Category: Writing (page 1 of 80)

500 Words on Time Management

Gears

There was an invasion in our apartment earlier this week. It happened without warning, and before any of us knew it, we were all in varying states of incapacitation. We felt powerless to move much, let alone be productive or get much accomplished.

I’m not sure what the bug was, but it killed my brain by way of my sinuses on around Tuesday evening.

Caught in a miasma of enzymes, pain, face drainage, and general blargitude, I struggled to hold onto what I felt was a renewed sense of productivity. Unfortunately, my body did not agree with this intention. My immune system was throwing haymakers at whatever had invaded my body, and that required copious amounts of spoons. I rode it out until around this morning, mostly gaming through it.

Incidentally, I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to finishing the Witcher games, and I haven’t even touched the Wild Hunt yet. Which is odd, considering I made it into the Gwent beta — a pretty solid game, so far.

Still, in spite of the best efforts of the bugs (remember, kids, the only good bug is a dead bugdo your part!), I was able to crank out the words. Only a few hundred a day, but considering I was huddled in my bathrobe reaching shakily for coffee treated with special chocolate syrup and frothy hemp milk, I still consider that a triumph. I made good use of my time.

Time management can be extremely problematic for creative types. A lot of my time over the past year has been taken up by the Work, especially since Starbucks and I parted ways. Getting to a place where I’ve felt comfortable carving out the space to invest myself in the words that need to be written seemed less important than unearthing and celebrating my truest Self, investing in the best alchemist I can be, on a daily basis. It was my niece’s input on the novel in progress that rekindled the fire in me to get it done, to entertain as well as inspire, to give people like my niece a protagonist who neither falls into old tropes nor bores the reader. It’s important, now more than ever.

Time management is undoubtedly an ‘adult’ skill, and by their nature, creative folks may not have the best grasp of ‘adult’ skills. There’s a reason for that: we haven’t lost our whimsy. We still want to play. We still prefer the worlds in our heads. The key is to utilize that energy, focus it into what we’ll manifest, and help others see what we see, wonder at what we wonder.

It can be difficult to feel empowerment. To let others in like that. To believe we’re worthy of the accolades and success.

It’s risky to manage your time to make that happen, rather than playing.

But the things we play with were created by people who faced the same struggle.

And we should repay them in kind.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

The Kerrigan Question

The Queen Bitch of the Universe, Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

“Girls don’t belong in games/movies!” This is the cry of “men’s rights activists” who point to things like Rogue One and female gamers & game journalists (Susan Arendt, IRL Jasmine, etc).

“What about Sarah Kerrigan?”

I suspect I’d mostly get blank stares. Maybe a bit of drool.

Here’s the background: Sarah Kerrigan is a major character in StarCraft and its sequel. StarCraft is a massively popular real-time strategy game that is played professionally as a multi-player contest & sport. Its single-player campaigns, while maybe not having the best writing, is still full of affecting moments — the rise of Arcturus Mengsk, the sacrifice of Tassadar, etc — but I would argue that the growth and arc of Kerrigan’s story is the beating heart of the narrative, though I admittedly haven’t played the last chapter, Legacy of the Void, yet. It’s a bit beyond my means at present.

I’m going to run down Kerrigan’s story for those of you who don’t know, and proceed to my point after.

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StarCraft depicts a large-scale conflict between three races: the Terrans (that’s us), the psionic and aloof Protoss, and the swarming, ever-evolving Zerg. Sarah Kerrigan is a Terran operative, a “Ghost” (read: psychic sniper assassin) who joins you early in the Terran campaign alongside rough’n’tumble backwater space cowboy Jim Raynor. They don’t get along at first — Jimmy’s initial thoughts are about how hot Kerrigan is, and she immediately reacts with revulsion and rightly scolds Raynor for a lack of professionalism. But, through the course of fighting for survival as the Protoss and Zerg clash with the Terrans in the middle, they grow to admire, respect, and appreciate one another.

Their partnership, both professional and romantic, was short-lived. In a callous act of sacrificing his resources for convenience and advancement, master manipulator and all-around bastard Arcturus Mengsk left Kerrigan to die as her position was overrun by the Zerg forces Mengsk himself had attracted to a Terran world to better secure his political position. Disgusted, Raynor left Mengsk’s service, and looked for Kerrigan, only for her to emerge some time later as a new weapon in the Zerg’s arsenal, the fearsome and deadly ‘Queen of Blades’.

Empowered by Zerg evolutionary strains and determined to unlock her own full potential, Kerrigan proceeded to align both her former Terran comrades and several Protoss factions against the Zerg Overmind who’d had a hand (or, rather, tentacle) in creating her. Her plan succeeded, and she thanked her erstwhile allies by betraying them. Some of these allies were Protoss warriors Jim had come to trust as friends; when they were killed, he swore he’d avenge their deaths, and be the one to kill Sarah. Laughing off the threat, Kerrigan wiped the floor with what was left of the Terran forces and retreated to her own corner of the sector.

After the so-called Brood War that’d seen Kerrigan triumphant, she began to hear whispers of impending doom. To arm herself and her Swarm to face it, she invaded Terran space to find more powerful weapons. Raynor set off to oppose the Zerg invasion, seemingly still driven by his vendetta and supported by an old friend from his previous life. Things got complicated when a Protoss warrior, one of the few Raynor knew from the Brood War who hadn’t been killed, told him that Kerrigan needed to live to fight what was coming. The Terrans used the very weapon Kerrigan had sought to claim to rob her of her Zerg enhancements and leave her vulnerable. Conflicted, Raynor decided to save Kerrigan’s life at this moment, choosing to give her a chance for redemption rather than letting his friend shoot her.

Kerrigan was held for experimentation, with Raynor keeping an eye on her, and her memories as both Mengsk’s assassin and the Queen of Blades haunted her and made her question her morals and sanity. While previously Kerrigan’s ambitions had been aimed towards conquest and victory for her Swarm, her restored humanity narrowed her focus to revenge on Mengsk. The facility were she was being held was attacked by Mengsk’s forces, and in their escape, Kerrigan and Raynor were separated. While Kerrigan was able to escape, Raynor was reported to be killed, much to Mengsk’s delight. Consumed by her need for revenge, Kerrigan turns to the Zerg, returning to the Swarm to regain her former power.

Kerrigan returns to the homeworld of the Zerg and seeks her own path to evolve along instead of having it imposed upon her. In doing so, she comes to understand the Zerg on a far more fundamental level, and in doing so, not only guides it to great success, but forges it into a far more powerful force than it was before. With a renewed Swarm and her powers and memory finally under her control, Kerrigan tears across the sector towards Mengsk. Along the way, she finds Raynor alive, but her rebirth as the new Queen of Blades puts an incredible chasm between them; Jim can’t let go of everything she did as the Queen of Blades, and as much as she wants to repair that breach, since she was not the creature she was before, Jim can’t bring himself to meet her halfway. He can’t kill her, either, but joins her to kill Mengsk.

Having joined forces, Mengsk’s defenses folded under the assault of Raynor and Kerrigan. They work together to bring down the tyrant, Kerrigan saying Mengsk had “made [them] all into monsters” before blowing him up Scanners-style. With their nemesis dead, Kerrigan leaves to turn her attention back to the doom that had brought her back in the first place, leaving a conflicted and emotional Raynor in her wake, looking up at where the woman he loved (and perhaps still does) disappears.

This isn’t the end of the story, but it’s all I know, since I’m avoiding spoilers for Legacy of the Void.

The essence of Kerrigan’s story, to me, is that after getting betrayed and turned into something awful, she took control of her own destiny. She seized control of a massive, powerful alien force, just because she could. When she caught wind of something bigger coming to destroy everything, she set out to stand up to it, no matter what it cost. And after everything that happened to her, she decided to recreate her power on her own terms in order to either rescue a dude important to her or avenge herself on the bastard who’d betrayed her in the first place. To me, that speaks of self-actualization, independence, and empowerment.

I can see some counterpoints to this perspective, but the fact remains that she is a major character who becomes a protagonist in a major sci-fi gaming franchise, and yet, insecure man-kids haven’t brought her up as an example of something that doesn’t belong in their games. So is it because she’s not as prominent as the leads in Rogue One or The Force Awakens, or is it because they felt some sort of satisfaction in what happened to her when she was disempowered? I’m not sure; it’s a headspace I have a lot of trouble getting into.

I’m just going to toss this out for potential discussion. What do you think of Sarah Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, as a character? Is she a positive or negative influence on female empowerment in science fiction? And does Legacy of the Void go on sale regularly, so I can finish the story and also get some awesome, shiny Protoss action? Let me know!

Mondays are for making & talking about art.

Quick Update for Year Thirty-Eight

Yesterday I began my thirty-eighth trip around this planet. I want to get it started right with some changes. I mean, a lot of changes have been happening in my life, and I could go into detail about them, but for various reasons, I’m keeping those details personal. Hell’s bells, even writing that feels like some kind of ersatz sales pitch: “Explore the deepest recesses of guilt complexes and emotional disorders, Ask Me How!” Kind of like the prompts seen during Verhoeven’s brilliant take on Starship Troopers: “Would you like to know more?”

Anyway, one of the things I’m aiming to do is get this blog back on a regular weekday posting schedule. Writing is slowly getting easier, much like healing a broken limb or recovering from a nervous breakdown. As my future-facing ambition and search for a truly personally-fulfilling career slowly bear more fruit, I want to make sure I don’t lose focus as I have in the past. Blogging is a part of that, believe it or don’t. As long as I stay genuine, show up as the best Self I can muster, and make myself spend time away from screens to study and exercise neuroplasticity or mindfulness, or journal, or meditate, or just jog up and down some stairs, there’s nothing frivolous or time-wasting about maintaining this blog. Or getting better at competitive video games. Or building a personal fantasy narrative in Skyrim. Or enjoying esoteric and/or engaging exercises in storytelling like Undertale or The Crown or The Magician’s Land. Or watching Doctor Strange again.

My thirty-eighth year’s primary goal is to embrace and celebrate my ability to be a true polymath, an actual bard, an honest-to-goodness jack-of-quite-a-few-trades.

I hope you’ll come along.

I, for one, can’t wait to see who’ll show up as this particular part of my story unfolds.

Agency and Redemption

In case this week’s vlog didn’t tip you off, I am a huge fan of Mad Max: Fury Road. Long after having seen it several times in cinemas and at home, I still want to talk about its greater meanings, implied or intended, regarding personal autonomy and agency, the depth of truly human characters, and all of the great moments of storytelling in what is, on the surface, a bone-crunching action romp about weird cars and weirder wasteland denizens.

I’ve already talked at length about the film’s merits in both this review and this post about characters. But what about its influence upon folks like me when it comes to inspiration and motivation?

Courtesy Warner Brs.

There are messages woven throughout the film, but one of the most simultaneously potent and subtle one is that of personal agency. When the film opens, Max is seemingly a pawn of his own unbridled emotions – his anxiety, his rage, his fears, and the memories that haunt him. He gets muzzled, restrained, and used for his blood, completely at the mercy of the people around him. It takes external influences – Furiosa’s escape in the War Rig, the subsequent pursuit, and the incredible windstorm – to give Max the opportunity to seize control of the situation as much as he can.

Once Max is able to focus on reclaiming agency of his life, an interesting thing happens. He initially goes after selfish goals – hijacking the War Rig for his own escape, ignoring the plight of the women, and getting the damned muzzle off of his face – but the more time he spends in that Rig, the more he finds himself supporting those around him. He seems to realize how important it is for Furiosa and the wives to seize their agency, make their escape, and in Furiosa’s case, seek redemption for everything she had to do in order to survive. Because the War Boys immediately reduced Max to a thing, and Immortan Joe has been using people as things for presumably a long time, their drives and motivations become aligned:

Courtesy Warner Brs.

I mentioned in the vlog that idealizing, romanticizing, or demonizing the people in our past is an awful thing to do. It robs them of their agency. It makes them things. See above. There are very few things in this world that can be more harmful to those we care about than to view them in such damaging, dehumanizing ways.

To my great shame, I have found myself doing it, up until recently. (Like, a week ago or so…)

Seeing the people we care about with clarity, without any shade of glasses (rose-colored, ash-colored, etc), is the best way to respect them. If they have passed, it honors their memory. If they yet live, it frees them to be who they are and, ideally, grow into better versions of themselves tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, as they push themselves down their hard road of self-realization and self-actualization.

As I said, that’s the ideal situation. Others may arise. But that is how others live.

Your focus, my focus, must be on how we, as individuals, live.

The roads ahead of us stretch out to the horizon, into the unknown quantities of our futures. One is the desolate, plain, unthreatening road of doing what we’ve always done, avoiding facing or challenging ourselves, and letting go of opportunities to grow and change as individuals. The other, harder road, fraught with the perils of facing truths about our words and deeds we do not wish to admit, can be intimidating and unnerving, leading as it does through the Shadow and the hard lessons of the past. But I maintain that it is the right road to take.

It is the road to agency. To growth. And, ultimately, to redemption.

Don’t you owe it to yourself to be the best human you can be?

Twenty Sixteen

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions.

I mean, I get the concept. Setting a goal for the year ahead isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Admirable, even. The problem I see is that few people really commit to changing themselves. Gym memberships go unused within a month or two, new diets get abandoned, so on and so forth.

I’m not saying I’m some sort of self-help guru, over here, but the reason I don’t make big New Year’s resolution posts is because I don’t want to be caught up in my own hypocrisy. I’ve had enough of that problem to last a lifetime.

I’ve been ‘away’ for a while. I’ve been dealing with traumas both recent and ancient, processing a lot of raw emotions, and committing myself to change, in a very real and visceral sense. And believe me, I get why people stop going to the gym or reach for the Cheetos or cigarettes after a few weeks of enforced misery. This shit is hard, dude.

While I’ve let things like this blog and my novel-writing fall by the wayside, I can say that I haven’t been sitting idle. My ongoing process in self-exploration and self-actualization is being chronicled in Innercom Chatter (which has its own Facebook page), and that project is going well enough that I can see it going beyond its individual posts. I’ve also written some poetry. I suspect I’ll write more, as it keeps the wheels greased, at least.

And I haven’t forgotten about my other writings. I intend to post an update about my novellas, with the aim of getting Bloody Streets up and purchasable by spring. And Coven? It’s my goal to have at least a draft readable by beta readers by summer, and a manuscript out to agents by fall. Getting back into the groove with it has been very difficult, and while I know I brought my own momentum to a screeching halt even before my life fell apart, I still think I made the right choice to ensure this story stands out, that it hits readers where they live, and, in the end, will leave them wanting more.

There’s a possibility for fan fiction or other projects, as well, but I don’t know how much energy I’m going to have in the weeks and months ahead, and I’m trying to spend it more wisely.

I live with bipolar disorder, crippling anxiety, a nasty habit of overthinking, and massive amounts of grief every day. Corralling the head weasels takes time and effort. I’m getting help, and hopefully will soon manage things a bit more smoothly and give myself more room for projects, but for now, I’m working with what I’ve got. And I hope you will continue to bear with me.

2016 is the year I take my life back, and finally accomplish what I’ve been meaning to do since I first read The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

If I were into resolutions, that’d be the one.

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