2014 – Change is in the air

Not for the first time, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that it is, yet again, a new year. Arbitrarily counted days, which aren’t quite accurate representations of the Earth’s rotation and tick marks that only somewhat scientifically represent the revolution of the Earth around the sun, marked by a new four digit number that has, now, for quite some time, indicated we are in the mythical land of the twenty-first century. A time which once was talked about with awe and hope and fear in the science fiction pulp novels I devoured as a kid. (Lots of fiber in books.)

So I haven’t blogged much since this time in 2012. January 1 2012 was kinda the last serious blog post I put out. Which, I’m sure no one but me missed. I’m also fairly sure no one is actually going to read this one, any more than they did the one in January 2012.

So yeah. I skipped January 2013. Continue reading

Happy New Year – or something like it

I never know what I’m going to write when I start one of these New Year’s posts, but I always seem to find something to say – though, the quality of that something probably tends to vary. I mean, how often can a guy talk about all the things he fucked up the year before and all the ways he wants to fix it in the next year?

Especially since New Year’s is such an arbitrary thing, and self-improvement and self-examination should be a constant and consistent process. It shouldn’t be something we (I) do just as calendar rolls over to the next year. I mean – really? How many people actually keep their resolutions? How many people make serious and significant changes that stick, just based off a tradition that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you look at it empirically?

It’s sorta like deciding that you’re going to fix everything about your life, one item at a time, one year at a time. If you’re actually successful, you might actually have made some progress about the time you’re stuck in the old folks’ home, mainlining prune juice and praying you can remember the names of all the relatives who never come to visit you.

Hell, even if you make and stick to multiple resolutions a year, it still doesn’t end up making sense. Why do people only seem to really want to change their lives as the new year starts? Okay. I get the whole idea of ‘starting over with a clean slate’ – but you really don’t. All we really do is take a deep breath and hope that the next year is better than the year before it, despite that fact that all the problems we had in 2011 are still going to be there in 2012 – along with all the problems we haven’t seen yet.

Yeah, yeah – I know. Old man Jayiin doesn’t get it. What else is new? I rarely get it.

So, onto the part of this you’ve been dreading since my last New Year’s post. Mostly, because I don’t have many New Year’s traditions (seeing as how I’m crap at holidays), so I might as well stick to the one I have and enjoy the fact I’m able to write something coherent in this blog once a year.

2011 was a year. I turned 31 and enjoyed the fact no one’s taken a hit out on me yet.

Continue reading

Really, self? 16 years?

Odd, how some things change with time – and they seem, at least for me – to often be the things I didn’t think would ever change. I’m not talking about things like religion, politics, health or hobbies. I’m not even thinking of interests or gut reactions or primal urges – not even that deep and abiding hatred of mornings you (meaning ‘me’) developed as a teenager.

Used to be, when April 3 rolled around, it was an important moment. A day of reflection and renewal of purpose. The whole day was spent with my thoughts drifting back to the same subject – a subject tinged with excitement, exasperation, fear and anticipation. A subject that made me hope and dread at the same time.

This year, April 3 was Wrestlemania. (Go ahead. Laugh. I know you want to.)

April 3 is the anniversary of the Katheryn story.

Not that I really expect that to mean much to some of you. Or even most of you. Just because you occasionally get bored enough to read my blog doesn’t mean you know what the Katheryn story is, especially if you’re a relative newcomer to my blog or my life.

Used to be, I couldn’t stop talking about it. That’s another change; at one point in my life, I figured I wouldn’t ever stop talking about the Katheryn story. I couldn’t. It was too integrated into my personal identity – especially my personal identity as a writer. It still is. And yet, I almost never write about. I almost never talk about it.

Why not?

I mean, this past April, while I was watching Triple H and The Undertaker beat on each other, the Katheryn story quietly turned 16.

Sixteen?! Really? Really? I’ve been writing on the same damn story for sixteen years?

Well, yeah. Kinda. Apparently, I’m stubborn, tenacious and (very likely) obsessive. (Those of you nodding your heads in agreement with the last one? Not cool, y’all. Not cool.) I don’t accept defeat and keep trying, no matter how many times I fail!

(Or, if you want to get technical, I haven’t failed yet, because I haven’t shelved the project and decided I’m done with it. If you want to get technical.)

Or…or, I’m a lame-ass punk writer who can’t get up off his fat ass, dig down deep and write the bloody thing already. (I can hear the ‘told you sos’ through the cybernetic ether. Apparently, I’ve been told such before. Who knew?)

In truth, the Katheryn story is hardly the same story it was when I started it back in 8th grade. It’s gone from being a cheesy fanfic that won a middle school writing contest (how sad is it that I’m still proud of that?) and has turned into it’s own universe, complete with a history that starts before the beginning of time, a deep mythos, and a very complex and (I think) amazing world to play in.

In (further) truth, I might have just set out to write a story that I didn’t have the tools, skills or experience to tell. I’ve had to cut my teeth on smaller projects, less ambitious tales and less complicated worlds in order to learn how to write what I want to write. Which is why I can safely say I haven’t been working on for 16 years.

True, it’s a rare day that goes by that I don’t think about the story. (Stop smiling and nodding knowingly. Obsessions are completely normal. Healthy even. Just ask Freud. Just don’t ask him while he’s anywhere near that picture of his mother.)

None the less! All asides aside, the Katheryn story is a huge part of my life and has never stopped being a huge part of my life. I don’t really see it as some kind of ‘magnum opus’ (at least not since I graduated high school), but I do see writing it as a goal. I also realize that not everyone (as in, almost no one) wants to hear me babble about the Katheryn story all the time. Or most of the time. Or even as much as I used to.

It’s rude to be that guy (or, at least, that form of that guy) – and Real Life(TM) has taken over much of my existence. Varying jobs, schools, chores and other things necessary for the smooth(ish) day-to-day operation of my life take up a lot of time. A lot more time than I wish it took. But, there you have it. Life sucks, takes a lot of time to deal with, and no matter how much I whine about it, no one else will do it for me until I have enough money to pay them to do so.

(Now there’s a goal…)

But for the 15th and 16th anniversaries to pass unnoticed? Kinda…bothers me a bit. Mostly, I think, because I realize that they depress me. After working for so long, I have so little to show for it?

That…and I know that of that 16 years, I’ve been a functional, intelligent writer and reasonable facsimile of an adult for less than ten. I think that’s the bottom line of this whole post and whole ponderation.

Katheryn may be turning 16, but she’s hardly the same girl she was when I started writing her. And though she defined who I was as a writer for a long time, she stopped doing so years ago, because I am no longer the same person – or the same writer – I was when I started writing her.

Her story is not the same story; her world is not the same world – and I am no longer quite as enamored with what I once created. I now know I am better than I was and know I can do far better than I once did.

And that…is a whole helluva lot cooler than any anniversary will ever be. So I’m good with having spent her 16th birthday watching some rather excellent pseudo-violence and eating awesome tacos with my friends.

Hopefully, the next ‘anniversary’ is just as good as this last one.

Another boring and pointless blog brought to you by jayiin’s bored subconscious. And for anyone who really cares, I’m actually writing on the story, using Camp NaNoWriMo as convenient excuse.

Any resemblance this blog may have to mealy-mouthed self-analysis and carefully considered excuse crafting to avoid accepting responsibility for the fact I still haven’t finished it is purely coincidental. Because I’m a grown up.

ad astra per aspera

Random Observations I

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS I: Random, raw observations and thoughts from the depths of my brain.

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I know people get tired of me talking about feeling productive and getting things done, but I’ve discovered I have trouble relaxing enough to get to sleep unless I feel like I’ve accomplished something for myself sometime during the day. I almost always accomplish a great deal at work (though not always the things I want to work on) – it’s my own stuff I tend to fall behind on.

I wonder how much of my grumpiness & discontent relates back to not taking care of my little world and all the things that I can do to make it a better place for me and mine to inhabit (or visit)?

I wonder how much less stressed I would be if I didn’t feel like I had a giant rock waiting to fall on my head because I’ve neglected to take care of myself – and to tend to the ordering and maintaining of my space and my life?

And I wonder how much of the chaos surrounding me is because I cannot say no to people and yes to myself?

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I’ve heard the stories. In the workplace of fifty years ago, if a guy forgot to shave or looked scruffy or acted an ass, another guy – usually another man – would take him aside and tell him so. I think we’ve lost something in that people don’t do that anymore. I think we’ve lost a level of honesty between people and we’ve lost a level of willingness to strive to be the best we can be and to want someone to tell us when we could be better and even how we could be better.

We’re all so afraid of criticism and so afraid to be told we’re not perfect, we’re falling short of our potential and we’re able to be more.

We’re taught to see ulterior and malicious motives in every word given that isn’t positive endorsement or unflagging cheerful support. We’re taught to be afraid to tell the truth because we don’t want to be known as an ass.

We’re taught not to want to be a truth-teller. (And yes, Jason, I see the logical direction of that statement and will take it in that direction another time. This is the wrong blog for that.) We’re taught to be afraid of things told to us because they might the truth and we’re so afraid to fail that we often don’t even try.

Boldness of speech or of action is characterized as foolish or ambitious and the only ambition we praise is the kind that gets you on the cover of magazines for money, beauty or power.

We’re taught that success is equated to money and to appearance and that if you lack one or both, you are automatically a failure. If you wear the wrong clothes or offend the wrong person or don’t get in the right clique. If you don’t do something so amazing other people have to sit up and notice and applaud.

We’re taught that the only criticism and advice to take is your own or the kind found in a self-help book that gets liked on Facebook and has enough Amazon reviews. We’re taught that the right way to change is to sit in the dark and confront your fears and your failings and your misery alone – without ‘inflicting’ it on other people.

We’re taught no one can help us change; no one can help us achieve; no one can help us become more – that we must do it all alone, struggling every day, sacrificing everything of meaning or value along the way and that the empty rewards of success will be enough, because there is always more to be earned or gleaned.

We’re taught we are not allowed to cry in public; we are only allowed to cry in the corner of the room, in the shadows where no one can see us hurt – because it might make them uncomfortable. We’re taught that the only tears we can have are those no one ever sees. To be human and to be frail and to be vulnerable is to be weak and therefore to be fought against – because if you are weak, you have failed. You become nothing but another number, another statistic in a poll no one really understands.

We’re taught that pain is to be a secret and not shared.

I don’t think this is okay.

I want someone to tell me when I am falling short. I want someone to tell me when I can do better. I want someone to tell me when I’m scruffy and don’t look my best (which isn’t much, admittedly, but you have to work with what you’re given.)

I want to be told the truth. And I want to be allowed to tell the truth. I want to face my fears in the daylight with my friends and my brothers beside me. I want to be allowed to be human and be weak. I want my accomplishments to matter – even when they mean nothing for money or beauty or power. I want to be heard when I need to speak and I don’t want to be afraid to hurt and be afraid to fail.

And I don’t want to do it alone, just because our society is afraid of things that hurt. Or might hurt.

I want to tell the truth. I want to help someone else do more and be better. I want other to trust me to tell them when they look scruffy or have food on their face. I want to be strong enough to not be frightened – or scornful – of what might look like weakness. I want to remember and laud the accomplishments of others, because they matter – even when they don’t bring about money or beauty or fame. I want to listen when someone else needs to be heard and I want the people around me to know if they hurt or if they fail, then I am still here while they heal or they try again.

I want the people around me to know they are not doing it alone.

Somehow, I think that these desires might be some of the hardest, most frightening things I have ever set out to do.

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Pride is a terrible word most of the time. It implies vanity and arrogance and scorn of others. It implies so many bad things…but pride is at the center of satisfacation (at least, in the workplace.)

To me, it is at the heart of what we call ‘work ethic.’ Because I have pride in my work – whether it’s cleaning out the cat boxes or sweeping the pool deck or making copies of legal briefs or answering the phones or pricing product or coding webpages, my pride in myself won’t let me do less than my absolute best.

If I do, I feel the acute sting of personal failure.

I want to be proud of what I do. I want to brag about being the best sweeper or cleaning the cat boxes the best or having elegant code or making perfect copies. I want every detail to be right, every line straight and not a speck of dirt or shit left to mar the task I have undertaken.

Even if only I see it.

I don’t know why, but a lot of people I know don’t have this pride. They don’t mind things they do not being done to the best of their ability. They are content with just being done and moving on to the next thing and the next thing until they get to a thing they enjoy.

They cannot find contentment and satisfaction in the doing – and the doing well. They cannot find pleasure in knowing they have accomplished a thing so well that they can say to anyone: “Yeah, I did that. That was me.”

It scares me, sometime, that lack of pride. I wonder if it is that lack of pride, that causes so many of the problems around me. That being indifferent to the quality of what you do and only wanting the quantitative payment of having done it and recieved a paycheck.

I wonder if the dissatisfaction so many have with their ‘tedious’ jobs or their ‘dead-end’ positions comes from a profound indifference to how they accomplish a thing.

I’ve also noticed that the more indifferent a person is to how they do things, the more threatened they are by those who have pride in what they do. They mock, deride and sabotage (not on purpose, usually) and try to bestow their sense of indifference, the liberation of no longer giving a damn about the quality of what you do.

It must be liberating. It must be amazing, to just not care when a thing is done poorly or to know that it could have been far better than it was – and yet be okay with that.

It must be a thrilling experience.

But I’m afraid of that thrill; I’m not ready to be liberated. I’m proud to have pride and somewhat worried that someday, I will forget my pride and just give in to the idea that it’s okay to not do your best on everything…because the people around you won’t care, either.

Git ‘er done

Getting things done.

I write a lot about this, because it’s a constant challenge for me. (Or, I should say, whine a lot about this.) There are a lot of productivity articles, blogs, books, seminars, webinars, college courses, etc out there to help with it. They teach techniques, skills, tools and offer all kinds of advice on finding ways to accomplish tasks.

I’ll admit it. I’ve read some of those articles, books and blogs. I’ve peaked at notes from seminars and webinars. I even attended a few of those free classes when I was in college (way back when). I’ve tried lots of different techniques, skills and tools. I’ve listened to and tried out all kinds of advice.

Yet, I keep finding myself behind. There’s always stuff I’m behind on or haven’t had a chance to get to. Some of it is mundane stuff – chores, filing, investigating this or that or the other. Some of it is pretty non-essential stuff – gaming errata, gaming itself, fanfiction, etc. And some of it is fairly important, such as research into my health insurance plan or remembering to bring something into work or remembering to pay something on time. (Sorry, ADC!)

The consequences for not getting these things done vary from task to task. Not remembering to bring something into work can make my job harder and sometimes mess things up for my co-workers. Not investigating my health insurance means I don’t always know what I can do with it other than throw money down on co-pays when I get the sniffles. Neglected chores leave me with a disorganized, cluttered and occasionally dirty space and the need to be up late doing laundry when I should be sound asleep.

Worse than consequences for me are consequences for other people. Often times, other folk are counting on me to get something done for them. When I do what I invariably do and drop the ball, I let people down or leave them hanging and I hate doing it.

I hate being the guy to drop the ball and I try really hard not to be that guy. Yet, I constantly find myself looking back and realizing I’ve done it again.

Continue reading

So much for evolution…

You know, one of the reasons I’m not fond of the theory of evolution(1) is fairly embarrassing: it means having to admit the men in my family, myself included, are probably more closely related to cavemen than we’d like to admit.

It would explain a lot of things really. It would explain why, despite our adaptability, occasional (and surprising) calm, our general level of intelligence and our addictions to modern conveniences we seem to have the ability to tap into some primal depth that lets us go longer and work harder than circumstances should allow.

(Was that fairly arrogant? Yes. Am I sorry for it? Not really. I probably should be, though.)

It would also explain other things. That we tend to favor going through obstacles instead of around them. Why we have so much trouble dealing with social niceties like passive aggression, dropped hints and small talk. Why we tend to be more interested in getting things done and being practical than making things pretty. (Why worry about interior decorating when there are chores and projects that need doing? Why sit and watch television when there is work waiting? Why play competitive sports when we can compete against others in ‘number of things accomplished in the shortest amount of time’?)

It would also explain why, without any real reason, the reptile hindbrain kicks into a high gear and sets us off on irrational, unnecessarily aggressive protective tears for no rational reason.

Continue reading

Writing Errata & Etc

We aren’t going to talk about my failure to blog these last few weeks. Really, we aren’t. Becuase I’m lame and I know it.

Yes. My blog has been suffering from neglect. Sadly, with this post, I will have posted as much in Jan – Feb 2011 as I did all of 2010.

It’s not from lack of ideas or inspiration. Or even from lack of time. For the first time in a long time, I can say that I seem to be on bottom-dead-center where my writing is concerned and I can’t honestly say there is anything to blame other than myself.

So. Mea culpa. Now what?

Writing one blog post won’t do a damn thing to help me get serious about writing again; neither will blogging in general (even if it is good practice). I’m reading plenty, have plenty of creative input and enough free time that I could be plugging away at half a dozen writing projects.

I can say, however, that I haven’t been completely useless on the writing front. There are things going in the orbit of my writing that are (slowly) providing me some impetus to get off my fat ass (or should that be ‘sit my fat ass down’) and write.

• WizardTales, the fantasy fanfiction site I’ve been part of/on staff of off-and-on since around 2006 has just re-opened it’s doors after about a two-year haitus. This time around (third time’s the try, right?) we’re simplying things a bit and doing things somewhat different. Mostly behind the scenes. Somehow, I’ve been handed the Red Hat (site admin, for those who don’t know MMM parlance). Things are (of course) moving slow, but they are moving. Fanfiction remains a strong inspiration and motivation for me.

• An old friend contacted me early on this year and made me an offer; thusly, I find myself as a member of UK Authors. I haven’t been there very long, and the culture and attitude of the people there is vastly different than any other writing community I’ve been a part of. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet or how I feel about the welcome I’ve recieved. They don’t seem interested in discussing craft as much as they seem to enjoy irritating each other around the boards. The quality of writing is about the same as I’ve found on other internet forums – some of it is fantastic and some of it is terrible. They have real support and a thriving community of poets there. In all truth, I’m not much of a poet. I’ve written a few decent ones, but nothing special. And I seem to have lost the knack of it over the years. The jury is still out on UK Authors, bu being there is making me realize how much I need to write.

• the Katheryn story is nearly 16 years old, and for the first time in almost six of those years, the story is starting to make sense. Writing the (first part of the) prequel for NaNoWriMo in 2009 was a good idea. It shook loose some of the cobwebs and helped me see more of what I really wanted the story to be about. Setting it down for over a year was an even better idea, because now that I have some distance, I’ve started to untangle the knot of issues at the core of the story and started to make some real progress on how I want to write it.

I think I had an idea too ambitious for my skills and I’m only just now really coming into the level of skill and maturity I need to write the story and do it justice. It’s taken awhile, but I think I’m finally getting there.

• Forum-based RP has always been something that gets my creative side moving – the same goes for tabletop RP. I’m hoping to make more time for both in the near future. (And, if I can actually keep some momentum, my next post will be about tabletop RP. Someone please hold me to that.)

Hopefully, some of this does something. Because I can honestly say I am not a bad writing. I might even be good.

Recently, a good friend of mine called me up and left me a very serious voicemail.

She had run across an old story of mine that was loosely based on real events, answering the question “what if” about a real scenario. She’d found and read the story when she googled herself (she was in the acknowledgements, because the names had been changed to protect the guily) and thought: “Oh shit. Was I that kind of asshole to him?

Truth: she wasn’t. But the story made it out that way. Sort of. (The narrator was an emo pussy version of myself. He whined a lot and very much had a fatalistic ‘life sucks’ attitude.)

The story was good enough she was afraid the events were real and she wasn’t remembering what happened right. I wrote that story about a decade ago, so obviously – I don’t suck if I can write a story well enough that someone who knows better doubted their own recollection of events.

I need to get off bottom-dead-center and write.

If any of my friends out there want to help with that – nag me about writing. Nag me until I’m mad. Ask me about stuff until I have to start writing just so I can make everyone stop nagging me.

Either that, or just keep throwing things at the back of my head until I start writing and stop sitting around saying “I should write.”

Otherwise, I will turn into the loser I’m afraid I could be.