Martial Arts Movies and My Flavor of Fandom

Big Giant Sword Fighting Avatar

A little known fact about me, is that I love martial arts movies and consider myself a fan. Today I am going to start with, what I feel, served as my launch pad into martial arts movies and my interest in art, games, books, movies, etc. from the Far East. Some of my earlier influences were Gremlins (1984), The Karate Kid (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Charlie Chan, and fables from Japan and China. In other words, it wasn’t any one specific thing, but a fascination that grew out of the American-facing snippets that I had access to about the Far East in general. As a kid learning and reading about new cultures for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the Far East for several reasons, and have been ever since to some degree. Mind you, I spent A LOT of time inhaling books as a kid and learned to read at an early age, and while I can’t say that I was immersed in pop culture, I definitely tapped into what I had access to, when I could.

Looking back, I can see this perfect storm of influences was further enhanced by Star Wars and a textbook I remember getting at a library sale. I loved (and still do!) Star Wars for many, many reasons. It wasn’t until much later that I realized one of the reasons why I loved these movies, was because there were Asian influences which I internalized. Darth Vader’s helmet, for example, was inspired by the samurai. But that, to me, really didn’t have as much of an impact as the relationship between Luke and Yoda did. The wise master teaching the young apprentice the ways of the Force, which was both mystical and powerful, which could be used for good or evil purposes… The swords that each Jedi protected and treasured, that were attuned to that warrior individually…(1)

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t know the creative forces behind Star Wars, or understood movie magic, or thought about the specifics about the many Chinese and Japanese cultures, other than what I could get from the books I had access to. All of these faraway places(2) and stories from the Far East seemed, like the rest of Star Wars–magical. So, to uncover more “secrets” of the Far East, I turned to books. I don’t know the name of the textbook, but I do remember I had a book that was very colorful and was bursting with stories. In the textbook, there were colorful, three dimensional pictures of kirigami to illustrate the different fables. I do recall that Urashima Taro was one of them, and the other was a fantastical romance about a shapeshifting kitsune who fell in love with a wayward traveler. I loved these stories dearly.

Before I end this post, I want to add a comment about the gargantuan element in the room: Karate Kid. The thing about Karate Kid, for me, was that it sparked my enthusiasm to check out other films with martial arts in them, to get to the source. Yes, I very much understood that this was an American movie, and I didn’t have any issues with that–but it inspired me to start watching other films that fulfilled my desire for authenticity and more from the Far East.

Next time, I’ll make a paltry effort to start picking apart specific films, and see where this trail leads…

(1) If you’re interested in this aspect of Star Wars, check out Star Wars and Philosophy.
(2) They are on my list of places to visit some day, and I hope I’ll be able to afford to go.

    Mood: Pre-convention stress exacerbated by a hot, hot summer.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Now trying to figure out how to balance non-carbonated caffeine. In hell.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Yogatastic
    In My Ears: Too much in between them!
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: A big-ass stack for research. Again.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Um…
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon!

Whispers in the Wind

Gromit Reading Avatar

I’ve had a number of people tell me over the past couple of months that I seem different, more relaxed and chill. This is true for a large number of reasons, some of which are diet-related, and others due to the fact that I’ve gotten closure on a number of long, drawn out situations that had been going on for a number of years. You’ll forgive me if I don’t expound on that last, but one of my coping mechanisms to having a public profile is that I need a buffer between me and Ye Olde Internet, so I tend not to post about the overly personal. Also: onions have layers. And, I’m related to Shrek in some fashion. I can pretty much guarantee it.

There are some things on my mind I do want to quickly address and share with you, so let me get right to it. Shanna Germain had mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that we should start proposing panels to cope with online harassment and negativity. I remember, many years ago, someone told me that Neil Gaiman had talked about professional PR training. (Like with many things in the sphere of the big “G”, I can’t confirm that as I don’t know him personally and didn’t find the exact quote, but I felt it was worth posting the original comment anyway, as it’s great advice.) I’ve been on the hunt for PR training ever since that time, and they don’t offer this service in my area. Panels, on the other hand, are a fantastic and welcome substitute for specific issues related to this topic. Having these conversations, I feel, is something that can help both new and established professionals who have a public persona and often find it difficult to cope with the eroding line between fan and creator, troll and victim. Many of my coping mechanisms are related to anchors that I do behind-the-scenes, so if you’re hoping for some things you can do in terms of sanity checks, let me know and I’ll draw up a post about it.

The second thing is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that, as I mentioned a few years ago now, I’m not the person to blog about contemporary topics or online kerfuffles. I’ve since come to terms with the fact that this is decidedly the case, as I do not feel a) qualified or b) able to keep up with the ever-changing nuances of particular issues. In addition to the time investment, I’ve realized that reading about these sorts of things does the one thing that I cannot allow — it impacts my work. When I was attending RWA meetings on a regular basis a while back, I remember Christine Merrill talking about how important it was to Protect The Work. I could see how Life, The Universe, and EverythingTM can get in the way of the work to some degree, but I didn’t grok that what’s happening online is a big part of that as well. For me, words are music. (It’s one of the reasons why I can mimic voices fairly well on the written page.) When I’m online, I hear dissonance. I hear vocal gymnastics and fireworks. I rarely hear the soft lullaby or the chirping of crickets during twilight. It’s always loud on the internet, and I need the exact opposite of that when I’m creating. I need that breathing room to stretch out and be safely free to roam.

There are, however, people that are doing amazing work and I’m going to try to shine the spotlight on them more often. My friend Emily Care Boss is one of those people. She was doing things in game design ten years ago that are just now starting to become more important. You can read more about her perspective on Gaming As Women and in this interview with Emily, here. The second person I want to mention today is Alethea Kontis. (Her name is pronounced Ah-Lee-Thee-Ah.) She’s recently put out a new collection called Tales of Arilland. Check it out!

That’s all I have time for today, since I just got back from CONvergence. I had a fantastic time, and there’s a lot of great things that came out of this show. Additionally, I had two firsts for my Build-a-World game show. (Three, if you count it was the last panel of the show!) First, some of the participants were so inspired that they now want to write in the world they created. Second, one of the participants, Martha Wells, did this fantastic write up about Build-a-World. Thanks to Martha, Catherine, Tex, Carrie, Paul, and John for participating, and to all the audience members who came out. It was a blast, and I’m happy to answer that “Yes!” There’s more on the horizon. Can’t wait to share all the news!

    Mood: This is my Chill Face
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Convention recovery.
    In My Ears: Crappy rendition of Nothing Else Matters. Hey, you asked…
    Game Last Played: Ashamed to admit I have a new addiction. Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: [Research-Related]
    Movie Last Viewed: Ascension from SyFy
    Latest Artistic Project: Coloring!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon!

Observations on Netflix’s Original Programming

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I know I haven’t blogged in a while, and I deeply apologize for that. There’s been a lot going on (good and bad) in my corner of the universe, so my convention reports are slow going. I’ve been meaning to blog about Netflix’s original episodes for a while now, though, and I feel that the debut of Sense8 is a great opportunity to dive into my thoughts about Netflix’s original programming. Without further adieu, let me dive into why I feel that this is a landmark moment in television and fantastic for script writers.

Back After Commercial

American sitcoms, in particular, have traditionally been structured to map the story to based on when the viewer is watching the screen. However, even if placement is marked within an episode to account for commercials, the fact that the presentation doesn’t have them at all (or, in Hulu’s case has limited and repetitive commercials) is pretty important to how that show is received by the viewer. When you’re watching all scenes concurrently, you don’t necessarily see the seams that are present to account for commercials. This, in my mind, is especially true of Sense8. You don’t get any commercial breaks, so you’re essentially watching the episode from start to finish, even though you can pause at any point.

While the viewing a show with “no commercials” has been done for a while, I felt this was valuable to point out because a lack of commercials is an effective way to get viewers to watch original programming. I feel there’s a push-pull relationship between the audience and the writers here. There’s a difference between writing a show with no commercials in mind versus writing a show with them in mind. There is, however, also a difference between watching a show that doesn’t have any commercials versus viewing it in its entirety. That dynamic can lead to the overall experience of any series, and I’m of the opinion that this is one of Netflix’s selling points for their original series.

Release Schedule

To me, if and when episodes are released also have an impact on structure and audience feedback. If you’re releasing “an” episode a week instead of a full season’s story arc, that also impacts how the viewer may/will be left hanging. Once Upon a Time (Huge fan of that show, here…) is offered one episode per week on network television and is then viewable on Similar to LOST, it’s viewed in halves as opposed to the full run, so you get a smaller number of episodes before a break in the same season. In many cases, a previous season is then released on Netflix, so I can’t get the current content and I’m not guaranteed that it will hit Netflix at a particular point. This means I’m encouraged to sign up for and keep watching the current episodes over there. Any pre-packaged show that’s released as a full season doesn’t have the same issues as a show that is doled out week-by-week, because the number of viewers isn’t married to a time slot. The other issue I see with any temporal viewing of a show, is that once a TV show airs, it’s usually gone unless backed up by a secondary source. Due to the volume of media that’s out there nowadays, viewers have more choices than ever before to watch what they want, so I’m guessing the rate of abandonment could be a lot higher.

The “time slot curse”, to my limited understanding of what happened, is partly why Constantine didn’t get picked up again [link and link]. The show originally aired in a 10 p.m. Friday night time slot, and was moved for the last five episodes two hours earlier. I don’t envy the people involved in trying to figure out what would make this show work. The data for television viewing is now scattered across multiple platforms, because that’s how people are viewing TV shows now-a-days. That makes it hard to collate data to find out who’s watching what and when, especially since those methods were static for far too long.

Data collation and analysis is now far more sophisticated than it’s every been, and I’ve often seen decisions made based on an outlier or data that highlights a bigger problem (e.g. Like the time slot), as opposed to looking at trends and comparisons. That’s not to say that’s what is happening here, mind you, but I think there’s a case to be made for challenges with analysis when certain questions are important. If a decision-maker is just focused on the number of viewers, fans, etc. then there’s bound to be challenges with the outcome, because often the whys/hows/whens paint a broader and more complete picture of what’s going on, since the data is the result not the reason for what’s going on.

Mind you, as a creative professional myself I don’t always feel that data-driven decisions are what’s best for any show creatively, but they are the nature of the beast since money is a factor. In Constantine‘s case, I feel the massive cancellation rumors that began to swell last fall before the first season was done being aired turned a number of viewers off. Rooting for the underdog is one thing, but most viewers–including myself–want to see a Season 2 especially if the first season ends on a cliffhanger. Otherwise, what’s the point in getting fully vested in a show that’s about to be canceled? By the time the show changed time slots, it was too late — which is unfortunate. I really liked this iteration of Constantine and was hoping it’d find a home. Still do.

Fortunately, Netflix doesn’t have to worry about time slots or data collection issues outside of some potential lost data that occurs from certain browsers or platforms. Thus, there’s a distinction to be made between any show that’s sold pre-packaged, as it also seems to be the case with Netflix [Link], versus filming episodes on-the-fly per whatever the contract terms are. I’m of the opinion that longer contracts are better for shows all around, because the end result always seems to be of a higher quality. Babylon 5, in my mind, is a stellar example of television because the show had a determinate plot that breathed specifically and intentionally over the course of a few seasons. While there were some lighter-themed “Here’s the space station issue of the week” stories in each season, the metaplot and build up to that end game seemed to have been designed from the beginning. Often, the opposite seems to hold true. There’s no doubt in my mind that Whedon’s Firefly and Dollhouse, had they been extended beyond their short life spans, would have given him even more opportunities for his stories to breathe, especially given his expert handling of ensemble casts.

No Need to Press “Record”

As a follow-up to my previous point, the fact that a viewer can log in at any time to watch (or rewatch) any episode within a particular show is a Pretty Big Deal to me. Netflix logs where you stop watching the series and a specific episode so you know where you left off. You don’t have to set up a TiVo or sit around pressing the Record button; it’s simply there for you to watch when you want to. To me, this means that the act of viewing an episode is more passive than active, because viewers simply need to log into Netflix and watch the show whenever they want. No other action is required. I feel that means that the hook for the show better be damn good, because if all viewers need to do is show up, there should be a compelling reason why that is.

Though their original programming is newish, many of the later shows appear to be more unique than they were in the past, even approaching demographics (age/sex/etc.) that are often underexplored in the television format. I don’t want to derail this post too much, but I feel that this has allowed creative professionals to be more creative, to take more risks, and to tell the fearless stories they’ve been dying to tell. To me, this opportunity has to do more with money than anything else. Translation: in many verticals, investors often play it safe by basing their purchase decisions on what came before, instead of taking a chance on something new, because the data exists to show what worked and what didn’t. However, with so many options for viewing trying to grab people’s attention, I feel we’re now in a television renaissance.

Censors, Censors, Censors

The F-Bomb. Sex. Graphic violence. Etc. Etc. Etc. Netflix doesn’t seem to worry about censors. This has opened the door to writing that doesn’t typically need to follow certain guidelines that have been in place for years, which allows creators to take certain risks according to the needs of the story they want to tell, as opposed to the story they have to tell within the confines of certain guidelines. With no commercials and no language/content restrictions, shows can take more risks of an experimental nature. Though the structure is dependent upon a certain number of minutes which is, in Sense8‘s case 48 minutes long, the writers and producers do seem to be less confined. Some comparisons could probably be made to cable television shows, especially when they first aired back in the day, and I feel that there are some parallels to that evolution given the nature of how original programming is also making waves.

Thoughts on Sense8

So far, I’ve seen the first couple of episodes of Sense8, and in my mind there’s a certain amount of comic book-style storytelling that’s occurring in this show. Looking at similar shows in the genre, namely The 4400 and Heroes, Sense8 seems to be heading toward a specific ending in mind that makes sense for the overarching plot. First, we have to get “to” the plot — which is shrouded in mystery. I feel this was intentionally done, because there’s a specific story-related issue that will arise from a plot where eight strangers from around the world are interconnected telepathically. Once they master their shared abilities, whatever those happen to be, then there’s a good possibility that there’s no where else for them to go. That conflict, and the conflict with the outside force that hunts them, has to be introduced slowly. Otherwise, there’s no hook anymore.

While I haven’t nerded out enough to see how many minutes are devoted to the characters, they have mostly been shown (so far) in pairs each time they appear. The eight characters that are located around the world give the plot some weight, because any organization that’d be after these individuals would have a much harder time trying to find them. Also, the use of an ensemble cast is a fantastic way to highlight diversity either in a specific city or, in this case, to show how truly random these characters area. The ensemble cast, in particular, is something I think a lot of writers should pay attention to. There’s a lot of rich characterization with these characters that goes beyond ability, and I feel it’s worth watching for that reason.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Netflix, original programming, and television at the moment. Television is such a fun format, and I’m glad to see there’s some innovation happening. Exciting times!

    Mood: 50% Zen. 50% caffeine withdrawal.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Some, trying to get a handle on it. Cut out diet soda. Feel awful.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Three blarghs for leg lifts.
    In My Ears: Some crap that’s classical mixed with east coast house. Me no likely.
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: I have a stack next to my machine for research.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: On Season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    Latest Artistic Project: Um…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Gothic Icons, Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim, and Ghosts in the Black
    What I’m Working On: Read my latest project update. Plus, pitching. Oy.

Dealing with Negativity and Burnout Part 2

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

Last time, I wrote a very long post about online negativity as a lead up to this post about dealing with burnout. I asked around for advice, and the majority of the tips were related to taking a break from the internet and switching projects. I’ve got a different perspective on this, which I’ll share below. As all of my posts, please keep in mind that I am not a fan of OneTrueWayisms: I trust you that you will do what works for you. This is simply how I deal with it.

Fried to a Crisp

I feel being burnt out is a state of being. When I’m fried, it’s because there’s too much (words or data) coming in or too much going out. Often, but not always, that information can trigger a range of emotions which are not always healthy. A clickbait article that’s designed to get you so pissed off, you just have to comment on it or share it. A kerfluffle that involves something or someone you care about, that everyone continues to talk about–including you. One too many rejections, bad reviews or critiques, Real LifeTM events… All of these things can have an impact on productivity because, as a writer, the more words and emotions I absorb from other sources, the more I’ve found that impacts my original work or prevents me from being excited about writing for other properties.

When it’s related to the internet, that’s unwanted information and junk emotions I’m putting into my brain. When it’s not, the process for dealing with that information and those emotions may be different, but it’s still going to have an impact on my mental health. For me, dealing with Real LifeTM triggers is vastly different from online negativity, but I feel that there are some similarities to dealing with burnout once I’m at that point. That said, there is a specific lesson that all creative professionals are forced to learn when it comes to online criticism.

Creative Criticism Is Not About You

I am not, and I want to be very clear about this, dissing fans or fandom in this section. This is about the negativity of the words that are used which, in most cases, is all creative professionals have to go on. Whether it’s our own work or when we contribute to a licensed property, criticism and negative feedback related to what we produce is typically not about the quality of who we are as human beings because those comments are shared by total strangers.

Most fans do not understand all of the steps (or time) required to create a movie, TV show, game, novel, etc. nor are they aware of the legal, professional, or contractual obligations we have–and nor should they feel obligated to understand every nuance. No matter how much we talk about process, it’s hard to relate to producing creative works until you’ve actually done it yourself in the same way that person has. For years, the walls between creator and fan were extraordinarily thick, and now that they’re thin when a fan reacts negatively to a work the creator can be contacted or, in some cases, harassed. Even when a company clearly highlights those steps there’s often criticism because the fan or consumer isn’t working at that company and their emotions for the property, coupled with high demand for that product, outweigh their understanding of what needs to happen behind-the-scenes.

Typically, the more popular the property or the release, the more chances you’ll get negative feedback. It’s the law (and luck) of numbers. You could sell 1,000 copies and if 10% of people respond and leave reviews, that’s 100 people. Of those 100 people, some will simply rate it with a starred review and not leave any commentary. Others will write a review, and then you’ll get people throwing out feedback–for better or for worse–via social media. Often, and I see this happen a lot, there is absolutely no guarantee that that person has even seen or paid for the work, and they’re simply responding to an image or a comment someone else made. And don’t forget about click bait articles engineered to piss people off by slamming a work for eyeballs on the page!

This is simply how the internet works and, unfortunately, this part of the feedback cycle can take its toll on creative professionals. It is what it is and I highly doubt it will change. I rarely, if ever, see how works that do address controversial issues are lauded for what they’ve done right in addition to the nitpicks, and many satisfied fans don’t take the time to leave reviews for a variety of reasons. That is not their fault and I firmly believe that reviews aren’t an obligation. They are optional and they do help, sure, but I can’t make those kinds of demands on readers. Here’s my fear, though: too much negative feedback, especially for shows and movies that reach thousands and millions of viewers, will push creators into producing materials that are “safe” or downright boring for fear of causing waves–especially when there’s harassment attached to a specific subject as proven by what other creators are doing.

To me, that is dangerous because that leads to censoring what we work on in the brainstorming phase and the end result suffers. To prevent burnout, we need to be allowed to suck, even if we’re the only ones to see it, because that’s how we grow and improve and change as creative professionals. I know this lesson is a hard one to learn, but I do feel it’s one every creative professional eventually realizes in their own way. In most cases, negative feedback about a book/game/movie/piece of art is not saying YOU suck as a human being; it is saying that fans didn’t like the work or a part of what was done, and they’ve attributed that criticism to you–all of you–as the creator. That can be impossible to separate, and this is a big contributing factor to burnout in my humble opinion.

When Blacketh Is Thy Mood

First and foremost, I am not a believer in restraining your emotions and preventing yourself from feeling bad. If you need to feel something? You feel it. Yes, there is such a thing as too much emotion, especially if you’re feeling depressed for far too long or angry, but in healthy doses emotions are part of being human. What led to you having those emotions, like misinformation or what-have-you, can be the cause of feeling something you later realize you shouldn’t have but that, too, is normal.

After recognizing I’m in a foul mood or I’m burnt out from feeling too much negativity, I do limit my internet connectivity, exercise the block button, and watch my caffeine intake, but I also have a list of other actions I take. I have no time for hate. None. I hope these steps are helpful for you!

  • Step 1: Identify Trigger(s) – Knowing what pisses me off or what led to my burnout is really important to prevent it from happening again. Here, I also recognize what type of burnout it is. Either too much coming in, or too much going out.
  • Step 2: Sensory Deprivation – I have a pair of noise-canceling headphones I use to listen to… Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I sometimes use meditation as well, but I find the noise-canceling headphones work great for me. Then, I can hear very clearly how loud everything is and work to quiet it down.
  • Step 3: Throwing Out the Trash – If there’s too much coming in, and my head is overloaded, then I need to get rid of it. I do not use a computer (e.g. conductor) for this step. It’s good old-fashioned pen-to-paper freewriting, and I do as much or as little as I need to. If there’s too much going out, then I do the same thing, but I focus on identifying where my emotional leaks are. Sometimes, I need to use this step to clearly identify who or what is bugging me and affecting my productivity.
  • Step 4: Formulate a Plan – I make lists of everything I’m doing and rank those tasks/items by my priorities and set deadlines. Then, I cut off what I don’t need to do. Simplify, simplify, simplify. This list includes everything from what shows I watch to the errands that I run. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. The less flotsam and jetsam I have to worry about, the better. This also serves as a reminder, by the way, about what is important to steer me back toward the center.
  • Step 5: Do Something Nice – Here I take a break and do something for myself, my loved ones, or for other people. At my worst, I write fan letters to other creative professionals. I design jewelry and give those away as gifts to my friends or, if I’m feeling like I need some TLC, I do something great for myself. If I can afford it, I’ll give to charity. Technically, I am doing something to counteract the negativity that is not focused on work. It is focused on something that makes me feel good, which serves as a jumping off point.
  • Step 6: Cleansing and Positive Space – Work out. Do yoga. Take a shower. Dress up. Clean the house. Declutter. This almost always has a positive impact on me, because cleaning and looking like a slob can be a sign of Writer’s Avoidance Behavior. When it’s done, there is no excuse–and it has a profound psychological impact on my mood. If my burnout is really bad, I will change my environment by redecorating or shifting work spaces.
  • Step 7: Revisit my Goals – After all this is done, then I take the plan from Step 4 and I revise it. 90% of the time, my first draft will incorporate unrealistic goals because I’m feeling anxious. This time I opt for honesty in terms of what I can get done instead of what I want to get done. While forgiving oneself is definitely key, I feel that knowing how I work and what my typical output is like is the absolute best way to reach achievable goals. I know that first to-do list? Never gonna happen. Realistic goals sometimes take work to figure out.
  • Step 8: Transferring Plan – I transfer the plan a second or third time to a different medium. I have an elaborate spreadsheet set up. Even if I don’t revisit that spreadsheet for some time, by processing the information into that format I am solidifying my goals and reinforcing that yes, these are serious milestones.
  • Step 9: Plan for Happiness and Breaks – The zoo. A coffee shop. Seeing friends. Museum. Whatever it is, I plan it (usually on the cheap) because just focusing on the work is going to kill me considering I am attempting to fix being burnt out. I have to plan breaks, otherwise I’ll go nuts! This way, I’m not living to work, even though I love it. Heck yes, I’m an entrepreneur and I love my job, but I have to plan downtime because otherwise I’ll just get burnt out again. Sometimes, too I’ll plan to see a funny movie or listen to a beloved audiobook. Even if I don’t write it down, I am choosing what makes me happy to replace what made me sad.
  • Step 10: Sleep. Get Dressed. – Once all that is done, I get up the next morning and get dressed–YES THAT MEANS PANTS–as if I’m heading into the office. If I want to take my job seriously, then I need to take me seriously. Then? I start small and go, go, go…

Well, that’s all the time I have today. I hope this is helpful and gets you thinking about what works (and what doesn’t) for you. Burnout is something all of us can experience, and I feel this, in particular, is something we need to help each other out on.

    Mood: Proud and determined, dammit.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: WOO! One cup!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Post-con haze.
    In My Ears: The almighty dryer.
    Game Last Played: Kingdoms of Amalur: Age of Reckoning
    Book Last Read: Commedia della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbo
    Movie Last Viewed: Clueless
    Latest Artistic Project: Chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Gothic Icons and Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim
    What I’m Working On: Read my latest project update.

Breaking Down Success

Fire She-Ra Avatar

I realize I owe you a post about ways to combat burnout, and another one about essentialism versus mutual respect…but I’m on deadline. The end of this month marks a milestone for me that I can hopefully share with you at one point. Instead, today I want to talk about yesterday and why I feel it’s important.

A lot of people wonder what it takes to be successful. I hear a lot of talk about getting published, or the right vs. wrong way to tell a story, etc. etc. etc. To me, unless you’re looking to fulfill a specific goal, all that can get in the way of productivity because you start worrying about what you should be doing than focusing on what you’re actually doing. I get into trouble, sometimes, because I tend to oversimplify complex concepts. I remove the flotsam and jetsam because as a creative, I have to be conscious about what I’m putting in my head and what’s coming out of it. (I’ll talk about more about that in my post about burnout.) Part of that, too, is not worry about what success is or isn’t, but focusing on what matters to me.

My world is very simple when I’m staring at my keyboard. I have a deadline. Did I meet that? If not, why and what can I do to be better about achieving it? I have people I work with. How can I be a better collaborator, leader, and co-worker? I have bills to pay. Did I pay them? If not, what do I need to do to pay them? If I don’t have a deadline, how do I get another one? How do I assign deadlines to my spec work so I’m pushing myself further? Then, when my novels come out, with any luck I’ll be focused on engaging readers, too.

When I look “up”, however, there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. There’s a world where I am judged by fans, by people I don’t work with, by potential publishers, etc. That world doesn’t know what I’m doing on my keyboard, or what I’ve done that hasn’t seen the light of day, or any of my experiences in business or music, etc. That world doesn’t care about what I did in the distant past or what I’m doing right now because it’s not out yet. That world? Only cares about what I did yesterday. Or, more specifically, what I released yesterday.

Again, I realize I’m oversimplifying here… I do think about (and plan for) what I want in the future, but that impacts what I work on rather than how other people perceive me. My point is that it doesn’t do me any good to worry about anything other than creating more “yesterdays,” because that’s the only thing I can control. There are so, so, so many writers out there who are hustling–and they’re unknown–making a full-time living at this. Are they any less successful than the writer who writes an award-winning story? Does that really even matter? Sometimes, I think we get so worked up about defining what is and isn’t successful, that it winds up hurting us because that word–success–is incredibly subjective.

I try to worry about what I can control and what I can learn from my mistakes. (Like my terrible comma usage in this post, for example.) I don’t aim to be perfect, because that’s not realistic. Over time, I realized I can’t make up a publisher’s mind by talking about what I haven’t finished yet, and it hurts me to stop writing because I’m “waiting” for a release to happen or for anyone else to validate my work. Yes, awards will help my career, but I’d much rather focus on putting out work I’m proud of, because I feel that’s better for my definition of success and to serve readers, fans, etc. If I haven’t hit that sweet spot yet where readers are happy? That means I have to do something new and fresh that will, and I will keep doing that. In a way, I hope they never are, because I can’t imagine not writing or not trying to make something happen.

In order for me to be productive, I feel it’s more important to care about what I can focus on right now, the readers and the fans and the people I know right now, so I can continue to make a living and have more yesterdays. I cannot, and will not, be able to control what other people think. (I wouldn’t want to, anyway.) That way lies madness, and crafting a careful marketing image/persona is secondary to my work. The work has to come first. Being “popular” is not my focus, because I am not a celebrity who is honing my image based on “who” I am. Being a celebrity is a job, and very few writers are also actual celebrities. That’s not how I get paid, and everything I do in public feeds the work.

Time to hustle!

    Mood: F-f-f-f-f-f-feisty
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: On my third cup
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: There was walking!
    In My Ears: White noise.
    Game Last Played: Kingdoms of Amalur: Age of Reckoning
    Book Last Read: Commedia della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbo
    Movie Last Viewed: Can’t remember…
    Latest Artistic Project: Chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Gothic Icons and Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim
    What I’m Working On: Read my latest project update.

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