Me — Enjoyment From Productivity

According to my happiness tracker, an average day for me is about a 7/10. It wasn’t particularly good, but there wasn’t any bad things, either. It was just a day, as are most other days. I’ve been noticing a trend lately that kind of bothers me, though.

Weekends, the days I don’t have work, aren’t really any better than weekdays. On average, it’s about a .25 difference. That seems off. Relaxing doesn’t make me happier than working? Well…

I’ve found that the single biggest factor that will increase how good I feel about any given day is how I spent my time. It doesn’t matter (much) whether I had work or whether or not I had time to sit down and breathe. It’s all about productivity. How much work on personal projects did I get done. That’s the biggest thing. Hanging out with friends or playing D&D also consistently increase my happiness on a given day, but not to the same scale as getting work done.

It’s interesting to note that even after I’ve made this observation, getting work done on a weekend is still just as hard. Even when I know my day will be better the sooner I get stuff done, I still end up going to bed after only crossing one thing off my list and feeling terrible for it (which is made up for by having relaxed all day). I spend every work week telling myself that I’m going to spend the entire Saturday crossing everything off my list so I can have a blissful Sunday, but then I wake up Monday morning with only the things that needed doing getting done.

The worst part is, I don’t know where the problem is. I would love to figure out how to just get things done and appropriately reward myself for being productive, but I’m wondering if I just need to learn to relax and enjoy relaxing. I’ve tried the latter, and it certainly isn’t as easy as just ignoring the responsibility to live in the moment.

Around this time last year I was consistently getting up at 5am (on the advice of Day9) to get stuff done before work, then getting home just to relax. It worked like a charm, but I haven’t since been able to replicate that behavior. (I’d be tempted to try this tomorrow morning, but I’m still getting over a cold and I feel cutting my sleep by two and a half hours would be asking for trouble.)

I guess part of the problem is that a lot of the stuff on my to-do list already feels like work. Editing short stories for my next anthology isn’t fun, it’s just something I need to do. Writing for the passion project is fun, but it’s also not nearly as much of a priority, so it feels a bit like I’m wasting my time when I’m doing that instead of editing or fully relaxing.

I don’t know about you, but it’s nearly impossible to reward yourself for hard work when you can instead reward yourself for no work at no consequence. I imagine this is simply a perpetual struggle for “real” adults, but it’s not something I’m even close to having a handle on just yet.

Rambling — The Lack of Long-term Goals

I was talking to a friend the other day (a game developer who’s been working closely in the industry for a few years), and I told him that if I had had my way, my ideal career would be writing up the storylines to video games. My thought was that I could be the lead writer for an indie company, because that avenue has been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. It wasn’t his intention, but he said something that was really disheartening, which was the fact that the project that he’s currently working on has over forty developers and zero of them are just “writers”.

Now, the thing is, I’m not sure how well his situation translates to my ambitions, because the project that he is on is unannounced, and therefore he can’t tell me about it. It sounds to me like the thing that he’s working on is very mechanic-driven, with little to no narrative. (I’m struggling to avoid using the term ‘game’ here, even if that is almost assuredly what he is doing). You don’t need a narrative for a game like Chess, after all, and for all I know he’s just making Super Chess.

I don’t like facing the fact that he’s probably right—there’s very few careers for a writer in the video game industry, meaning they will be hard to get and more than likely, none of them would be exclusively writing. (I love brainstorming, but there’s no way in hell anyone would pay me to sit in an office 40 hours a week to brainstorm with people and string story threads together.) But the problem with that is that I have no other marketable skills for that industry.

The vast majority of the time I do a pretty good job at not worrying about the future and just live in the present. Building towards and preparing for my life in two years is all well and good, but looking much further than that doesn’t tend to yield very accurate results.

What concerns me here is that I have no real passions. I’m sure that’s not uncommon with a lot of people my age, and so I should count myself lucky that I tend to be competent at most everything I pick up, but what I don’t want to do is be sitting in the same spot 10 years from now wondering when I can start calling myself an adult.

It’s stupid, I know. I’m already an adult and my life started decades ago. Some people live their whole life waiting for it to start, but if nothing motivates me into kicking myself into gear, what is there to do?

I used to think I’d be a published author by now, well into the first few novels of a fantasy series, but as it turns out I get bored with long-form writing and burn myself out. I have this irrational (if commonplace) fear that every aspiration I turn to will yield the same results.

They say not to make your hobby your day job, but my only hobby is D&D, and I already consider it a load of work. Ho-hum. Rambling over.

Me — May ’19 Update

My free time has been getting shoveled out the window the past few weeks, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The last time I got home and was able to just relax before 7pm (including weekends) was last Thursday, and even then I got home at about 7 and had work the next morning, so it wasn’t as though I could sleep in.

I’m not complaining, though. According to my happiness chart things have actually been getting slightly better (probably because I’m too busy to be stressed or lonely). It does mean that I forced myself to get up at 5am to write this, though.

So, that said, I’m adding something to the monthly topics: work. Because of that, I’m changing the order by moving things around a bit. Here it is:

Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

Despite my lack of time (and the fact that I didn’t post anything this past Tuesday), I’m not making any changes to the blog. I don’t want to take another break because any period of time where I don’t hold myself accountable for updates and posts gives me a tiny source of stress. I don’t like having that little voice in the back of my head that asks when I’m going to start writing posts again. Plus, I think two posts a week is a nice goal. It requires me to keep writing without having to be on my thoughts each and every day.

do have writing plans, which makes me very excited. Over the summer, I’m going to write the second half of the Lisa play I started back in February. I don’t know what I’ll do with it afterwards, but it is definitely still a first draft. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to find time to write a short story for the passion project (which for now is still nameless). The thing is, neither that story nor the Lisa play are ever likely to find their way onto the blog, unfortunately. Play format isn’t conducive to blog posts, and the audience of the short story is written for the other people on the project, so it isn’t very inclusive. Still, I’m optimistic about my writing situation, (plus, I have a few inklings of crazy weird things I want to try out, but that won’t be for several, several months).

Work is getting rough. As I wrote about recently, my job used to have me, who is part time, and somebody else who was full time. Even in recent weeks he and I had been struggling to get everything done one time, and then he left. I can’t just start working full time again because I have school, which means I’m driving to work immediately after school, hence the not getting home until ~8pm most days. Luckily I’ve been getting some help from other people so my work load hasn’t been as daunting as it might be, and I’ll be looking forward to being able to start saving money again, so we’ll see.

That said, finals week is really soon. I have to have a lot of things done by next Thursday for one of my classes, and I’m worried that there will not be enough time in the day to finish it the way I want to. The solace I do have is that as far as school is concerned, this is the only thing I’m worried about, as all of my other classes are relatively laid back. If my project does turn out the way I’m hoping, maybe I’ll even make a post about it and include some pictures.

The Aleor D&D campaign is going great. We just had a surprise boss fight-ish in the streets of Craydon, and this was the first real session we’ve had since they finished a dungeon. This fight took two hours and had so many pieces. I should have taken pictures, I had three books open, 70% of my miniatures were on the mat, there were 4 allied parties (not including the players) and 4 different types of enemies. The session ended up being 5 hours long (and our usual is 3). I’m gearing them towards some major story arcs because up until now they’ve been flailing around at low level doing random, insignificant stuff. Mostly I can’t wait to write about this scene in the campaign diaries when I get to them.

Video games? Who has time for those? Well, recently I downloaded Magic the Gathering: Arena, which I may or may not have mentioned on the blog. It took several hours to start enjoying, but it’s slowly starting to feel like just another card game which is nice. I don’t really have any time to play it, which means I don’t play often enough to acquire my own custom deck, but the decks that the game gives you are at least halfway decent/fun.

I’ve been falling behind a bit on Critical Role, which as I’ve stated before is 50% of the media I consume, so that feels a bit bad. I do like being a week’s behind because then I don’t feel obligated to watch the stream on Thursday (as usually I should be getting work done if that time slot is free), but at this point I’m multiple episodes behind so I’m no longer safe browsing the subreddit and looking at fanart and whatnot. Oh well.

The only other thing I have is that I’ve started to go to my writer’s group again. It feels somewhat like a waste of my time because I don’t have any writing to present, but if nothing else it’s nice to see a lot of those people again. Maybe I’ll start bringing stuff I’ve already written and start editing it.

That’s all, folks! Next update should be interesting because with the end of the Spring semester my schedule should have calmed down quite a bit. I’ll be working full time, be done by 5pm, and if I don’t have something to do that night (like writer’s group), then I can go home and just relax/get work done! Never a moment’s rest, but maybe that’s the way I like it.

Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Me — April ’19 Update

I feel as though I have some big decisions down the line. I’m not necessarily going through a lot at the moment, and my life isn’t particularly stressful, but my path is nearing a precipice, or perhaps a simple fork. The thing is, the choice that I make in the nearing future is going to impact the rest of my life.

But before we get into that, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, D&D, and other things.

Once again I feel as though the blog is in a good spot. Twice a week is a great pace for somebody whose writer’s block has become mentally crippling. No changes on the horizon.

On that front, I’ve been sort of working on a story for the passion project I’ve been collaborating with, and even that has proven to be an insurmountable slope. So far, in 10 days, I’ve written two different beginnings, each roughly 400 words long, and the story is simply supposed to showcase a piece of worldbuilding, nothing even largely important or exciting, really. I did recently write nearly 8,000 words in a month (not staggering by any means, but with a mental block as powerful as mine’s become, I was pretty proud of it.) I was able to do that because I was given very strict time limits to adhere to when I wrote each scene, and was held accountable for it. As it turns out though, I cannot self-impose similar time limits on my own projects, because I know that there won’t be any consequences if I fail. I know there’s a workaround in my head somewhere, I just don’t know what it is yet.

As far as gaming goes I’ve been playing a lot of World of Warcraft lately, but almost purely as a time sink as I mindlessly kill monsters, because…

I’ve once again picked up The Dresden Files. This is my second time going through the series, as Jim Butcher is nearing the end of Peace Talks and I’m optimistic that we will (finally) get a release date in the coming months.

I’ll hold off on the school topic because it ties into decisions.

D&D has been going quite well. Buckle your seat belts. The Knights of Fire (the party in my Aleor campaign officially has a name!) has just left the city of Craydon to venture into ancient Elven ruins for… reasons. I make no promises, but I intend to start posting a campaign diary of all that’s happened very soon. Perhaps even starting Saturday.

The other campaign I’m a part of (as a player, not a DM) just ended, and my character was the only one that died in the final boss encounter. The poor orc mystic only ever wanted to be a tree, sleeping on dirt and meditating as often as possible, and only in death did he get his wish, having helped save the world! I will note that this is basically the first ever campaign I’ve been a part of that we played start to finish consistently, even coming to a natural end. It wasn’t until our DM gave us the epilogue and one of the player characters visited Ki’s grave that I got a little sentimental. That campaign was very much a “silly over rules”, and neither our characters nor the plot had any depth, and I didn’t really like the mystic class, and we’re planning on starting a new campaign soon, and I might be more excited than I’ve ever been for my new character, and yet, I can’t help but feel a little sad that the story of Ki and his friends is over, doomed to fade into obscurity as new campaigns and new characters take to the stage.

*Pause for dramatic effect*

So, other things. At risk of getting too personal, I’ve grown to actively dislike my living situation. Specifically, I have never once in my life had my own room, and therefore have never really known a true sense of privacy or ownership of my own space. Most often this is fine. The brother I share a room with has the same interests as me and now that we aren’t kids anymore we get along great. The problem is that our lifestyles are very different and not conducive to sharing a space. Added onto that is the fact that I do not like living in Southern California, primarily because of the living cost and lack of weather. As such, I’ve been seriously considering and making tentative, mental plans to move north, to Oregon or Washington. My trip to Portland felt in a lot of ways like I had found a home, and I’m desperate to go back.

However. There is an increasing likelihood that I’m going to be staying in SoCal for a bit longer. I have to take an extra semester of school, as I’ve previously established, and that alone sets me back a year. What’s more, my job may “require” me to step up my hours, as we’re going to be short handed soon and since I like working there, I’m more than happy to give them a hand and return to working full-time. In addition to that, there is a possibility I might be teaching improv more seriously next school year, and I have confidence that the passion project I’ve been working on will have legs to stand on by the end of the year. All of these are heavy incentives to stay, and I like the prospect of pretty much all of those things.

And yet, if I do stay here, part of me feels like I’m delaying a transition to a new life I would be much happier living. New friends, new job, new everything. Scary, yes, but I’m not really one to let something like that get in the way. My problem is that I know I need to move in order to preserve my sanity. Moving within the area I live might solve some problems, but the larger issues of living in Southern California would remain and would delay what I believe to be an inevitable migration northwards.

I feel as though I can’t win, because choosing one means losing out on a lot of things the other option yields. The nice thing about this situation is that both options are promising, and I’m not picking the lesser of two evils, and in addition to that, this choice is only presenting itself now, and I won’t be required to make any life changing decisions for a few months at least.

Until next time!

Me — Writer’s Block

I’m always excited about having extra time to work on personal projects, but I feel like every time that day arrives, I get nothing done and it just makes me upset.

I can’t articulate why, but my writer’s block has gotten so bad that putting any words on the page has become nearly impossible when it’s a personal project. Homework assignments being the exception, I’ve written one short story since July, and the shorts of that point and a few months prior were all meaningless little trifles.

It’s become a constant source of frustration. I have 5 things on my to-do list for this weekend, and the short story is my top priority, but instead of getting that done I’m taking infinite breaks and just being sad. I can’t relax and play games because I have stuff to do but I can’t just get that stuff done, so the days where I have no school or work end up being cycles of self-loathing.

I wrote the Act One to a full length play for homework in basically a month, and that was because I was told what to write and given very strict rules on what to do (write a scene where X and Y happens in one hour, GO.) I won’t say it was easy, but I ended up with 50 pages of content (that was actually not bad, all things considered!) that never would have existed otherwise.

The thing that sucks is that I obviously can’t impose those rules on myself, because there’s no consequence to me failing. If I take a break and go on Facebook or Instagram, nobody will be breathing down my neck, because the only thing I’m losing is my time (and my sanity, but who needs that?)

I did manage to get nearly 500 words of a short story done for the passion project I’m working on, but I hate it. Looking back on it I’m realizing it’s because none of my characters have established reasons for doing anything, and the story is just uninteresting overall. Which, unfortunately for me, means I need to scrap it and start from scratch.

People in my writer’s group often talk about how much they loved writing a scene or a character, and it never ceases to amaze me that people can just sit down and enjoy the process, because every time I look at the screen I just sigh and internally beg to be doing anything else. Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be), I’m on a computer where all of my favorite time sinks are.

If anything, I think this is the proof that I’m never going to make a career out of writing books. (I almost said why I’m never going to be a published author, but given the fact that I already am, that would be dumb to say.) I can talk about worldbuilding and story structure all day, but sitting down and actually writing scenes and dialogue attributions and character motivations is just a nightmare.

How do you people do it?!

Me — Feb ’19 Update

I somehow forgot to post this last week and wrote something else instead. Whoops. In any case, my life hasn’t been terribly interesting the last couple of weeks, so there isn’t a ton to say. I’m happy to report that my mood has finally started to stabilize on the higher end. It was harder to shrug this one off because the last time it got this bad (3 years ago), I changed a lot about myself—I started the blog, changed the way I dressed, and started to write more so that I didn’t feel like I was lying when I told people I was a writer. This time none of that was an option, but over time I’ve been able to breathe a little and bit by bit reclaim myself.

That said, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I don’t foresee any blog changes in the near future. I like the casual two posts a day. It makes me feel like I’m keeping up without forcing myself to write an insane amount. I do plan on writing about the road trip my siblings and I took to Chicago and back, but I need to go through my pictures and find all the good ones, and that’s going to be a chore because I’m not a picture person. That’s the main thing that keeps me from just writing a Saturday post travel log: I’d want to include pictures but I don’t want to do the work to find them. Either way, expect that soon.

Writing plans. I’m still going through a bit of a rut as far as that goes. I do feel like a piece of myself is missing right now because I still have the stories in my head but I have no willpower to write them. And it’s not like how it used to be where it was just difficult to get started but I’d find my flow. This time I can’t even find the power to even consider writing. It’s hard to explain, but this mental block has been getting stronger and stronger for almost a year now. I will say though: I have to write for one of my classes, and my professor and I have found a workaround to my problem. He gives me a prompt based on the last story I wrote for him, a few random words to incorporate, and a time limit. I have to write as much as I can in one hour based on his prompt and words, and the restrictive nature of that assignment has worked astonishingly well. I do think it requires somebody reading and responding to the work I’m producing, though. This strategy wouldn’t work for stand-alone short stories on the blog.

In the realm of video games, I actually have not been doing much. I’ve been playing Season 16 of Diablo 3, but I’ve pretty much expended the amount of available fun in that realm. Mostly I’ve just been playing really casual games while watching YouTube videos of streamers I enjoy. Hearthstone is a big one, but I’m also playing a simple mobile game and a casual browser game: RWBY: Amity Arena and Flight Rising respectively. The RWBY game is pretty much Clash Royale (basically a card game MOBA). Don’t know if there’s a genre associated with it. Flight Rising is basically Neopets, only you collect dragons instead of random creatures and you play games to get money and collect clothes to dress the dragons up or change their coloring. You can even make custom skins for them using Photoshop, and the game has a lot of community input to game development, which I think is neat.

I haven’t been reading or listening to anything beyond those streams. Critical Role and anything Day9 puts onto YouTube is pretty much the extent of my consumed media right now. That’s all I have to say about that.

School is going well. My intention is that this will be my final semester, to which I will have two AA’s to show for my time. At this point I’m taking exclusively theatre related classes, which is both parts fun and stressful. Another one of my plays is also being produced this semester, but apart from script edits, I’ve decided to take a back seat and let other people put their vision on it.

That’s about it. My Aleor D&D campaign is going great, more updates to come, and the cool collaborative passion project I’ve been a part of the last few months has been a ton of fun, too. This might be the first time I’ve brought it up, but I will definitely speak more of that in the future, as well!