Looking to the Future

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There is one question that everyone, at one point or another, gets asked, and it always stumps me. And my answer usually takes more explaining than either party was prepared for.
 
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? X number of years?
 
My first reaction usually involves a momentary brain choke. Some people may jump immediately into panic mode. It seems like such a simple question but it forces us to stare straight into the great unknown and that can be terrifying.
 
There are some people who have their whole lives planned out. They know exactly what they want to do, exactly who they want to be. They make those of us who aren’t like that wonder what we are doing wrong.
 
I wondered that myself for a while. I wondered if I would ever get anywhere in my life.
 
It took a while, but I finally realized something. There is nothing wrong with me.
 
I just look at things differently.
 
You see, part of why the future is so scary is because of the unknown. Often times in stories the most powerful character is the one that has the ability to see the future. We want to have some sense of control over our lives.
 
The unknown doesn’t have to be scary, though. It can be wonderful.
 
Things in life rarely go as planned. Life is complicated. It is weird. And above all, it is chock full of the unexpected.
 
Its okay if you don’t have all the details figured out. Its okay if all you have is a general idea of where you would like to eventually be. It’s okay.
 
Right now, at this point in my life, given all the variables, I have a general picture of what my life could look like in five years. That is assuming nothing changes.
 
That assumption is what gives me hope. Because things change. There is no telling what amazing opportunities will wander into your life on down the road.
 
If you had told me five years ago that I would be sitting here, working on this blog post after finishing a Twitch stream (and the game I was streaming), with a YouTube channel, a few freelance gigs and plans to launch a podcast or two…I would probably have started laughing after the first few items. I never imagined that my life would turn out this way, but I am so glad it did.
 
Of course, I have plans for the future. A list of things that I would like to have accomplished and a picture of what I want my life to look like. It is all very general, though. Because I want to stay open to whatever comes my way.
 
There are benefits to being flexible, being adaptable. I learned a long time ago to go with the flow because you never know what will happen. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, you have to find a way to keep going forward.
 
Now, I am in no way telling you to not chase your dreams. By all means, chase it. Even if it seems impossible, never stop chasing your dream.
 
Your chosen job/industry may be hard to get into. I know mine is. It may feel impossible. It is possible, it might be difficult. These things take time, patience, and a fair amount of networking. Find something that will keep you afloat in the meantime. Use that income to fund your dream, and keep your eyes open for any unexpected opportunities.
 
You never know what life may throw your way. Keep your mind open and be ready for anything.
 
Never stop dreaming. And never stop hoping for tomorrow.

Just Write

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If writers are good at one thing, we are really good at procrastinating when we should be writing. It happens all of the time. I am especially guilty of this. I wrote a story during my junior year of high school and I still have not finished the second draft. I graduated from college in December.

There are lots of reasons we don’t write. We don’t have the motivation. We don’t have the time. We aren’t in the zone. Or, my personal favorite, the story isn’t ready yet.

At least, that is what we say.

We really avoid it because we aren’t ready. There is something holding us back. We are afraid of failure, of rejection. We are afraid to try because we don’t know if anyone is listening.

I know I can’t be the only one who is tired of this. It is time for us to overcome the things that are holding us back and move past everything that is holding us back. It is time for us to start writing.

The thing is, your novel isn’t going to write itself. As amazing as that would be, it is simply not going to happen. You have to sit down, put your fingers on your keys, and get to work.

If your response is “my story isn’t ready yet”, I have something to say to that. I spend about a month prepping a plot outline for NaNoWriMo, got 64 pages through and I could not get the story moving. It was terrible. During that time, though, I created two characters who ended up taking over the story. It turns out I was telling the wrong story about the wrong characters.

My point is, no matter how much preparation you put into your novel the story will change as you write it. It will breathe, grow, take you in directions you never expected. As you write your story will improve because you realize that certain things you have will not work. You find other things that will work better. You find and fill all of the plot holes as you go.

Your story can’t go anywhere if you don’t start writing it.

Another common struggle I see among writers is “why bother writing if no one is going to read it?” We convince ourselves that no one could possibly be interested in what we have to say. This could come from getting shut down when we try and talk about certain things or just a low self-esteem. We think we have nothing to offer.

Sometimes, you just have to write for yourself. Don’t worry about what your friends will think. Don’t worry about your family’s opinion. Don’t worry about what anyone else would say or think. You have a story inside of you, and even if you never show it to anyone else, you should still write it. Get it down on paper. You owe it to yourself to prove that you are capable of writing that story. That you are capable of finishing something.

If you are worried about what other people might think because of the content of the story, you can always publish under a pseudonym. This can also be helpful if you normally write in another genre, to prevent confusion.

Something else to keep in mind if you are worried no one will like your story. Consider this. Are you part of a fan community? Do you share interests and passions with other people? Do you yourself enjoy the story you have created?

If you answered yes to any of these, then I can guarantee that someone somewhere will like your book. I’ll go more into this in a later post, but trust me when I say that if you tell a good story people will like it. They will read it. They will identify with the characters. They will enjoy the plot. They will see that you did it and realize that they can do it too.

But none of this will happen if you never finish the dang book.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some writing to do.

My Battle with Writer’s Block

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I have competed in NaNoWriMo every year but one since 2011, to varying degrees of success. And by varying degrees of success I mean I have never won but I did finish some of the stories. This past year, though, I had an interesting experience.

Plotting started a few months before November. I had already been chewing on the idea for a while and it was finally the way I liked it. I developed the characters, laid out how I wanted things to unfold. I was ready to go.

64 pages and 23 days in I finally gave up. There were maybe 12 pages that I was okay with. Everything else I hated. I tried at least six different ways but could not for the life of me get it started. I liked the world, I liked the characters, but everything else I couldn’t stand.

So I shelved the story and tried to move on with my life. This is one of the worst cases of writer’s block I have ever had. Not counting the time I finished a story and then could not look at it again for a year.

I could not for the life of me figure out what the problem was.

I continued playing around with the idea every so often for the next few months, hoping I would find some way to make the story come to life.

That is when it happened. Two side characters who had been creeping along the edge of the narrative stepped forward, bringing with them the few pages of another unfinished story. One of them had existed since the beginning and the other showed up in one of the attempted introductions. Both were important to the story, though I could never quite figure out their motivations.

I was a little confused when they came up to me. We all sat down with a cup of tea and they told me the whole story. Their story. Piece by piece things started clicking together. It took some time and a two hour Skype call with a friend to iron out some of the details, but the story was finally ready to be told.

The main cause of writer’s block is because the story is not ready to be told. Either it needs more work or you personally are not ready to write it yet. Anxiety and insecurity can play a big part in this. I will dive further into this topic at a later date.

The good news is, there are ways to cope with writer’s block. Take a break. Try it from a different angle. Talk it through with another writer or storyteller or creative person. Drop your characters down a hole and see how they get out of it. Take them to the circus.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on writing. Just because you are stuck, just because it doesn’t look like things are working out the way you want them to, doesn’t mean it’s the end. Writing is hard. It is also very subjective. Keep an open mind and don’t lose hope.

You can do this.

The Audacity of Tenacity

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This is for the dreamers. For the people who have always had a goal that no one thought they can reach.

Some want to write a book. Some want to run a 5k. Maybe you want to start your own business.

These are all things I myself have wanted to do at one point or another, among countless other things.

The hardest thing can be finding the motivation.

We often find ourselves surrounded by people who tell us we can’t do it. They tell us that our dreams are silly. Why don’t we focus on other things?

Why don’t we find a real job instead of chasing some silly dream?

Here is what I say to that.

They don’t know your passions like you do. They don’t know your skills like you do.

When they look at your dream, they see it from their perspective and to them, it is impossible.

This is where the good news comes in.

It is very possible.

It will take a lot of hard work. It will probably require you spend a fair amount of time researching and learning new things.

You will have to try new things, learn new tools. You will have to network with people. You will have to step outside of your comfort zone a bit.

It is possible, though.

Your journey will not look like other people’s. It will take a while before those around you starts to appreciate what you are trying to do.

Don’t give up.

Keep chasing that dream.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to prove yourself to the world. That just leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

Start small. Create a plan. Follow the plan. Prove to yourself that you can do it.

If it doesn’t work out, so what? Failure is not the end. Trust me, I have failed before. It hurts. It may feel like everything is over, but its not. Failure is just a chance to try again.

Get up, dust yourself off, and try something new. There is always more out there for you to try.

Chase your dreams. Live your life to the fullest. Don’t let anyone stand in your way, least of all yourself.

Keep on working until your dream becomes a reality.

Be audacious. Be tenacious.

When you are done, the world won’t know what hit them.

Why the end does(n’t) matter

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In the 300th issue of Game Informer, they listed the top 300 games of all times.  Mass Effect 3 was ranked #99 (above Breath of the Wild!).

Yet I would be willing to bet money that there are still people who hate the ending.

The most popular argument is that the options you are given in the end don’t match up with the common themes of the game. There are also MULTIPLE jokes about color coded endings.

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You have the paragon and renegade control endings.

The Reapers prefer the synthesis ending (it personally creeps me out).

And then you have the destroy ending, the one ending I can’t bring myself to chose.

People have come up with all kinds of theories to explain the oddity that is the ending, the most popular of which being the Indoctrination Theory (I highly recommend Game Theory’s version)

I even have my own indoctrination theory about how the Reapers have been unintentionally indoctrinating all organic life towards their way of thinking throughout the entirety of their existence. More of that later.

Back the point of this post. My defense of the ending of Mass Effect 3.

No matter what your opinion of the ending is, there is one thing you probably haven’t considered.

Let me ask you a question.

How many times have you replayed the series?

I am currently on my third play through. The ending punches me right in the gut each time I play. It doesn’t matter that I pick the same ending, it still tugs on every single one of my heartstrings.

If there had only been one ending, it would not have had as much of an impact. If the ending had been everyone living happily ever after, I may not have been as compelled to live through the story again and again.

This is a game where all of your decisions matter. Where you represent the hope for the future. So, what happens if, in the end, you refuse to decide?  Then it is game over for everyone. The only way to ‘lose’, is to chose not to chose. 

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as profound.

You can dislike the ending. You can wish there was something more, some way Shepard could survive.

But you will still keep on playing the story over and over again. You will relive the story of Shepard, maybe making the same choices, maybe not.

You will never forget the power of having your choices matter.

You will never forget the power of knowing that Shepard’s story will live on.

What legacy did your Shepard leave behind?