Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bargains and Backsliding

Well, it's been a couple weeks, so I might as well try to post an update. Maybe I can delude myself into thinking it's writing practice...

In thirtyish years of living with myself, I've come to understand that I'm a lazy beast, but I can be bribed. The one doing the bribing is usually myself. For instance, a while ago I found a game, The I of the Dragon. The premise looked pretty cool: you actually get to play as one of three dragons. I'm a sucker for dragons, and the thing looked like it would actually run on my aging machine, so I picked it up... conditionally. See, I know how I am with games. I lose whole weeks to good ones. During the height of my Arcanum and Sims phases, it was all I could do to remember to eat lunch. (It didn't help that I was unemployed at the time, nor did it help that my sister also owned said games - she's the one who got me hooked on them - and what time I did manage to spend away from my own copy was often spent watching her play hers and/or discussing strategies, mishaps, and downloads.) At the time I found this particular game, I was still jobless, but I really, really, really wanted it. So, I made a deal with myself.
"Self," I said (not verbally - there are limits to my insanity, after all,) "we can get this game, but we can't play it. Not yet."
"Why not?" I whined.
"Well," I answered patiently,"We have a little problem. We're lazy, we're broke, we're unemployed, and we really shouldn't be throwing more time away."
"That's four problems," I point out.
"Shut up!" I snap. "The point is, we need this game like we need a hole in the head."
"Technically, don't we have holes in our head? I mean, we have ears, and eye sockets, and-"
"Yeesh, I gotta cut back on the cocoa... are we always this difficult?"
"Must I answer?"
"Anyway... until one of these things changes, the game cannot be played."
"Then why get it to begin with?"
"Um... er... collection purposes. Dragons, you know..."
"Flimsy excuse, isn't it?"
"Are we really going to argue? That might lead to logic, and we know where that'll take us..."
"Say no more. Which way to the checkout?"

That was some months back. Anyway, fast-forward to this weekend. I was taking a breather from site work, contemplating booting up Word for another round of almost-daily writing practice (as mentioned in the previous entry), when my eye falls upon the icon for the dragon game. (Yes, I installed it, but I didn't actually play it. Just wanted to be sure it would install to begin with whilst I had time to get my money back. After all, I have no delusions about how long it takes me to change anything about myself...) I went back over my mental list of reasons why I couldn't play the game. Was I still lazy? Umm... yes. Was I still broke? Not as bad as I was at the time; I had just deposited my first paycheck from my job. A job? Yes, a job. That meant I was employed! No need to linger too long on that last condition... I had accomplished one thing, I'd bargained for one, and, dang it, I needed something to do that didn't involve reorganizing web sites or cleaning templates!

So, I guess you can figure out where my weekend has gone. My sketchbook's gathering dust, my pile of books to read has been growing faster than it's been diminishing (though I have actually read a few of the quick ones), Skyhaven's stuck in disorganized limbo, and my story files in Word grow lonelier and lonelier. But I've been learning to fly and how to incinerate various beasties, and I'm leveling up at a fair clip. If I wanted to rationalize it, I could call the game story research; my "big" story deals with dragons, and this game lets you actually be a dragon, in fire-breathing, wing-flapping, spell-casting 3D. I can even toggle to dragon's-eye views for the full experience. But, as I said earlier, there are limits to my insanity. I've backslid, and I know it. But I kept my bargain with myself. I couldn't boot it up until I had a job, and danged if I didn't actually hold off until then.

Now, there are other bargains I've made with myself over the years. I actually have another game tucked away, which I not only will not but actually cannot load until I've earned myself a new computer. (Don't ask, but it looked very, very cool and I knew I'd kick myself forever if I didn't grab it... that, and it was reasonably priced. I still have bad luck with games I pay more than 20-30 bucks for, but that's a whole 'nother topic... as are the conditions for "earning" a new computer, but that's mostly a budget matter, save certain peripheral upgrades I'd rather like to indulge in.) I only let myself buy somewhat sugary cereal after three or so boxes of healthy stuff. On a larger scale, I have told myself that if/when I ever actually get in shape (budget pending), I'll take a swipe at parasailing off the mountain, like I've watched so many people do in my years of living beneath one of the state's major jump points. And then there's the big prize, the granddaddy of all personal bribes, the one I still torture myself with annually: when I finally sell a story, I will attend a DragonCon*. (This presumes that DragonCon's still running at the time - and that Atlanta's still standing, given our changing storm patterns and somewhat disturbing tendency of making enemies out of the rest of the world.)

Well, now I've spent about half an hour typing this blog entry up. That's more time than I've spent writing much of anything in about half a week. At this rate, DragonCon's looking more and more misty, unless I can figure out how to bribe my way to get back into story mode... preferably a bribe that won't suck up all the free time I should be using to do even more writing. Wonder what I'll come up with...

* http://www.dragoncon.org/ . Need I elaborate?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Radio

It's Sunday, so all the radio stations are on their second-string DJs running their third-string playlists. There's no reason in the world why Sunday radio should be any worse than the rest of the week, but that's how it seems to come out. Even the DJ-less stations seem to pick up that it's Sunday and downgrade the rotation accordingly. Fortunately, I have a CD player. Unfortunately, my brain is locked into Sunday radio mode. First-rate ideas and thoughts don't seem to be coming through for all the second-rate junk and general static.

I'm writing this while waiting for ink to dry on a potential Skyhaven template. (I always say "potential" when I ink a template because sometimes, between the sketching and the scanning and the cleanup, a beautiful idea turns into unusable garbage. It works the other way sometimes - an afterthought doodle can scan and clean into a great little critter - but usually it goes good-to-bad.) My work on the site overhaul has slowed a bit after the initial burst of energy. I've reached the point where I've pretty much done what I want to do (for now) to the main part, and it's time to set up the subdomain and redo the Hunt. This, as one might imagine, is a far more monumental task, and one best not attempted on a Sunday-radio brain.

Speaking of things Sunday-radio minds aren't suited for, I'm still struggling to grasp Flash 4. The part of my brain with no concept of budgets wonders if I shouldn't look into a newer version to see if it's any more user-friendly. This is also the part of my brain that says my Pentium III computer's heading the way of the Commodore in terms of relevance, and that I ought to look into an upgrade. I have one book on learning Flash 4, but so far it's not being as helpful as it could be, either jumping straight ahead to the mind-boggling complexities of Actionscript or lagging behind the tutorials that came with Flash 4. Still, I'm pushing ahead. I think what I really need to do is stop thinking in terms of mega-complicated Flash games and come up with some nice, simple (or relatively simple) "starter" projects and go from there.

I've been working on my second/third resolutions (related to creating more, and on a more consistent basis.) Having just finished reading a book on writing (Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg), I figured I'd try implementing a few of her exercises. Not all of them, as they seem primarily geared toward poets or writers of nostalgia/reality-based works, but a few of them. Of primary interest was the exercise of writing about something - anything - for a set amount of time a day, completely unrelated to any books or stories or anything else one is actually hoping to show the rest of the world someday. The instructions are to write anything that springs to mind and follow it wherever it goes, even if it seems silly or stupid or otherwise pointless. I've been at it for about four days, and so far I may have the roots of a new story (hopefully short, but that's what I always hope), but it's hard not to feel like I'm just killing time, even if I do understand the end goal (breaking down the internal barriers that lead one to stare in blank-minded terror at an empty page while the mental literary critic mauls every semblance of an idea that happens along.)

One part of my life that hasn't been spinning its wheels or drowning in mental static has been my new job. My two-week review seemed to go pretty well. Right now, I'm looking forward to my first paycheck from the library. I should probably get my budget in order before it arrives so I can get right back into the habit of tracking income versus expenses. (I kinda let that habit lapse during my days of unemployment, as it was just too depressing.) Again, not something today's brain seems to be ready to deal with.

I suppose I ought to check on that template, and maybe start working on another one. Sketching's one thing I can usually convince myself to do, even if I have to listen to Sunday radio while doing it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Employed Again

It's a strange feeling, having to be somewhere to do something again after so long without a job. I just finished my first work week, and they seem to expect me back next week, so I guess I didn't screw up. Granted, the job's hardly rocket science, but you spend enough time getting rejected for jobs and you start to wonder if you can even do a job anymore...

Anyway, now that I have (presumably) an income I can rely on for a while, it's time to get other things in order... such as my long-term plans to make enough money off my own creativity or somesuch that I can ditch this gig. It's not that I hate the job, it's just that I really don't want to be doing this for ten years... or five, even, if I can help it. So, time to dust off the story files, sketchbooks, art supplies, and workbench tools... and make room for some friends to join them. I got an income, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Those who worry that my newly-employed status will spell the end of my sites, take heart: when I got home from work on my very first day, I added a brand-new critter to the Skyhaven lineup. What is it? When will you see it? It's too soon to answer those questions, but my tentative plans call for the big update to hit the web in early March... maybe late February, if I get my tail in gear and work.

Hmm... blogging isn't working, is it? Sorry... guess I'd better run...