Tag: Friday 500 (page 1 of 9)

500 Words on Outrage

Between the political landscape and my personal situation, it’s very tempting to just type out the word “AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH” 500 times and be done with it. It’s also tempting to just fire up a video game and try to forget about the things that are taking up space in my brain and making me froth at the mouth.

However, no amount of playing cards, rolling dice, or escorting payloads contributes to the solutions of the problems at hand. And even if I spend my time writing fiction or working on programming tutorials and projects, there’s a nagging voice inside of my head telling me that my time should be spent finding more work, or doing something about my country’s political situation, or fighting for the rights of others. You know, addressing the stuff that makes me angry.

Anger, as an emotion, can get a bad rap. I remember Yoda saying in the first Star Wars prequel “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” as if there’s always a linear path that emotions take. Anger is almost always spoken of in negative terms. After all, anger fuels a lot of negative or violent outbursts.

But as with so many things in life, the proper application of anger can get a lot done. Anger is a problem, as are its causes; what matters is how we use that emotional energy to create some sort of solution. It motivates us to finish more projects, to put forward better behaviors, to act in defiance of injustice. Sure, there are those who subscribe to false narratives and let their misinformed anger push them to make bad decisions. But I’d like to think, optimist that I am, that those folks are in a small (but very vocal) minority.

I get little bits of hope, here and there. Seeing people come together in solidarity to fight back against abuse. Social media exchanges of trying to reach a mutual understanding in a civil discussion. Servants of justice constructing their cases to take down the wicked. A phone interview. A comment on Ao3. A hug and a kiss from a loved one. Play of the Game in Overwatch.

It quiets those annoying head weasel voices that try to convince me I’m wasting my time and getting nothing of substance done. I have to look after myself, stay on top of my mood, and keep from falling to pieces. It’s self-care. It’s necessary.

I have a lot going for me, when I stop to look at it. There’s a lot of love in my life. I’m in a safe place. I’m trying to keep an eye on my diet and what little income I’ve actually got, and doing my utmost not to be a drain on my family or friends.

The outrage remains. It bubbles under the surface. It seeps out through cracks in my veneer.

But at least it’s not exploding. Because nobody deserves that.

I’m using my anger; I refuse to let it use me.

500 Words on Job Hunting

One thing I didn’t anticipate when I moved to Seattle was how competitive the job market would be outside of the gaming industry. I knew I’d be in for a fight if I went straight for video gaming’s jugular. It was something I wanted to get into, for sure, but first had to come gainful employment for which I was already suited and trained. So I started looking for positions as a web developer. That, too, has turned out to be a highly competitive field.

I probably should have anticipated it’d be this difficult. After all, some major companies with healthy profit margins exist out here. It’s natural for people, especially younger professionals, to scramble and fight for the positions that would be available. I wasn’t adequately prepared for that. Years later, I’m paying the price.

It’s taken me a rather long time, but I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that if I’m going to be employable to a degree that will support my partner and my distant family, I need to catch myself up on what I’ve been missing in terms of development and programming. As much as I want to get paid for writing novels and making games, my imagination doesn’t need the refreshers that my knowledge of languages like JavaScript and PHP do. Plus, there’s quite a few new languages I’d benefit from picking up — Python, TypeScript, C#, and so on.

I can’t afford to take classes, especially since my unemployment ran out months ago. So I’m on my own, using tutorials and code examples forked from GitHub and posted on blogs. But I’m making progress. I know that some people go into positions like the ones I’m applying for without knowing anything about frameworks like React and Angular. The more I can learn, the more employable I’ll be when I walk into an interview.

The barriers between me and those interviews, at times, seem insurmountable. I’ve sent out dozens, maybe hundreds, of resumes. I apply to jobs on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and CraigsList every single day. I’m working with recruitment agencies. Yet, for all of that effort, since my last contract ended in January, I’ve had three in-person interviews that could have yielded paying work. That, I think, shows just how cutthroat it is out there.

I’m not about to give up. If I have to, I’ll take another office job while I stay on the hunt. But I’m not giving up this hunt. I’ve had a dearth of energy over these previous few months, and with it seemingly to be finally on the upswing, the last thing I want to do is settle for less than I can earn. If I can land the right sort of job, a lot of the problems I’m currently dealing with will be obviated. It’ll free up mental bandwidth to write more, create more, do more. I’ll have to manage my time differently, but there’ll be structure to work around.

My job’s out there. I’ll hunt it down.

500 Words on Going to Seed

This blog has, admittedly, gone to seed a bit.

So much of my energy and time has been consumed with two things: finding a job, and getting/keeping my shit together. That second part is a bigger task than I admit to myself sometimes. I’m not neurotypical, not by a long shot, and there are some days when I simply do not have the bandwidth for leaving the flat, let alone interacting with humans. It’s different when I have a dayjob, a structure; left to my own devices, I spend an inordinate amount of time just keeping myself upright and mobile.

I try not to berate myself or flagellate myself over this or that: not writing more, not cleaning more, not hunting more jobs, not hammering out my own structure. Self-improvement, especially at fundamental levels of thought patterns and behaviors, takes a lot out of a person. I go over things in my head, events from days or months or years past, and put them under a metaphorical microscope to pick out flaws and find things to learn. There’s always something to learn.

If you think you don’t have to learn anymore, then you’ve gone to seed just as much as this blog did.

I’ve seen it happen. People get stuck in their ways. They refuse to change. They begin making assumptions — a friend will always be there, a job is secure and one’s position is unshakable, “I’m one of the good ones.” They don’t consider asking questions: how can I change or improve how I’m doing what I’m doing? What steps can I take to learn more, get more perspective? Who do I want to be, and what has to be done to make me that person, who’s closer to the best version of myself possible?

One doesn’t always have the energy or wherewithal to ask these questions, and act on those answers. That’s okay. The very baseline thing is the intent, the desire to change oneself and one’s circumstances to yield growth and do away with toxicity. Have the conversations, with yourself or with others, that focus on solutions and how you can be a part of them, rather than the problems and who’s to blame for them. Take the time to consider the past, learn from it, and apply those lessons to the future. Pick yourself up and move — physically, if you have to — so you never stop growing.

That’s the way forward. That way lies change.

Not everybody can do it. Not everybody has the self-awareness to realize that change starts with the person we live with every day no matter what: ourselves. It lies within ourselves — not our family, not our friends, not the groups or organizations or bandwagons to which we think we belong — to be true vectors of change and growth. Only through thoughtfulness, concerted effort, and the determination and resilience to see these changes through to their conclusions can we avoid going to seed and truly grow as people.

Give it a try.

500 Words on Refocusing

You may notice that things look a little different here. A bit more fantastical. More dragons. Maybe the implication of a dungeon.

It’s not an illusion. I’m refocusing my endeavors outside of the job hunt on D&D.

I’m still carving out time for the novel, as head weasels and real-world obligations allow. I’m still on the hunt for a dayjob to cover my rent and the other expenses of living, and I still want to make a (hopefully) significant mark with my words. In terms of hobbies, however, it’s been a very long time since one has given me the sort of creative impetus and deep satisfaction that Dungeons & Dragons has proven to provide in the last few months.

I think a big part of it is the collaborative storytelling. Everyone coming to the table is there to have fun, to work together to create that environment, and to cheer each other on as the epic story grows, changes, and builds. The DM does not exist above this experience, as some divine or diabolical overseer. They are a part of it, narrating the tissue that connects the players to the world and each other, as well as playing referee when conflict inevitably ensues. And I love filling that role. I do it just about every Friday night, for the Adventurer’s League.

I enjoy playing, too, and I’ll be doing that on Friday nights on occasions as well. And the characters I’ll be playing will be getting stories and profiles here. So, too, will go reviews of the materials I use both as player and DM. Advice for my fellow DMs, thoughts on what’s exhilarating or frustrating as a player, comparisons of the current edition to older ones — it makes for a lot of material, and I’m going tap that vein.

Not only does it make for fun and interesting content, it prompts me to write more. It’s like a warm-up before the big lifts when working out. My hope is that with a few hundred words every day, I’ll be ready to write at least a thousand in the novel. It’ll be the initial incision in carving out more time to write more. A positive feedback loop full of words.

Planning for, running, and playing games of Dungeons & Dragons provides me with a surprising amount of focus. Moreso than most of my other endeavors, from coding to video games. I think a lot about the stories I and my fellow players want to tell, or will tell. I understand the math involved. I dream up new characters, monsters, and dungeons. My mind works at a good clip with good ideas coming thick and fast.

I may never make a ground-breaking video game. I doubt I’ll develop the next killer app. But I’ll tell great stories, as I’ve always dreamed. From a table of a few friends, to readers all over the world, I will be a storyteller. And maybe that’s the way I can, and will, truly make a difference.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Special thanks to Geek & Sundry, Critical Role, and Matt Mercer for helping to inspire these things.

500 Words on Carving

No, we’re not carving you up, little calf. It’ll be okay. Here, have some sprouts.

We cool?

Okay, then.

Last night, I went to see Chuck Wendig. He’s an author I’d had the privilege of meeting once before, way back in 2009, at a tiny game convention in Philadelphia. We played a role-playing game together, jammed about writing, and I tried not to make an ass of myself. No small feat, back in those days. He was excited to see me again, and we talked about Seattle and writing with another man I’m very glad to have finally met, Phil Brucato, mastermind of Mage: the Ascension and a game I’m dying to try out called “Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy“.

All three of us, at one point, talked about carving the time out of the days in order to write.

“In large, bloody chunks,” I recalled Chuck writing at one point.

Both men gave grim nods.

From professional novelists to fanfic enthusiasts, writers cannot merely find the time to write. We have to make the time. That’s just as difficult as the writing itself. The world at large makes all sorts of demands on our time and energy. There’s always another chore, another commitment, another distraction. We want to give ourselves a break, try to get other things done, clear our decks to do nothing but write.

The insidious truth is that such a state of being, where nothing but writing happens, rarely if ever exists.

Writing happens in a particular space, a conflux of physical, mental, and emotional states, and we writers need to assure ourselves that we can, and should, ask for that space. It’s possible to think that you don’t deserve it, because you haven’t been writing anyway, or those dishes have been stacking up, or seriously I need to spend more time with my partner. It’s also possible to feel that you’re somehow entitled to it, and shirk everything else just to write, which is arguably worse than the former possibility.

Bottom line? You have to carve out the right slice of time, and make the most of it before you balance it with something else.

We cannot, and should not, exist in a vacuum. We have our writerly spaces, sure, from libraries we prefer to sheds we build just for writing — and perhaps slugging whiskey and howling and throwing poo at the walls. What happens in the Mystery Box stays in the Mystery Box. Thing is, we can’t always be there. How can we relate our words to the world if we’re not in the world more often than not?

“Carve the time,” Chuck admonished me when he wrote in my writing journal. A reminder that while the world makes its demands, I deserve to make the time to write. I shouldn’t seek to let writing dominate my time, either. I can strike the right balance, with my sharpened metaphorical knives. That’s a skill in and of itself.

He wrote something else, too.

“Finish thine shit.”

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Photo courtesy The Dodo.

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