Me — March ’19 Update

We’re already chugging along through 2019, and I think we’re at the point where 2019 doesn’t quite feel new, but (at least for me), it doesn’t feel like anything has really happened, either. Which is a bit surprising, because there’s been a lot of new and interesting things going on.

So let’s jump on in with the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Not much to say about the current state of the blog. I’m pretty happy with where it is right now, forcing me to write regularly but not often enough to be oppressive. That said, I might want to be upping the content come summer. More on that in a bit.

As you probably know, I don’t really have a whole lot going on writing wise. That story I posted last week was one of my first forays into the world I’ve been working on with some friends, but since that’s a collaborative project, I don’t like to talk about it much. I will say that we plan to have stuff to present some time this year, though, and when that day comes you bet your butt I’m going to be talking about it here. Apart from that, I’m working on that full length Lisa Stenton play for school. Have I mentioned that on the blog? Well, now I have. It’s still in a very rough draft and nowhere near at the level in which I can show to anybody (the public especially), but it’s coming along, which is exciting. That’s pretty much all I’m working on at the moment.

I don’t feel like I’ve been playing pretty much anything lately. I pretty much get home from work or school, try and fail taking a nap, and then work on whatever needs to be done. When I do have actual free time, though, I usually watch videos while casually playing Heroes of the Storm or Hearthstone. I haven’t even been playing on the Switch lately, which makes me feel a little bad, but I know I’ll get my hours in with time. Also, my brother and I have been dedicating a few hours every other week to playing classic games, which has been fun because we’ve been narrating characters to each other in silly voices. Right now we’re going through Secret of Mana, which has been a blast. I’d say “expect a review on that soon”, but I’m realizing I’ve been saying that a lot lately and have yet to review anything in 2019. Oh well.

Listening, though. I’ve been listening to a lot of Day9 and Critical Role. Those two channels combined produce about a dozen hours a week, which is more than the amount of free time I can spend watching YouTube, so that’s pretty much all the media I’ve been consuming. Haven’t listened to podcasts or audiobooks in months, but I’m sure I’ll binge on stuff a few months from now to catch up.

As far as school goes, I mentioned last month that this would be my last semester. Well, that’s not happening. One of the classes I needed got cancelled, and there’s no way around it beyond taking an extra semester. For one class. So all my plans for picking up a second job after this semester and saving up have kind of gone out the window. Sucks, but can’t do anything about it now, so there’s no use dwelling on it.

Craydon Map.png

Second-to-lastly, D&D is going great. I just finished my first full city, Craydon, which took about 10 hours of work to build. It houses roughly 18,000 people, complete with about a dozen factions, shops, and lots of events and secrets to uncover. The Aleor campaign is going great. I will one day post a campaign diary of the story. When I get around to it.

So, that last thing. I’ve been considering finding a feasible way to take commissions on story writing. Like, fanfiction, micro fiction, writing prompts, whatever. It’s something I could certainly do, but the only thing would be monetizing it in a way that actually provides me with an income. People would need to know and have read my work for that to be any sort of business plan at all, which is not something I can magically make happen. It would be a good hobby for a bit of extra change, but it’s not on my radar just yet. I need to give it some more thought first.

Me — My Goal in Life

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how often people reformulate what they want their life to amount to. The end of the road. The “I’ve made it”. I’d never really had concrete plans, as for the longest time the goal had just been “get real good at worldbuilding and then write some books”. Well, if you really know me then you’d know that I don’t have any real, serious dreams/hopes of ever writing books as a career. I’m just never as interested in the characters as I am with the scope of the world itself.

But even at that point of my life, my true goal has always simply been ‘happiness’. I mean, I’d say that’s everyone’s goal whether they realize it or not. To me, it doesn’t matter what my life ends up being as long as I get to a point where I’m not twiddling my thumbs wishing things were different. Do I expect to ever get to a point like that? Maybe not, but I’d like to get as close to that as possible.

Still, I had never thought about what that life looks like. Obviously, I can’t predict the future and I know my life will change in unimaginable ways, but I think it’s still worth exploring the ideal future the current Kollin would like, and for all the introspection I do in my day-to-day life, it’s a little surprising I had never given it more thought until now.

So here it is.

I have a stable career working on story structure and planning for some big game a la Overwatch or World of Warcraft, or perhaps I’m the main story writer for some smaller company. Maybe the story I’m working on is in a world I helped build from scratch. It’s a steady job, something that keeps me living well within my means but doesn’t allow for extravagances (I’m never going to be the person that takes yearly vacations around the world). I probably also live in Oregon or Washington, because it’s gorgeous up there and doesn’t get nearly as hot.

I’ve got a wife and maybe some kids (2 or 3 or none at all), and every week we invite my brothers and maybe one or two other friends to our awesome game room (where most of my expendable income goes) and play Dungeons & Dragons. I have appropriate monster miniatures at the ready and have been playing the game and practicing long enough to tell crazy cool stories with fun adventures, complete with interesting character voices I fully commit to. Perhaps I even play D&D twice a week so I can play with all the people I want to play with (or heck, I might even be running the fabled West Marches campaign.

I wake up just past dawn every morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, because I go to bed earlier than most people. I enjoy the privacy of every quiet morning with a hot cup of tea.

That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m not optimistic I’ll ever have half of those things all at the same time, but hey. Ideals.

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!

Learning! — Are You Creative?

A while back I wrote about what creativity is. I have a different way of looking at it because my improv experience has taught me that most people think of creativity as the ability to pull things out of thin air, but it’s just not. You’ll have to read that post to hear my full thoughts on that, because today I’m going to talk about something slightly different.

I would say a lot of people also think of personality traits as sliding scales on a Sims game. (I really hope that’s how Sims games work or else I’m going to look real dumb here.) You have 2/10 laziness, 7/10 attractiveness, 5/10 intelligence, etc. Creativity is no different, right?

I actually think it is very different.

All my life, I’ve had things swimming around in my head. Dragons single-handedly fighting off armies of thousands. Powerful spell casters throwing hurricanes and tidal waves at each other, sundering the landscape around them. An evil king increasing the gravity in his throne room to literally force those around him to kneel.

There is always. Always. Something like this in my head—even if I don’t have the willpower to put it to paper, like right now.

This is just part of the way that my brain works, so I was a little surprised when I found out that not everyone thinks like this. To be honest, it still seems a little strange sometimes. But maybe that’s just it.

Maybe having a creative mind isn’t something you put a scale to. Maybe you either have it or you don’t. This is only an inkling of a theory, so I could be way off base, but perhaps there’s a kernel of truth in here somewhere. Hear me out.

If you split it this way, turning it into a dichotomy, it becomes easy to differentiate the sort of people around you. It’s easy for me to split everyone in my writer’s group between creative and non-creative people.

Now, being creative doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with scenes of a book. Maybe it’s hearing new melodies or seeing magic in poetry. Whatever it is, it’s breathing life into something new.

It is important to note that when I say non-creative, it isn’t an insult, merely a descriptor of how our brains function. In fact, some of the best writers in my writer’s group were far more technically inclined. They weren’t creative at all.

You may or may not agree with me, but thinking of people in this way has helped me better accommodate for the strengths and weaknesses of those around me. Putting creative people in technical fields can yield interesting results, and the opposite holds true as well.

You could probably immediately tell me whether or not you’re a creative person with my definition, and if you start thinking about your friends and family, you might be surprised to discover that their profession is something contrary to their personality. Well, you might think it’s contrary, but in actuality they’re just bringing different things to the table.

Just because it’s unconventional doesn’t mean it won’t work.

Me — Having Something to Say

For the longest time, the MO of this blog had been “write for me, and anyone that reads it is a bonus”. That’s sort of translated to writing regularly about what I’m feeling about so that future me can look back at how very specific events have affected me over the years. For instance, I can look read the post about my cat that died November of 2017, or when I went to Portland, Oregon last July and how I felt during that time.

Most often, though, it just means that every week I commit myself to writing a “Me” post, but all I can think about is stuff I’ve written about in past weeks. At this specific moment, roughly three things come to mind: weather, and how I deal with the cold, getting up and being productive in very early mornings, or just general stress, and how the combination of an ever strengthening writer’s block and an omnipresent feeling of loneliness are working together to make insecurities more and more prevalent.

I’ve already talked about the former two, and the latter isn’t really something I feel is a good topic of conversation, even for a blog post. I’ll say this much, though: I’ve always imagined myself as having a bottle of emotions, and once every several months I rant to a friend about all my problems and then I feel nice and empty for a while. Recently, though, I haven’t managed to empty that bottle, and what worries me about that is that I’m starting to crack. In all honesty, I’m one serious tragedy away from a full mental breakdown. Not that I would wish it, but maybe that’s something I need—a traumatic yet cathartic release of emotion in order to reset my emotional balance.

But anyways, every week I’m struggling with finding a subject of conversation to go into. I really want to talk about my new D&D campaign, but that seems better for a Saturday post for arbitrary reasons. I don’t really like the idea of reviewing games or movies at the moment—the purpose of that was so that future me can look at my first impressions at all this media that may or may not end up being anything—but really I only go back at archived blog posts for references, and when I link them in new posts I don’t reread them. Part of that problem is that the current me isn’t far enough removed from any of those posts, so I know I haven’t changed, but still.

This is a long way of saying that Tuesday posts will no longer be restricted to “Me” posts, because I’m a boring individual and I don’t even have enough to say to interest my own writing muses, so nobody, not even future me, should be subjected to reading that sort of crap. (The preceding paragraphs that are only tangentially related to each other are a good example of this.)

That said: here’s something that doesn’t deserve a full post but I want to mention anyway. I got two pairs of nice cotton pajama pants for Christmas and they are so cozy I love them. One of them even has tea cups on them.

That is all.

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 — Jan ’19 Update

It’s been some time since I’ve done anything with the blog, but I never intended the break to be permanent. I thought 2019 would be a great time to jump back in. I have several pieces of news to share, so let’s go.

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

First things first, blog changes! Pretty simple, for now. I’m going to ease back into the updates, so I’ll only be writing two posts a week. Tuesday I’ll be posting ‘Me’ stuff, like this. I have a few months of things to catch up on, (I directed a play I wrote last semester, for example). Saturday I’ll be posting other stuff. Reviews, D&D, Improv things, etc. It may turn into three days a week, depending on how this Spring semester goes. We’ll see.

Unfortunately I don’t have much writing news to share. All my writing has been focused towards school (exclusively playwriting format these past few months), and that’s going to continue this semester as well. On that note, while I haven’t been writing prose lately, I do hope to get back to that soon, as I did enjoy writing the weekly short stories. In other news, I am in the composition process of putting together my second short story anthology! Unlike my first book which was published specifically as the first stories I had ever written, this new book will actually be a set of my best stories from the last two years, so you know, actually enjoyable. Stay tuned on that, I plan on an early summer publication, if not earlier.

Video games. This is going to need a longer post, but I’ve been a little all over the place lately. Most recently I bought a Switch. The joy-cons are definitely on par for the weirdest controllers ever, but their versatility is undeniably innovative. I’ve only got two games for now, but it’s a good console. Expect a review on Smash soon.

I’ve been slowly easing back into audiobooks lately. I recently finished Skyward, Brandon Sanderson’s newest novel. I have thoughts, so expect a review on that soon, too! Oh boy, I have more to talk about than I realized. Maybe twice a week isn’t enough… I’ll figure it out. Other than that, I’ve been reading lots of classic literature and plays for my classes. I have three books that are on my desk to be read, though, and at the same time I’ve also been trying to read the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide cover to cover. I don’t do a lot of physical reading to begin with, so I have no further comments at this time.

The Fall 2018 semester was… a lot, as you might have guessed with my unprecedented absence. I directed my own play, and a wrote quite a lot of new stuff for some other classes, too. Some of it might even end up in my second anthology—it certainly won’t all be prose this time, I’ll say that much. What’s more, another play I wrote is being produced this semester, though I’ve elected not to direct this new one. The play I directed was about capturing the nostalgia for gaming culture in the early 2000’s. This new play is about forgiving yourself for loss, so while I think it will have just as much emotional impact, it doesn’t require a very specific kind of person to helm the production. Plus, I want to see what somebody else does with it, so I can’t wait to see how it turns out without my having had a hand in it.

Also tied to school, I’m hoping this semester, Spring 2019, will be my last. By the end of this semester I will have two AA degrees as well as a playwriting and a teaching certificate. I have no immediate plans for continuing a formal education, but you never know. So, 2019 is bound to be an interesting year.

Lastly, I think the thing I’m most excited for is the new D&D campaign I’m DMing for my brothers. I’m really excited, and I’ve already put dozens upon dozens of hours into prep already. Three maps, multiple pages of character descriptions, and a list of encounters complete with the music associated with each. I’ve also spent a big chunk of money on miniatures so that I have monsters to throw at the party rather than using dice.

So, excited for a lot of things. D&D campaign, production of my new play, last semester of school, and a new short story anthology. And good to be back!