Me — Committing to Writing

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Not trying to brag, as I don’t think that it’s even all that impressive, but at this point it’s nearing half my life. I’ve written loads of things, listened to podcasts on how to write, read books and blogs on how to write, and I’ve been attending a writer’s group for roughly three years as well. Throughout a lot of my journey, one specific post stands out: Jim Butcher’s last Livejournal post about writing.

I’d recommend reading the whole post, there’s a lot of gold in there, but out of everything, these words have been in the back of my head for years.

In fact, the vast majority of aspiring authors (somewhere over 99 percent) self-terminate their dream. They quit. Think about this for a minute, because it’s important:

THEY KILL THEIR OWN DREAM.

And a lot of you who read this are going to do it too. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just human nature. It takes a lot of motivation to make yourself keep going when it feels like no one wants to read your stuff, no one will ever want to read your stuff, and you’ve wasted your time creating all this stuff. That feeling of hopelessness is part of the process. Practically everyone gets it at one time or another. Most can’t handle it.

But here’s the secret:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO CAN KILL YOUR DREAM. *NO ONE* can make you quit. *NO ONE* can take your dream away.

And for me, 2018 was pretty much the year of failure for me. I started a very ambitious project—12 Lisa Stenton novellas, one a month, with the intent of publishing them as one book around this time. Well, I wrote one good one, one bad one, and got halfway through the third before I ran into that roadblock the Lisa Stenton universe still has. (The huge question of “How does the supernatural work really?“)

A few months after that I stopped writing short stories altogether. I did a few neat things, but I’ll leave it at that. As you probably know I even stopped writing the blog for the last months of the year. The only writing I was doing at that time was short scenes of plays for school.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, with Jim Butcher’s words rattling my brain. Am I doubting myself because it’s natural for a writer or because writing isn’t my path? I genuinely don’t know. I think, as a creative person, I have some good ideas.

But I have never enjoyed sitting down and writing. It’s always a chore. A chore I can feel accomplished for doing when I’m done, but it’s more of a necessity out of needing to put the ideas in my head onto paper than a love for the craft.

That said, what I do love is those ideas. I never get tired of playing around in a world and coming up with cool ideas, whether it’s the infinite, soundless tunnel of the Passway or the enormous interplanetary structure of the Spear Gate system. I love squishing inklings of ideas and molding them into sculptures of “Whoa, that’s cool”. I recently joined a collaborative project with some friends that have a lot of that, and after every meeting I’m left driving home with a stupid grin on my face because of all the cool new pictures and scenes that are now floating in my head.

I have never enjoyed the act of writing. It’s very difficult for me to envision myself as an author a decade from now. But a developmental editor, or somebody who does the story writing for a game or some such… Well, I don’t know what that job would entail, but I think I could sit in meetings doing brainstorming for 8 hours a day.

Me — How to Find Your Energy

I had a really heavy workload last semester of school, as you might have guessed by my unprecedented absence from this blog. I was working a lot, directing a play I wrote, and doing what I would simply describe as a mini dissertation for one of my classes.

Towards finals, I was starting to get really stressed. I would get home from work or class, and based on the schedule I outlined for myself, I would often have a single two hour chunk of free time to get work done before it was due in the morning. Problem was, I would get home with no energy to do any of that; the only thing I’d want to do is sleep.

This problem was surprisingly and miraculously solved when I watched a video from one of my favorite “public” figures: Day9. He’s a streamer (known for Starcraft) that I’ve talked about a while back, an old post of which I did not re-read, so browse at your discretion. He has a very casual and sociable persona, and he’s one of the people I admire most because of that.

That video was a snippet of one of his streams; just a conversation where he’s talking about this very thing: How do you structure your life in a way that allows you to get the work done with the time that you have? You can watch the video with that link, it’s about 9 minutes long (he does occasionally curse, though). But I’ll also just talk about it in my own words.

The solution is actually alarmingly simple. You can start tomorrow, in fact, and you don’t need to prepare. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but let me tell you, all it takes is the discipline to commit to your own promises and the ability to restructure your day to day.

All you gotta do is wake up early and do all the extra stuff then. If you’re trying to learn a language, write an essay, whatever doesn’t matter, don’t set yourself up for failure by pretending today will be different. It won’t. You’re going to get home from work exhausted like always and then you’ll hate yourself for looking at Instagram or Reddit for two hours after you get home.

But let’s say you have work at 9. Here’s what you do: You get up at 5am. Yup. 5. You cry a little inside, maybe take 20-30 minutes to get up and you curse me for convincing you to do this, but then you get up and get ready for your day. By 6am you’ve showered and eaten, you’d be ready to walk out the door now if you had to. But now you have 3 hours to just do stuff. The house is quiet, nothing going on, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and now that you’ve woken up you’ve got the energy to work.

That’s when you write that essay, or go to the gym, whatever you want to be doing more. You devote some time in the early morning, and by the time you get home after work, you’ve already done the stuff you want to, so now you won’t hate yourself for wasting the rest of your night. Maybe you’ll go to bed a few hours early, but who cares? You’ve already done the things you need to. Plus, if you go to bed early, it’ll make getting up earlier that much easier.

I tried this in the middle of a work and school week, throwing caution to the wind, and it changed the way I did my day-to-day. I’d get home with so much more energy because I wasn’t dreading the work I’d still have to do after work. And because I got up at 5am every week day, sleeping in on weekends meant getting up at 7-8am. I felt like every day suddenly and magically had 3 extra hours.

So, that’s it. Watch that video if you’re not convinced. Give it a shot. Trust me, I know waking up that early is awful. But if you can do it, you’ll feel better, and every day after that will be easier and easier. Especially if you’re a morning person like me, sleeping in until even just 10-11am feels terrible because there’s no morning left.

I wish you the best of luck, and as a farewell note, I highly recommend doing things that wake you up immediately. Shower and eat right after you get out of bed because there is no being tired after that. If you jump out of bed and immediately start working on an essay, you’ll just fall back asleep and you’ll hate me all the more.

Me — The Wave™ Cometh.

My fall semester is starting to look very scary. I’m taking 5 classes and I’m still going to try my best to be working full time, and it’s starting to look like—without factoring in writing time or any homework—I’ll be either in class or at work at least 65 hours per week. If I’m also actively playing Dungeons & Dragons and weekly binge watching shows with a good friend of mine, that cuts down any “me” time I have to about 6-8 hours a week.

Fall Availability (Censored).png

I might die.

I’ll probably die.

I hadn’t thought about it until now, but that novelette/novella I’ve been outlining is now in a very dark spot. I haven’t started writing it yet, and at this point, when that 3-month long tsunami of business hits, I won’t be able to get anything done. I’ll still update this blog as often as I can, but I’ll be impressed if I can come up with any short stories during that period. Heck, I literally have to stop going to the writer’s group I’ve been leading for over a year now just to be available to take some of these classes. (It’s only for a few months, but still.)

It’s starting to dawn on me that right now, these next few weeks, will be the most open my schedule will be until next summer. If I want to get any substantial writing in, it needs to be now.

Transforming into a machine is going to be tough. All my brothers/friends will be playing new games soon, and I won’t be able to. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth comes out two days before The Wave™ hits. (It will be henceforth referred to as The Wave™.) So while I wanted to play, that’s just not happening. Dragon Quest XI comes on in September, and I’m super excited for that, but I’ll have to wait for winter break to get a chance at it. At least it’s a single player experience and I’m the only one interested in it, so there’s no risk of spoilers. Speaking of spoilers, it’s going to be really hard to follow Critical Role during that time, although maybe I can somewhat keep up via podcasting at work.

It’ll be tough, but I have high hopes for the future! If all goes well, by this time next year, I’ll have two AA degrees, enough money saved up to afford my own car, and I’ll be finally stepping into the crushing weight of adulthood where you have no idea what you should be doing with your life and by all that is holy, you had better figure it out soon because you don’t want to be that guy that lives with his parents for too long, even though the economy of Southern California doesn’t allow for any alternative at your age, and if you don’t somehow win the lottery you will never enter you’re going to be stuck like this for the rest of your life because good things come to those who aren’t you, and with the acceptance of that fact comes the existential dread that life will only get worse from here on out.

So you know, fun stuff!

 

Me — A Rare Free Weekend

Warning: this is a bit all over the place. It’s pretty much a very rambling free-write.

 

So, I (obviously) didn’t post a short story this weekend. I’d like to apologize. I offer no excuse, but instead I give you an explanation. When I woke up Saturday morning, I realized I had absolutely no plans whatsoever for the entire weekend, and I don’t know when the last time that was. I doubt it’s happened at all in 2018, (cancelled plans excepting).

As happened, I decided to spend it doing nothing productive at all and see where that got me, and I succeeded. I wrote a tiny bit and went to go buy groceries, but that’s about it. Beyond that, I played a ton of Heroes of the Storm and NieR: Automata. I’ll tell you what though, doing nothing was hard. It’s not as though I had to make a conscious effort not to be productive—I’m sure I’m not more or less lazy than anybody else—but I can’t let myself relax without feeling bad about it. I would play a few hours of something, get bored and stop. Make food and then struggle to find something else to do.

The heat certainly doesn’t help. It’s going to be over 100° for a good chunk of the work week again, which will be tough. I find it hard to be comfortable when it’s over 80°, even if I’m not doing anything.

So no, I didn’t have a great time relaxing. I got a lot done in the games I’ve been playing, but other than that it’s hard not to feel like I threw the weekend away. And it’s not as though I have a shortage of things to write. Beyond the two or three small personal projects I’ve been touching on here and there, I want to work on that Xelfure story I brought up recently. I realized that the two-layer narrative is unnecessary, and while I do want to keep it, the “story” is complete in itself, so I shouldn’t need to worry about the flashback part. Honestly, it’s just been difficult to get started because it’s not going to be a simple 2,000 word flash fiction. I don’t know how long it would end up being, but it’s a good length. Multiple weekends worth of writing for sure, and it scares me.

I’ve been thinking about my resources a lot lately. My time and money is generally stretched pretty thin, and gaining one means losing the other, when I’d love to have more of both. I’m sure that’s the case with the vast majority of people though, eh? Struggling to find that balance.

In any case, don’t expect me to stop writing those weekly short stories. Next weekend’s is bound to be interesting. If nothing else, I think I need to write these little stories for my own personal sanity if nothing else. I have this irrepressible need to be productive in everything I do. Heck, even all the games I play I have specific long-term goals in mind.

Time grows short. The fall semester starts in about a month, and I have plans for pretty much every waking moment during the work week throughout the semester, which means any and all things that could possibly be considered “free time” must all be done on the weekends. Oh boy.

 

Me — Back to Audiobooks!

I’ve recently started going through audiobooks again—before that I had been listening to Jukebox the Ghost almost exclusively, and about 7 weeks later their charm is only just starting to wear off on me. So, I thought I would tune that down while I catch up on books.

Well, back at my old job at Target this worked pretty well. I worked night shifts, generally, and being cart attendant meant I was outside in the quiet dark a lot. So, two or three nights a week I’d listen to 4 or 5 hours of an audiobook and I made good time.

But now, I’m working full time and listening to audiobooks for pretty much all of it. At 1.4x speed, so, well, that’s about 50 hours of content a week, or 4 typical novels. Problem is, I only had about 6 books to catch up on, so here we are. I’ve still have 2 to go, and by the time I’m through with Friday I expect I’ll only have half a book left.

Now, in this circumstance my preference is certainly audiobooks, but if I kept at it at this rate, that would be over $200 a month of new books. Now, don’t get me wrong, if I was overflowing with money, I would love to do that. At 4 books a week, that’s over 200 per year, which, if I keep up this rate for all of my working career (which I certainly hope I don’t), would be about 8,000 books, and on the clock to boot. Nevermind the $80,000 that audio library would cost me.

No, no. Podcasts are what it will have to be for the foreseeable future. Which is fine, I have no shortage of these, either. I have Hello InternetWelcome to Nightvale, and if I find them as interesting as a brother does, My Brother, My Brother, and I as well as the half a dozen other D&D campaigns he follows. I’m sure all of those podcasts combined is well over 1,000 hours, or, 18 weeks if I can make good time.

This is part of the reason why I love my job. It’s sort of complex—there’s a lot of nuance that goes into it, but for the most part lately it’s just been a lot of things that take a lot of time, I’m not bouncing around everywhere. I’m not talking to customers and I don’t need to talk to coworkers all that much, and so it’s a prime environment to listen to stuff.

I love that fact because it means I can multitask in the most efficient of ways: gaining money while also working on what I consider to be self-improvement. Maybe I’m a little crazy in thinking that podcasts are about improving the self, not a mere replacement for music, but that’s what I think of it as. Maybe less so the D&D related podcasts, but you get the idea.

In other news, the fact that I’m going to be listening to so many new things in the near future means more meaningful Review posts! I’ve just finished the first book of the Belgariad as well as the first book of Dan Wells’ Mirador series. By the time Tuesday rolls around, I expect to have at least another review candidate! Maybe the next few Thursdays will be more Reviews rather than Me posts.

 

Me — Writing at the Last Minute

I’ll admit it. To the surprise of nobody, I’ve never been amazing at writing these posts in advance. There have been occasions where I wrote the next week’s worth of post all on Sunday, but the last time that happened was (I don’t know how many) months ago. In fact, for the past two weeks or more, every single post has been written at most 6 hours before it’s scheduled to post, and multiple times I’ve been late on posts entirely.

Probably, the fact that I’m working full time is to blame. I’m not home and showered before 6pm, and usually not settled before 7. By that time, I’ve been out and about for nearly 12 hours and writing is not the first thing on my mind. I want to unwind and take a break, and this ostensibly leads to me relaxing for the next 4 hours and suddenly I need to go to bed and haven’t written yet.

It sort of sucks because this means that all of my posts have been “Oh my gosh I want to go to bed but I need to churn out 500 words”. Not all of them have been bad, of course, but with these normal blog posts especially I don’t usually even know what I’m going to write until I write it. Free form isn’t bad, necessarily, but I do think it leaves the quality of my work at a tier below that which I expect of myself.

With posts like this, I don’t mind so much. I mean, this post is my 635th on the blog (remembered when I tagged them in multiples of 5? Yeesh.) So with all the subcategories and these random, general posts being the most common, there are 3/400 like it. What I don’t like is that, for the Sunday fiction posts, I usually don’t write those until Saturday night, and even then I probably don’t get started until past midnight because I’ve been up playing games with friends. It’s really hard for me to commit to writing a longer piece (even if it’s only 1,000 words) the morning after a long week of hard work.

What this tells me is that a reorganizing of the blog schedule is in order. Especially since Wednesday posts are tough—with my writer’s group I rarely get home before 9pm, and at that point I still need to shower and eat. It’s doable, sure, but I just wish my schedule would gain some consistency and that all the weekly things I want to be doing all happen at the same times every week! (The troubles of being a working college student, I’m afraid. You take the classes you need at the times you can afford.)

I’ll try to give all this some serious thought before Monday, when the monthly update posts. I don’t like making bigger changes outside of those posts if I can help it, especially if they occur near the beginning of the month. So, stay tuned. I don’t expect my post frequency to change, but maybe I’ll take a look at my fall semester and figure out a neater blog schedule that doesn’t frontload my work week and can be consistent for the rest of the year.

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.