Me — June ’19 Update

With the spring semester finally over, it’s back to working full time. Theoretically, this means I have more time to pursue hobbies like writing and investing more time into D&D, but we’ll see where that goes.

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

I’ve been trying to upload at my scheduled times more consistently. It always kills me a little bit inside when I miss the 5am deadline on a blog post and I have to upload it later (or skip it entirely). That said, two posts a week still feels like a good pace. A lot of my creative energy has been being spent elsewhere, so if more content does come, it probably won’t be through my website (though I’ll certainly advertise it here, too).

That said, I’ve been writing a lot for the passion project, and we have big plans coming in in the next set of months. I’m very excited, but we want to make sure everything is in place before we hit “Go”. Apart from that, I’m planning on working on the second Act of my full length play over the summer. I don’t think that will ever find its way to the website because it wouldn’t be fair to myself to do that, but I certainly intend to throw out snippets (even if it’s just plot points) out when I do finish it. Also, a second short story anthology may be on its way relatively soon?

Work has been a little rough. As I’m writing this, I’m about to go into the first day of work with our new hire (whom I will be teaching), and the day after that is my overdue yearly review. By the time this posts those two things will have already happened, so if you’re reading this, that’s my bad. I should have came back and edited this paragraph. But if I don’t, know this: I’m leery. I want things to get better, as the pay is not comparable to the amount of work I do, but I don’t think I’ll get much of a pay raise in my review. We’ll see.

School! The spring semester is over, as I said, and I should only need one more semester of classes to walk away with (at least) two AA degrees and a few certificates. I’m also thinking about auditioning for the main stage play in the fall. Never being in a full length production was always one of my biggest regrets from high school, and I don’t want to leave college making the same mistake, even if I end up hating the experience.

D&D is going well. I’m planning on passing the DM reins to my brother once we finish this story arc, but the arc is taking longer than anticipated. I predict we have about 5 more sessions to go, and if that’s accurate, I should be done by July, but as long as we finish by August I don’t care. Mostly I’ve got a lot of DM fatigue that I need a break from, and once I’m done with school I should have a lot of fun stuff to play with to get me excited to take the wheel again. I also hope to start writing more Aleor campaign diaries and uploading them to the blog. Stay tuned.

As far as gaming goes, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. I’ve still been playing Magic: The Gathering Arena trying to save up cards to make my own deck instead of modifying the ones the game gives you for free. It’s a shame the game requires so much in order to get the cards you want. Stupid card games are so expensive. I’ve also been messing around on Heroes of the Storm still. I only have eight heroes left to level up to ten. Lastly, my brother and I are planning on starting Final Fantasy VI for our retro game night this week, and I’m bringing a fellow nerd along for the ride. FF6 has been one of those games I’ve always been very excited to play, so it should be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, all of this leads to me not having a whole lot of time to myself. The only media I’ve really been consuming in the last few months is Critical Role, and any leftover free time is devoted to Day[9]’s livestreams. That said, I’m about 3 episodes behind on Critical Role, which is about ten hours of content. On one hand it’s nice to just be able to watch new (to me) episodes whenever I want, but it also means I can’t participate in the community because spoilers.

That’s about it. I recently cleaned my room pretty extensively, and I packed the majority of my decorations/nick-knacks. I don’t really plan on moving soon, but it’s been on my radar for several months and it just felt time to start making myself more scarce. I really hope that my life looks very different a year from now. I’m at least trying to set myself up for big changes. On that note, I think I just recently saw the beginning of a really good friendship, so cheers to that.

 

Me — Music as a Creative Outlet

I don’t know if any one thing changed per se, but in the past few months I’ve really been listening to lots of different kinds of music and putting lots of thought into various ways I can express myself using it.

Specifically, I’ve started seriously considering two things: One, writing songs, something the current Kollin is not yet knowledgeable enough about or even equipped to do, and two, using songs as inspiration for other creative outlets. I’ll explore the former first because since it’s less accessible for me, it doesn’t make a very good conclusion to a blog post.

I’ve always been interested in songwriting. I’ve written several poems that were meant to have a sing-songy rhythm (more than one of which I intend to attach music to one day), but I haven’t seriously picked up an instrument since middle school, so my understanding is rudimentary at best. Still, over the years I’ve come up with several parody songs, and I recently realized that they all have a centralized theme. All of these songs were integral to my childhood, so the album I eventually write will be titled The Summer of Yesteryear, and all of the parodies will be about a kid growing up, using the summertime as a recurring theme.

So far I have 7 songs, mostly parodies of songs from the 90’s-00’s. My most recent addition to this list is a parody of The Cars’ “Shake it Up”, a song called “Wake Him Up”. That’s the only one you get, because none of these parodies are actually written yet, and a few of these ideas are gold.

But even outside of that, I also want to make original music. I have three distant future goals regarding this. The first is making a solo (or perhaps not?) band called Fridays at Five, featuring upbeat jams in a union of Jukebox the Ghost and Silversun Pickups. (The idea is that “Fridays at Five” is the best time of the week because it means you get to go home from work and anticipate the weekend. I also have an inverted version of the band called Five to Nine, meaning its five minutes before your 8 hour shift starts. That music under that name would not be upbeat.)

Anther distant future goal is to put together a bunch of instrumental music using D&D spell names as song titles. The idea here would be that I’d take a spell (like Fireball, or Dimension Door) and write the song that evokes the feeling of what that spell is and does. That concept is much less fleshed out than the above two concepts, but it’s a thing I’d like to toy around with someday.

Lastly, I have an inkling. An inkling of a story being told through music and song, much like the Gorillaz’ canon of backstory and events explored through their songs. I want to do that, but with a fantasy setting, perhaps even in one of my established universes?

As far as actually using music to fulfill a creative outlet under my current means, though, I’ve been really attaching myself to songs and using it to fuel my fiction. For example, I wrote this story a while back using the song “The Hermit” from Hyper Light Drifter as a writing prompt. It’s fun to use prose to explore the depths of what a song might be trying to convey, or at least what it means to me, and I’ve been enjoying myself playing in that space recently.

Other songs that I find very inspirational:

Phantom Racer” by TWRP, commanding me to one day write a story about a race a-la Speed Racer or F-Zero.

Satelitte” by Two Door Cinema Club and “All This Time” by Jonathan Coulton” inspire me to write a sci-fi sitcom, oddly enough. This is a terrible metaphor, but imagine something like Full House but it takes place on the Enterprise and there’s just so many laser guns.

Lastly, “Do You Want it All?” also by Two Door Cinema Club, just begs to be the song for a movie trailer. Maybe some sort of adventure movie?

Anyways, none of this stuff is in the near future, really, except for the using songs as writing inspiration, which I am actively doing, but is much less obvious.

But one day, Fridays at Five might be a thing.

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.

Learning! — You, Me, and the Rule of Three

“The Rule of Three” is something that gets thrown around a lot in many fields. I’d say they’re especially prevalent in my fields of writing and theatre/improv, but it appears everywhere.

In fact, saying “the rule of three” is immediately misleading because there are so many rules of three. That’s simply because 3 is a magic, holy number. You have the Christian trinity, the 3 act structure, the 3 Musketeers, you name it.

To put it very briefly and very simply, 3 is the perfect number to establish a pattern or a group without overwhelming the audience of the message. It’s easy to describe the function of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but as soon as you add a fourth, it starts getting exponentially harder to remember which is which. It’s the same thing with the 3 Musketeers.

If you have 7 of something in a story, you can’t reasonably expect to teach the audience about each individual thing and expect them to hold interest. Their attention span will only last for about 3 or so.

The logician in me thinks its unfair that 3 gets so much praise for being the holy number. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, you see.

So this is to say that when you’re writing something, whether its a story, a piece of worldbuilding, or a plot, you know whatever—use the rule of three. Don’t put five characters in a story that works with three. Don’t put 2 try-fail cycles unless you have a good reason for doing so. When you write a passage using lots of repetition, communicate the idea thrice. (I was about to quote Marc Antony’s usage of the phrase “honourable men” in his famous monologue, but he actually states it 5 times, not 3. Damn Shakespeare and his 5’s!)

You get the idea. But this rule is a bit different in improv (and comedy writing in general). In fact, it’s a lot more specific than just “use the number of three because it’s a good psychological tool”.

When you’re writing a sketch, or performing in an improv scene, the first time you use a joke it’s funny for it’s own sake. When you later repeat this joke it becomes a callback—it’s funny because of the reference. But when you use this joke again, you can’t simply repeat it, because then it becomes repetitive in its own sake. You’re milking it. Instead, you find a way to turn the joke on its head and present it in a way the audience doesn’t expect. In The Three Stooges’ “Slowly I Turned” sketch, you see lots of uses of the rule of three. Funny enough, the actual punchline of the joke is used 4 times, but the last two times its used in a way that isn’t expected.

All this is to say, in conventional writing the number three is a good rule of thumb to know how many times to use a trope or with establishing rules/characters, and in comedy it’s a good way to get punchlines, but only if you subvert expectations on the last use.

 

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!