Creative fuzziness and beach fantasies

That sounded a lot better in my head than it did in the title bar, but I don’t feel like going back at this point. Laziness wins this round.

Right. So I’m at a particularly frustrating point of stagnation where no new story ideas are really appearing in the murky, soupy goo that is my imagination, but present projects have halted to some degree. I’m continuing to work at them, but I’m also a particular kind of drained that doesn’t want to let up. This is a rare and luxurious time that I am grateful I’m not writing on a deadline or being depended upon by publishers (except for the short Five Nights At Freddy’s piece I need to write after this, which I actually forgot about for a moment there). It’s like turning on the television only to find static on every channel. More easily to relate to: it’s like turning on the television and having a million channels, but nothing to watch. I do have three boxes of Story Cubes (Story Cubes, Story Cubes Actions, and Story Cubes Voyages) that I may start making use of if this dry spell persists. On the plus side, I have returned to writing in my journal. That must count for something, probably.

I’m painfully aware that the best solutions for creative block of any sorts is to keep pushing yourself and creating new content, but that has gotten to be a bit of a monumental task on top of everything else (I’ve been marathon-cleaning my apartment, for instance). I don’t feel particularly guilty for hitting a dry spell and not feeling hugely motivated to fix it so much as I feel frustrated that my brain has chosen to go all soft and empty on me when it did. It’s obviously my brain’s fault, that’s the take-home point here. I really should give the Story Cubes a try, too, so maybe tomorrow will be the day I do exactly that.

As for now, however, I am already thinking fondly of my upcoming trip to the Outer Banks with my family. My mother and stepfather will be renewing their vows this summer, and instead of going on the Alaskan cruise they’ve wanted to go on since the honeymoon they never had they have decided a trip to the beach is in order. Make no mistake: I may be outrageously pale and not fond of the outdoors. Alternatively, I do love going for nighttime walks along the beach, having a private pool where I’m not as self-conscious about being a small hippopotamus, and being in the company of my family in a beach house (where privacy and hiding are both plausible when that company grows tiresome). There will be much reading and writing, too, but also plenty of winding down and enjoying the occasional alcoholic beverage (with or without tiny umbrellas).

Keeping all of that in mind: I still harbor a weird, mostly-irrational fear of the ocean, as I recall one vacation that happened after a hurricane. There were bazillions of jellyfish washed up on the shore and drifting about in the shallow water, and I was convinced they would kill me if I got too close. I never claimed to be a particularly smart person, people.

A foul mood bested by good food

Something about Spring cleaning combined with the last few days of vacation is a bit disgusting to me. Admittedly, this idea was one I had before I took this vacation, and so I only have myself to blame. Alternatively, I did manage to nearly Gorilla Glue two of my fingers together while trying to put a kitchen cabinet back together. I did, however, accomplish much of what I planned on achieving today, and more importantly I do now plan on doing more writing for my novel-project.

The best part of this Friday, aside from catching up on my shows, was dinner. My parents so very kindly sent me back to Altoona with a few goodies of the food variety, among which was some kielbasa. I cooked up said kielbasa, mixing it in with angel hair pasta and two varieties of alfredo sauce (four cheese and garlic). Added some additional garlic powder and a dash of cayenne to taste, and so my lousy Friday was bested by a generous helping of homemade comfort foods. Here’s the obligatory food picture so I feel less guilty about being lazy here in favor of working on the novel-project.

What I lack in plating skills I make up for with delicious food. Probably.

What I lack in plating skills I make up for with delicious food. Probably.

The dangers of repetition leading to babbling

I feel 100% better about writing this post now, as I’m doing so with a glass of rye whiskey. If anything is t be written about degenerating into babbling, it should be done with the company of a good spirit. I’m half-joking, and I must once again clarify that I only occasionally indulge in drinking alcohol as I have apparently caused people to believe I have alcoholic tendencies. Good god. Pardon the slightly grumpy tone, as I spent a good portion of my day cleaning, yet I feel there’s still infinitely more to do somehow.

Fun, well-known fact: if you repeat a word enough times it eventually loses its meaning and degenerates into nonsense. Babble. Or, if you’re stupid enough to prove this point to yourself by repeating the word repetition, as I did earlier, it becomes a tongue-twister. It makes sense, really, because you’re essentially reiterating the same piece of data over and over to the point where it stops holding a meaning and just becomes noise.

I would argue that the same could be said about approaching a task the same way. The act of repeating one thing over and over again, such as writing, eventually causes it to become noise. Babbling. However you want to put it. What if, however, there was just a little bit of a change to the repetition so it’s not quite repetition but a variation on the same thing? Take, for instance, the verb forms of to be. It’s not quite repeating, but it’s still the same thing in essence, and so instead of saying “I am” ad nauseam I would be going down a list of permutations (I am, you are, we are, they are, he is, she is, and so on and so on). The point is that changing things up, in probability, helps prevent from reaching that babble point.

This was actually going to be two separate topics, but I felt it might work better to combine the two. Topic one was about repetition, its impact on regular tasks, and how to potentially avoid that.

The other half is how I’m going to try switching things up in a big way next month, hopefully to the benefit of my focus as a writer. One of the biggest problems I have, and one that I’ve not really addressed any way, is my frequent use of social media as a distraction. To put it bluntly: I spend too much time dicking around on Facebook, Twitter, and other web sites when I could be writing, proofreading, editing, coming up with ideas, and so on. April showers bring May flowers, and for me they will also somehow bring a self-imposed month-long ban from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. The one exception I will be making to this is Instagram, as I don’t follow a tremendous number of people and it’s far less of a time-sink than the others. I only make this small concession as I will be going on vacation at the end of May, and I know myself well enough to know if I ban myself from EVERYTHING I’ll manage to shit it up. This, of course, also means I’ll need to uninstall the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone at the start of May, so that should be interesting.

Admittedly, I still need to hash out details like if I’ll allow myself to use Messenger or not, as what few social interactions I have take place on there and via text message, but those are details that can wait. There’s still plenty of April left.

I’m curious to see how a lack of Facebook and Twitter will impact my time management, my writing process, and how I handle my computer time.

Continuing to strike a balance

Vacation time has weird, magical properties. It begins slowly, passing like standard time. Suddenly, before you know it, the week’s over and it’s time to go back to work. I realize, of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Tomorrow’s Thursday, which means I have three more days of this week. Possibly one next week, but I can’t remember my own schedule (This is somewhat embarrassing, I should note, as I make the schedule. Womp womp.) at the moment. I’ll be heading back to good ol’ Altoona in the morning, which means I’ll be getting to cleaning and unpacking and whatnot. Alternatively, I still have plenty of time to squeeze in a little more rest and relaxation.

Tonight’s title is a bit inaccurate, as I’m only gradually migrating back towards striking a balance in terms of how much fiction writing, blogging, and reading I do in a week. I’ve done more reading and writing this week than previous weeks, which isn’t saying much since my fiction writing has been lagging. So has my reading. Shit happens, really. The important part is that I’m making progress, so instead of belaboring the point I’m going to enjoy a bit more work on my novel-in-progress later, but not before enjoying the company of my mom and stepdad.

Meanwhile, enjoy this lovely song from Steven Universe:

Phil’s Official Writing Challenge Guidelines

I would have titled this “How to Write In Ways That Will Make You Feel Like Your Soul is Dying”, but I realized that might be a hair melodramatic. Special thanks go to my college pal Andrew Webb for texting me last night with the following texts, as he was inadvertently responsible for this topic.

Phil, I have done a terrible job with writing since I stared working full time, how do you do it?”

I responded by saying I force myself to find time every day to write, even if it’s just a little. If I get stuck working on one thing, I focus on something else. Above all else, it’s important to find time for writing. That resulted in this response:

Do you force yourself to a genre or anything goes including journaling?

My phone had conveniently been switched to Do Not Disturb mode by that point, however, because I had to be awake at 6a.m. and those texts first arrived after 12:30 last night. Feeling somewhat guilty for not answering, and finding this to be a good blogging opportunity, I decided to give a long-form answer in the form of a proper writing challenge anyone can hold themselves to (for the sake of self-destruction, really). Keep in mind that I may be a subject matter expert of sorts, but I am by no means a be-all, end-all source of wisdom on writing and so this is mostly just issuing a challenge to help writing in the same way I’ve been keeping up with my writing. Feel free to adjust it in ways, and let me know what works best for you in the comments below. It can be a sort of note-comparing among creative folks who also like finding their limits and then using those limits to inflict torment upon themselves. I’m joking, mostly.

Also, I really should note how much of a gigantic ego-boost it is to have people asking me advice on writing. Holy shit, folks, that is awesome. Right. Moving on… Continue reading

Monday musings

Today has been a fun blend of good and bad, but I can’t really complain at this point since the good presently outweighs the bad. My trip to the dermatologist was relatively uneventful, but I have to get another mole removed so as to avoid continuing the somewhat time-honored tradition of potential skin cancer developing. Some inspiration may have struck, but now that I’m thinking it through I’m a bit iffy (the novel writing will, sadly, wait until tomorrow). In light of feeling like my skull has been used as a volleyball today (Yes, I know I spend a lot of time with headaches. It’s the blessing of having molars that extend into my sinuses.), here’s some of today’s thoughts, events, and creative (or not-so-creative) ideas.

  • Fudge Brownie ice from Rita’s Italian Ice tastes how I imagine Tootsie Rolls would taste if you melted them down, then froze them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing so much as a bit of an odd taste experience.
  • I was told to switch to Dove body wash today, as Old Spice is apparently drying out my skin. My dermatologist said Old Spice body wash is more about the perfume, which explains why I’ve been such a manly-stinking lizard of gross, shedding skin lately. She clarified that there is Dove for Men, and seemed puzzled when I responded by saying I just want something that doesn’t make me dry like the desert.
  • My Of Monsters And Men concert shirt has emerged from its hiding place! I apparently left it in Carnegie forever ago. It still fits, which means I’ve not gotten too much fatter since seeing OMAM in concert. Small victories, people.
  • The go-to response to seeing my tattoo is some variation of “I didn’t think you were a tattoo kind of guy”, followed by asking me if I really thought it through. I don’t take offense to this, however, as nothing comes close to having someone ask me if anyone has ever asked if they can lick my tattoo. No, by the way. No one has. I’d like to keep it that way, thanks.
  • I have a pretty good idea as to where I want to go with the next chapter of A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders, but I’m actually still on the fence. It’d be another sort of intermission chapter, building some much-needed humor back into the narrative, but…Actually, now that I think about it there are more pros than cons. No spoilers!
  • Mango Habanero chicken wings are my favorite kind of chicken wings, but no one does them nearly as well as Buffalo Wild Wings. Perfect balance of heat and sweet (I didn’t set out to make that rhyme, but I also had to take a good bit of ibuprofen to make my head stop hurting…so I’ll blame the headache).
  • Carnegie will always act as a second home to me, if only because living near Pittsburgh has spoiled me. Do I want to go out to eat? Plenty of choices. Movies? What theater should I go to? Or maybe I should buy tickets to a play or musical (or sporting event or concert and so on and so on)? That said, I still think most Pittsburgh drivers, especially everyone else on the Parkway, are completely insane. To be fair, those people probably call me insane (as well as other, more profane things).
  • I really want to get my next tattoo, but I also have to pretend I am a responsible adult who can manage his money without immediately leaping at shiny things. The reality is that I’m a magpie, and I need shiny things. Womp womp.

At any rate, I should be winding down for the night so as to make sure I get enough sleep for tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment/mole removal. I hope that you all, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, are having a relatively pleasant start to the week.

All Aboard the Hype Train – FNAF Edition

Naturally, the best way to approach this horrible idea was to buy all three games.

Naturally, the best way to approach this horrible idea was to buy all three games.

Happy Easter, or happy Sunday if Easter isn’t applicable. Either way, I hope you’re all having an at least moderately enjoyable weekend. I’m distracting myself with buffalo chicken dip as I write this, so there are no complaints here.

Instead of dancing around today’s topic, let me get to the point: I finally caved and bought the Five Nights At Freddy’s (FNAF for short) trilogy (or, rather, the three games that presently exist in a series that could continue) on Steam. I’ve mentioned, at least on two occasions, that I have a strange fascination with these games and how much of a following they’ve accrued, but I’m also terribly susceptible to jump scares. Not exactly the makings of a good purchase, so I instead lived vicariously through YouTube videos of people playing FNAF. After multiple viewings of Markiplier swear-babbling his way through all three games, as well as seeing The Completionist’s videos on this trilogy, I finally decided to take a chance at being the night shift security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Continue reading