Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why Laura Miller is Wrong About NaNo

Alright! Finally getting to the blog post I alluded to two weeks ago. A nice article that is a great discussion piece, in my opinion.

Figures that the first time in weeks that I have a Wednesday off - and therefore can actually WRITE my blog in time for the noon update - is the same week that I already had one all set to post....

Anyway, as a reminder of how I found it, my high school friend Stargazer had posted this article up on the Struggling Writers Society facebook page. The long and short of it was to try to promote reading as much as writing. Ask any professional writer and they'll tell you that reading is crucial to the craft.

However, the way this woman went about promoting reading just irked me. So much so that a simple comment on the post turned in to a long-winded, ranty, 6page essay. With ChibiSunnie's suggestion, I went back, edited, toned the language down a bit, and then left it here for you fine folks.

First up though, the article itself:
Better yet, DON'T write that novel: Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy by Laura Miller.

Forgive me, because I'm going to be attacking this more-or-less paragraph by paragraph.

Right off the bat, I couldn't stand that Miller more or less started off stating “I salute you” to people that don’t know what NaNoWriMo stands for. That’s just insulting anyone who DOES know what it means; even if they never participated. Should we really be awarding people who managed to stay in the dark about one of the most well-known writing activities for amateurs? Don't get me wrong, if you DIDN'T know what NaNo was before, there's nothing wrong with that. I didn't know about it until a few years ago myself. Still, to reward or berate people for knowing or not knowing something like this seems a bit over-the-top.

Excuse her language here, but Miller then continues with:
I am not the first person to point out that "writing a lot of crap" doesn’t sound like a particularly fruitful way to spend an entire month, even if it is November.
Thing is, she’s completely missing the point. This program is for aspiring writers who are afraid to cross that threshold from “I have an idea” to “I’ll write it down”. So many are frozen because they’re afraid that what they’ll write is going to be horribly bad. NaNo - and it’s basic setup - is almost designed specifically for bad writing. People can fearlessly go ahead and write down that grand idea. If it comes out as the crap you feared it would, you at least have the justification of “I was writing quickly and didn’t have much time to think things through”. So, if your character is one-dimensional it’s because you couldn’t afford to take the time to really get to know them. Major plot holes? Not enough time to think the full story through before writing. Dialog flat? You were just rushing back into the action and needed to get the basic idea of dialog down.

In other words: all of the issues that come up in nearly every first draft ever written by any author. However, you have the luxury of “justifying” these issues by blaming NaNo’s quickened writing pace. It’s a way to ease newbie writers in to the craft. So they get over the fear of failure. They can look back and laugh “wow! Check out the junk I wrote last NaNo!” Sure, it’s a waste because you spent an entire month doing little more than writing, and the end result was teri-bad. However, is it really better for you to have taken 3months to write that bad first draft that would need revision regardless? Just, maybe not as much revision if you took the time instead of rushed through NaNo. Plus, at least the idea is now out of your head; good or bad, it's now on paper.

The key thing is to conquer that fear. Alright, you wrote a bad manuscript. Keep it hidden from everyone else until it's polished, for all I care; it's at least written. Better than what most accomplish. Plus, writing that horrendous manuscript wasn’t nearly as painful as you thought, was it? Now you can go back through, cringe at how bad it is - or laugh at it - and pick out the few gems you want to keep. Maybe one character - despite the rushed writing - came out awesome, or a fight scene was perfect, or you really liked the twist you threw in at the end. Maybe while you were writing you found out a dark secret in your character's past that you really like. This NaNo draft lets you really discover your story. Clears out the cobwebs of all the bad stuff you were thinking. It’s panning for gold, and more often than not, you WILL find gold if you look.

Now you are ready to REALLY write, and you may actually be excited to do so as well. You’ve conquered NaNo; you can do anything now in regards to writing. You wrote a novel in a MONTH, clearly redoing it in 4months won’t be so hard.

Yes, perhaps writing daily as most do during NaNo isn’t everyone’s thing. It won’t work for everyone. It's not a catch-all that separates the "true authors" from the "wannabes". Some people will just get majorly stressed out if they attempt to write daily. It will become a chore to shove in to their already-full days, or they'll feel unproductive if they miss a day.

However, NaNo is great for that feeling, too. Having to write daily for just a month makes you work around your schedule. Maybe you wake up super early one week to get writing done. Maybe you stayed up late. Maybe you discover that lunch breaks or baby nap time is the best time of the day for you. Forcing you to change it up and write at a different time on different days helps you figure out your writing “sweet spot” - even if that “sweet spot” is simply working for 4hrs straight on Saturdays.

Plus, holing yourself up during that month really shows you who your writing support group is. Who is willing to give up socializing with you while you're on your "noble quest" to finally figure out a writing rhythm that works for you? Who is willing to help out with the kids or housework so you have your precious time to work on your novel? Who is there cheering you on and excitedly waiting for your next chapter - even if it is grade-level junk? In contrast, who is just putting you down the whole month for attempting to write? Who doesn't have faith in you or your goal to get that novel out of your head? NaNo is actually a great time to figure this out, and to soul-search to determine how to move forward in your dream to write. It's also a great time to determine if it really is something meant for you, or if it's best left as a hobby. Finally, it helps "train" your family to survive without you for an hour or two, so that if you do decide to keep this up as a professional goal they are more accustomed to the new daily - or weekly - schedule; allowing you to be more productive.

Speaking of productivity, NaNo also teaches how to catch up when it comes to your writing and writing schedule. It’s bound to happen that you’ll miss a day or two, and you’ll feel even more rushed to write more to make up for the slacking days. You find that groove and blow past the recommended 1667 words per day. Next thing you know you can either end NaNo early or skip a few days because you’ve written so much. Or you KNOW that you won’t be able to write tomorrow, so you purposely write more today.

Again, yes, writing daily isn’t a practice most people keep past NaNo, but in the process you find out what works for you and pick up on practices and skills - and people to surround yourself with - that WILL help you.

Miller doesn't seem to see this good, however. She seems determined to focus on the bad, even reaching out for people to give anecdotal evidence that NaNo is the bane of all writing existence; because we all know that anecdotal evidence and stereotyping is valid research...

Editors and agents are already flinching in anticipation of the slapdash manuscripts they’ll shortly receive. "Submitting novels in Nov or Dec?" tweeted one, "Leave NaNoWriMo out of the cover letter … or make it clear that it was LAST year’s NaNo."
Now, she does provide a valid point: don't assume your novel is print-ready simply because you hit the NaNo 50,000 word goal! However, I feel like these people are more the exception than the rule. Out of 21,000+ “winners” of NaNo, I doubt more than a couple hundred actually flood these editors; if it's really that many editors that are hit with post-NaNo manuscripts. Does she do a formal survey to see the influx? How many editors are actually flooded by these poorly-written hopefuls? How much of an increase from the daily unsolicited submissions is there? Does the quality of submissions actually drop that drastically in December and January? Maybe there's actually editors out there excited by December's possibilities. Sure, it will take a lot of coffee and migraine meds, but maybe they're excited to find the diamond in the rough that was only put down to paper thanks to NaNo. Who knows?

Plus, if these NaNo-ers are going to send unrevised manuscripts to editors after November, they’ll do it any other time too. These authors either don’t understand the purpose of an editor - to polish revised manuscripts as opposed to hand holding the writer through revisions - or they believe everything they write is perfect the first go. They’re diluted or ill-informed. Either way, NaNo just helped push them forward, not create them.

So, while it is good advice to let that bad manuscript sit for a month or so, and then go back to it - something the people from the Office of Letters and Light routinely advise - shaming ALL of NaNo and its participants for the maybe 5% that submit unrevised manuscripts is a bit harsh.

About half-way through the article, Miller even admits that she doesn’t actually write novels; she reads them. No shame in that, but at the same time, don’t put down such a great program. You don’t understand. You don’t get the struggles of writers and how NaNo helps. You don’t know how this is the equivalent to a band camp for some. You may be the only nerd in your neighborhood who likes playing the tuba, and so you’re self-conscious about it and may not practice what you love. But at band camp you have a community. They all understand your love and how you may not be the best tuba player yet, but they still cheer you on while you figure out your talent; some even assist in making you better.

It is hard for someone in the stands watching the halftime show to understand what it’s like to be a tuba player.

Still, Miller protests; simply because she seemingly feels that anything that won't eventually produce a Best Seller is ultimately a waste of time.
Nothing about NaNoWriMo suggests that it’s likely to produce more novels I’d want to read. (That said, it has generated one hit, and a big one: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen, who apparently took the part about revision to heart.)
Yes, this - much like those people flooding the poor editors - is the exception instead of the rule. NaNo rarely produces anything that will result in an actual published work. That’s still not the point. If Miller's definition of wasted time is what it appears to be in this quote - if it won't produce a novel worth reading, it's not worth the attempt - then a lot of writers are up a creek without a paddle, because apparently lot of us are wasting our time even trying.

Miller clearly has no clue how many horrible - and probably incomplete - manuscripts hide in the desk drawers and forgotten computer files of her favorite authors. Maybe they participated in NaNo themselves just to try to get the juices flowing again. Maybe a best selling story started off as a pathetic NaNo attempt years ago, and the only thing that survived was the main character; therefore the author never mentions the character’s humble beginnings as a NaNo attempt.

Once again, let me state that NaNo is a way for people to conquer their fear and become motivated to do what they love: writing. Is an actual marathon just as much a waste of time and energy? Especially if the person never places? What if a person meant to get in to exercising, but the only way they could motivate themselves was to participate in something like a friendly community 5K; especially if they have friends who are participating and want them to as well? Sure, they may walk the whole time, come in last, or they may not even finish because they pulled something or got winded due to not being ready for a 5K. But is it still all for naught? Maybe it was just the push the person needed to keep going. Maybe after that one horribly failed 5K they are now determined to take better care of themselves so they do better next time. Maybe they spend the next year exercising and training so that they can conquer that 5K when it comes back around. Does that make that first, horribly failed marathon a waste? Even if it’s just a seasonal jumpstart - they slacked off the rest of the year, participated in the marathon, and are now back on the ball - is that a waste? Or in the other direction, maybe they dreamed of becoming a marathoner, only to discover they're just not cut out for it after a horrible showing at the 5K. Maybe they can now put that dream aside; check it off their bucket list, stop wondering "what if?" and move on with their life. It's a nice soul-searching moment. How's that a waste of time or energy?

Similarly, the fact that NaNo has spread so that places like bookstores - and in some places, libraries - have sectioned off places for participants is fantastic. It helps build a better community; helps people bond and feel connected. This is another great aspect of NaNo. Most may not “Win” NaNo, become professional writers, or even write outside of NaNo. Yet you can find great friends in the community. Friends that will stay and last. I met Chibi through NaNo’s sister program Script Frenzy, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. Hard to believe we were complete strangers just about three years ago.

You can also discover a fantastic stress reliever in writing. You can become slightly more cultured. Children can learn the joy of writing and creating; using their imaginations. There is so much potential there. So many gifts that writing can provide. Even if someone doesn't wish to become the next Great American Author, perhaps NaNo will help them discover their career path for writing the next big TV phenomenon, or Hollywood blockbuster, or the next Grammy-winner, or a Tony-winning play, or to become a courageous journalist.

I can’t say it enough: This woman just doesn’t seem to comprehend the point or importance of NaNo.

I want to give Miller credit for cringing at slogans like “Write Your Novel Here” because - while seemingly innocent and fun-provoking - they may in fact cheapen authors; making it sound like a novel is something simple that can be written in a few hours at a bookstore. The issue is that, sadly, this isn't Miller's point, or even why she felt such dismay. She just thought it was a pathetic attempt to jump on the "everyone wants to be a writer" bandwagon. Regardless of her feelings or how poorly worded the slogans are, having these spaces for people to write while surrounded by books and authors they love - great motivation to picture your book nestled next to theirs - is a fantastic way of expanding this “cultured community” Miller holds so dear.

Having these NaNo writing groups is not degrading “the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading” with “the narcissistic commerce of writing” like Miller claims. I mean, if she feels this way about NaNo-ers, how does she not feel the same about the authors giving her the gift to “selflessly read” in the first place? How is it that amateurs participating in NaNo are “narcissists” but published authors aren’t? That being said, how is reading “selfless”? You choose books that make you feel better, or help you improve.

A writer opens themselves up and pours their soul into a book; praying that someone like Ms. Miller will pick it up and enjoy it. It’s not about money for most of us; it’s about sharing a story that you want the world to know, or information you feel others will benefit from. Us writers are completely bare and at the mercy of these “selfless” readers. The slightest thing could push them away from reading our book, even something as stupid as not heeding the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I honestly think Miller’s confused, and it’s the READERS who are a bit narcissistic; because the book they choose is all about them: if they need that advice from a self-help book, if they like to know more about that bit of trivia, or if they want to spend some time in that world. This “narcissistic reader” concept is even verified in Miller’s article itself when she commented about how people read more “how to” books than actual novels. Why? Because readers want to improve themselves, not spend time in someone else’s world. THAT is pretty selfish and narcissistic.

Perhaps her view of the "selfless reader" and "narcissistic writer" derives from the fact that she clearly just doesn't understand writers. Either that, or the only writers she's ever paid attention to are the ones who write equally-thought-out articles online. People who are just out to get millions of hits; followers; 15minutes of fame as they go viral.
So I’m not worried about all the books that won’t get written if a hundred thousand people with a nagging but unfulfilled ambition to Be a Writer lack the necessary motivation to get the job done. I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say.
I mean, seriously! I want to know what writers she’s talking to, because all of the ones I know are terrified of not having any ability or anything especially interesting to say. They are frozen because they fear public indifference. None of the elements Miller spoke of make my writing friends persistent. No ability? Public Indifference? Not having something interesting to say? These are true, paralyzing fears that are keeping great writers from sharing their talent. Fears that stop these people from doing what they love; the thing that helps de-stress them and make them feel whole.

This woman just irks me that she so firmly believes otherwise. The writers she’s talking about are the bad ones that really shouldn’t use NaNo as a motivation tool. These are the narcissistic writers. The ones that ARE out for money, and then are shocked when it doesn’t come. The ones that “are always moaning so loudly about how hard it is.”

I am sorry, but writing IS hard. Miller writes articles and doesn’t know this? She’s an author of what appears to be a pseudo-autobiography, and yet she feels this way about writers? Again, Ms. Miller appears to be fantastic at misconstruing generalities as facts.

She claims that the endangered species in this world is readers - that’s true; sadly - but that doesn’t mean readers are both “fragile” and the ones that should be tormented by their lot. She makes it seem like readers are much tougher than writers because while they are disappearing, readers aren’t little, whiny pushovers like writers seem to be, and so they won’t make a stink about their shrinking population.

Did I miss a memo somewhere? Because last I checked, what writer ISN’T lamenting the fact that their demographic is shrinking and yet the production is growing? Why else would we be terrified that we aren’t the best writer in the world? We know we’re competing against major players for such a small audience. We KNOW we either have to make it big or we won’t make it at all.

It’s overpopulation. This is why writers are so fragile compared to the few readers that are left. We are at their mercy. They have all the power over our fate. How does THAT make readers “like Tinkerbell or any other disbelieved-in fairy”?

Miller has such a great concluding concept: why not have something similar to NaNo, but for readers to get reading back to the forefront? National Novel READING Month. I’d be 100% behind that. I remember the reading marathons we had in elementary school, and I think the Offices of Letters and Light would do great if they came up with something similar. Maybe a companion to Camp NaNo could be some sort of reading program to help kids keep up with reading over the summer, and get adults back into the habit.

Now, if only Miller spent the whole article with what she finished with: there are plenty of novels out there waiting to be read, so let’s celebrate the READERS instead of aspiring writers. She could have even prefaced with “Yes, NaNo is great, but don’t forget to read as well as write this month. Otherwise, what is the point of participating if reading is a dead art?” THAT would have been a great article.

At the very least, though, she got me thinking. I've got quite a long reading list, and I think I need to find the time to attack some of it.

What about you guys? What are your feelings on the article? Do you agree with her? What about your own reading? Anything good you're planning on cracking open next month?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clearly, I Need A Calendar

Well, I'm a new sort of special this week.

As I mentioned last week, I was late updating because I was too busy writing a post I decided to hold off on publishing. The main reason is that it would be a perfect segue in to November's NaNoWriMo. So, I went ahead and scheduled for it to post the last week of October, and then wrote last week's update.

That's where the issue started. Even last week I stated that this delayed post would be "next week." I went to bed Tuesday night proud that I had this week's update set for close to ten days.

Then I went to work, came home, went to post on Facebook about the update, and realized it wasn't up. I checked to see what went wrong with my scheduling... only to discover that yesterday was the SECOND to last Wednesday of the month.

So, here I thought I was ahead of the game, and I was actually behind the 8-ball once more. Add in that I didn't get to the computer until about 3pm, and then I had laundry to do, and I ended up distracting myself with stuff to post on the Struggling Writers Society's forum... and then I had work first thing this morning....

Thank god this isn't my job; I'm so bad with these deadlines....

Well, at least I had another concept that I wanted to talk about anyway. I was actually partially lamenting not having one more week to discuss this, and settled on writing about it the first week of November, given it's about NaNo anyway. So... silver lining! I get to talk about it now like I originally wanted.

For the past week or so I've been trying to figure out what I wanted to write next month. I had a few ideas.
  • Use NaNo not in its "pure" form of writing a 50,000 word brand-new story concept, but use the "write daily" idea to finally move forward again with X-Future: The Second Generation Begins
  • Take on NaNo's new "Script" feature - a way to make up for them cancelling April's Script Frenzy - and start writing some pages of the X-Future comic reboot
  • Work on the Gyateara Mythology collection some more
  • Use a random plot generator and actually participate in NaNo the way it was originally intended: goofy and uninhibited writing.
I decided to go with my last idea though: Work on Lottie's story.

Who's Lottie?

Well, for my newer readers who may not know, I participate in a Live Action Role Play called Vampire: The Masquerade. Lottie happens to be the most recent vampire I created for the game. She's still relatively new to even me. She came to me randomly at work back in August and this Saturday will only be the third game I've played as her. However, her story kept getting revealed to me a little more and more each day over the past week or so. I figured, why not just ride this train while it's already passing by?

I've mostly figured out what she did the first 20years she was a human, that and researched southern United States during World War II; when Lottie was turned in to a vampire.

I debated writing in first person, but she has the older dialect with Southern pronunciations. Plus, despite her parents' attempt to teach her otherwise, Lottie has horrible grammar riddled with double negatives and improper use of words.
Yep. That's Lottie...
Lottie is also semi-up with the technological times, but being a vampire, she gets just as confused as anyone from that generation. Last game she tried to comment about Tumblr, but couldn't remember the site's name. She kept horribly attempting to describe it until Cyhyr's character Katelyn finally proudly cried out the site's proper name:
"Oh, whaz da name of dat site all the kids get lost on these days... I know it's somethin' acrobatic. Somersault? Cartwheel? Backflip?"
*Room is silent and staring*
"Oh, come on. Someone has ta know. Maybe one of you younin's. It's gymnastic of some sort. Dat site where e'eryone has all a deez pictures an' long comments an' fans of shows get lost foreva there."
*Katelyn jumps up giddily*
*Lottie snaps and nods*
"See!? I KNEW it was somethin' acrobatic!"
Well... as you can see, Lottie's a bit rough to read if I were to write her dialogue phonetically; like in comic books. However, even with writing the words out properly - not how she'd pronounce them - there's still a lot of grammatical errors that would hold people up. It's all fine and dandy for her dialogue, but to hear an entire 50,000 word story in her voice might be much.

So, I'm about 99% sure I'm going to go with Third-Person-Limited for my NaNo story. Then again, I have about eight days to change my mind, so we'll see.

I'm really hoping that writing about a character I'm trying to get to know better will give me the drive to stay on track this year with NaNo. I'm sure it doesn't hurt at all that we play our LARP every other Saturday, and so I should be actively in Lottie's head at least twice during NaNo. Throw in that I'm more-or-less going to be writing out what happens in-game - but with my own flare and flavor added in, just like with TSGB - and I shouldn't have to worry about running out of ideas during the month; only running out of time to write.

I'm going to aim for the same goal as last year: at least one new chapter each week when I update my blog. Given that I've been working Wednesdays now, I'm probably going to have my story update days actually be the Tuesday before; so that I can then link to the update when I post my blog.

I'll also most likely post in true daily diary form like I did the last time I participated in NaNo, as well as the two times I participated in Script Frenzy before the event was cancelled. I'm just hoping I give myself the time to write...

What about you guys? Are any of you participating in NaNo? What concept are you going to be writing about? Those of you not participating, what are your writing plans for November? Let me know in the comments section.

Happy writing, and I'll catch you next week. I swear this time the post will go up at noon since it's been scheduled since the 14th..

Friday, October 17, 2014

Now Trying to Restart Ronoxym's Passion

Alright. How did I screw up THIS badly this week!? I've done it before in which Wednesday has snuck up on me, but not like this. I was at my netbook. I was working on a blog so that I could schedule it to go up for my Wednesday noon update while I was at work. I was stumped on what to write, and so I gave up and decided to just put up the "Temp Post" for the noon update; I'll just post a late update after I was done with work. I then click on the date to schedule for the update and THAT was when it hit me. Nearly 10pm, and THAT was when I went "Wait... Wednesday is the 15th... isn't TODAY the 15th- Oh shoot!"

I'm so good at this.

I was going to make up for it yesterday, but I only had a few hours between my first-thing-in-the-morning shift ending and Hubby's out-until-late-at-night shift started. I spent the time with him while I could; figuring I'd write the blog while he was at work. I then somehow managed to lose five hours of my life, and I'm not entirely sure how....

Like I said, I'm so good at this....

The worst part is that I did actually plan to write my post Tuesday evening so that I could schedule it for the Wednesday update - exactly what I was doing Wednesday. I just happened to be a day late somehow.

Monday evening I closed at work; something I haven't done in a while and used to only do on Sundays. I think that just started my screw up this week. I've been a day behind all week, and it may have stemmed from there.

Then Tuesday was just hell. I was sick. I was in pain. I was dehydrated. I was exhausted. I was run ragged at work. I was at my breaking point. I zipped home and just spent the rest of the day job searching instead of writing.

Wednesday's workday was worlds better, but between work, going to the laundromat, figuring out food, and the shows we just started watching on Wednesday - another thing that threw me off; having a solid 8pm-11pm TV block on a day of a week we normally NEVER had anything to watch - I just lost track of the time, and the day of the week.

However, I was trying to work on a post on-and-off all day. I ended up with a nice one for NEXT week though. One that sets up NaNo really well, in my opinion, which is why I'm holding off on it and allowing this blog post to be two days late in the meantime.

My old high school friend - I believe I introduced you to her before under the name Stargazer - had posted an article in the Struggling Writers Society Facebook group. It was a thought-provoking article that resulted in me essay writing my reaction to it. So that's what I did on Monday....

Anyway, at ChibiSunnie's suggestion, I decided to turn my essay in to next week's blog update; resulting in me still needing one for THIS week.

I've been sort of dragging my feet simply because I wasn't entirely sure what to talk about next. I have about three things I could go in detail with. Which, in and of itself, is kind of awesome.

Why not just start at the top though: what I did in September; while I was posting about procrastination articles instead of my writing progress. While I haven't really done terribly too much beyond the character revamping that I talked about last week, back in September I did discover something that I hope will soon mean very good things.

Ronoxym had found a new job that would pay him enough that he could drop the other two jobs he had - either that, or he was promoted at the one job and so he could drop the second one; I've lost track of all the jobs he's worked at. Point is, instead of having to drag through two full shifts nearly every day all week long, he now has a steady 40hr work week. This means he shouldn't be exhausted from non-stop work all the time. Now, this is fantastic news for him, and I wish to give him the proper congrats on finally reaching a point of being financially stable without needing to be a work horse. However, how is this good news for me as well?

It may be hard to remember since he hasn't done anything since April or May, and so I haven't really talked about it since then, but I was writing a collab story with Ron. A tale he started about Devon and Willow interacting. I sort of hijacked the project and it turned in to a collaborative effort. We both seemed very excited about it. I updated almost instantly after discovering that Ron did. Even Ron's fiance Cyhyr was excited about this project because it meant Ron was steadily writing; and sticking to just one project that he was passionate about, instead of letting his writing ADD kick in.

We were chugging along nicely between January and March, and then he started petering off. I couldn't really take the reins because I had no clue where he was planning on going with this story; I was just there to tweak and add more detail to it. It was totally his baby still. So, sadly, when work became too tiring for him he stopped updating the story, and I was stuck in writing Limbo.

I'm really REALLY hoping that now that he's been down to just one job for a few weeks this means that he'll be able to get accustomed to his new schedule enough to find time to write again. At the very least I want to know how this story ends. If no one else but me knows, then whatever. If he just verbally tells me where he was headed with it and I end up finishing the thing works too. I just want it completed!

The main problem though is getting him passionate about this story again. He lost all steam with what he was doing. Plus, it was originally a 6pg or so snippet he used to try to figure out how to best play Devon in the upcoming scenes. Very much like what I do with X-Future: Snippets. I sort of killed that for the poor guy by completely changing where he was going with the story.... whoops. Now - months later, both in real life and in game - the whole point of his story has long past. The concept of trying to figure out how Devon and Willow would interact with each other is beyond a moot point at this juncture. Without the need to figure out that dynamic, I'm not sure I can get him to have the drive to start up the story again. Which saddens me.

It WOULD be a good scene for the X-Future reboot, however. Perhaps I can convince him to get back on to the project that way... a scene to store away for the reboot. Sure, this particular scene may not make a public appearance in comic-form for a few years yet, but it's something. Right?

Anyway, in the meantime I've been going back through the shared file ONE MORE TIME to try to edit out all the nitpicky stuff. I'm also kind of hoping that when he gets the notifications in his email about the "updates" I've done - editing, yay - it will drive him to go through and re-read what we have so far. Perhaps by the time he gets to the end he'll be re-inspired and I'll have something new to read.

Baby steps though. Maybe the first goal is to try to have Cyhyr help me convince Ron to start up his blog again...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rebuilding Canon Characters

It's been a little while since I last talked about MY writing. I don't mind if you don't. I personally liked taking a two-week time-out in order to discuss the two articles I read about procrastination. However, that time-out did cause me to completely forget what I last talked about in regards to my own writing.

In case you're like me and forgot where I last was in my own writing - and you're too lazy/pressed for time to go back and actually re-read Shadowcat and Wolverine Take Center Stage, here's a quick recap:
  • I discussed how, whenever I'm stuck, I just let a nameless/faceless narrator talk about the world of Glitches, and that usually gives me the background I need to get through the issue I'm having.
  • I discovered through letting my narrator just talk that homeless Glitches - mostly teens - were being snatched up by the government. This act simultaneously drove "Kitty" to start up the orphanage, and "Logan" to create The Orb and The Building Room as training rooms - disguised as arcade games - to teach self-defense to Glitches.
    • "Kitty" can't stand the idea of The Orb or The Building Room, and thinks that the government will see both as "terrorist training" and will use it as an excuse to attack. Therefore, not only does she deny "Logan's" request to build them at her orphanage, but she also forbids her students from using them.
  • Phfylburt's one character Lucas Kinney would most likely be one of the Glitches snatched and experimented on by the government. The reason "Logan" adopted him was that he was one of the few surviving children once "Logan" was done with his raid on the facility. The two have a weird part-fatherly/part-older-brotherly relationship similar to what Batman's Bruce Wayne has with his first Robin: Dick Grayson. 
  • After saving Kinney from the facility, "Logan" is even more determined to try to train Glitches to protect themselves. After a few years of covert training of some adult Glitches - via The Orb and The Building Room - "Logan" creates a sort of X-Men-Like task force whose duty is to protect "Kitty's" orphanage and other helpless Glitches in the area; while simultaneously trying to recruit more powerful Glitches to help train self-defense against "Norms" and the government.
    • Some of the children at the orphanage catch wind of what "Logan" is doing and sneak over to his arcade for some training as well. "Kitty's" son Chayse is essentially the head of this student brigade; much to "Kitty's" dismay.
  • At some point, Willow will either bring Devon to the arcade to introduce him to The Orb, or when hearing that Devon's loyalty is in question, "Logan" will bring him himself. Either way, Devon is going to end up using The Orb as the "Danger Room Catalyst" scene from X-Future; shattering people's trust in the poor kid.
  • I also determined that "Kitty" was more of the "bleeding heart" that wanted to peacefully do whatever was necessary to co-exist with Norms. She'd do peaceful protests, give speeches to the government and public in attempts to change their minds, and take care of the "lost children". "Logan", on the other hand, was more of a realist. He too wanted to simply co-exist, but he also knew that Glitches would need to fight for their rights; sometimes literally. He feared that being peaceful like "Kitty" would take too long and too many Glitches' lives would be lost since they wouldn't fight back in self-defense.
    • Basically, "Kitty" would be this world's Martin Luther King, Jr. while "Logan" is Malcolm X; except he wants integration as well....
  • Lastly, I tried to determine the relationship between "Kitty" and "Logan" since they're no longer co-headmasters of the Institute. I first thought they were siblings, and then I really focused on them being former lovers.
    • Some other possible connections that I debated between were "complete strangers" and "friends" and "former classmates".
Well, I didn't really get much feedback from Hubby or Phfyl about any of the other stuff I talked about for the world build, but I did get feedback on the whole "Kitty and Logan being an item" thing.

Although they have to get completely different character redesigns to become originals, Phfyl and Hubby both still see "Kitty" as a woman in her mid-twenties and "Logan" looking about 35, but is actually closer to 200+yrs old. So the idea of them being an item kind of grossed them out.

They suggested just going with "They were former students of this world's equivalent of Charles Xavier." Perhaps they weren't literally former students of "Xavier," but instead he wrote a series of essays, books, articles, or gave speeches on the idea of co-existence between Glitches and Norms. Maybe both "Kitty" and "Logan" admire this "Xavier" via his published/broadcast work, but took away two different concepts from these "teachings."

"Kitty" would pick up "Xavier's" compassion, and desire for there to be just as much peace between Glitches and Norms as there are between races in the United States. Sure, there is still racism, and it's sickening. However, for the most part, someone's race isn't an issue any longer. No one really notices it. That was what "Xavier" envisioned for the future, and "Kitty" wants to take his peaceful approach to get there: publications, speeches, public service, peaceful protests, etc.

"Logan", on the other hand, also welcomes "Xavier's" dream for mutations to matter just as little as race does, but he focuses on "Xavier's" admittance that there is still racism and violent hate crimes. He follows the teachings that "we still need to learn how to defend ourselves against such ignorance and hate."

This puts the two at odds with each other, but they still realize that they're working towards the same end-goal. While they don't approve of how the other is getting to that end, they are willing to cooperate in order to combine their efforts and reach that equality faster.

Meanwhile, you have the extremist group Challengers of Heaven. This is more akin to Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants from the actual comics. The Challengers see no need to try to co-exist with Norms. They feel that Glitches are actually the next wave of evolution in humanity. Much like Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. So incredibly similar, but there's just something about the former that is superior to the later, and that will eventually mean the former will win Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest." However, unlike Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, the Challengers of Heaven are making sure Glitches have a heavy hand in the extinction of Norms; allowing their "species" the ability to reign supreme - at least, until the next great evolution roughly 70,000 years from now.

In the grand scheme of villainous factions, the reboot equivalent to "The Brotherhood" is just a punk street gang comprised of Glitches. They may be the most dangerous set of mo-fos, but they have no true goal of world domination or Norm extinction. They also hire out their members as Glitch mercenaries; resulting in a lot of laying in bed with Challengers of Heaven.

While I haven't figured out too much more about "Logan" beyond what I have above, I did a little more work on "Kitty" as well as started the reworking of both "Gambit" and "Multiple-Man." I just need to finish those reworks and figure out the other Marvel Canon characters that we're bringing over to the reboot.

Regardless of all that, I still feel like I accomplished a great deal in making "Kitty" and "Gambit" more original, while still retaining enough of their canon powers for Chayse to inherit. I haven't really heard back yet from Phfyl or Hubby as to what they think about all of this - another TL; DR issue - but for right now, here's what I'm thinking.

Chayse will still have phasing due to his mother's powers, but he'll actually be the one to figure out that he can use them that way. "Kitty" will essentially have Gambit's main power of Molecular Acceleration - as the Marvel Wikia classifies it. So, the ability to make cards go bang? "Kitty's" instead of Gambit's. Considering her maternal nature, I'll have to figure out how she mostly uses such a destructive power.

The easiest way to do both that and give Chayse his advancement in to phasing is to reclassify Gambit's powers. It's now Kinetic Manipulation. Not only can it be used the way Gambit does in the comics - which is him accelerating molecules until their kinetic energy builds up; hence the power name - but classifying the power as Kinetic Manipulation means it can be manipulated the other way: reverting kinetic energy back to potential energy. I'm not entirely sure if scientifically I can make this power plausible, so it's still in the works. However, essentially this would mean "Kitty" could do things like make a speeding car decelerate faster than it normally would, have a thrown object's trajectory be cut short as it falls to the ground, or simply removing the agitated energy she had previously put in to an object; "decharging" it. Like, if Gambit in the comics starts charging up a card to become an explosive, changes his mind, and removes the kinetic energy he originally stored up in it; reverting the card in to a simple, nonexplosive piece of cardboard.

Anyway, this classification of Kinetic Manipulation would rework Gambit's powers enough that they could be hinted at - with things like making average objects explosives - but not entirely recognizable. Especially if "Kitty" mostly uses it defensively by converting kinetic energy. Chayse doesn't really make things go "boom" either when he uses his powers; aside from a box of toothpicks he keeps with him, similar to Gambit's deck of cards. He uses it mostly to charge up his own body or his whip-like belt; adding kinetic energy so that the output is greater when used.

Chayse could then discover that he can build up enough kinetic energy in himself to make his own molecules vibrate fast enough to move between the empty spaces between molecules of the item he's phasing through. Obviously, the denser the object the smaller - or fewer - the empty spaces are and the harder it is for him to phase. However, this density problem already came up in-canon with Kitty's phasing power. In theory - I don't read comics enough to know if it's stated fact in them - Kitty's power DOES work by her moving her molecules within the empty spaces of the item she's phasing through. I just gave it a new reason as to how. Also, this would mean that Chayse's power isn't really a combination of phasing and making things explode. The phasing is just a new trick he learned to do using his natural gifts.

What are the powers he inherited from "Gambit" then, if it wasn't Molecular Acceleration? Well, seems Gambit has a few other powers that are derived from that one. Much like how Chayse's phasing is now derived from his Kinetic Manipulation. See, Gambit has heightened agility and dexterity due to his ability to tap in to the kinetic energy within himself. I already stated that Chayse essentially does the same; even more so once he Ascends. Gambit also uses this Molecular Acceleration to constantly keep charged potential energy around his body that he can then harness as kinetic energy whenever needed. This is more of a reflex thing that he doesn't consciously think about, but it causes static that makes it hard for telepaths to invade his mind, and near impossible for telepaths to even detect him. Finally - and one I didn't realize was a derived power; I thought it was a secondary one - Gambit has hypnotic charm due to his ability to "charge" kinetic energy in someone's brain; activating parts needed for Gambit to manipulate the person. It's a small manipulation, but it's enough for that person to find Gambit trustworthy. Because of this hypnotic charm, Gambit can convince people to believe what he says and/or agree to whatever he suggests.

Now, while Marvel did a great job at figuring out how Gambit can use his Molecular Acceleration power in order to have a nice loaded arsenal of other powers, they all don't have to derive from that parent power. We could make our version of Gambit be a "Mind" Glitch whose primary power is Charmspeak. Now, Rick Riordan already used the exact phrase "Charmspeak" for a power a daughter of Aphrodite has. Her mother's charm and seduction flows through her, allowing people to believe anything she says if she puts enough effort behind her words. I also have a sneaking suspicion that D&D also used either that phrase or a similar one in regards to boosting a bluff score or something. So I'll have to think of an alternative classification for the power other than "Charmspeak" or "Hypnotic Charm". Although, I guess "Hypnotic Charm" would still really work.

The idea is that "Gambit" has the ability to hypnotize people through speech. His words would be so compelling that the target(s) can be easily convinced they're true, or that he's right. Now, just like normal hypnosis, the Charmspeak cannot convince anyone to do something they are morally opposed. It is also a lot harder for it to work when the target knows it's a blatant lie, or if they are also a Mind Glitch; since the heightened mental ability naturally counteracts his powers. Basically, think of this as "Bluff: The Mutant Power."

Now, a side-effect of being a Mind Glitch with the ability to convince others so easily is that his own mind is constantly on alert for such manipulation towards him. I'm not sure if this makes him completely immune to mental manipulation, or if he just has a strong resistance. Given this side-effect, Hubby and I were thinking that this might be a fun way for him and Willow's dad to have met up before the kids were born. Willow's dad Jacob tried to use his Prop Illusions power to convince "Gambit" of something. I'm still figuring out what, exactly. Maybe it was something as simple as Monopoly money being legit currency. Well, "Gambit's" resistance/immunity towards mental manipulation sees through the illusion. He decides to try to swindle the swindler, but - since Jacob is a Mind Glitch too - the Charmspeak doesn't work on Jacob. The two con-artists chat over a beer and become fast friends. Perhaps even team up for a little while before "Kitty" and Meryl tame the Cons in to going straight.

Anyway, having the Charmspeak main power also semi-explains the "Mental Firewall" - as we've been calling it in-game - but what about the agility? Switching gears from Gambit being a thief mastering in breaking and entering to "Gambit" being a swindler via hypnosis, we don't necessarily need him to be as good of a fighter any longer. So we're still debating if Chayse's agility and dexterity are still derived from the Kinetic Manipulation - like it is with Canon Gambit - or if it's a secondary power for both "Gambit" and Chayse.

We also discussed the possibility of Chayse having the odd eye coloring from "Kitty" as a side-effect of the Kinetic Manipulation. If Chayse is going to have a physical mutation from "Kitty" anyway, it might be best to keep the agility/dexterity physical mutation inherited from her as well.

Regardless, I want to avoid the "black sclera with unnatural iris color" concept since that's blatantly a Gambit design. I thought that the iris would still be a vivid, unnatural color that reflects the shade of the aura emitted when "charging" something. So Chayse would still have the neon limegreen, and "Kitty" would have a purplish red color - the color Gambit has when charging. The only trick there is that in the cyberpunk world I picture the comic to be in, wouldn't colored contacts be just an average thing? That would mean that even with his physical mutation, Chayse can pass for human. Still, Hubby wanted that subtle mutation to still be noticeable. A way for him to ALMOST pass for human, but gives him away.

Since I JUST finished watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I want to use that as an example. Dark skin, white hair, and specifically eyes with red irises were the tell-tale signs that you were a decedent of the Ishvalan race. So, maybe in this CyberPunk future it's a common thing for unnatural-colored eyes to be a sign of being a Glitch. Therefore, people wouldn't HAVE colored contacts for fear of being thought of as a Glitch? Either that, or it's a novelty thing, like people wearing red contacts to cosplay as a vampire or animal contacts to pretend they're a humanoid cat... Then again, those things aren't real which is why we cosplay as them. Would the same be true if Glitches were real? I dunno. I'm still figuring out that eye thing.

In the meantime, Hubby thought more about the issue and suggested that perhaps Chayse and "Kitty" could have their eyes completely fill with that unnatural color - lime green for Chayse; magenta for "Kitty" - when using their powers; similar to how Storm's eyes go completely white when using hers.

Things I should have been thinking about over the past few weeks, I guess....

Anyway, as I mentioned, I did manage to figure out a little bit about Lia's father Jamie as well. Again, I'm waiting for either Phfyl or Hubby to give me some sort of feedback. My biggest fear is that while I did tweak the powers, they are still essentially the same. However, I didn't really have much choice in the matter since Jamie's power to make clones of himself is fairly crucial in Lia's upbringing and subsequent personality development. I was debating having him make "clones" via astral projections so that he can always be around Lia in order to look over her. Yet, we seem to have a surplus of "Mind" Glitches in this tale, and so I wanted to branch out from that.

I thought that perhaps - and I'll have to figure out what "category" of glitch this would put him in - "Jamie" is what is known as a "Soul Splitter." He can send a part of his consciousness - or "soul" in this case, I guess - in to fresh drops of his blood, and use said soul-infused drops to create clones of himself. I'm still mentally working out the imagery of that since it's not a spontaneous blink into existence like Multiple Man's Dupes.

Just like Multiple Man, a Soul Splitter's clones are completely autonomous. However, the more clones he makes, the more of himself he "loses." If too many are out in the world it may change his very personality and/or affect his memory. It could also physically drain him since there is always a minor tug for his soul to return as one. Said "tug" is so minor that he can go years with one clone lose out in the world without it physically affecting either of them. So it's almost like the gravitational pull humans have on each other... it's there, but not noticeable. I figured if we still wanted that weird "Tyler is but isn't Jamie's son/Lia's brother" thing in the reboot we could still do so this way.

Now, while Jamie is considered "Prime" in the comics - so that one can distinguish which "Jamie" is the main one the clones came from - in our tale perhaps he's "Alpha"? I'll have to think more about that, but it seems fitting.

Anyway, perhaps Alpha's constant need for his soul to re-fuse gives him the same issue as Jamie: clones are absorbed upon skin-to-skin contact; even if he doesn't want to absorb it yet. To add to that, since they are all one soul, they have an almost telepathic/hive-mind that they can activate. This also allows "Jamie" to be just as badass as his canon form: literally do multiple things at the same time, and be able to retain the knowledge once the clone is absorbed. I might want to rethink this aspect though, since it's bringing him back too much with Marvel's version. Maybe - unless the clone physically tells Alpha - the knowledge is there due to the shared soul, but it's "locked" away. Said "locked" memories can then only be recalled/retrieved with the help of hypnosis or telepathic involvement which brings subconscious thought to the surface in order to be actively remembered. This is getting complicated!

Let's go back to the less complicated idea of how the clones "spawn". The clones can each duplicate again, just like Alpha does. They do so by splitting up the soul-piece they have, and then placing the smaller fragment in to their own fresh blood droplets. However, they can only make a limited number - say no more than 3 - and if the parent clone itself is one of a multiple amount, its ability to create more than one clone and/or the secondary clone's ability to be autonomous is reduced. For instance, if Alpha only creates up to four clones than each clone could create another three. However, if Alpha creates between 5 and 10 clones each can only create another two, or if he creates 10 to 15 clones each can only duplicate themselves once.... something like that.

Also, since the clones all draw their power from their soul-piece's connection to Alpha's Parent Soul, they are greatly affected by their proximity to him. In other words, the farther away from Alpha the clone is, the less likely he is to be able to use his powers or tap in to knowledge that wasn't stored in the "soul piece" he was birthed from. Likewise, whatever knowledge/personality Alpha used to create a clone will be hindered or even lost to him if said clone travels too far from him. By "too far" I'm talking hundreds of miles.

So, if we do keep that Tyler's father is a run-away clone of "Jamie" then the knowledge and bit of personality he used to create that clone is "locked away" from him; altering his personality slightly, causing blackouts in his memory, and making him forget the knowledge "stored" in that bit of soul.

The last thing I thought about in regards to reworking Jamie was a name change for him. While I still despirately need to come up with new names for all of the canon characters we're re-working, for some reason Jamie was the easiest one to think of alternate names for. Out of a list of nine names, my top two are Cody and Charles - shortened to either Charlie or Buck. Phfyl seems to like Cody best too, and so I'm about 99% certain that Lia's father's name will now be Cody instead of Jamie. We'll see.

To finish up today's post about X-Future, I'd like to state that after some debate I FINALLY got around to posting something new in X-Future: Snippets. I wrote this back in the end of August or beginning of September; I can't really remember. It was more-or-less a writing exercise to help me with more character development for Lia. Since it dealt with a conversation between Lia and Sasha, I sent a copy of it to Sasha's player: 2-feathers-and-a-stone.

She never sent me back any notes on how to correct Sasha, and so I'm just assuming that means I kept her well-enough in-character. Still, I wasn't sure if it was worthy to be an official Snippet. I debated just posting a link to the shared Google.Docs file as a Blog Exclusive sort of thing, but this morning I officially decided to just pull the trigger.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you my quick brainchild to help me figure out how best to play Lia in the upcoming months of game:

"Sasha's Farewell"

Next week I'll talk to you more about what I've been doing throughout September and the first portion of October. I meant to tell you now, but the recap of what I came up with after the "Shadowcat and Wolverine Take Center Stage" post went WAY longer than I anticipated!

Five hours of off-and-on writing, longer than anticipated.... Hey, at least with this sort of pacing I'll ALWAYS have something to talk about; given that I am ALWAYS behind on my updates of what I've been doing. Guess that means I can't slow down with my writing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Monkeys, Monsters, and Playgrounds

Today marks the first day of my favorite month: October.
There's one simple reason why this is my favorite month:
Tomorrow is Hubby and my 3rd wedding anniversary. <3

However, we decided to get married in October because I already loved it so much; it just seemed fitting to add to my list of things I enjoy about this month.

I don't really know what it is exactly about October, but I love it. I love that it has a distinct feel. That crispness in the air and bite of frozen toes first thing in the morning. Normally I don't like being cold, but that lack of feeling in my feet when I first wake up is refreshing because it means my favorite month is here.

October has distinct smells as well: pumpkin EVERYTHING, apple cider, and this weird wax smell that accompanied the novelty monster-shaped Halloween candles that my mother had around the house as I was growing up. There's another smell dealing with nature starting to go dormant, but I can't quite describe it. Something about that smell just seems "October" though, even though it technically is around in September and November too. Guess it's just the most prominent in October...

October also has my favorite holiday. You get to dress up as someone else and get free candy for it! How do you not love that!? I also love monsters: werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein's monster, sea creatures, etc. If it's supernatural, I eat it up!

Imagining who I'd like to be on the 31st, and watching tons of Halloween/monster-themed movies, and plotting my own supernatural stories; October is just a perfect Writing month. I just need to remember to harness this energy this year.

Which brings me to the meat and potatoes of this week's post.

Last week I went in depth about an article I read: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators by Megan McArdle.

This week, I'd like to talk about another article on the subject. When I posted McArdle's article to Struggling Writers Society I quickly got a response from ChibiSunnie.

Chibi: I think the related article that came up when I clicked [for McArdle's] does a better job of explaining why we can only write when we have deadlines, but I do agree that sometimes the fear of not writing anything overcomes whatever other reasons we have for putting off writing.

The article she found - and then shared with all of us - was Why Procrastinators Procrastinate by Tim Urban.

Urban kept us amused as we read his article; by way of including cartoons to explain his concepts.

Such as his depiction of what derails procrastinators in the first place: The Instant Gratification Monkey (IGM)
Image by Tim Urban
In the article, Urban has a little strip where we are introduced to IGM and how it comes up with a long list of amusing - albeit pointless - activities that seem way more fun than whatever it is we're avoiding via procrastination. The last image of that strip totally hit home for me.
Image by Tim Urban
This is pretty much my rationale all the time! Over two hours before I need to do something? Nope, not enough time to do anything productive. Ignore the fact that all I have to do is write for 1/2hr a day to stay on track to write a 90,000 word novel within a year. Ignore the fact that even when it comes to writing something like a blog post I only really use two-hrs max.

Instead, focus on the times when I would marathon writing for about 8hrs straight. Once I get going on a project I don't like to stop until I am either done or come to a natural stopping point in the story; that way I don't have to worry about coming back to the story and forgetting where I was going with it. Trust me, I've had that annoying quandary multiple times. Not fun.

So, naturally, I now think "If I don't have at least four hours to write, there's no point in starting." If I get done before the 4hrs is up, fantastic. I have time to screw around then. However, I'd much rather set up the hours and not need them, then to say "Alright, I have a 1/2hr. Go!" and then have to stop prematurely. Thing is, I feel the same way about my chores too. "Oh, I have to pick up Hubby in an hour. Clearly not enough time to do the dishes or vacuum."

Instead of doing something productive during that 2.5hr window described in the above image, I'd rather putz around on Facebook and then complain that I didn't have enough time to accomplish anything that day. I really need to get past that first mental block of HORRENDOUS time management. Maybe if I just tell myself to suck it up and work during that time; regardless if I feel I can complete the task within the allotted time.

The next real hurdle is what Tim Urban described as the "Dark Playground."

I have spent many a day in the Dark Playground. Heck, I have a season pass there! My favorite attractions are:
  • Check Facebook Notifications Instantly Carousel
  • Look For People To IM Shooting Gallery
  • Get Lost On DeviantArt Maze
  • Repetitively Refresh X-Future Forum To See If There's Anything New Arcade
  • Do Stupid "Maintenance" Stuff In Facebook Games Food Court
  • Watch Shows I'm Really Interested In Simply Because They're On Traveling Minstrels
It's a bad place to be in, and you can get lost there for HOURS before realizing it. There seems to be a large percentage of the current teens and twenty-somethings that have another name for their Dark Playground. They seem to know it best as simply Tumblr.

Anyway, Urban comments that most procrastinators tend to linger with their IGM in the Dark Playground instead of actually doing any work. The only way to get us out of the Dark Playground? Why, a good old Panic Monster, of course!
Image by Tim Urban
Seems that little IGM is terrified of the Panic Monster; that dread that something horrible will result in you procrastinating to the point of NEVER accomplishing a certain task. The bigger the consequence of not doing the task, the scarier the Panic Monster; as well as the fast PM shows up to scare us out of the Dark Playground. Tasks with little to no real consequence - such as the ones we set for ourselves - either have a tiny PM or one never shows up.

Consequence of procrastinating and never going to work: getting fired and all the badness that follows. This results in huge PM chasing you out the door ASAP.
Consequence of procrastinating and not doing the dishes: the dishes pile up until there are no clean ones left. This results in a baby PM showing up and shooing you off to the sink to quickly scrub a dish and fork the next time you need it to actually eat.
Consequence of procrastinating and never writing that Great American Novel: feeling regret and a bit disappointed in never accomplishing such a lofty goal. The Panic Monster may never actually show up here; depending on how severe that consequence is for you.

The ebb and flow of IGM taking over until PM scares it away is a really crappy way of attempting to accomplish anything; and results in not really ENJOYING the fun stuff that somehow becomes an attraction in the Dark Playground.
Of course, this is no way to live. Even for the procrastinator who does manage to eventually get things done and remain a competent member of society, something has to change. Here are the main reasons why:

  1. It’s unpleasant. Far too much of the procrastinator’s precious time is spent toiling in the Dark Playground, time that could have been spent enjoying satisfying, well-earned leisure if things had been done on a more logical schedule. And panic isn’t fun for anyone.
  2. The procrastinator ultimately sells himself short. He ends up underachieving and fails to reach his potential, which eats away at him over time and fills him with regret and self-loathing.
  3. The Have-To-Dos may happen, but not the Want-To-Dos. Even if the procrastinator is in the type of career where the Panic Monster is regularly present and he’s able to be fulfilled at work, the other things in life that are important to him—getting in shape, cooking elaborate meals, learning to play the guitar, writing a book, reading, or even making a bold career switch—never happen because the Panic Monster doesn’t usually get involved with those things. Undertakings like those expand our experiences, make our lives richer, and bring us a lot of happiness—and for most procrastinators, they get left in the dust.
So true. Every last word. They all speak to me so strongly. Especially that second point.
...which eats away at him over time and fills him with regret and self-loathing.
I get this a LOT. Especially now that I'm 30. It seems silly since I still have about 50 years left - hopefully more - and so I have plenty of time still. However, I had always thought that I would be in my chosen profession, married, have at least one kid, be a home-owner, and at least have a CONCEPT for a manuscript figured out by now. Out of that list I have.... I'm married! While a fantastic part of that list and one that makes the rest of it worth while, one out of five isn't that amazing a completion percentage.
Whoot! 20% completion rate for the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I'm 30!
So, I really REALLY need to figure out how to break out of this pattern within the next decade of my life. As I said, I still have time to turn things around. I'm slowly, but semi-surely, working on a writing career and that manuscript concept. I may not actually get said book done before I'm 40, but trying to do so will push me harder to get serious. A lot of women this era have been having children in their mid-to-late 30s, and so I still have time there. I don't actually need to EVER own a home; the in-laws are STILL renting. The only thing I really, truly need to focus on right now is to find SOME job that doesn't suck the life out of me and can pay me enough that I'll feel comfortable at attempting to start a family.

See? In everything I get bogged down in the Big Picture when I really need to just take things in bite sized chunks. Maybe that's how I'll reign in my IGM. Maybe a trail of bite-sized tasks.
Yes, I did just watch Family Guy...

Luckily, Tim Urban continued on his Procrastination train of thought in a second part to his article: How to Beat Procrastination

Essentially, his concept on how to beat procrastination and to keep that IGM in check is the same as the one I just presented: Bite Sized Chunks. His analogy is a brick. Focused. Precise. Simple. Something that can be used to build a grand goal with. In other words, a finely tuned task with a distinct goal.

In other words, my list of things I wanted to do by the time I was 30 was too broad, and with no definitive deadline - aside from my 30th birthday - to keep me in check. That left IGM alone to play for quite a while.
Image by Tim Urban
With Urban's "brick" analogy, I was basically looking at the house I wanted done by the time I hit my third decade. However, I didn't really think about the blueprints and how many bricks I would need to finish building the thing. I have the foundation poured out - my marriage - but I completely forgot to get the materials I needed for the rest of my "home".

So, that's what I need to do for the next ten years. I need to figure out how many bricks I need and focus on carefully placing each one. If I focus on the task at hand - properly laying one brick on top of another - I won't even notice how many it will take to finish a room. Then I'll be surprised when I place the last one and realize "hey! I actually sold my first book!"

Urban continues by explaining - in his own opinion - why it's so hard for us procrastinators to pick up these individual bricks and actually start building. For me, as I continuously mention, I seem to look at the huge pile and focus too much on how daunting it's going to be to actually build a room out of so many bricks. Instead, I need to refocus on how simple it is to pick one up and place it down where I need it. I may not see much of a difference at first, but soon enough I'll actually be able to see my progression, and maybe that can help me.

But let's jump back to Urban's take real quick.
Image by Tim Urban
In his take the issue is what he calls the Dark Woods. It's the same thing as me looking at the Big Picture. The woods - as the name implies - is dark and dense and a pain to get through. There's struggles and it's hard to see the end. However, as you can see from Urban's drawing, it's fairly easy to see the Dark Playground just on the outskirts of the Dark Woods. All you have to do is look left or right instead of straight ahead, and you'll find one of the dreaded "attractions". The IGM can't STAND the Dark Woods and would much rather play in the Dark Playground, and so if you lose track of IGM for even a moment, you're off on an attraction until you can wander back to the Dark Woods to try the task again.

Some times the only way to get out of the park and through the woods is with that lovely Panic Monster chasing after you.

However, you see that happy bluish-green section at the top? The Happy Playground? That's the satisfaction of actually completing the task. That's what you see at the tail end of the Dark Woods, when most of the obstacles are behind you and the goal is easy to see ahead. The last leg of the Dark Woods is almost easy after trekking through for so long.

Last year of school? Cinch after going there for four years.
Last month of braces? It's gonna fly by after two years!
Driver's test? Piece of cake after practicing for a year.
Last hour of work? Vacation after the first seven hours.

You get the point.

The trick is not allowing the Panic Monster to chase you so far through the Dark Woods that you can't complete the task without it right at your heels, otherwise you won't really make it to the Happy Playground either. You'll be in that white space between the two amusement parks. The task will be done, but you won't really feel satisfied about it either.

But what about that Rainbow Road segment? The Flow, Urban calls it.

That, my dear friends, is when you get through enough of the Dark Woods that the task is not only no longer a struggle, but it's actually enjoyable! Think about all of your hobbies that you sort of dread doing now?

I know I felt that way about crocheting when I was working on my niece's blanket. I felt that way when I was building pixel-dolls in Photoshop for all 30+ characters on the X-Future board; especially with the time needed to just set everything up to piece together.

And how many of us feel that way about writing? It's no longer fun. It's almost an obligation. There's something there that made the Dark Woods look like something out of a slasher film.
Don't make me go in there!
You remember your brick laying and decide to push through. You'll make a friggen gorgeous brick path through these darn woods as you make your way to the Happy Playground! You fight your fears - perhaps of inadequacy - and make your way through the Dark Woods.

Before you know it, the woods don't seem so scary. In fact, they seem down right delightful. Screw the Happy Playground! You want to spend all your time here!
Who brought the picnic basket?
Congratulations, my friend, you just reached The Flow. We all know that feeling. When you are so in the zone you don't WANT the task to end. See above and my comment about marathoning writing for 8hrs straight! All of those hobbies that I dreaded I also ended up losing hours to without realizing it.

I went to bed late some nights because I WANTED to do another row - or two or three or four - of the blanket. I was in a groove and didn't want to stop. I lost DAYS in Photoshop putting together those pixel-dolls of the X-Future characters. I legit spent about 60hrs custom designing wrestlers in Xbox's WWE '13 so that they resembled the X-Future characters.

There are times where I would rather write than anything else.

There seems to be so much more satisfaction in The Flow than in the Happy Playground. Sure, you may feel satisfied that the house is clean, and now you can have three guilt-free hours of playing World of Warcraft. However, sometimes cleaning the house gets you in to a flow of organizing the house, and then doing home improvements. Next thing you know, you'd rather be staring at your gorgeous new living room than playing World of Warcraft. And it's not just because you're an adult.

Anyway, if you haven't guessed, I really enjoyed Urban's two-part blog about procrastination, and I think it will do everyone a world of good to read them too if they find themselves procrastinating more often than not.

Well, now that I've past through my Dark Woods of "Dear lord, I forgot it's Wednesday again, and I have to write my blog instead of officially starting my Staycation after a long, grueling week," I'm off to the Happy Playground of snuggling with my husband on our couch.

Until next week where I'll FINALLY get around to talking about the advancements I've made on the X-Future comic reboot.