Tag: Friday 500 (page 2 of 10)

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.

500 Words on John McCain

Courtesy Stars & Stripes

This has been quite a week in the United States as far as politics is concerned. Let’s leave aside the three-ring circus shit-show that is the Executive Branch, from its stereotypical 80’s Wall Street douchebag communications director to the systematic self-destruction of the egotistical compromised blowhard supposedly running things. I want to talk about the Legislative Branch.

There’s quite a bit to say about Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who steadfastly held their ground in the face of ham-fisted Presidential bullying. They have a long career ahead of them of standing up for the American people and leading the Senate into a future that is less obstructionist as a rule and more focused on the people they claim to represent. These paladins kept the healthcare debate going, kept the fight alive and, in no uncertain terms, saved it from destruction.

However, most of the attention has, of course, been on an old white man. John McCain, in this case.

I’ve been worried about McCain. He’s always been a maverick, but more and more often he’s made remarks or asked ambling questions that have raised my eyebrows. When his diagnosis came, I was unsurprised. He’s served this country for a very long time. He’s more than earned an honorable and peaceful retirement. I haven’t always agreed with him, but his record shows that he leans towards following his own code of honor, which I respect. There’s evidence that said code lines up with the long-term best interests of the country at least 50% of the time. Maybe more, maybe less, I haven’t run the numbers, and I’m not super-good at math.

He voted for the debate of the latest iteration of the Republican party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Then, when the whole world was watching, he broke ranks and voted the bill down. Was he grandstanding? Or did he suddenly remember where he was and what he was doing?

Like so many of the rapidly aging senior Congresspeople around him, it’s time for him to step down. Unlike them, he’s done more good than harm in the long run, and considering this is Congress we’re talking about, that ain’t nothin’. His family should be able to spend as much time with him as possible while he deals with his cancer. While I respect his desire to power through it while continuing to serve, that’s going to end up causing more and more harm to him and his family.

I’m just not sure that this particular instance of hyper-American bootstrap-pulling is going to ultimately benefit himself, his family, and his constituents. I’m not sure if Capitol Hill, in its current state, is a hill worthy of John McCain dying on.

I believe that Collins and Murkowski will make that hill better, and move it forward, probably in spite of itself.

John McCain may want to help, but he can’t be relied upon to do so. He’s earned his rest. He should take it. For his sake, and for ours.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

500 Words on Elite Dangerous

Courtesy Frontier Development

When I finally get home from long commutes down to and back from the home in which my start-up employer operates, I tend to be tired and mentally drained. It’s difficult for me to muster the juices I need to fuel my writing — a fact I try not to be too hard on myself over. Still, between the fatigue and my growing disgust over the situation in this country and on this planet, I prefer to wind down my day by going to space.

For a while, this was facilitated through Star Trek Online. Star Trek is one of my favorite sci-fi universes, and I’ve met some wonderful people there. However, I slowly came to realize that in terms of gameplay, I was unfulfilled. Like all MMOs, the world is mostly static; no matter how many times to beat up a certain enemy faction, the missions in which you do so never change. It’s hard to feel like you’re having an impact on the world around you. There’s still a hard divide between your reality and that of the game world, unlike something like Skyrim.

Then, I started playing Elite Dangerous.

Digging out my old Attack 3 joystick and G13 game pad, I quickly found myself immersed in one of the best space sims I’ve ever played. A few years ago I played through a few Wing Commander games for charity, and when I was younger, spent hours upon hours in Elite Plus and Wing Commander: Privateer. In addition to the nostalgic feeling of having my hands on a “throttle” and stick, the more I play the game, the more incentive I feel to keep playing. The galaxy is truly vast, with a plethora of options of how to play. Trading, combat, mining, exploration, even hauling tourists to exotic locales — all of these are profitable ways to make your mark on the galaxy. And you can truly make a mark; the game’s background sim and Powerplay functionality mean that if you choose to, you can influence system control, shifts in allegiance, and even the course of superpowers.

I’m trying a bit of everything. My Commander has made his way far from his home system, has joined up with a like-minded group of spacefarers, and I’m fictionalizing the journey. I’m finding more and more ways to make my time in space more rewarding, more immersive, and more challenging. I’m upgrading my joystick, adding voice commands, and I’m very much looking forward to earning enough cash to fund true exploration endeavors to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. I also want to contribute more to the cause of Princess Aisling Duval, the only member of the galactic superpowers outspoken on the idea that owning people is inherently wrong.

The only drawback, so far, is a relative lack of roleplaying. However, I know that storytellers are out there. I hope we’ll run into one another eventually.

Space is, after all, quite big.

Which is why I can lose myself in it for a while.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

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