Looking Back and Looking Forward

I am going to do us all a favor and see how long I can go without making a vision pun. Because it is 2020 and the puns have been going strong since July.

I do, however, have a lot of things I have been thinking about recently.

It’s difficult not to get introspective whenever a thing ends. Especially when it is a year. A decade.

I can’t even begin to process how much my life has changed in the past ten years. I moved halfway across the country, for one. A lot of good came out of that, but I was also halfway through highschool. Not something I recommend. I lost a lot of friends in that move. I made some new ones too.

I graduated from college two years ago. I built a company’s social media presence from the ground up while managing all of their projects and planning their events. I was the managing editor for a publication for a short period of time. That’s not even counting the various internships I had in college.

I also started producing two podcasts and the beginnings of a potential production company, Pseudonym Social. This is something I never thought I would do. But I have done it, and one of them is doing pretty well. I am mostly self-taught when it comes to audio editing, and I have to say I have gotten pretty good at it. That said, I still have a lot to learn.

That is one of my goals for the new year. I want to learn more about audio editing and sound design. I also plan on producing an audio drama this year. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, but I am going to start with something simple. Something that will be easy to do mostly on my own, that can either be short-run or continue on indefinitely. 

I have other plans as well, but they are a little less certain. Like many other people my age, I am still working on finding my way. I’ve got a metaphorical list of contingencies when it comes to which path my career could take. Some plans are more detailed, some are still in the early stages. 

Every day is a new day, a new beginning. A new chance to start something new and take another step towards the life you want. There is no one right way to do things. Which I personally find to be a huge relief. 

It’s like that saying goes. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have always been one of those people who will find their own way to make what they want a reality. So I keep going. I keep making new plans and new contingencies and new connections. 

The only way to go is forward. I have 362 more days to keep building something I am proud of and keep moving towards the life I want. Because this is my life and I will find a way to get it to where I want it.

What about you? What are your dreams for the year?

Learning How to Learn on the Fly

When you are creating something, you have to teach yourself how to do a lot of things that you probably never expected to need to know. There is a lot more business behind creative endeavors than one might realize at first. I will definitely dig into this later (both here and on my podcast, An Incomplete Guide to World Domination). For now, though, I am going to share how I learned a very useful skill.

How to learn things quickly.

Step one: know your learning style

Fun fact: different people learn different things in different ways. It’s shocking, I know. There are some people who can pick things up by reading, while others have to have someone explain it. I feel like most people have to actually do the thing themselves to really understand how to do it, but some have to do some research beforehand. A lot of people probably waffle between different styles depending on what it is they are trying to learn.

That is totally okay. The key is, knowing how you learn best and using that to decide how you are going to learn a new thing.

For me, it helps to be able to watch how a thing is done so that I can then go and copy it. I absolutely cannot learn anything technical by reading. I may be able to get the basics, but I need to see it to really get it. 

Step two: make sure you aren’t overcomplicating things

It is really not that hard to make things harder than they need to be. A lot of people think they need to get all of the books and take all of the classes on a subject in order to really understand it. That isn’t always the case, especially when you are trying to pick up a new skill.

Chances are when you are starting out, you don’t need to know how to do everything. It is okay to start with the basics and learn from there. 

Part of this ties in with the whole knowing your learning style. Some people (like me) can pick up new skills on their own time using the resources available to them without investing any sort of money. There is a sort of self-discipline and level of organization required for this. And a lot of stubbornness.

I also know some people who need the structure and organization and the deadlines that come with a classroom environment. It forces them to stay focused while making it harder for them to be distracted. That financial investment makes it harder for them to give up part of the way through. 

If this is you, may I recommend looking into continuing education classes at a community college, or online courses? These can be more affordable while providing the structure you need.

Step three: find your people

There is a good chance, if you are reading this, that you are about to embark on a creative endeavor of some sort.

If so, I cannot stress enough how important it is to FIND A COMMUNITY. There are communities everywhere for whatever kind of thing you are looking to create. The key is finding your people and sticking with them. They will give you the support you need when going through the hard times as well as proving to be an incredibly valuable resource. 

I am currently a part of two different audio fiction podcast communities through Discord. A lot of the people on there have been doing this a lot longer than I have. They also know a lot more about the tools and technicalities of audio editing than I do.

Having those people who I have a connection with that I can ask questions and advice has made a huge difference.  We talk everything from sound design to foley work to resources to production timelines to scriptwriting to current projects to Patreon to how to create an LLC and track business expenses. We also like to goof off and talk about road trips to conventions.

Find your people. They will make your life so much easier and so much better.

Step four: free tutorials are everywhere

For someone who had no idea what they were doing starting out, I have gotten pretty dang good at audio editing. I’m also pretty good when it comes to designing graphics through Canva. Did I study either of these things? No. 

I taught myself. Using YouTube.

Seriously though, YouTube is great for learning how to do things. There are countless tutorials covering everything you could possibly want to know made by professionals. If there is anything you need to learn, you can find it on there. It may take some digging, but it exists.

There are also people who do free webinars where not only can you learn things, but you can also ask questions. You can even watch live streams of people doing things to learn how things are done.

Either way, there are a plethora of free resources out there that you can use to pick up new skills or figure out how to do something before you go investing money in a class.

Step five: libraries, meetups, and more

This one kind of depends on your area, but it is still worth looking into.

Libraries are not only home to plenty of books that you can check out and use to teach yourself things, but they also often host regular events. These events are not just about books, but about learning. They have these events listed on their website or their social media accounts (if they have them). 

My personal favorite is Meetup.com. I have had an account there for a while now. It is the perfect place to find local social groups as well as more professional/educational groups. I highly recommend creating an account of your own. A few of my groups are social but I’m also in some for social media, WordPress, and podcasting. This is a great way to meet in a neutral area with a group of people with similar interests and learn something new. 

Basically, there is a whole host of ways you can learn something new. Just remember to not overcomplicate things. Don’t let your own lack of understanding stand between you and trying a new thing. Take that first step and you will eventually find your way. If you get lost, there are plenty of people you can ask for help. 

The question is, what are you going to learn next?

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.