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 — Obsessive Organization

Lately I’ve been embracing the fact that I just love putting everything in figurative boxes. I use Google Drive for all of my writing purposes, and everything is neatly organized in folders inside folders inside folders.

If I told you to go to find an essay I wrote in English class of my senior year in high school, it would be pretty easy. You just go open the following folders (and sub-folders): School -> [Name of High School] -> Senior Year -> English -> “Essay”. If I wanted to open the folder of my current major project, the “Spear Gate” book, it’s the same thing: Writing -> Books -> Spear Gate. I’m a little neurotic about it, to be honest. Just for fun, I’ve considered drawing a visual stem of all my documents in Google Drive just so I can see just how deep and organized it really is.

But in recent weeks, I’ve done more. I’ve made a dedicated folder entitled “Data”, filled with lots of information I like to keep track of. That’s where I keep my list of books I’ve read, the books I intend to read soon, descriptions of the books in my brother’s Audible library, etc. About a week ago I made a spreadsheet I call the “Hype Tracker”. In it is all the release and premiere dates of all the games, books, and movies I’m anticipating, as well as other important future dates I don’t want to forget. Using that spreadsheet I can easily grasp how long I’ll have to play X anticipated game until Y game releases. It may sound pretty useless, but I actually open it almost daily.

Tomorrow, I plan on making another thing: a timeline of basically everything that’s happened in my life. I hate having to do math to figure out how old I was when something happened, so if I lay out a timeline, all I’ll have to do is graph the year and my age to put everything into an easy perspective. It’s probably going to be the highlight of my day tomorrow. Not because my life is (that) boring, but because I actually enjoy that sort of thing.

It makes me wonder whether I’m really meant to be a writer, to be honest. Not in like a “I don’t know who I am” sort of way, but in a confused “Why?” sort of way. I cannot in any way see how I can implement data entry into my writing, and the two seem to be as far apart from each other as it is possible to be.

There’s so much I want to do. I want to be an author. I want to compile the lore for video games. I want to perform and teach more improv. I want to get into voice acting. And I also like numbers and data. Sesame Street might say that one of these things is not like the others, I suppose.

But at the same time, it might not be that weird. I’d imagine the common stereotype of a writer and an actor are two very different things, one trapped in a dark room all day trying to catch a break, the other making bank as they sell their millionth copy (see what I did there?) The way I see it, though, writing and acting aren’t very different at all. Being a part of both of those fields, I would actually say they’re very similar to one another. Maybe I’ll talk about that next week, in fact!

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?

Story — My Superpower

“If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” We’re asked this question often enough to merit a prepared response. The same sort of preparation that goes with “What would you do with a million dollars?” or “What’s your favorite color?”

I’m not one for open ended questions like that. I tell people my favorite color is blue. But sometimes, it’s green. It depends on the shade and the context. I like forest green, but if we’re painting the walls or the cars with it, I’d rather use something more plain. There are pros and cons to everything. I love different movies for opposing reasons. I can’t compare the two because there are too many factors to consider.

But when I’m asked what my preferred superpower is, I smile to myself. I smile because the thing I would choose is something I already have. It isn’t unique. There aren’t any superheroes featured on the front cover of any comic books for this ability. It isn’t anything as ‘Flashy’ as super speed or as ‘Mystical’ as shape-shifting.

In fact nearly everyone I know has it. It’s the ability to write.

Writing is so much more than putting words on a page. It’s magic. Crafting worlds and creating living, breathing people with full lives and histories. It’s also telepathy. I can craft any world, and person, and any idea, and implant it from my brain to yours. This telepathy transcends all physical boundaries. Even time.

Think about it. Every word you have ever read was written in the past. It may not be as dramatic as Shakespeare or Plato speaking to their readers hundreds or even thousands of years in the future. If we think of time as distance, everything lines up. Very few things have survived the journey of thousands of years past, but what little we do have allows us to see what life was like back then, almost as if we’re looking back on another world through a telescope.

It’s also incredibly complex. Minute differences lead to drastic changes in the message. If you consider all of the paganistic rituals (mostly in the fiction I’ve read or watched, probably,) then everything has to be absolutely perfect. If you draw a circle with that chalk, you better make sure that that circle is flawless because if it isn’t, you’re not going to summon that genie or demon.

It’s the same thing with words. Not only are the specific keystrokes important, but the size is, as well. A missing line and a ‘T’ becomes an ‘l’. If your circle isn’t full, your ‘o’ might become an ‘e’. InCreaSing the SiZe Of SOme letterS ChangeS even slightly makes everything look wrong, even though the way the letters are shaped isn’t affected.

And then, when one chooses to be a writer, one must look deeper. Simple word accuracy is no longer enough. You have to find the right words in the perfect context and, when necessary, apply the appropriate typeface. You have to carefully structure your sentences to convey proper pacing. Otherwise, they’re abrupt. Sporadic. Scatterbrained, even.

One must learn all these things to master the art. It may not be a superpower to some, but with practice, one can transcend time and space itself.

Life — Chapter One. Again.

One thing about my writing career that has always frustrated me, and that I cannot seem to train myself out of, is the fact that I get bored. It has happened every time I try to write one continuous story, usually around the ten-thousand word mark. When I was actually trying to write a novel I would press on after that, but often when it hit that point it became a chore, something that writing should never be. “Only write what you love” is advice I get a lot. So I adhere to it.

It’s ended up creating this sort of bizarre paradox in my writing. My passion is worldbuilding. I love grabbing huge ideas and making societies out of them. “What would a culture of people with no eyes be like?” or “How could a people scared of the nighttime survive, and how would it shape their lives?” I end up with original cultures, nations, and religions in crazy fantasy settings. But those details are never fleshed out onto the page because I never get that far.

If it’s one thing I do, it’s write great Chapter One’s. I’m constantly writing short stories that sound like they are the first chapter in a novel. It’s because they are. But I don’t want to keep writing because I don’t want to stop liking that character and their story. Sometimes, I won’t even know what comes next.

This has been my plight. I know I can write great hooks. It’s all I do, for one thing, so I get a lot of practice in, but I don’t want to be a short story author. I want to be a novelist. In short stories, I can only tease at the societies and the worlds I’ve created. I never have time to flesh them out.

One of the big reasons why all of this is a big problem for me is because I’m actually really bad at both character and plot development. At least, I think I am. Plot is especially hard for me, because trying to piece one together has never felt good to me. It always feels fake, and I don’t know exactly why it seems so artificial. I’m better with characters, but I feel like I only have a few dozen, and the only thing that changes is their name as I put them in different settings.

I’ve tried outlining. I’ve made character sheets and framing the plot structure chapter by chapter. But taking any meaningful time to do that saps the enjoyment from the story, so when I do try to write a novel, most of the time I wing it, with the only preparation being a few loose ideas I have in my head. This is often called “discovery writing” in the community, but this also feels wrong to me. I have such a technical and organized mind. I like to plan. Except when it comes to writing.

None of it makes sense, so I stick to what I know. “Chapter One”.

Life — Writing Several Projects

Lately I’ve been tackling lots of separate unrelated writing ideas, and it’s left me a little overwhelmed with the things I want to be doing. With the onset of summer, I’ve wanted to challenge myself by setting blocks of writing time throughout a work day, like many professional authors have. It’ll be the first time I’ll have a time goal rather than a word goal, so it’s a little daunting, but it does beg the question, what should I be writing?

Regardless of the things going on around me, I’ve basically always had the philosophy of working on the most exciting project at any given point in time, within reason. (If something new sounds cool, I at least hold off until I’m finished with what my current project is.) But lately, I’ve been getting so many good ideas that I’m a bit overwhelmed on where to begin. There’s the newest world-scale project I’ve been working on from recent weeks, that I’ve tentatively titled the ‘Spear Gate System’. But I’ve also had the premise for a new book involving a chess game of gods that I’ve been interested in writing. I would have started it already if it hadn’t been for the Spear Gate idea. Still, I have older ideas that I haven’t finished. Rise of the Riftguard is still a long way from being even close to a finished first draft, and I never got around to starting the new Spark story I had been thinking about. And recently I started a new short series documenting the history of Nacre Then: The Writings of Toreshide.

This leaves five projects, and this doesn’t even bring up the fact that I’m still going to be writing at least five hundred words per day on the blog. The smallest of these projects I could finish in a day, sure, but I can’t focus on all of them at once. It is a nice problem to have, though. Years ago I would have been astounded at all the things the current me is trying to juggle. And I think setting a time to write will help with this a lot. I can be writing the ‘Chess of Gods’ book one hour, and then for a small half hour break I can kick back and write some more Toreshide pieces. On one hand, this will allow time to refresh my own head space, but since I’m still just speculating, it could completely burn me out.

And this still doesn’t even address the elephant that’s always been in the room: getting bored. My single largest shortcoming as a writer is that I still get bored with my ideas way too quickly. The one and only time I wrote a full-scale novel was about five years ago at this point, and I’ve pretty much stuck to short fiction ever since. It isn’t terrible, of course, but I want to be able to consistently write novels. Most of my short stories are really the Chapter One to a book that will never be written.

I think I’m doing fine. My philosophy of only writing what interests me has carried this far, but part of me wonders whether its keeping me from really developing the ability to commit to a longer work.

Life — “Hand versus Eye”

Recently I’ve been bogged down with the fact that I’ve been watching and reading so many masterpieces, it’s been hard to think about how I could possibly compare. Now, I realize that every artist experiences this, so I know it’ll wash off in time, I just hope it goes sooner than later. Watching the film adaptation of Count of Monte Cristo and (unconsciously) comparing Lisa Stenton to the Dresden Files has left me seeing how far I really have to go before I can ever be on any comparable level. I’m making a deliberate effort to steer away from a Dresden Files vibe, but everything I make distinctly different feels like a downgrade rather than a different artistic choice. Maybe this means I’m turning at the wrong junctions.

Through all of this,the concept of “Hand versus Eye” comes to mind. Yesterday, my brothers and I were talking about the inevitable difference between what your hand can create and what they eyes can perceive. I can draw, but I can’t come close to the level of detail Michelangelo could achieve. I can write, but I can’t forge a work of art others in my craft can. If my hand was slightly better than my eye’s ability to perceive greatness, I would never have to deal with this discrepancy.

This all derives from the mind’s drive to compare and find patterns. We like frames of reference, and sometimes all of the easily accessible frames of reference are all way better than you. I imagine learning to pitch a baseball is tough because you want to be in the Major League, so you have to think about how you just can’t throw a 90mph fastball yet. You don’t want to compare yourself to the rest of your team, who is on the same level as you, because they aren’t people you aspire to be.

I could easily browse websites full of awful writing to boost my morale. I know how much better I am than any high-schooler trying their hand at writing their first fanfiction. That was me once upon a time, after all, and I can see how far I’ve come.

And in the end, that’s all that should really matter. “The only person you should compare yourself to is you. Your mission is to become better today than you were yesterday.” A quote whose only credit I could find is to John Maxwell. This is a much safer comparison, really. You can’t compare yourself to people you aren’t. If they’re in the field you want to break into, you may be inclined to think that the comparison is one of pure volume of skill alone, but it isn’t. You’re comparing the volumes of two different liquids, with different densities and properties and everything. There is no fair comparison there.

You’re only going to get disheartened if you keep letting your eye see things way above your hand’s level. Don’t let yourself dwell on who you aren’t. Just look back and make sure you’re happy that you aren’t who you used to be. If you’re an artist, just draw something better today. It doesn’t have to be “Starry Night”, or “The Last Supper”. As long as you can see improvement from the day before, and the month before that, and so on, then you’re on the right track.