I’m spending the next three days moving into my new apartment and out of my old one, so I’m taking a couple days off from posting (today and tomorrow) so that I don’t have a bunch of writing to do during my spare time or extra writing during what is supposed to be a post-move recovery week. There will be no new chapter of Infrared Isolation tomorrow and the book review that was originally scheduled for today will go up on Monday. I’m only human, after all (as much as I like to pretend otherwise), so I’m going to do the sensible thing once again and take a couple days off. After this, though, I shouldn’t have any more disruptions to my schedule. I will FINALLY have some quiet, restful times (assuming nothing goes disastrously wrong, which feels like a dangerous thing to assume after the first five months of this year). I’m very much looking forward to it and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to more positive or thoughtful posts once all my mental and physical energy isn’t being directed toward trips, obligations, and large responsibilities. Catch y’all next week.
Going on Another Trip
I am once again departing on vacation. I’ll even be seeing the same group of people. This time, though, I’m just driving to New Jersey and then staying there for a week before driving back. The trip to Spain was with a wedding party and now it’s time for the wedding! Sure, I could bring my laptop and try to write while I’m on the East Coast, but I think I’ve got enough going on as it is. I’m going to do my best to rest between visiting friends, finishing my preparations for the wedding, and then being in the wedding. I’m also going to play as much Tears of the Kingdom as I can, so I won’t have a lot of time for writing. Any writing I wind up doing will likely be just for fun and to keep my writing muscles loose during this period of rest, just like while I was in Spain, so little of it is ever likely to see the light of day.Continue reading
Happy Holidays! Also, Links for Holiday Escapism!
Today is the day before Christmas, which is, I suppose, the winter holiday I’m observing this year. At least from a taking-time-off perspective. Personally, I celebrate Candlenights since it doesn’t have any emotional baggage like all the other holidays I’ve celebrated in the past, and the openly-embracing-the-made-up-ness of it appeals to me as someone attempting to create my own traditions. I’d probably celebrate any of the other winter holidays, but a lot of those are tied to specific traditions, religions, or religious traditions, and I’m not a part of any of those. I grew up catholic and white so my entire culture/heritage as far as the winter is concerned is Christmas (Jesus) and Christmas (Capitalism), neither of which appeal to me. All of which is to say there will be no post beyond this today and I’ll be taking three whole days off in the next week as I rest, prepare for the coming year, and probably try to figure out if I actually want to make Christmas cookies or if I just want to eat Christmas cookies that someone else made. My next post will be up on Thursday the 29th.
If you’re looking for an escape and aren’t familiar with my work, check out Infrared Isolation or any of my poetry for my more recent work. Otherwise I’ve got almost 900 posts of stuff on this ol’ blog for you. If you want some good, funny videos, I recommend Drawfee (This One is my favorite, but it’s a little PG-13+). If you want audio-only, I recommender either the Partizan or Sangfielle seasons of Friends at the Table (Sangfielle is horror-ish, but quick to start, while Partizan has a pre-season bit that is kinda important and also fun to listen to). If you want something to read, I suggest Vattu which should keep you plenty busy for a day or two.
If that’s not enough… well… I don’t know what to tell you. Friends at the Table and Drawfee should, in their entirety, take you about a year to get through unless you listen to an average of about 5 hours of audio programming per day like I do. In which case, combined, they’ll take you about a year. Regardless, I hope you get through your holidays and enjoy yourself at least a little bit.
I’m skipping another week of Infrared Isolation. I could have tried to get it finished in time for today, but with everything I’d got going on right now (more on that next week), I think it’s better to give myself less stress and take more time for things. So Chapter 12 will go up next week and, hopefully, there’ll be few interruptions over the rest of the month. Things have to calm down in my life eventually.
It Doesn’t Count As Resting If You Do All Your Normal Work
Today is a holiday in the US. As is typical of many “ancient” and “traditional” US holidays, it has a bit of a troubled history. But, as a low-end white-collar worker buried in debt and being slowly ground to dust by the cogs of capitalism, I’m going to just enjoy a day off that doesn’t eat up one of my precious days of PTO. I’m also not going to have any kind of blog update beyond this one because I’m tired, I’ve got food to cook for myself, I thought it might be fun to just, you know, rest. I’ll be back with normal blog stuff tomorrow, but the post I wrote to post today is actually going to cover the post I would have written today so expect some additional thoughts on the latest God of War game in another seven days.
I’ll be skipping this week’s Infrared Isolation post. Chapter 10 is going to need another week because, frankly, I’m pretty burned out and the thought of pushing myself to get it done and then asking my editor/alpha reader to get it back to me quickly felt like volunteerily going to hell for vacation. I’m not about that life so, instead, I’m taking a rare break and posting only this today. Not even gonna try to come up with some essay to fill the gap since doing OTHER work doesn’t really address the whole “too tired to do work” part of being burned out. Hope you’re all having a great weekend and that we’re not all drinking ourselves into a stupor following the apparent end of democracy in the US.
A Small Vacation
I have a difficult time actually taking vacations. I’ve written before about my struggles, mostly in terms of financial cost, but I also struggle with taking a break from a mental and personal perspective, too. One of my oldest and least-healthy coping mechanism has always been “keep busy.” Which isn’t necessarily unhealthy on it’s own, but if you’re going into this with the thought of “gotta stay too busy to be sad,” then you’ve strayed into an unhealthy mindset and mechanism. The other side of this, which makes this into a problem I actively struggle with, is the fact that I also just like to keep busy. I like having things to do.Continue reading
A Late Post
My grandfather was prescribed Hospice Care today. That bit of news, accompanied by the tidbit that his tests all came back saying he wasn’t a match to the genetic profile they needed for a last-ditch treatment effort, has thrown off not just my plans for today but my plans for the next few weeks. When I found out he had only a few weeks left unless he was a genetic match for this special treatment, I planned on heading back to Chicago at a moment’s notice in case something happened and that I’d spent at least one day every weekend in Chicago, visiting family with a particular emphasis on my grandpa. Now I’m planning the same thing, along with preparing a long-term bag that I’ll keep in the trunk of my car and getting my computer area reconfigured so I can dismantle it quickly for travel so I can work remotely if I wind up staying in Chicago for any length of time. We don’t know for sure how long he has left, but it’s probably more accurate to measure in weeks than anything else.
It’s difficult to focus on writing anything, right now. I’ve been trying all day to get my mind into gear for this and it’s basically just grinding the gears rather than actually slipping into gear. Trying to make myself write anything is doing more harm than good and I wasn’t able to create the stockpile of blog posts I wanted to have finished by now, so I’m going on hiatus for a bit.
I hate the thought of stopping, honestly. This decision has been tearing at me all day, despite the fact that it’s been lurking in the back of my mind every time I’ve gotten to my daily writing time and felt the black wave of grief and exhaustion (which are all I have left at this point) wash over me. I want to write more, but trying to make it happen is just making things worse on myself. As is the thought of stopping something I’ve done for four hundred thirteen consecutive days. I’m immensely proud of that streak of daily posts and the daily writing they represent, but I’ve pretty much run myself to the point of a breakdown and I can’t afford to have one of those right now. My stress levels are higher than they’ve ever been, I’m dealing with difficult emotions, I constantly feel run down and exhausted no matter how much rest I get, I’m pretty sure I’m currently sick and only not laid up in bed because I can’t afford to be, and all I want in the world is to keep writing and updating this blog because at least then I can point at it and say “look what I’ve done.”
This past year has been pretty awful for me and it has taken every scrap of willpower I have to make it this far right now. Choosing to take a break feels like giving up and writing this post, making this decision, feels like I’m rolling my soul in a pile of broken glass because daily writing and daily blog posts was all I fucking wanted out of this year. That’s it. My one goal for 2018 was to update this blog every day, write every day, and do whatever it takes to keep those things going. Just thinking about it and everything I’ve worked through up to this point makes me want to delete this entire post and re-write it as a “I’m not going to let this stop me” post. I’m not going to do that, though. I’m going to take a break. I’m going to stop making myself do this every day. I’m going to go back to journaling extensively every day. I’m going to reflect, try to deal with my emotions, deal with my anticipatory grieving, deal with my regular grieving, and then try to come back to this in the new year once I’m no longer traveling every weekend or constantly fighting back exhaustion that makes me want to just dissolve into a puddle of tears on my bed when I get home from work.
I am tempted to leave myself wiggle room for musing posts over the next few weeks, like I did seven or eight months ago when I was stressed and trying to figure out what was going on with my emotions. That might allow me to continue updating every day without the stress of creating new fiction, poetry, and reviewing things, but I think I really need a break from the internet in addition to every thing else as well. I don’t know if that’s going to mean deactivating Facebook and removing Twitter from my phone, or if that’s just going to mean I spend more time away from the computer, but I think I need that right now. Beyond the grief and pain I’m dealing with right now, I haven’t taken a break in over a year. Even the planned breaks wound up not being breaks because I was always working on something during that time. I had a project to do or some writing goal to accomplish. Whatever it was, it pretty much negated the whole point of the break, even if I tried to convince myself otherwise.
So I get I’m concurrently going on vacation and taking a hiatus. The vacation will end on the second of January, so that’s the earliest I’ll be back to writing. The hiatus will end once I’ve dealt with my grief enough to not feel like I’m shaving years off my life and pulling off splinters of my soul to sit down and make something specific. I’ll probably keep writing, but that’ll be expressive stuff rather than following the planned posts ideas I picked out a few weeks ago. I’ll be exploring my emotions and trying to cope with what’s going on rather than writing about pre-established fictional characters or creating parodies of famous poems.
See? I can’t even take a break without planning something for me to be doing while taking said break. Whatever. The point is I’m taking away the obligation and drive parts. I’m just going to create if I feel like and catch up on my giant collection of unread books if not. I’m going to try to figure out better routines for myself, ones that incorporate better physical self-care, and see if I can finally do something about the burn-out I’ve been fighting for almost an entire year.
Or maybe two weeks will pass and I’ll still be tired. Who knows. All I know is that writing feels incredibly painful today and I need it to stop feeling painful. Even if I want to write, even if I’m willing to put up with the pain (which I clearly am, given this blog post), I don’t think it’s going to be healthy to pull more than this out of my for the next couple weeks, at least. Catch you all later. You know how to reach me.
Tabletop Highlight: Breaks, Hiatuses, and How to Fill the Time Between
Like any Dungeons and Dragons group, or any tabletop gaming group for that matter, mine occasionally has a few weeks where we aren’t able to get enough people together for a gaming session. It happens more frequently with my group than with most given that my group is only three players so even one missing player breaks my “more than two-thirds of the players must be present to run a session” rule. At the same time, when I’m incredibly stressed like I have been for the past few weeks, I am not up to running the game even though I usually still want to. I learned not to push it on those days long ago, because they’re inevitably the days when the players get some idea stuck in their head and I’ve gotta re-do half the plot and story I had planned on the spot, even if we’re well past the point when I thought I’d have to change anything like that around. They always find a way.
It’s always a struggle to figure out how to handle gaps like this. If you’re at a plot-critical moment, it gets really difficult to keep the tension and anticipation going when you don’t meet for a month. If you’re between big moments or the players are at a point where they must decide what to do next, then it is relatively simple to skip time since all they’ll need is a refresher. If it is at all possible to time your gaps so they fall at moments like those, I recommend doing it. That being said, most gaps aren’t planned ones but one-week skips that wind up incidentally getting longer, so here are some ways to help fill time between sessions.
The easiest way is to find a way to have smaller one-off sessions so each of the players gets a chance to do something integral to the story that’s unfolding. This won’t work if they’re in the middle of a dungeon or if you didn’t end the session at a point where the various characters can temporarily go their separate ways. This is a great time for rogues to do stealth missions or for the diplomatically inclined to take the time to get to know the local gentry. Even the more mercenary characters can make connections, even if they’re just with the various mercantile forces in the area. If you’ve got a role-play heavy campaign, there’s no such thing as too many connections. If your players tend to be more interested in being murder-hobos than role-players, you can easily make up a small encounter or two that will give them a chance to cut loose while waiting for the plot to resume.
Another thing you can do is more or less assign them homework. Maybe they have some connections they should contact that will help them in this situation. Have them write out a dialogue that represents this interaction and make sure to give them something for it, maybe a bonus on a future skill check, a minor item that will come in handy, or just a smidgen of role-playing XP. This is especially useful if you’re doing a role-play heavy campaign because it lets the players get more into their character and also provides you with more information about their characters that you can then figure out how to work into the game later on.
If you’re looking for something that’s less work for the dungeon master, I suggest assigning them a text-based interaction. There’s probably a decision or two they need to role-play and they can do it via text instead of taking up time at the next session. If it’s a big decision or something that’s going to spark a lot of debate, then it’s even better to get it out of the way before the session so you all can get down to figuring out what happens next. This is useful to you because you don’t need to monitor the text conversation and can just check in on it from time-to-time or read it all whenever you feel up to it. Alternatively, and you should never reveal this to your players (so stop reading this London, David, and Daniel, and just start at the top of the next paragraph), you give them a text discussion to role-play and then you never read it. If it isn’t a super important discussion, you can just skim it for any important bits or let your players bring up the highlights in conversation. That last bit is particularly easy if you live with one or more of your players and they love talking about the game (I told you to stop reading this, David).
Another thing you can do if you’re willing to surrender a little control and need something that takes the burden off of you is have one of the players propose a little side-mission or adventure they can run. It keeps things in your world and will likely be at least tangential to the plot you’re running, but you should definitely work through what that player wants to run if you’re going to let them do it in your game world since you want to make sure they aren’t going to cut off something you’ve been saving. I don’t really recommend this option much because I’ve seen it go wrong more often than right, but it’s definitely an option. If you’re co-running a game with someone or if one of your players is a good DM, then it gets much less risky, but you definitely still need to sit down and talk to them about it before you give them the go-ahead.
As I said, it’s always better if you don’t need to find a way to fill a bunch of time without game sessions, but I guarantee that there will come a time when you will need to get through a gap at an inconvenient time. If you do something else to bridge gaps like this one, I’d love to hear what that is. Please share it in the comments or shoot me an email!
I Think I’m Going to Step Out for a Bit
I’ve spent a lot of my weekend relaxing. As it is a three-day weekend in the US, I’ve been a lot less active that I might otherwise have been and much less directed. I spent Saturday with my girlfriend and her friend until I finally stopped putting off my evening plans, Magic the Gathering with my Saturday D&D group, and then got home in time to basically crash from all of the sun and fun. Mini-golf under the midday sun, three-ish miles of walking in the heat, and then a quick trip to the store so I could get a swimsuit. I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to jump in the pool after spending the previous four hours sweating in the heat. I got a bit of sun-burn despite putting some sunscreen on my face, so that was rather annoying, but doesn’t seem to be too bad.
Then I’ve spent most of my day today puttering about until I remembered I hadn’t updated my blog yet, for today. Played some old favorite games, some REALLY old favorites, and even a few games my friends recommended. Read a bunch, dozed about, and generally just avoided direct sunlight. It has been nice to relax and just lazily drift through the day. I can’t remember the last time I spent a day just doing whatever without getting “bored” and endlessly cycling between things after a couple minutes of considering them because I feel like I’m wasting my time.
While I was laying in bed, waiting to see if I could fall back asleep again and shifting to move my sun-burned bits away from contact with anything but the air, I tried to meditate, but my mind just kept running around in circles. I’ve tried twice more today, but I haven’t been able to get my mind to wind down enough to empty it out. There’s a lot going on in my life and it’s difficult to put all of that aside for even an hour or two. My girlfriend is house shopping; I’m entering my busy month and will be not getting much quiet time, let alone quiet time with my girlfriend; so many different things to reflect on; preparations for my hiking trip and grill-out tomorrow; and my general anxieties that I’m trying to avoid focusing on.
Mostly, I would love a quiet weekend with my girlfriend, hanging out without any particular plans, working on our individual creative projects, watching cartoons or movies, and playing video games. That sort of stuff is like plugging my soul into a recharging station. I’ve got other ways of doing it and recharging myself, but I would really enjoy that one right now. Between the sunburn, smashing one of my toes at the grocery store, and this annoying feeling of exhaustion that keeps pulling at me, I could really go for a quiet day and some peaceful companionship. I’ll probably be fine tomorrow, once I’ve got another good night’s sleep, but today I think I’m going to stop reflecting and just go back to playing games. I’d like to be outside my head for a bit since trying to work inside it has only worsened my mood.