This Sounds Kind of similar to Feng Shui, but it’s Really Basic Psychology

What do you need to create a positive environment? I’m being specifically general here. Positive work environment at whatever job you hold, positive home environment, positive creative environment, etc. Seriously, Its super open-ended.

Mine tend to shift depending on which ones. For my creative environments, I like low light, no glare, some kind of music playing softly (though the music changes depending on what I’m doing), and something to drink. Usually water or tea are my beverages of choice, but I’ll drink anything but alcohol. Alcohol and I have some significant creative differences. I also need someplace away from movement and activity since I’m constantly distracted by anything moving. Like all the dogs from Up. Its horrible.

At work, my positive environment has a lot less to do with what’s around me and a lot more with what I’m doing. Sitting still too long bums me out, so I take walks around my building and drop by my coworkers’ offices to give them candy. I am known, and worshiped, as the Candy God by my peers. Mostly I like making people happy and you’d be surprised how much positive effect a bite-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can have on Twenty-Somethings. Other than that, I like to change my office around fairly often, do lots of different work tasks, and get heard when I’ve got something to say.

Positive environments are important to me because I have a tendency toward dour outlooks, depression, and jaded negativity as a result of, well, mostly student debt. That’s the biggest cause. For pretty much everything that isn’t just super awesome in my life. Honestly, aside from that and its side effects, my life is pretty awesome. This is a rare moment of real appreciate, brought to you by the power of a positive environment and two hours of ass-kicking exercise.

Literally ass-kicking. Someone snuck up behind me at my foam fighting practice and was going to nudge me in the butt except I started backpedaling right into their foot. It was a cat-ASS-trophe.

This sort of environment something I’ve spent a lot of time and effort into learning to create. And to do without. As a writer who has a full-time job to pay my bills, I can’t really afford to spend all my time in this perfect little world. I can’t create this kind of environment on business trips. Hotels generally frown on burning candles and I’d hate to have to buy matches at every destination. I also tend to work late so I can’t always get my writing time in at home, sometimes its done sitting on one of the couches in a lounge somewhere or on a bit of shady grass.

That being said, it’s always so much easier to work when I’m at home. I’m more relaxed, better able to focus, and a lot more creative. I do my best work at home.

I think a lot of people underestimate the value of a positive environment. A lot of introverts have it pretty well-figured out since we need this sort of thing to really relax at all, but every can benefit from knowing what you need in order to do you best. Maybe its collaboration with a group of peers or the quiet of an office by yourself with signs warning people away. Maybe you need complete silence or maybe something rhythmic to keep your mind focused and sharp.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a specific setup to work. Knowing how you work best and doing what you can to create that sort of environment can not only help you excel, but it can help those around you and your relationships with them. The more relaxed you are, the easier it’ll be to interact with them. A lot of workplaces do studies on exactly this sort of thing, which is how we’ve gone from cubicles to the “open office” concept that removes privacy and gives everyone access to you at all times (can you tell I’m not a fan? Thank god I’ve got an office…).

What do you need? I’d love to hear about it.

Take a Chill Pill

I have a hard time relaxing. I get the concept pretty well, but the actual execution often eludes me. You could ask any of the people I’m close to and they’d all tell you that I constantly complain about being tired and needing to relax. It is a constant state of being for me, one that I can’t seem to get a handle on despite my success managing most of my other issues.

Anxiety? Got a cure for that. OCD acting up? I got a remedy to take it down. Feeling super depressed? No worries, I got that covered! Feeling kind of tense of wound up? Well, shit, I suppose there’s video games? No, that’s not working… Books! Well, that didn’t work either, though I really should read more that author. How about taking a vacation? Shoot, I’m all out of ideas. And so on.

A lot of the suggestions for relaxing is finding something that frees your mind of your concerns and genuinely brings you joy. That eliminates meditation because, while pleasant, I wouldn’t really say that I enjoy it. Its more like medicine I don’t mind taking. Exercise is also very good for relaxing, but that tends to only work for physical relaxation and I get plenty of that. Hanging out with my close friends is also very rewarding, but it takes energy to do that, energy I need if I’m going to get through another tense, wound-up day.

I’ve had various things from time to time that help with the whole relaxation thing. At certain points in my life it was the relationships I had. Just spending time around a partner who expects nothing from you but is still a comfort to be around is one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever experienced. I’ve had a game or two I could play to really just cut loose and let everything slip away. Minecraft was that game for several years and Pokemon can be from time to time, though both tend to lose this ability if I play them much.

Dungeons and Dragons is also very relaxing. It is always fun to take leaving yourself behind for a bit more literally than usual. I enjoy role-playing immensely and love building worlds/situations for my players to work through. It has a level of freedom and independence that video games have yet to truly capture. The first virtual reality D&D campaigns with fully interactable environments are going to be freaking awesome.

The truth is that I’m not sure I really can relax. Hell, I worry about not being able to relax. How messed up is that? I can’t seem to relax so I’m getting more tense and stressed out, which is why I need to relax in the first place so I’m only needing to relax more as I worry about not being able to relax.

I even bought some of those relaxation/meditation candles to burn in the evenings when I’m trying to calm down and unwind before bed. All I’ve wound up getting is a rather pleasant smelling bedroom. Which, you know, is nice, but not exactly what I was going for. I’ve installed light alteration applications on all my electronic devices to test the hypothesis that all this blue light is making me tense. I’m only a week in, but I’m not seeing much change in terms of LESS stress and tension.

I have one hope right now. One potential chance at something that might relax me. A new game coming out this weekend is supposed to be super visually stunning, sound great, and just be a chill way to hang out and just BE. No Man’s Sky. Comes out sometime on the 12th. A lot of those playing it on the PS4 (release date was the 8th and 9th for two major markets), not to mention articles that interviewed developers and testers, all seem to indicate that this game is just that. No major multiplayer stuff, no need to interact with people unless I want to, and a glorious, vast universe to explore with no agenda other than to find what’s out there.

That would be amazing. I really hope this game is everything I’m expecting it to be. I could REALLY do with some R&R.

If you’d like a review of the game, check back on Saturday or Sunday. I promise I’ll tear myself away from it long enough to post my initial reactions to it no later than 24 hours after I start playing it.

Who Doesn’t Love a Bit of Political Discourse?

As a citizen of the United States of America, I must admit that I am somewhat concerned by the state of things. As a citizen of Earth, I must admit to being downright terrified that it seems like everyone is having reactionary issues. None worry me more than the US political scene, though, given that I don’t really have much in the way of options should the worst come to pass.

There’s a lot wrong with the US’ political system. The people I spend most of my time with trust comedians more than newscasters, the older people I know tend to place the blame for all our collective problems on the young, and no one seems willing to do anything constructive about any of it. There’s lots of yelling, posturing, and pedantry. It gets tiring.

I tend more toward the moderate part of the spectrum. Not because of my personal beliefs, I’m very liberal in that regards. But I tend toward the moderate because positive change takes time and the only way forward is if we all work together. “A house divided cannot stand” and all those pithy quotes. In truth, my ideologies and beliefs can probably be best summed as “everyone has the right to do whatever they want so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of anyone else.” It’s the sort of nice simple statement that sounds so easy but truthfully is almost impossibly difficult to broadly apply. There’s a lot of errata that goes along with the statement to help it fit several of the more difficult situation.

Really, though, at the end of the day, I’m against polarization. “Them or us” is exactly the wrong kind of mentality. So many other political systems, each with their own flaws of course, get beyond that by actually representing the whole population, rather than just the largest group. To be honest, though, US voters are pretty lazy and that’s half the reason we have problems. That said, there’s a fair amount of disenfranchisement and ignorance playing a part in the lack of voter participation.

See, nothing is every simple, is it? Nothing every breaks down into nice simple statements that are correct or true. There’s either always some qualifiers or the statement is so long and winding that it makes almost no sense. US politics is always trying to paint issues as black and white when they’re often barely distinguishable shades of grey. Sure, there are two main sides to a lot of issues, but there’s so much shared ground in between that is ignored in favor of snappy one-liners and campaign slogans.

I’d really like to say more, but the entire thought-process is a freaking novel and I’ve got things that are much more fun to write. Let’s just say I’m really dissatisfied with the current system and have few options to make my displeasure known other than shouting into the void or voting in such a way that our reality becomes the worst possible reality. The Darkest Timeline, for you Community fans out there.

So, no matter what country you live in, don’t be a jackass! Prevent the Darkest Timeline! I, for one, know I can’t grow a full goatee to save my life. It’d be really awkward being in the Darkest Timeline without one.

Finally back after Suffering from Plumber’s Block

I definitely suck at regular updates.

Now no one can say I didn’t warn them when I fall silent for a few weeks. I played a bunch of Pokemon Go until the 3-step bug made it impossible to find anything and then a lot of work-stress coupled with relief from a lot of different work stress has left me avoiding writing for a while. I’m working on getting back to it now (as you can plainly see), but I tend to wind up doing this a lot.

The first thing to go when I get stressed out or my depression starts acting up is my writing. The one thing I have that always grounds me, my most complete escape, my way to speaking out about what troubles me and I abandon it when I need it most. I want to be able to write because it is all those wonderful things for me, but it takes so much from me that I sometimes need to choose rest or not-writing instead. No matter what I want.

The first time I attended an event at which Patrick Rothfuss was appearing/answering questions, someone asked him about writer’s block. Patrick Rothfuss hemmed and hawed for a moment before saying that it was sort of ridiculous that writers have this condition unique to them that explains why some of us can’t seem to get anything written. He saw the somewhat negative reaction of the crowd and asked us to bear with him for a little bit while he explained what he meant.

He explained that, just like a plumber with a broken arm or the flu wouldn’t be expected to fix your plumbing, a writer shouldn’t expect themselves to write if they’re not feeling well. And that’s not just physical illness. He talked about mental illness and the impact it can have on a writer’s ability to work. Writer’s Block isn’t a diagnosable thing. We often use it to talk about times when we can’t write because of our mental health, but it is usually better to recognize what is actually in the way of us writing rather than blame it on something similar to the boogeyman. I often can’t write because of my depression and anxiety, so I own up to that, even if it is only to myself. That makes it a lot easier to get back to writing again since you know when you’re feeling better.

His thoughts about writer’s block really struck home for me and woke me from the sort of blind Hero Worship view I had of him. It made me really start to see him as a normal person. As a Human, rather than some object of worship or reverence. It was kind of like when you look at your parents and realize that they’re only humans as well. They’re not superheroes and to expect perfection from them is to deny them their humanity. To expect perfection from myself is to deny myself my humanity.

I wrote a poem on day when I was feeling a bit more cheerful and bit more blasé about the high expectations I have for myself. Like a lot of my poems, it started off with a bit of a random thought and ran from there.

 

If I were a god
I would be worshipped by frat boys and single mothers.
A god of beer drinking, simple living, and neat little recipes that your kids will love.

If I were a god,
I would be capricious and mighty but also incredibly lazy.
A god of harsh judgment and terrible wrath who just asks you to try to be better.

If I were a god,
I would stride the land cloaked in wind and thunder and rain.
A god of storms who brings nothing but rain on windows and thunder in the distance.

If I were a god,
I would grant my adherents visions of what might be.
I’d give my true believers the sight to see just what they could make of themselves.

If I were a god,
I would have the power to change the world to my liking.
I’d get so tired and angry with all the humans begging for help that I’d strike them down.

If I were a god,
I would encourage self-help and doing it yourself.
A god who helps those who help themselves and let the lazy stay in the dirt and dust.

If I were a god,
I would be most terrible and fearsome to behold.
I’d be the most beautiful entity in all of creation but far too bright to actually see.

If I were a god,
I would rid the world of evil and all that is wrong.
I’d strike down all of those who oppose me and bend the universe to my will.

If I were a god,
I would be an awful mess as you can clearly see.
I’d be breaking all my own rules and constantly at odds with myself.

If I were a god,
I wouldn’t be another human just trying to get by.
But that’s all I am so maybe I shouldn’t expect quite so much of me.

 

Silly and kinda peaceful, but with a bit of something to think about at the end. Exactly my preferred style. Definitely not my best work, but I’m not convinced I’ll ever be able to point to something and say “that’s my best work” so that phrase doesn’t really mean much. But it feels good, you know? To give myself permission to be just a little bit more human than usual.

But that’s why I tend to stop writing. Writing is hard. I have to spend a lot of time in my head and that’s not always such a great place to be. Gaming and reading get me out of my head and into something else. It’s a different kind of escape, specifically for when I need to escape me instead of the world. But now I’m ready to deal with me again so here I am. Updating my blog and working a daily writing session into my schedule.

Cut yourself some slack today. Just, you know, let it go for a bit and pick it up later.