Life — October Update

The hiatus is over! I took a much longer break than anticipated because, I’ll admit: it was extremely relaxing to have one less thing on my plate for a while. It took no small amount of willpower not to continue, but because of last week’s promise to resume, I’m making myself return! You have past me to thank for anticipating future me’s thoughts. Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

The blog is in an interesting position. The hiatus has allowed me to think about my position as a writer, and what the daily upkeep really does for me. I’m far beyond requiring the self-discipline necessary, which was one of the blog’s primary purposes (aside from directly increasing the amount of content I wrote). In all honesty, I’m seriously considering dropping a lot of the daily posting of the blog in favor of streamlining and improving what I do produce. Especially since the production I’m in opens in two weeks and finals are just around the corner, I won’t have much free time on my hands. Resuming a daily 500 word minimum is the last thing I need. But nothing is set in stone yet (or online? Doesn’t sound nearly as good)—so stay tuned.

As far as writing goes, Spear Gate still has my full attention. I’m putting more focus on Upper Terrace and Varra’s side of the story because Maelys is less important at the moment. I have lots of plans of where I want the story to go, but some of them are a little conflicting. Suddenly getting arrested tends to have that effect. I’m definitely to the point where notes are very important, because I can’t afford to lose my ideas!

I’m sort of all over the place with video games at the moment. Mostly I’m playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, but also, depending on whether or not I’m playing with friends, I’m playing a bit of Overwatch and, more recently, Speedrunners. I’ve recently started playing Heroes of Might and Magic again, as well, and I was surprised to realize that I like 6 way more than 5. It’s far more intuitive!

These last several weeks I’ve been speeding through Critical Role. I had calculated how many hours I would need to put in it per week to finish by the end of the year, but I also wanted to watch the last episode as it was livestreamed. When I found out it was ending very soon, I started watching two or three episodes a day at 1.5x speed. Alas, I’m still on episode 91/115, and 115 was the last episode, having aired last week. I’ve still got 90 hours to power through, but at least I can rest easy knowing that their next campaign won’t start until next year.

As I mentioned earlier, school is pretty stressful. The show I’m in opens at the end of October (and I just realized I’m not sure if I’ve filled out the paperwork yet), and two of my three other classes require a lot of my attention. I’m debating a topic I barely understand very soon, and the unfortunate thing about that class is that I feel as though I’ve got a much better handle on the subject than most other people there. Really though, I just planned out this semester very poorly. It’s all I can do to conserve my energy and just tread water until it’s over.

Other things. On top of school, the next weekend on which I have no plans is over a month away. I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write, but I have to, somehow. Really, things just aren’t going the way I’d like them to be. It doesn’t help that it’s still hot over here. Even with the free time I have I don’t feel like I can relax, so I’m a little at a loss. I think maybe resuming the blog probably works against me finding comfort, but at the same time whenever I take a break it makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Here’s hoping the Daily Dose won’t take too much out of me in the coming weeks. But if it does, a longer hiatus may be the only option.

Life — It’s the Heat’s Fault.

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve actually managed to completely forget writing the next day’s post. I’ve come close a few times. Lying in bed, thinking about what I got done that day, I’ll remember the fact that I had meant to write something but never got around to it. In those circumstances I’d get up and write. Even at two in the morning when I’d have to wake up early.

But last night that didn’t happen. I didn’t get home until past midnight, and I wanted to relax a bit before going to bed. In bed, I realized I had forgotten to do homework for my 8:30am class. But even then, I was too tired. I resolved to get up earlier to do it. Having assumed everything was settled, I went to sleep (though it took a while because it was so hot out). So, while I did forget to prepare a post ahead of time, I won’t let myself skip a day (again) with no valid excuse. So here it is, even if it is a bit late.

I actually feel perfectly justified blaming all of this on the heat. It’s hard for me to even think straight when it gets too hot, and even with air conditioning and fans, lately it hasn’t solved the problem. (I don’t even have a computer in my room to be generating heat!)

I don’t “like” writing. But it gives me fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment, so I do it. It’s never easy, but when it’s hot, all I can think about doing is try to stop being hot. For me, this means below 75 Farenheit. With the state of the weather lately, that means I have to be out in public where the air conditioning is overkill, and that means I can’t comfortably write or sleep, so there’s no winning.

I feel like June through August is just a state of “getting by” for me. It’s always a struggle simply because of where I am, who I am, and what my life is centered around. It’s the point where I have to swallow the net loss and accept that when everything cools down, both literally and figuratively, I can produce more, and have an all around more enjoyable existence.

This is pretty much why I hate California. I shouldn’t hate 25% of every year simply because of things I have no control over. I’m not going to get into that today, though. I’ve talked about it before, and there’s no use in whining over being a victim of circumstance.

Really, though, I think I could be happy if it weren’t for the heat. Despite my apprehensions about my current writing system in general, I do like where Spear Gate stands, and my semester is bearable. I’m super tired every day, but I can shrug it off.

I don’t like being trapped inside because cracking a window open means the house might melt. So, I’m just sitting here. Biding my time. Twiddling my thumbs. Waiting for October to come when it starts, finally, getting cooler.

Life — Struggling With Writing

I’m starting to find myself in that position again: the one where I just have this underlying feeling of exhaustion. The one where sleep isn’t a factor, or if it is, it’s where you feel even more tired because you’re sleeping too much. As a writer, it’s a feeling I’m very familiar with.

It’s the first red flag that says my writing isn’t getting anywhere.

So far, the Spear Gate project has been going swimmingly. I started back in May and as my main focus of fiction writing, I’ve already put nearly 20,000 words into the universe. This isn’t a huge amount by any margin, but for me, it’s pretty rare to be that focused on any one thing. Even Dreamscape, my latest attempt at a novel before this one, took five months to hit that many words. It’s mostly because I’m always doing a myriad of other things simultaneously.

I’ve had a blast writing the Spear Gate book. But this past week, I’ve been having a really tough time pressing onward. Between rewriting a big chunk of Chapter Four, and starting off Chapter Five with a slow opening, it hasn’t written itself like previous chapters have.

Usually, this just means I’m getting bored of the project. Things aren’t turning out how I want to, and so it gets harder and harder to write until one day that threshold of “Achieve Writing” is too high for me to hit.

But this time, it’s not because I’m bored. It’s because two things are happening right now. First and foremost, the Fall semester started. I’m taking more classes right now than I have in years, and all told, I am at the school for nearly twenty hours a week. (For the sake of simplicity, let’s also pretend that the amount of time spent doing “homework” is zero hours.) Add to that my time spent at the high school teaching improv (another six hours), subtract an hour every day (minus one) for writing these blog posts, three hours dedicated to my writer’s group, and on average six hours a week set aside for Dungeons & Dragons related activity, and that’s over forty hours of time that isn’t really mine. Now, you could make the argument that D&D and the writer’s group is my time, but I really do consider that “Hobby/Personal Improvement Time”, where I socialize and practice bettering myself as a person. Either way, it is definitely not time spent relaxing and recharging.

Add to this a messy pile of things I need to do. Coordinate with people about future plans, arrange dates, schedule and organize personal matters and goals, help out friends with personal projects, etc.

I realize this sounds like whining compared to people that work a tough job sixty hours a week, so let me amend this. I salute anyone that works harder than me, which I imagine is well over half the working class. I do consider myself hard working, as I’d guess probably most people think that about themselves, but I can safely say one thing: I feel my writing is suffering because of it.

But I mentioned two things happening, and only brought up one: a lack of time. The second thing is an elephant I don’t even like to acknowledge, and it’s something I realized very recently. The Spear Gate book is still being written. I’m not even close to being done with the first draft. That means that literally any feedback I get on the book right now is useless.

I came up with this analogy the other day. Somebody reading my story might finish a chapter and say “Huh, this doesn’t look right. You kind of threw this out of the blue.” or “I don’t see why X character would jump to this conclusion. This conversation doesn’t flow right.”

Imagine my book is a person. running, leaping, sitting, whatever. The sort of critiques I mentioned would be equivalent to saying “This person is running weird. They aren’t bending their knees enough.”

But here’s the thing. I’m still drawing the skeleton. If anything, I’ve barely made a rough framework of where the knees would even go on this picture. It’s not fair to say the picture doesn’t look right when the artist isn’t even done drawing it. At the same time, it’s not fair to have somebody look at it and expect them to give feedback that works. In this analogy, I need a reader to tell me if I correctly drew a skeleton, not whether or not the picture looks good.

This leads me to conclude that nobody should look at the Spear Gate book until I’ve written the ending. People can help me draw the muscles as I’m working on major rewrites for the second draft, but before that, I’m just getting disheartened. And I don’t know if that’s healthy for the book.

I’ve been thinking lately that all of this is too much, and I should just take a break from writing, to focus on school. But that leads me to consider: I recently became the leader of my writer’s group. I need to bring them something. I can show them several months worth of short stories, but what good would that do me?

Answer? I don’t know. I’m a thinker. I can identify the problems, and I’ve gotten really good at that over the years. But historically I’ve been awful at finding solutions that actually work, so I really don’t know.

Life — Scheduling a “Catch Up” Day

Recently my life has been so busy that I’ve had things piling up more and more. The sort of things that aren’t urgent but do need to get done, like ordering textbooks online, or talking to people about future plans, etc. This sort of thing is almost never in the forefront of my mind, simply because there’s always something more pressing, and when there isn’t, I’m too tired to do it.

So, how do you make sure you don’t let those things fall by the wayside? It’s pretty simple, really. Maybe you’ve heard of the priority analogy called “The Jar of Life”. Important things like livelihood, family, friends, etc. are ping pong balls, less important things like your job, house, and hobbies are marbles, and the trivial stuff like what you do with your free time is sand. If you start big and add the unimportant things in later, you’ll have room for everything. If you fill the jar with sand first, you won’t have room for ping pong balls.

Now, this analogy is intended to teach you about priorities, so it’s not entirely relevant, but bear with me. These side jobs that need to handled but aren’t important for your direct, day to day life can often be forgotten. They’re marbles, but they are also a source of stress because they can be unconscious baggage on your addled mind. You know you’ve got lots to do, but you’re too busy to get it done, and when you get home you know you won’t have the energy to do any more, so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Here’s how I handle it. I keep track of everything I need to get done. (I put this list on my phone so I always have access to it.) Then, I resolve to spend the most convenient day off working on those errands. I don’t treat it as a day off at all, in fact. For that day, all of those errands have top priority, and I need to get as much of it done as possible. Depending on how quickly errands pile up, this “Catch Up” Day could be weekly routine for you. Otherwise, you might only want to schedule it once you have enough stuff to justify spending the day doing them.

This accomplishes two things. One, knowing what you have to do and resolving to do it all at once will get it done quicker. You won’t have to worry about squeezing in an errand between work and relaxation. Two, it is extremely relieving to get everything done. You may not consciously perceive that burden of things you know you have to do, but once you clear it up, it feels great. You can rest easy knowing all the non-urgent stuff that needs doing has been done.

Personally, I’ve found this to be a great conclusion to the week, because when I get back to work/school the next day, I’ll feel like I’ve already been extremely productive. Even if, realistically, it means discarding my only day off, that one carefree night of sleep is worth the trouble.

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.