One Video Every Creator Needs to Watch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz4YqwH_6D0&t=39s

A friend of mine shared this video on his audio drama Discord server earlier this week. At first, I ignored it because sometimes the people on there can be super snarky. Then I started seeing other people responding to the video. So I watched it. And it was a giant kick in the butt.

We all go through this. We all deal with it. The toolbox fallacy. That constant fear of failure that keeps us from doing what we want to do until we have everything just right. Everything has to be perfect before we show it to anyone. Before we bring it into being.

I suffer from this myself. Constantly. I agonize over blog posts. I overthink my short stories. I rarely showed any of my writing to anyone. 

It was not until recently that I finally found the courage to just do it. Just get started. Move forward. Create my art and live my life one step at a time.  I started one podcast. And then I started another. I’m looking into audio dramas now. I spend most of my time talking to my people about doing things they are passionate about, both on and off my podcast.

I still have my days where I worry that I am not good enough. Where I worry that my plan has failed, that all of my work has been a waste. Where I start to wonder if maybe there is something else I should be doing.

On days like that, I rely on my network. My tribe. The group of people I have surrounded myself with, who support me in my creative endeavors. They are creators like me. Dreamers like me. Without them, I might not have the strength to keep going. Having that creative community keeps me going when things get tough. 

A lot of the time, the only thing between where you are now and where you want to be is your own self-doubt. We are our own worst enemies. We need to learn to set aside these silly rules we have made for ourselves about how things are supposed to be. 

Sometimes you just need to start creating and figure everything else out as you go. Trust me when I say, you never know what you will find along the way.

But, you don’t get anywhere unless you start. So just start. 

The Sound of Stories

I started getting hooked on podcasts in college. It started with Welcome to Nightvale, then branched into several other shows. I fell in love with the medium as a whole. There is a kind of storytelling that can be achieved through audio that I had never experienced before. 

I especially fell in love with audio dramas. One in particular that will always be special to me is We’re Alive. I am normally not a big fan of zombie apocalypse stories, but the characters in this one were so dynamic I couldn’t help myself. The sound design made it feel like I was really there. 

I have listened through that show twice now and the ending gets me every time. I was beyond ecstatic to find out they were adding new seasons. 

It was around my senior year in college that I joined my first podcast. Through a friend on Twitter, I was invited to be a panelist on the Supergirl Supercast (part of TeeVee, which is part of the Incomparable podcast network). I had a blast bantering back and forth with the panelists, overanalyzing the story and laughing at the “super-science.”

This was the start of a rabbit hole. I started looking into doing a podcast of my own. I started realizing that many of my story ideas would be better told through audio. While I was the interim managing editor for a small DFW publication, I was reminded of how much I enjoy interviewing people. 

That sparked an idea. An idea that would take me months to finally follow up on.

I launched An Incomplete Guide to World Domination a few months ago. I have always loved helping people tell their stories, especially people who have fought hard to make their dream a reality. You can hear that tone in their voice when they finally relax and start opening up about the thing that they are passionate about. That thing that gets them up every morning and helps them keep going, even when times are hard. 

I wanted to give them a place to share that. To share their story. To show those who are at the start of their journey that it is possible to make it happen. It may not be easy. It will take some time. But it is possible.

This caused a chain reaction that would eventually lead to a decision I never quite expected.

That decision being to create Pseudonym Social as a creative podcast network to house all of my ideas (and some of my friends’ ideas). I already have the basic site set up from another idea I had a while ago, so I built off of that. 

Part of this was sparked by conversations on Twitter. I had been playing with the idea of doing a podcast where I interview people’s D&D characters for a while. Every time I mentioned it in a conversation on Twitter, I got the same response. “Where is the Patreon?”

So I spent the next week creating the Patreon, doing all of the show art, updating the website, and tracking down some interviews. Tales of Adventure launched with a trailer on Monday, September 23 with the first full episode dropping the following Wednesday. 

That makes two podcasts I am producing entirely by myself, with a third in progress (a RP podcast with some friends of mine). I don’t think I ever expected to be here, doing this, but I absolutely love it. 

I love hearing people’s stories. I love connecting with other creators. I love helping promote what people are working on and helping encourage them throughout their journey. 

Heck, I even enjoy editing the audio. (Though transcribing it all will be less fun)

I have to say, I think I have found my niche. I’m still working on my novels. I’m still working on my games. I still plan on getting my master’s in creative writing. I am just going to be creating podcasts along the way.

I am changing the world one story at a time. So why not start with yours?

Remember the Mothers

This weekend is Mother’s Day. I think we can all agree that moms are great and deserve the love and appreciation we show them.

My mom, for example, is an absolute badass. Life hasn’t always been easy for her but she never lets it stop her from doing what she wants to do or being what she wants to be. She taught me how to chase my dreams and how to stand up for myself. She showed me what it looks like to never give up.

I honestly don’t even want to think about where I would be without her.

Even if your mom isn’t in the picture, I bet you have some sort of mom figure in your life. Heck, some people have both.

I feel like often times, moms don’t get enough credit. They sacrifice so much of themselves to help raise us into the people they know we can be. They support us through the tough times and take care of us when we cannot take care of ourselves.

A lot of their work goes unnoticed, especially in popular culture.

All you have to do is look at the tropes to see this. From the wicked stepmother to the stereotypical dead anime mom (you know who I’m talking about, with the light brown hair in a side ponytail), moms always tend to get the short end of the stick.

This is especially true for the ones who do not live to see the end of the story. There are a few in particular that have always bugged me, so I thought I would share some of my feelings.

Warning: I have a lot of them.

Padme Amidala

I am a Star Wars fan. I basically grew up on it, watching Return of the Jedi so many times that by age 6 I never wanted to see it again. Thankfully, that sentiment did not last very long and it is once again one of my favorite movies.

Most people agree that the original trilogy is better than the prequel trilogy (or as I sometimes call it, the tri-quel). I am a bit on the fence about this because 1-3 did a pretty good job of setting up the situation for A New Hope considering they were made afterward.

Throughout most of the movies, Padme is constantly dodging assassination attempts. In the first movie, they target her because she is the queen and the Federation is trying to take over her peaceful planet. Then she becomes a Senator and a vocal advocate for peace and against the Federation, further painting a target on her back. The whole time, no matter what she faces, she never backs down and always finds a way to get what she wants.

If you are a huge nerd, like me, you watched the Clone Wars TV show in as close to chronological order as you can get. Padme plays key roles in several arcs throughout the seasons. I loved getting a chance to see more of her in action and seeing her relate to the other characters. She is a strong, independent woman who can handle herself in both in a fight and in a debate. She is a political genius who is afraid of nothing and will not stand down from her belief. She will not be intimidated.

When Anakin fell to the darkness, she went along with Obi-Wan to try and talk him down, knowing full well that she was pregnant. He lashes out at her in anger, nearly killing her. Obi-Wan is able to get her to safety and to some sort of medical treatment in enough time for her to give birth.

She gives birth to Luke and Leia, naming them both, and reminds Obi-Wan that there is still good in Anakin. Then she dies. There is a common theory that the light side of the Force that was in her went to Anakin, further preserving that side of him. She dies a hero.

And then she is literally never mentioned aside from her being a mother ever again. No one remembers her achievements. Luke and Leia mention her exactly one time and never bother trying to find more information on her. It’s like no one cares she existed beyond her getting pregnant and giving birth.

Now, I know that most of you are shaking your fingers at me, citing the fact that Padme’s character was created AFTER the original trilogy. That is true, but there have been more movies since then taking place after that trilogy that makes no mention of her.

Just once I would like a callback to the spitfire senator who bowed to no one and who died making sure that the galaxy still had hope in the face of darkness. She deserves at least that much.

Lily Potter

James and Lily Potter both died as the result of a prophecy after successfully escaping Voldemort three times. They were both in their early twenties with a newborn Harry Potter. James died first in an attempt to stop Voldemort from harming his family. Lily was given the chance to escape, to flee. She refused, standing boldly in the face of death in a feeble attempt to save her son. It is this action that protects Harry up until his 17th birthday with a magic no wizard can break. The power of a mother’s love.

Yet does Harry ever show any interest in learning more about his mom? No. The only questions he asks are about James. The same James who spent most of his school years as a bully until he finally mellowed out, thanks in part to Lily. She forced him to become a better person.

Everyone who ever says anything about her only says nice things. She was a genuinely kind and caring person and a talented witch. Lupin shares some about her with Harry, as does Slughorn. Yet he never asks any questions. He doesn’t press for more information. He only wants to know more about James.

That said, there is a sweet moment in the 7th book when Harry finds a letter from Lily to Sirius about Harry loving his Christmas present (a toy broom). He spends a fair amount of time marveling over how similar their handwriting is as well as the fact that they owned a cat.

Honestly, Harry is kind of a self-centered jerk at times. He is far too often compared to his father, the cocky, arrogant kid who bullied people (especially Snape). Maybe he would have gotten on better with people if he tried to be more like Lily and less like James.

Literally Every Disney Mom

Compared to the other two, this is a minor rant. But I am still going to rant.

Aside from some of the more recent movies, mothers are almost nonexistent in Disney movies. When they do exist, they die almost immediately. If they don’t die, they don’t serve much of a purpose and remain completely silent throughout the whole movie *glances at Tangled*. Then you have the wicked stepmother.

This trope is right up there next to the dead anime mom. You know the one, with the light brown hair, pulled into a side ponytail and the kind smile. Yeah, that one.

 

In stories, as in real life, we see countless examples of strong and fearless mothers everywhere we look. The people we look up to. The people we aspire to be. Whether they are a biological mother, a metaphorical one, or a literary one, everyone has some sort of motherly presence in their life. These women deserve credit for all they have done to help us become who we are.

There will be some literary moms as well as a few real-life ones that we should all aspire to be like, whether we have kids or not. That is why they are getting their own blog post as soon as I am finished writing it.

Until next time, are there any other literary moms you feel deserve more credit?

The Lies Writers Tell

If you think about it, writers are natural born liars. It’s basically our job description.

We craft worlds from our words and fill them with living, breathing people who never existed outside of our minds. We imbue them with life and embed pieces of our soul throughout the story.

We twist your expectations to fit where we want you to think the story will end only to turn everything you think you know on its head with a few, well-placed words, leaving you wondering how you did not see it all along.

We have the unique ability to make the familiar seem strange and the strange feel familiar. We can make you question some things while blindly accepting others.

The lies we writers tell are loved by the world because we make people think about things they never really thought about before. We are holding up a mirror that shows the world not the way things are, but the way they could be.

These lies help people become better versions of themselves. They help people connect with others and with themselves in a way nothing else can.

In a way, we aren’t really lying. We are just showing the world a different truth.

The real lies, the dangerous ones, are the ones we tell ourselves.

I can’t make it as a writer

This is often tied to the lie that ‘writing is not a career’ and ‘I am not good enough’. Both painful lies that the world around us has a nasty habit of reinforcing. People look at writing as a hobby. Something frivolous that people do in their free time that is of no real value.

If you are a writer, you are going to have to get used to this. You are going to have to get used to people pushing you towards other careers that they view as more attainable. They are genuinely trying to help. They just don’t understand how painful that kind of job can be to think about. To have people constantly telling you that you will never be able to make it in life doing what you want to do.

It hurts even more when you begin to believe it yourself.

The truth is, you can make a living as a writer. It isn’t easy and is going to take a lot of time and effort, but it is 100% possible. Keep chasing your dreams and you will find a way. You may not be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, but you can still make a living telling stories.

So-and-so is a better writer than me

First off, ‘better’ is subjective. Trust me when I say there is nothing good that comes from the comparison games. There will always be people who have been writing for longer than you, who have more experience in a certain genre, and who have published more books than you have.

I know some people who can churn out 10k words in a single day. I average about 500, maybe 1k if it is a really good day. When it comes to the quality of the content, there really is no comparison. Different people have different tastes. Your style will never match anyone else’s and vice versa.

You have to learn to be comfortable with your own progress and your own style. Lean into what makes you unique. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are a bad writer because you don’t write like someone else. Keep writing. Hone your craft.  

No one cares what I have to say

This is perhaps the most painful lie of all and it is one I still struggle with on a regular basis. I know what causes it too. When people talk over you when you try and tell them about your new story idea. Their eyes glaze over. They zone out, cut you off, and totally change the subject.

Couple that with the sheer volume of novels and novellas and poetry books already in existence, and the fact that most people do not consider writing to be a valid career?

It leaves you feeling like you have no chance. No one is going to like your book, no one will read it. You are just wasting your time.

This is complete and utter nonsense. There are people out there who need to hear what you have to say. They need to hear your story just as much as you need to tell your story. Words have power far beyond what most people will ever realize.

Every single one of these lies ties back to one thing. Imposter Syndrome. That voice in the back of your mind telling you that you are not enough.  The fear and anxiety that keeps you from chasing the life you want.

The important thing to remember, though, is that they are lies. They are the lies we tell ourselves because we fear the unknown of what happens when we take that leap. What happens when we leave behind everything the world tells us we should want in the pursuit of who we truly want to be.

Words have the power and we were born with words at our fingertips.

It is time we use them.

It is time to change the world.

Living a Life on Fire

When you describe something as being ‘on fire’, that can either be really good or really bad. It all depends on the context and the amount of exasperation or sarcasm packed into the sentence.

This is especially true when it comes to life.

I noticed a few weeks ago that I was constantly referring to my life as being “on fire”. What I meant was there are so many things going on all at once that I often feel completely at a loss when it comes to what I should do. The past few months I have felt like I am being pulled in a thousand different directions.

You have experienced that, right? Being torn between who the world tells you that you should be, the person the people around you need you to be, and the person that you want to be? That constant friction between desire in duty? It is a tough place to be.

If you leave your ‘duty’ to follow your dream you face the disappointment and disapproval of those you care about, but if you never allow your dreams to flourish you run the risk of living the rest of your life in regret, wondering what would have happened if you did.

So many people choose to play it safe, sticking with what they know because it is certain. And they spend the rest of their life ignoring that burning desire to do something different, the call to become who they were created to be.

This is something I have been struggling with for a while. The voice in my head tells me that I can never make it on my own, that I need to stick with what I know. Yet the voice in my heart is crying out that I can do this. It may take some time and it will not be glorious at first, but I may just be able to live the life I want.

I don’t want to live my life silently, suppressing that fire inside of me until it eats me alive. I don’t want to be that perfect girl who lives the way the world tells her too.

I want to let that fire loose. I want to live loud. I want to be so unapologetically myself that when people look at me they think “if she did it, maybe I can too.” I know that I was born to create. To craft stories that hold a mirror to the world to show people how things could be. I am done living my life with the thought that I could never make a living doing so. I am going to find my way and I am not going to let anybody stop me.

I know it is not going to be easy, but I am willing to try. This is the kind of ‘on fire’ I want my life to be. I want to live my dream while showing others that they too can live theirs. Too often have I seen other creators struggling with their insecurities, trapped by the thought that they will never be able to live that dream.

The fear that they will never be good enough.

The fear that all of their work is inferior, not worthy of attention.

The crippling pain of knowing their gift will never amount to anything. (which is a lie)

Everyone has a dream. Everyone has a desire to create something to make the world better. And I could geek out about this for HOURS.

That is why I want to create a podcast so I can share my passion and knowledge. I also want to help others share their passion and knowledge.  And I do plan on creating this podcast. I have some work to do to get things ready, but it will be happening sometime this year.

Because I am tired of waiting. I am ready to live my life.

Are you with me?

Looking to the Future

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

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.