Five Nights at Freddy’s Kept Me from Writing

So Daniel, do you want to know what I did instead of writing last night? What I did instead of writing over lunch today at work? What I’ve been doing this evening? Well, I won’t say I completely wasted my time, I did get a lot of work done today in the office and I cleaned the ferret cage, but a majority of my time was watching Five Nights at Freddy’s theory videos on Youtube.

You heard me right. Instead of working on a blog we’ve literally been running for more than two years, I obsessed over a fucking video game franchise that probably should have died four years ago after the second game came out. I literally watched all of Markiplier’s playthroughs of the games, including all of his “hard mode” playthroughs and the extra videos which just replayed his best jump scare reactions. Then I watched every single video on Game Theory about the game, fascinated by how the six games and two books came together into one cohesive and horrific timeline.

I’m almost ashamed to admit I’ve also been watching Markiplier play through all of the FNAF knock offs, including Five Nights at the Chum Bucket, a fucking Spongebob reboot of this god forsaken game. I went from zero to fully addicted in the span of like three days and I haven’t even played the games. But don’t worry, I’ve got the books on hold at the library because I cannot help myself.

Is this a symptom of my obsessive compulsive order? Now that I actually recognize what OCD is, having meticulously destroyed my skin while coping with anxiety, I rarely use the term OCD in a joking way, like using it to justify my need to have the TV volume on a multiple of five. But this habit of mine, this burning hot and heavy on an obsession for a few weeks and then dropping it quickly, feels like a compulsion. Maybe it is?

Anyway, this is not meant to be a sad post about mental illness. Let’s get back on track.

In retrospect, I should have known this would happen. If I had read the synopsis of FNAF before I just happened to click on Markiplier’s video, I would have pegged it as my future obsession.

Initially I had ignored it, writing the game off as a Hot Topic-esque trend for preteen edgelords, but now that I’ve experienced it, it is so up my alley.

Cute, seemingly harmless things that are actually very dangerous and deadly? A mysterious serial killer luring kids to their deaths using party costumes? Horrible deaths involving machines accidentally crushing their victims and mangling their corpses? Lots of hidden details and Easter eggs that add up to a more complex, horrific story? It’s like it was written for me! I am a self described pastel edgelord. I love skulls and shit, but I can rock the fuck out of a pastel skirt.

Also, it’s basically a B-flick horror movie come to life, filled with cheesy jump scares and purposefully over-the-top effects. If I could go back to 2014 Emily and tell her about this game, I’m sure she would jump on the bandwagon immediately, fuck how popular the game is.

Now, who wants to put bets on how long this obsession lasts? Definitely going to play the games and read the books, how long do you think that will take?

-EMS

P.S. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of poetry. I’ve always been something of an amateur poet myself and I’ve decided I want to put together a poetry collection of my own. Over the next few months, I might use my SDoS posts to test run some of my poetry. Hope that’s okay! 

I’m also telling you about this now because I need someone to hold me accountable. I can’t spend my time watching FNAF videos all the time. Sometimes I need to write.

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Quest Writing

So I’m about to come out of hiatus for the Nemo crew and their DnD game. We took a break because during the holidays we couldn’t consistently have everyone there. It was a good time to take a break as well.

I used some of that time to talk to them about alignment and character motivation. A couple times now characters have used a version of the phrase, “Why are we doing this again?”

That’s fine if you are losing track, or your attendance hasn’t been perfect, but there was one line said that made me really start thinking about characters and quests. The tiefling cleric player said to the other players:

“I know Dan is trying to steer us towards this…”

I have been thinking about that line basically since she said it. I want my players to feel like they have choices, but more importantly that those changes matter and will affect the world around them.

Around the same time, my Rogue Trader players were busy trying to figure out where they belong in war on Port Footfall. Without any discussion, or even any questions, they sided with one merchant over the other. The decision made sense to them emotionally so I wasn’t too worried, but what I found interesting was that they sided with him without knowing what he was asking them to do.

It occurred to me (and was revealed to me by some more experienced GM’s online) was that I was doing this all wrong. I was writing grand scenarios and plot twists and stuff, when really that should be on the players. They were playing like they were actors in a play. There was a script, and they followed it.

Now— that’s not a bad way to play. But what was missing was character engagement. The players were doing what was asked of them, or picking from a limited number of choices instead of making their own.

Players making their own choices is what the core mechanic of RPG’s is. In my quests, I still put plenty of things in their path that they could choose to interact with and would change the course of events, but even more fundamentally, the players didn’t choose this quest for themselves. They didn’t say to themselves, “Hey! Let’s bring a Merchant Fleet to the Koronus Expanse and establish Battlefleet Koronus.” or “Hey! Let’s go bring down a rival merchant and steal a bunch of his assets.”

I had inadvertently made the choice for them. This gets tricky the more you think about it though, because the GM needs to prepare and the like. But what I missed was that I didn’t provide them options. I can still prepare quests, but it needs to be their choice to go on them.

It’s why my players went to Rain all died that one time. For the first time in the game I had let them loose and they chose an adventure to go on.

It’s why some of the greatest stories are simple. It’s why the heroes journey is so prevalent. There is a deed that could be done, and the hero wants to do it. Whether it’s taking down Darth Vader or riding eternal on the Fury Road; adventures need to be fun because someone wants to do it.

So I’m going to change the way I write quests. I will present issues and let the players decide what to do. I’ll still write all of my planned quests, but they will have to be the ones to choose to do them. I will instead present them with some primal reward, whether its rewards or revenge, but I think the possibilities will be a lot more satisfying to discover if the characters are finally in the story. So to speak.

—DTM

Lowering the Bar for 2018

 

Let me just say that I’m super proud of you, Daniel. You did so many cool things this past year and listening to you talk about everything you achieved inspires me to do more with my time.

While you did achieve a lot of what you wanted to do this past year, I feel like I barely did anything. I had some lofty goals at the beginning of 2017, including running a half marathon and teaching myself calligraphy. Did any of that happen? Well, I did read forty books, which is pretty cool. Still feel like I could’ve done more, ya know?

This year I’m going to set goals for myself again, but instead of creating incredibly lofty goals, I think I’m going to keep mine simple. Some may call this lowering the bar, I call this celebrating the little steps I can take to help me reach my incredibly lofty goals.

Here are my incredibly simple, straightforward goals for 2018.

Read more books.

This past year I read a lot and I’ve told myself a couple times that, in 2018, I’ll push myself and read 60 books. Well, we’re only five days into 2018 and I already feel like that goal is too high. I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure by dedicating myself to five books a month.

So, instead, my goal is just to read more. I’d like to read 50 books, but as long as I match what I read last year, I’ll be happy.

I also want to read more horror novels by women and people of color. I realized over this last year that a lot of my favorite authors are white guys, which is just sad. I’m not saying Stephen King and Jack Ketchum and Joe Hill aren’t good writers, I just want there to be more diversity in the books I read. And the only way to make things more diverse is to actively try to make it so. I can’t just hope more women and people of color get popular, I need to work for it. If I just keep reading horror novels with great reviews, I’m going to read a lot of stuff by white guys. I want to give other people a chance.

Watch less Netflix.

Now when I say watch less Netflix, what I actually mean is I need to stop using streaming services to “fill time.” More often than not, I’ll spend a few hours on the couch watching something I’ve seen a million times just because it’s comfortable. It’s safe, in a way.

My goal for 2018 is to do that less. I don’t just want to fill time, I want to enjoy my time and I can do that by only using Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Youtube to watch things that I actually want to watch. Stop re-watching the same things over and over and broaden my viewing horizons a bit. There are thousands of horror movies I haven’t seen and yet I’m re-watching Roseanne. Sad. 

Save money.

This has literally been goal of mine since I graduated college. I just need to save more money so I don’t end up going into debt every time a big bill hits. To help me achieve this goal, I’m going to try to do less retail therapy. I need to stop spending money on things just because I can. Now, I can still buy things I want, but only if I really want them and not because I need to “treat myself.”

I also want to spend less money on beer that’s just for me. I like craft beer because it’s something I can share with my friends. It’s an experience! Well, it’s not an experience when I’m sitting at home watching a movie by myself and drinking a beer I’ve had millions of times before. Basically, I sometimes treat beer like I treat Netflix. I spend my money on beer I’ve had before because it’s safe, not because I’m enjoying it. Of course, I’ll still buy beer for myself once in a while, but I don’t need to be spending $60 a month on Black Butte Porter. I could be spending that on stuff I’ve never had before!

Write more.

Again, this is literally a goal I’ve had since the dawn of time. I just want to write more.

In middle school, I wrote every single day and I had notebooks full of fanfictions and funny stories and poetry. Nowadays, I write like once a week and it’s not because I’m passionate about something, it’s more because I feel obligated.

Well, guess what, if obligation is what gets me writing then I’m going to need more of it.

What I specifically want to do is set up a writing schedule for myself and stick to it. No more of this waiting for inspiration or to feel passionate about it bull crap. That doesn’t work anymore. I need to change up my tactics.

Now, my goal is to write a novella and maybe a book of poetry by the end of the year, but that goal comes later. Right now, my goal is just to write more than once a week and to start writing things for myself rather than for work.

Take time for education.

Like I said in my last post, I work at an institution that gives its employees access to college level courses for $5 and yet I’ve only taken advantage of that a couple of times.

Of course, I have big, lofty goals for my education like going back to grad school and becoming a certified cicerone, but for now I’m going to start simple. I just want to make more time for my education, take more time to learn new things because it’s fun.

There are so many free online resources I can take advantage of. Last year, I was enrolled in a introduction to law course and a course on HTML coding for free through Coursera. Did I finish either class? Nope!

That just means I need to make more time for it.

Do more things with my time.

And to wrap up my 2018 goals, I just want to do more things with my time. Right now my free time is taken up mostly by Netflix, reading, crocheting, and work, which means I’m incredibly boring. I want to change that. I want to do more.

Some things I’m planning to do more of this year, mostly because it will give me things to do during the time I’m usually re-watching Gilmore Girls, are play more video games, get back into drawing and painting, listen to more podcasts, and try out different types of exercise besides running. I want to be an interesting person and right now all I can list under the hobbies section are reading and crocheting.

So there you go, those are my goals for this coming year. Yep, I pulled the bar way down for this year, but it’s worth it if in January 2019 I can look back and feel like I accomplished something. Setting myself up for failure isn’t a good thing. 

-EMS

 

The 2017 Takeaway

This was a pretty busy year for me since I kept starting projects that have no designated end point. I started two (almost three) different RPG campaigns as a Game Master.

I built my own DnD sandbox world called Nemoria and I’m brainstorming for it nearly every moment I’m awake. In Rogue Trader we recently finished our first arc and I’m preparing for the next one. It doesn’t feel like I achieved a ton this year until I read my post about 2017.

First up: read more. While I have by no means read a lot I have definitely read more this year than the last ten years combined.  For me it was quite a lot, but I read like 9 books. I probably would’ve made it through more but a Steven Erikson book tripped me up bad. I think I legitimately spent like four months slogging through it. It was rough.

Next on the list: run a Rogue Trader campaign. Judging by my crazy number of Rogue Trader posts I think we can say that’s going well. We’ve had hiccups and pacing issues but I think we finally have an understanding. It sounds like people are having fun and are wanting more.

Oh damn this is a good one: have my credit card number under $500. Well, I can’t claim that I did this all myself. Mom and dad stepped in for the final bit and my credit card is gone. That card has been paid completely off and closed.

Next one was “build one goddamn robot by 2018.” Technically that’s a check on the list. I built a kit that comes with all the instructions and parts needed to do some modular builds. I built it, but it wasn’t as in depth as I wanted. The really complicated one’s that will teach me about parts and programming cost thousands of dollars. But yes— I built a robot.

Listen to more podcasts and watch less YouTube. I would say I don’t watch less YouTube, but I watch YouTube more productively. I go on less re-watch binges, and I only watch new content. I do listen to more podcasts— I’m up to date on Welcome to Nightvale. I listen to Dear Hank and John as well as Unpopular Opinion. There are a handful of story podcasts I jam through.

Better eating habits. Debatable. I would say this one didn’t go well. I still snack and drink soda, but I did lose 20 lbs. So uh— sideways pass.

Total Party Failure on “I want to draw more.”

I have been walking a lot more this year. During the summer I was walking nearly ever day, at least thirty minutes. Mom gave me a fitbit and I was hiting 10,000 steps maybe every other day. As I mentioned previously, I lost 20 lbs— so something is going right. It’s much harder when its cold and rainy, but I was doing well when it was warm.

The last part of my Plan for 2017 was “do more.” I think I’ve succeeded. I probably wasn’t as productive as I wanted. I always fantasize about basically starting a Bauhaus of creativity with my friends. I started Rogue Trader, which spawned a bunch of campaigns within our group. Ellis is running a campaign, and so is my buddy Mikey. Basically everyone at my work wants to play now. We started a second blog, which is still going and that’s cool. I still want to try and have a novel/novella written by my birthday. I’m not feeling confident about that one but we’ll see.

So what is in store for 2018?

I can’t say I honestly know. I’m doing a lot now and I know what I’d like to try and do so I’ll list that now in no particular order:

  • Beat more of my video games.
  • Read my shelf full of “books I haven’t read yet.”
  • Finish my Nemoria module
  • Write a story. A finished one, not pieces.
  • Do at least one bit of freelance game dev writing
  • Publish something on GM Guild

Tall orders, but I surprised myself this year. Let’s see if I can go two for two!

-DTM

 

The Art of the Collage

Do you remember making collages in elementary school? I remember making collages for everything. I cut up so many magazines to make collages for my favorite books, my favorite movies, things that made me smile, and so on. I honestly remember making collages for fun outside of school because I was a huge nerd, chopping up old catalogs and newspapers we had hanging around our house.

Now I did not keep a single collage I made when I was younger because I never really had any reason to. I may have hung a couple up in my room if I liked the pictures, but any time I cleaned up my room the collages were usually the first thing thrown into the recycling bin. Collages were fun to make, but useless to hang onto.

I would guess it’s been about fifteen years since I made a collage and suddenly, in the last few weeks, I’ve had a very strong urge to make a collage. What I want to make is a vision board, which is basically a collage, but with a purpose.

And I’m super excited about it.

vision board 1

Example! Mine’s probably going to be a little spookier, cuz I’m a spooky lady.

A vision board is a tool to help you visualize and focus on your life goals. You can use any type of surface you want, like a cork board, the front of your fridge, or even a Pinterest board. The only thing you have to do is put it somewhere where you can see it every day. A vision board is meant to remind you that you’re working toward something and to never give up.

Now, if I make my vision board, I want it to be on a poster board. Something that I can easily hang near my bed and see everyday.

I know what you’re thinking, Daniel. Why do I even want to make a vision board?

Well, because I recently found some of my personal ‘to-do’ lists and I have had the same life goals for the past few years and have made zero progress on them. Zero, zilch, bagel. Nothing to show for these goals I’ve had since I was in high school.

It made me realize that something needed to change. After looking back over the last decade of my life, I realize my issue isn’t lack of skill or time. It’s lack of motivation. It’s because, after a long day of work, I come home, sit on the couch, and zone out watching Netflix. Yes, in the morning, when I first get up, I might think to myself, “Today’s the day! When I get home from work I’m going to do those amazing things I’ve wanted to do for years and it will be amazing!” But after eight hours in the office, all I can think about it relaxing. About grabbing a beer and chilling on the couch.

Well, hopefully, a vision board will change that.

Now I realize a vision board is a bit of a cheesy idea. It’s definitely something young white women on Pinterest do and they fill their board with cliche sayings like, “Go on more adventures” or “Love my husband more.” But you know what, I might be a white woman, but that doesn’t mean my vision board has to be useless. I am going to put concrete, tangible things on my vision board so that every day I wake up and the first thing I see is my to do list.

Wait…this is the most type-A thing I’ve ever done….Oh well, if the anxiety shoe fits.

Anyway, some things I’m going to include on my vision board/life to do list are:

  • Write a novel. I’ve literally had this as a personal goal since I was six and, in the past twenty-one years, I have written zero novels.
  • Become a certified cicerone. This is something I’ve been toying with since I started getting into craft beer. Not only would it basically certify me as a beer snob, it would also open doors to freelancing for craft beer magazines and marketing for small breweries. How cool would that be?
  • Run a half marathon. Literally been talking about this for a year now and all of my attempts to stay on a training schedule have fallen apart.
  • Go back to school. My current job offers an employee discount on college credits and, when I started, I told myself I would take advantage of that. Well, in total I’ve taken two classes. Been here almost five years.

That’s just the beginning, Daniel. I have so many things I want to put on my vision board and I’m excited to get started.

What would you put on your vision board, Daniel?

-EMS

 

For a Professional Writer, I’m Super Bad at Keeping a Writing Schedule

How long has this blog been going for? More than two years at this point? And in that time only one of us has earned a punishment, and that was me. Last time I felt like I had a pretty decent excuse. I got a sudden migraine the evening I was supposed to write and ended up in bed, waiting patiently for my eyes to stop throbbing.

Well, I have officially earned the second punishment in the history of Seven Degrees of Smudde and guess what my excuse is this time? Well, surprise, surprise. I have none.

Want to know what I did today? Well, I woke up at 11 a.m., hung out with the ferrets while I watched reruns of Gilmore Girls, read the novella “Cannibals in Candyland,” and then binged the first season of Netflix’s “Frontier” in preparation to binge the second season tomorrow. It was about two beers and four episodes into this Netflix binge that I remembered what day it was. At that point it was a quarter after 10 p.m. and, honestly, I didn’t really feel like pausing my show to write. I just texted you and said to start preparing a punishment because I didn’t feel like writing.

God, listen to me. I didn’t feel like writing. I’m a professional writer. I get paid lots of money to go to work, sit behind a desk, and write things for eight hours. I’m also a pretty responsible and organized writer at work. I rarely miss deadlines and when I do, I let my team know that I’ve been delayed. And while I might not have a good excuse for being delayed, at least I know my schedule well enough to know that I’m fucked.

And yet, when I get home, I become a terrible writer. A terrible writer who sometimes forgets when things are due, like I did today.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m like this. When I was younger, I was always writing. I never stopped writing. You probably remember, Daniel, the way I always carried notebooks with me and would sit for hours writing in them. I always had a story I was working on. Granted, back then, I didn’t have any deadlines to meet, but I’m 100% positive I would have met my deadlines if they had existed. I would have met them because I always felt like writing.

Now that I’m older and I kind of have the writing job I always wanted, I don’t feel like writing. I feel like sitting and watching Netflix and reading trashy horror novels.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t have as much of an imagination as I did when I was a kid. Sometimes I think it’s because I spend all of my time writing at work that when I come home it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes I think it’s because unless there is an immediately tangible reward or consequence to a task, I have no motivation to complete it, which is a common theme in my life. For example, unless I have an early meeting at work or I’m going somewhere fun, I cannot get up with my alarm in the morning.

Anyway, I hope you have fun thinking up my punishment, Daniel. Sorry for getting this up so late! I need to keep better track of myself. In other news, “Cannibals In Candyland” was just as ridiculous as it sounds.

-EMS  

 

I’m Never Prepared

Dude, I feel like I’m never prepared to write for SDoS. No matter how well I plan out my week, I always end up writing my post during my lunch break at work, struggling to brainstorm a topic in between my meetings and work projects. Logically, I know that if I just take a few hours to brainstorm and outline my thoughts, my SDoS posts would be so much better, but it’s hard sometimes to find the motivation to put a lot of effort into something when I’m not feeling particularly inspired.

I think that’s the root of my problem. I think I’m in the same place that you are, Daniel. I’ve run out of ideas and it’s hard to find more things to write about when all I do is work, crochet, and chill at home. I’ve written about all of those things. I need something new.

Earlier this week you asked me to teach you how to be inspired and I jokingly said you need to stand on your head and drink kombucha, neither of which I will willingly do. But the more I think about it, the more I like the analogy. Finding inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha: physically tasking and not appealing at all.

A lot of people seem to think that I’m a creative or inspired person, but in reality I rarely feel “inspired” anymore. Yes, I crochet and I write and I sometimes craft things, but in reality all of the things I create don’t magically appear, conjured by a flash of magic inspiration. In reality, I crochet things I see on Pinterest, write things based on parameters given to me by my boss or a writing prompt, and make things to fill a need in my life rather than to satisfy a whim.

My creativity isn’t spontaneous, romantic thing that sweeps me off my feet, it’s more like a task on a to do list that takes time and energy.

Inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha. You’ve got to take some time and get yourself into a headstand and then you have to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do, like drink gross kombucha or write a bunch of garbage until something wonderful happens.

There’s a quote from Stephen King that always comes to mind when I finally force myself to sit down and write my SDoS post:  “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Sometimes I wish Stephen King could just follow me around, poking me with a ruler and reminding me over and over that if I want to write I just have to sit down and do it. Don’t loggy gag, don’t sit around and use the “I don’t have any ideas” excuse.

Obviously this post is more a reminder for me than it is for you, Daniel. You are a very inspired person and just listening to the way you talk about the blogs and your roleplaying campaigns, I know that you’re a way better writer than me. I really should be asking you to teach me to be inspired, not the other way around.

I guess I’ll end this post with another reminder to myself and any other writers out there on the internet who stumble upon this post. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is, what matters is you wrote something.

Writing is like going for a run. It doesn’t matter how fast you go or how long you run for, what matters is that you went for a run. Same goes for writing. I hated my last three SDoS posts and my last two WMR posts, but at least I sat down and wrote them.

-EMS