a substantial amount of fiction is a failure. What am I worth if I can’t even muster up the willpower to sit down and stare at a computer?

Review — My Biggest Problem (400)

Instead of doing a conventional Review post, I thought I would make the Daily Dose’s 400th post special by talking about me and where I’m at. “Isn’t that a Me/Life post?” you ask. “And shouldn’t you talk about this next Monday where the May Update should be?” These are both fair questions, but I’ll actually be reviewing myself today. My personality. Looking at my life, and especially where I can improve. It’s good to reflect every once in a while.

First things first, I’ve gone through a lot of personal growth since I started this blog in February. And it’s all amounted to me being confident enough for me to introduce myself to people as a writer and not feel like I’m just pretending. It’s only a matter of time before I publish now, and that is really important. But I’ve talked about my growth there before.

Six years ago, I was an introverted elitist. I didn’t talk to anyone because I assumed strangers were beneath me. In fact, everyone was beneath me to a certain extent. Talking to them would just be a waste of time. But then improv came along and I came out of my shell. I’m still introverted, still a little narcissistic, (but I try to express that part in simple confidence these days). I teach high school kids. Being in public and socializing with people I don’t know well takes energy, but I can do it.

But I’ve pretty much spent my entire adult life lonely. I’ve spoken about this vaguely and briefly before, but when I’m talking to my few friends about this, I often describe it as the one source of failure and frustration in my life. Safety is a privilege I’ve always had, success is (in my eyes) inevitable, and the only thing I’m truly lacking is a feeling of attachment. If anything, I should be thankful that it’s the only real problem in my life, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s prohibiting me from being truly happy with where I am right now. It’s a bit difficult to describe, really. I’ve boiled it down to this: I want to feel like people are personally invested in my life. I know friends and family care about me, but I don’t really feel as though anybody is genuinely interested in anything I’ve done or tried, and this feeling isn’t exclusive to my writing.

Yes, you could just say I’m looking for a significant other. That’s bound to curb the loneliness away, but really, I just don’t have any close friends at all. I have friends I’ve known for a long time, and friends I know I can talk about anything with, but none I really spend quality time with to make a true bond. I don’t feel as though I would have lost anything if I packed my things and moved across the country without telling anyone. I doubt many people would even notice, to be honest.

This is the part of me that needs the most work. I’ve talked to a therapist about this, and the conclusion we’ve come to is simply to talk to strangers even when I don’t want to. In fact, I’ve gotten all sorts of advice on “how to make friends”, but knowing what to do and taking action are two different things. I’m afraid of becoming friends with somebody I don’t actually like and forming social obligations, really. I have gone out and done social activities I wouldn’t normally do in order to fix this problem, but it still feels fake.

And unfortunately, I think all of this is starting to affect my writing. The number of times I have gone to bed at a reasonable hour in the last two weeks is zero, mostly because I’ve stayed up late doing writing that should have already been done (this post included). The worst part is, even the writing I do get done is meaningless. I simply don’t have anything to say these days. I have nothing to teach with the Learning! Posts, and nothing to new to talk about in the Review posts. The only thing I can talk about is me, and all it amounts to is whatever this sounds like, which I assume is pointless whining.

So, I imagine this means I need a break. It’ll be the first one since November. Two weeks every six months isn’t bad, and it will also give me time to breathe as I focus on schoolwork as well as some (much needed) free time. My constant fear of failure is driving me to make irrational decisions, putting production and writing over personal health, and it’s time I recognize that and put a stop to it.

All that said, this is the last post for a while. Two weeks, I imagine, but it could be longer, so I make no promises. But exciting news is on the way. Until next time.

Story — Know My Name

A weary sigh. A balled fist over heavy eyes. White, blank light pouring into my eyes as I stare at the screen. The screen that needs to be more than it is.

As I sit in the chair, wondering why I’m actively avoiding sleep as the sun threatens to lay its routine siege on the cold night sky, I can’t help but laugh. This is the fifth night this week that my sleep deprivation is only getting worse.

After a relaxing night playing online with brothers and friends, midnight comes and goes. “Alright, time for bed,” I lie. They all voice their agreement. After all, we’re responsible adults. We don’t have fun fooling around through the unholy hours in the morning. But neither do I sleep.

It would be so simple to write blog posts and fiction during the day. It must be. But my schedule is so crammed, it would take conscious effort to squeeze in that writing time. Time I’ve been spending frantically, and often without success, to curb back my weariness with a power nap. A vicious cycle, for the only free time I truly have is the only part of the day I could really enjoy myself, and my personal responsibilities dictate that realistically, I should be spending that time more wisely.

And yet here I am. I’ve done this every night the past few days. I successfully trudged through that day. What’s the harm in doing it again?

I’ve been spending these last few weeks anticipating a move. A desperate change of pace. Finishing the semester and having time to truly dedicate to writing. My inner conscious says “I’ll force a daily two thousand word minimum over the summer!” But I don’t really know where my life will be then. What if it gets even harder to write?

I’m at an impasse, it seems. I need a good night’s rest, but there isn’t enough time in a day to accomplish that and all the things I’ve laid out for myself. This brief, two week hiatus on my next novelette is soon to hit it’s fifth week.

“Do I need a break?” I argue. Perhaps that’s the answer. The only other time I took a break on this blog, it did me wonders. I felt invigorated. That break lasted ten days, and it started in grievance, when I had not the presence of mind to write. How could I personally justify taking another one?

“Nobody reads your crap anyway,” an internal voice replies. “Taking a break isn’t going to affect a single person beyond yourself. Just let yourself breathe.” A pretty harsh way to argue this to myself, but it is logic I can’t refuse.

A moment of silence as I move my hands from the keyboard to my face once again, reading over the last paragraphs. This isn’t even a story. Not really. This is a rant; berating myself for falling into this cycle of perpetual weariness seasoned with a lack of inspiration.

But, there is hope. Being able to force myself to write past two in the morning even when I’m immensely tired is a relatively recent development. Days like these are encouraging. If I can write in this state–even this sorry excuse for a fiction piece–then I can forge a career out of it. Right now, this is a hobby.

But one day I’ll be out of school for good. And the world shall know my name. Sooner or later.

Life — Subpar Results (360)

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble forcing myself to write. I often state that writing is never easy, and I’ll still stand by that comment, but in the end I do manage to maintain a blog with an average of over five hundred words per day. I get it done. Even on the days that suck. On the days that don’t, I get more done than I need to so that when the sucky days come, I don’t have to deal with it.

These past few weeks haven’t had any easy days, however. There’s no reason for it. With everything that’s been going on with my life, you’d think writing would be easier as of late, but that hasn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that getting into the “writing zone” isn’t influenced by anything I can pinpoint. I can say that I know how productive a day is going to be for me based on how I wake up that morning, and I haven’t had a good day in over two weeks now.

It sucks, but you can’t force it. I can force myself to change my mood, but I can’t force myself to want to write. Sometimes the pressure of blog deadlines helps, but on the terrible days, even that won’t work.

When that happens, I’ve come to accept the fact that not every day can be one you’re proud of. Some days will be bad. Some days will be slow. Some days you don’t even have the willpower to get out of bed. That’s fine. But making yourself feel bad about those days isn’t fine. We all have them.

The thing to keep in mind here is your mindset. If you want to be productive, but can’t bring yourself to do it, that’s good. That just means it’s not the right day. If you’re not being productive and don’t care, that’s different. It’s the desire that’s the important part. Now, I realize this isn’t a universal thing, as many professions require being productive whether or not you want it, but drive is important.

If you have the personal drive to work even though you don’t want to, and aren’t getting paid for it, that should telegraph a message to you and those around you. There’s no incentive there. You’re doing work because you know you should and for no other reason. It’s a lot easier to convince somebody to pay you for something if you can prove you’re not only doing it for the money.

So, when I don’t get as much done as I had wanted to that day, I try not to get upset. I could have just as easily gotten nothing done that day and the only substantial result would be how it made me feel. The only profit I get from this blog is the satisfaction it give me, along with the writing practice I know I’m accumulating. If I suddenly stop making new posts, the only thing that will change is how I feel about myself. I can’t stop now. Days may not be easy, but even subpar results are still results.

Life — Taking Risks

When you’re trying something that has a clear “success or failure” outcome, it can be hard to judge whether or not riskier tactics are worth taking. Whether the circumstance is primarily social, academic, or professional, you have to think about a number of factors in order to come to a reasonable conclusion on taking a risk to achieve the successful outcome. So when I think about the problem, I look directly at all the factors first.

The piece I consider first is: What happens when I fail? If there is a cost failure makes me pay, is that cost financial, one of wasted time, or something else? If I try to make a new friend and fail, that could cost a bit of “in-that-moment” self esteem, but that’s about it. If I apply for a job and fail, the cost is largely time I could have spent elsewhere. Neither scenario are likely to cost any actual money.

The second piece: what is the risk I’m considering taking? Does it improve my chances of success? Does it increase the cost of failure? If I’m romantically attracted to a friend, there is an inherent risk with voicing those feelings. Does it improve my chances of achieving what I want in that relationship? Undoubtedly. Not telling somebody how I feel isn’t going to magically lead anywhere I want it to go. It does increase the cost of failure, however. If it goes horribly wrong, at worst I could lose a friend. I risk embarrassing myself. Things like that. If I’m applying for a job, I could take a big risk at ensuring I am a memorable candidate. You want to stand out in a crowd in this sort of circumstance, after all. The risk here is: does making me stand out (and perhaps doing something unconventional) make me look better or worse?

The last piece is: What happens when I don’t take that risk? Can I still succeed? If I’m romantically interested in that friend, not taking the risk is a virtually guaranteed “failure”. In a scenario like this, taking the risk is the only viable option. In these cases, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is usually the best policy. If I’m applying for a job, though, I can still succeed and get the job without taking a risk by making myself stand out. This doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t worth taking, however. You have to judge how likely success is in both cases, and what the cost of failure is in both cases. If it’s something simple like a job interview, the cost of failure will be the same whether or not you take the risk. Therefore, all you have to think about is: Does taking this risk really increase my chances of getting this job?

As I’m applying for scholarships right now, this is the sort of thought process that’s been going through my mind. I have a very clear cost of failure: mostly the loss of time (and money if I factor in the success of potentially winning these scholarships). But since being brave and doing something weird is guaranteed to make me stand out, I’m going to take a huge risk.

Life — Doing What You Love (340)

A lot of people will tell you that you should learn what you love doing and then find a way to make an income from it. “If your job is something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But at the same time, I’ve also heard advice that you shouldn’t make your passion your job, because soon you won’t enjoy it anymore. If you love writing, making it your profession would supposedly kill the enjoyment you get from it.

I think there’s merit to both arguments. There are certainly situations in which making what was a hobby a job could run the potential of making that thing less enjoyable. If woodcarving is your release, and how you relax after a long day, getting commissions and suddenly having to stress over completing the project in time may not be the best course of action.

But taking all of that into consideration, I think a lot of life is about learning not only about the world around you, but about yourself. You can’t make a blanket statement and say that a hobby can’t turn into a job without positive results. It clearly works for a lot of people. The question then becomes: Is doing your passion professionally good idea for you?

In general, I think its best to give it a shot. The ideal thing here is to work a job that you enjoy, and one of the easiest and simplest ways to accomplish that is by getting a job where you do what you love. If you find that the added wait of making this hobby a profession adds too much stress to enjoy something, you can always stop. Just quit the job. If you like woodcarving but don’t like the time constraints commissions may add, you can always go back to having woodcarving be just a hobby.

In the end, this process will have the guaranteed effect of making you learn about yourself. Maybe you found that getting money from woodcarving was pretty dang cool, but it was specifically the time constraints and the stress that occurred because of it that you didn’t like. In that case, you can step back and re-calibrate what you want to be doing. Maybe instead of offering commissions, you can simply sell things online when you’re done with them. That way you can still have fun doing it, work at your own pace, and get money.

I’m a firm believer that any hobby can be worked into a job. If one does enough exploring and self-discovery, the capability of finding a job one enjoys is always out there, even if its not a job you expected to enjoy. For example, I didn’t expect to enjoy writing in this blog. It was purely a means to force me to write more often. by a happy coincidence, I also enjoy writing on the various topics on a weekly basis, in addition to the fiction.

So, don’t let anyone’s advice on what you should be studying in school, or what jobs you should and should not apply for scare you. The process of self-discovery is always working on the sidelines, so no matter what you end up doing, you’ll end up closer to what you really should be doing with your life.