Saturday Morning Musing

My absolute least-favorite part of the winter is driving anywhere further than around my town. Normally, driving places and making plans that give me extra time to meander from my starting point to my destination is my favorite thing to do that involves moving. In the winter, though, my favorite activity turns into a morass of idiotic drivers who forget how to drive every year couple with terrible weather conditions that make you curse every moron who thinks they can just drive over ice like it’s pavement. No matter how cautious you are, you always find that one incredibly slick spot of ice and wind up sliding toward the absolute worst part of the road, since it’s the only spot with a ditch while literally every other spot for miles is perfect level ground you could just drive away from. You’ve got a chance to make the right call and avoid it, but sometimes there’s an asshole right behind you who zips past the icy patch, no problem, and is passing you while you slide so you don’t really have a chance to avoid the ditch since you’ve got no space on the road anymore. As you sit in the ditch, watching for a tow, you try to appreciate the fact that at least he didn’t slide into the back of your car since he was way to close to you to stop in time.

Don’t even get me started on trying to drive somewhere for the holidays. Unless you’re actually driving on Christmas day, and only specifically between cities during non-peak driving hours, you’re not getting anywhere quickly. Forget trying to even do any local driving as the holidays approach because all the routes take you past shopping centers (because that’s just how traffic management works: it allows you to go near every important, high-traffic areas in what should be a rapid pace outside of rush-hour) since they’re going to be backed up despite the fact that online shopping is way better than trying to find what you want in a mall. While there are things you can’t always do online, such as supporting your local businesses, those are never the places that get crowded. It is always the shopping centers and malls because apparently everyone, their mother, their grandmother, and every single one of their cousins all have to go to the mall every day to see if the mall kiosks have finally turned into something interesting instead of another cell phone or knickknack/plastic jewelry stand.

Even if you do manage to avoid all the traffic and the peak-driving hours, there’s a good chance your carefully made plans will be completely ruined by the weather since it frequently decides to, out of nowhere, dump a metric ton of snow on your area when you took your eyes off the forecast for one day. Then you’re forced to try to escape before it falls or to wait until it’s over and be forced to drive at the same time as everyone else who decided it was a good idea to wait. No matter which choice you make, it winds up being the wrong one. It’s as true as the fact that buttered toast always falls butter-side down and that cats always land on their feet. An incontrovertible fact of nature. If you leave early, then it sneaks its way in front of you and falls right as you’re hitting the difficult part of your drive. If you leave late, then so does everyone else as your local population decided to be sensible for once and not all try to drive through the snow. Even if you try to outsmart the dichotomy by choosing to stay home instead of drive at all, you choice is still wrong because it suddenly decides that this one storm is the only time it won’t wind up snowing double the predicted amount. It’ll snow a light dusting of stuff that’s quickly swept away by wind or that melts under he suddenly clear sky as the temperatures never quite make it as long as they were predicted to.

One day, when quick, efficient, long-distance public transport is available, most of these problems will be solved. I can guarantee that I’d ride a bullet train if one existed between here and Chicago. I’d hop on that, ship all my gifts to my parent’s house instead of my place, ride down a day early, do my wrapping, and then head home whenever I wanted because there’d be trains every day but Christmas Day. It’d make things so much easier on me and everyone else who was moving between states or who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of driving through bad weather/roads full of morons being morons. Which are always worse than bad weather since they’re also available in “it’s snowing so I’m going to drive so close to you that you won’t be able to see my headlines” and “I’m going to continue to drive at ninety miles per hours despite the fact that I can’t see further than thirty feet ahead of myself at any given time” editions. Truly, they are the worst roadway companions. Especially because they seem to always have those horrible, bright LED or Halogen headlights that are focused up at the cars in front of them instead of down at the road for whatever dumb reason. Pretty much every awful thing other drives can do while traveling the same direction you are will be one of the moronic drivers who forgets how to drive in the winter. It’s so incredibly awful that I forgot how bad it is every year until I experience it again and am reminded of just how much I hate driving long distances during the winter.

There is no world in which the amount of stress you get from driving during winter is worth putting up with if you have literally any other options available to you aside from taking a bus. Which, let me tell you, is another can of worms entirely. A worse can of worms. Thought crowded roads were bad? Try riding a crowded bus down a crowded road while rubbing shoulders with someone who decided deodorant or basic hygiene was something other people did while dealing with people who feel like they have a right to comment on what book you’re reading or how you’re trying to survive the twelves hours of hell it takes to ride two hundred miles. You didn’t think you’d be able to get a direct bus, did you? All of those filled up last Christmas. Of course there’s still a seat available for you somewhere, but it always happens to be on the bus that their breaks down on the highway or that has to stop at two dozen cities or gas stations along the way to your destination, turning a three-hour drive into eleven and a half hours of sitting on seats that were worn out the day they were put in the bus. I used to ride buses from where I went to college back to Chicago for every holiday and, while I like riding the bus and appreciate the need for affordable travel from one place to another that doesn’t involve owning a car, I still hated every single bus ride while I was on it. Maybe if there were trains like any sensible society would have, the buses wouldn’t be so friggin’ awful all the time.

This year, instead of going to visit relatives for the holidays, spend your time and money on buying a new video game or seeing how many single dollar bills you need to burn in order to keep your apartment at a comfortable temperature. You’ll probably enjoy the latter more since at least you’ll be able to sleep in your own bed.

Actually, better yet, buy a house and then make your entire family come visit you for the holidays. Then you can enjoy being around your family but not have to deal with driving during the holidays. Or invent teleportation devices. Really, the only problem is driving. If you can find another good method for spending the holidays with your family, I’d recommend going with that option.

Saturday Morning Musing

I really don’t like the hype train. I’m very patient when it comes to people and obligations. When it comes to things I get excited about or that don’t have a specific wait time, I absolutely suck at waiting. Which means I hate watching trailers for movies and video games because they get me super excited for something cool and then I have to wait four months or a year or, in Breath of the Wild’s case, three years. Last week, Nintendo announced the latest Super Smash Bros. game would come out on the Switch this year and all I can do now is wait and think about it. It probably won’t come out until the holiday shopping season, but a soft release date is not very helpful to me.

I’ve never really enjoyed the anticipation portion of anything. I like knowing when stuff is going to happen and then mostly ignoring it until it is time to do something about it. This can sometimes backfire on me, as it did with the Switch, because I missed my 12-hour window to pre-order one. I managed to get on by waiting in line for 12 hours and freezing my butt off, but my life would have been better if I’d just pre-ordered it. For the most part, though, I don’t actually lose anything by avoiding stuff until right before it comes out. I got movie tickets to see Star Wars just fine. I can just go into most book stores to grab books I want. Game stores never actually run out of games these days. Steam makes pretty much every game easily available since I don’t know if it is even possible to run out of digital copies… Heck, most “physical” games are just download codes concealed inside plastic rectangles these days.

There’s only so much planning you can do for stuff like that before it starts feeding into anxiety. I already have enough trouble properly allocating my mental energy without marketing companies doing everything they can to convince me to uselessly spend mental energy on substanceless hype. I really don’t need the encouragement since I’m already to get overly invest in pretty much anything. This means I can be susceptible to marketing because it feeds into behavior I’m already prone to, so I spend a good deal of effort to stay away from marketing geared toward my interests. Which unfortunately means I miss out on a lot of things I might enjoy until long after they’re out.

Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of friends who all advocates of the hype train, so I can ask them what is coming up and get all my gaming news without any of the hype beyond their excitement. Books are a little bit easier to follow on my own because there isn’t as much energy put into marketing them via excitement like there is for video games and movies. Most of the time, we just get news from conventions or author blogs, such as Patrick Rothfuss confirming that The Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy is actually just the beginning of the story. Which I am super excited about, because it means I was right to suspect that there was too much left unanswered at the end of Wise Man’s Fears to wrap up in one book. I love the series, so I am excited to hear there will be more books, but there is no urgency behind this. We don’t even have a release date for the book that was for-sure happening, Stone Doors, so information like this is close to news than marketing.

Honestly, even if I do miss out on things sometimes, I feel a lot better when my life isn’t full of a constant stream of advertisements, marketing promotions, and pitches for things that I probably want. It is a lot easier to focus on what I am doing and what I already have to enjoy when I’m not being bombarded by what I don’t have. Inner peace, and all that.

NaNoWriMo Day 25 (11/25)

Well, I actually got a lot done yesterday. Not as much as I toyed with doing (I seriously considered throwing caution to the wind and trying to finish the entire 50,000 this weekend by doing about 10,000 a day), but still a comfortable amount. I’ve got to repeat it again today and then again tomorrow if I want to be caught up, but I think I can manage it since I spent a lot of time taking breaks yesterday and didn’t really get started until after 2pm. I’ve got a busy middle of my day today, with a few social engagements, but my morning and my evening are clear, so I should be able to get my writing done in good time.

It feels really great to have a taste of what my life might be like if I were a full-time writer. If I got paid for my novels and brought it enough to make ends meet so that I didn’t need another job, I’d probably be able to get 6,000 to 10,000 words written a day one writing days and then maybe about three to six times that done on editing days, depending on the depth of the editing and how much re-writing needs to get done. That would be amazing. I would love to live like that. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to do that sometime in the next decade. Nothing would make me happier.

That isn’t to say there aren’t other things I want out of life, but none of them mutually exclusive. Teaching writing would be fun, but I don’t know if I’ve got it in me to do that every day for the rest of my working life. It’d be more fun to do a workshop or two every so often. A strong, long-term relationship would also be wonderful, but that shouldn’t impact my day-to-day work if I can actually support a life with my writing. A nice house would only make it easier since I wouldn’t need to have so many distractions in my room, where I’m trying to work. Travel would get in the way from time to time, but everyone needs a vacation.

The future can be fun to think about, but it looks so different my present that it can be hard to imagine the path that connects the two. There are a lot of little compromises in life and, despite what a lot of art, stories, and movies tell us, not all compromises are bad ones. I wouldn’t mind giving up the imaginary future office in my imaginary future house for one rented in an office park. I wouldn’t mind giving up the imaginary future travel for a leaner lifestyle if I don’t make enough from my books. There’s a lot I’m willing to make changes to as long as I get to write. That’s all I really need. I don’t even need to support myself on that so long as my job provides me enough income to spend my free time writing. I want to tell stories. As long as I can do that, I’ll be fulfilled.


Daily Prompt

While we like to believe our characters are the main actors in their lives, sometimes they get swept up in events. It can be a lot of fun for them or something really awful. Getting swept up in a parade can be fun, as can being swept up in a group of fun people going bar-hopping, but getting swept up in a drug bust or a riot is a lot less fun. Additionally, instead of being swept up in crowds or groups, they can get swept in events. Maybe they were a witness to a crime and wind up getting carried along in what happens or maybe someone throws them a party and they wind up being carried along by someone else’s plan. Heck, maybe they literally get picked up and carried along by people celebrating them or they get kidnapped. For today, write at scene in which your character gets carried along with something.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is my favorite movie, How to Train Your Dragon. While the adaption from the original texts is not even close to accurate, I feel like the movie nevertheless possesses its own unique charm and should be considered separately from the children’s books. The movie has an amazing score that I love to turn on while I write and all of the characters feel so human. Even the titular dragon feels so incredibly well-developed and human despite being modeled after a cat. All the dragons were modeled after cats. Its amazing. They’re all large, scaly, winged cats that just wanna be your friend if you’d just stop trying to kill them. The development of the protagonist from a scrawny weakling with a large brain to a scrawny weakling with a large brain and leadership qualities isn’t super novel or unique, but the movie definitely makes you feel good about yourself and about things in general as a result of that development. I’d say it’s definitely worth a watch or two. It’s easily one of DreamWorks’ better movies of the past decade.


Helpful Tips

Like yesterday’s tip, today’s has to do with marathon writing sessions. If you aren’t very good at sticking to a time schedule because of restlessness or you’ve got things you need to do during your day beyond just writing all day, try using word amounts to set your breaks instead of times. This only works if your to-do list doesn’t have specific times associated with its tasks, but it can be a lot easier to manage because you won’t be constantly checking the time. It can also help you feel less like you’re wasting time because a mini-break that winds up taking half an hour doesn’t change your big break time. If your mini break is every 100 words, then you’ve still got another few hundred to go until your big break.

I like to break mine into 1,000 word segments. If I’m just trying to 1,000 words out instead of focusing on time, I can usually get 1,000 words written in about half an hour if I actually stay on task rather than get distracted during my quick 250 word breaks. Otherwise, it takes about 45 minutes. And I use my bigger breaks for things like getting a new cup of tea or filling my water bottle or having my early evening energy drink. It works really well if you have a concrete goal, can count-down your progress, can’t “make progress” by accidentally wasting time, and have a reward you genuinely want at the end of the road. This is my preferred method for writing marathons.