Making my Own Opportunities

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

There is some controversy about where this quote comes from. It has been attributed to a Roman philosopher named Seneca, to the football player Darrell Royal, and an American insurance salesman and writer named Elmer Letterman.

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You gotta read this, Daniel. So good!

Before you start imagining me, sitting at my desk, reading classic literature and smoking a pipe, let me tell you where I actually found this quote. I found it in the wonderful novelist Nick Offerman’s book, Gumption.

Not quite as regal sounding as a Roman philosopher or great American writer, huh?

When I read this quote, it really resonated with me. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it or some iteration of it before, especially since it goes hand in hand with things like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “you better work, bitch.” However, I think it stuck with me because it doesn’t attribute success to just hard work. Yes, hard work is essential to accomplishing your goals, but in this day and age you could be the hardest worker and still get nowhere.

As a fellow millennial, Daniel, I’m sure you’ve heard all the terrible things people say about our generation. We’re all selfish and entitled and don’t know the meaning of hard work. As a fellow millennial, you probably also know that this is complete and utter bullshit.

It seems like every person I know who’s close to my age works their ass off. All of my friends work forty or more hours a week, find odd jobs around town to make extra cash, and still need to pinch pennies every single week. You can just glance at the news to see that people our age are having a hard time finding steady work, even with college degrees, and yet for some reason lots of people seem to think it’s our fault.

We’ve been preparing all our lives for our lucky break. Now we just need the opportunity.

After reading this quote, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own goals. Some of them I have been actively working towards, like running a half marathon. However, I realized for some of them I’m just sitting around waiting for the opportunity rather than using my time to prepare for when that opportunity arises.

Maybe the previous generation was right about me. Maybe I am just a lazy, entitled millennial.

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Me after a long run. 

One goal I’ve had since I picked up a pen was to write a novel. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school and I would love, love, love to publish one of my stories for the world to enjoy.

Except, in the last four years, I haven’t been preparing for it at all. I have written three, maybe four short stories in the past four years. That might sound like a lot, but that’s definitely not enough to prepare to be a writer. I’ve been sitting around, waiting for something to strike suddenly and change my life rather than getting up and changing my life myself.

I feel like I also sit around waiting for easy opportunities rather than taking advantage of the tools at my fingertips. Yes, it would be so much easier to get picked up by some big publishing company and have them edit and promote my work, but that won’t happen until I get my name out there. And how can I do that? Well, in this magical age of the internet, I can self publish. No one’s stopping me from writing my stories and posting them somewhere. Maybe even on a WordPress blog. What a concept!

This is where I subtly work in our new blog, Write Makes Right. See how I did that? I’m a marketer.

But there’s more to it than just posting what you’ve created on the internet and hoping people will stumble upon it. If I want to make my writing dreams come true I have to be my own editor, promoter, and manager.

Terrifying? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.

Sorry for this one being a bit rambly, Daniel. Nick Offerman talks so much about creativity and hard work in his novel that, once I finished it, I was eager to get out and just do something. Anything! I just felt the urge to create and write and this blog post is a product of that passion.

This is also an example of how I need to hone my skills if I’m going to be my own editor.

See you next week on Write Makes Right!

–EMS

I Back-flip Into Holes

I’ve always envied you Emily.  You have maintained a focus on yourself and your goals your entire life.  You’ve been falling down holes for years.  And luckily its usually the same hole!

My hobbies shift with the times.  I get really into various things for like a year or two and then I move to something else.  Well recently I sold off the majority of my Magic cards.  I also traded in a huge portion of my Batman comics because I just couldn’t keep up.  Last year I was in an in between phase when I decided to run a Rogue Trader RPG campaign.

Its probably my only solid hobby right now.  I am reading for entertainment less, I’m not getting through my video game backlog, and I have essentially stopped watching shows.  I fancy myself an ‘immersive GM,’ so I spend my time writing what I hope are interesting settings, quests, and enemies.

I bring all of this up not to brag but to emphasize how much time I spend on this.  I’m always thinking about it, planning for it, and writing down ideas and quest lines.  Most evenings after work I probably sit down and write at least a little bit.  I agonize over it, but I really love it.  It’s fun and satisfying!

But Emily, I back-flip down holes.  I throw myself into whatever my current hobby is hard.

So I decided I’m going to run a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign for my work.  Some of my coworkers will get to be players in their very first campaign.  I’m going to have to write a campaign that’s not only exciting, but introduces these people to the campaign setting.  On top of all of that, the quest line needs to slowly teach them how to play the game.

One campaign was sucking up a huge portion of my time.  Now I’ve agreed to two!  I’m going the distance.

Did I mention I’ve never officially run a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign before?  So I need to learn how to GM it like a boss.

But fuck it, ya know?  I’m enjoying writing.  So much so that I am considering writing an official book.  So to keep my writing muscle flexing and getting swole, you and I are starting a brand new blog in which we will write a story back and forth, 500-ish words at a time!  Starting next Friday?!

BUT FUCK IT, YA KNOW?  I’m going to start my own writing project on my own goddamn blog.  I have been playing with the idea of writing a motherfucking prequel story to the Killian Rage from my goddamn Rogue Trader campaign.  It would be my first semi-serious online novella series.  Just to see how it goes, fuck it.

You may occasionally trip and fall into a hole Emily.  And its refreshing to see someone so dedicated to their self and their hobbies.  But I’ve never been known to trip.  My hobbies go too fast and hard for me to nurture them appropriately over the course of years.  So if I’m going to full enjoy a hobby, the only way I know how is to overload the machine and shove the whole damn thing into a hole.

And then I’m falling; surrounded by the elements of my work.  Running two campaigns, and potentially three blogs at one time?  Sometimes you see the the ground rushing up to meet you and all you can do is point and scream:

“ROLL INITIATIVE!”

I Fell Down a Hole

I have always considered myself an organized and responsible person. In college I never missed an assignment or flunked a test. After graduation, I worked diligently until I found a job and had a steady income. Nowadays, I rarely miss work deadlines, show up at least five minutes early to everything, and never run out of clean underwear.

I have also always believed that life is all about balance. No one can be organized and regimented all the time, me included. I am very responsible when it comes to work, exercise, and other household chores, but I am definitely not organized when it comes to my hobbies.

When it comes to my main hobbies, like reading, writing, crocheting, and horror movies, there is absolutely no gray zone. I swing between being completely obsessed with a book or project for days at a time and having zero interest in even thinking about it.

I recently came up with a name for my habit. I call it falling down a hole. giphy
A few weeks ago I was sitting with my coworkers outside, enjoying the sunshine and talking about books. We were talking about our favorite genres and, of course, I brought up my obsession with scary stories.

My coworkers, Stephen and Meredith, said that they had read some Stephen King, but can’t read a whole lot of his work. For every book of his they read, they have to read something light-hearted to “recover.”

In my entire life, I’ve never had to do that. When I finish a scary story, I don’t try to find some way to escape from my terror, I revel in it. I finish a scary story and then immediately search out the next scary story I can find. I can’t get enough. I need more, more, more. A few years ago I read my first novel by Jack Ketchum. It was gruesome and terrifying and stomach-turning and I immediately wanted more.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. That’s basically my policy when it comes to my hobbies.
Well, it is until the switch in my brain is suddenly flipped off and I lose all interest. And when I say a switch if flipping, I’m being very serious. It’s not a gradual thing. I put something down and then just don’t pick it up for months and months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll finish a book if I start it and if I’m crocheting something for a friend I’ll always finish it. But if it’s something I’m just goofing around with then there’s a good chance I’ll put it on a shelf and just forget about it. I have so many partially finished novels and crochet projects just laying around.

You’d think for being the most organized person in my office I’d be more organized when it comes to my own hobbies, but nope! Apparently all of the energy I use to stay on track I use at work.

Fuck everything else in my life I guess.

-EMS

The Malazan Book of the Fallen

We moved to Washington in the year 2000.  It was a rough journey for me because I had just found my stride in school.  Then we moved and I had to start over.  At this time I was reading a lot of books because I just couldn’t be arsed to try and make friends again.

In 2001, our family drove back to Wisconsin.  On the first day we stopped at a Barnes and Noble.  This was fortuitous, because I had just crushed the current book I was reading.  There was one of those tables near the fiction aisles with ‘recommended picks’ on it.  And front and center, with a vibrant red cover was Gardens of the Moon: a Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.

I liked the blurb on the back, and the introduction inside on the dust jacket, so I asked mom to pick it up for me.   I dove in hard, and the book smacked me around.  It was nothing like anything I had ever read.  Up until that point I had only been reading young fiction.  I powered through series like Tamora Pierces Circle of Magic series and the Song of the Lioness.  Quick little books that tackled stories such as growing up and being the most possible special.

Arguably Gardens of the Moon was my first adult series.  The writing was complex, the story was rich and vast, and characters were defined by their actual character instead of the arbitrary arc of the book.  I think it took me an entire year to finish it originally.

The core series finished in 2011.  It’s ten books in its entirety.  It stands as my favorite series to date.  Pretzel and I are currently listening to them on audiobook.  And they are as good as I remember.

Currently Steven Erikson is working on finishing a new trilogy that is a prequel to the core series.  And its a pain to read.  Several times I’ve considered putting the book down and reading something else.

Civil war has broken out in the land of the Tiste, a noble people who have been introduced to gods and magic.  A rift is growing between the highborn Tiste nobles and the lowly soldiers that fought their wars.  Read the book for the full story thus far.

The current book, The Fall of Light, starts out with something close to 350 pages of talking.  Steven Erikson loves to expound at length about expectations versus reality.  And its a big part about why I love his books!  But 350 pages of people talking about the civil war that’s brewing, the cause of war, why humans war, the sides of the civil war, the philosophy of war, cause and effect, life and death, bravery versus survival.

Fucking shit dude, shut up!  Let the war begin before you bog me down with the intellectual stuff.

You, dear reader of this lonely blog, might recognize 350 pages as the length of other goddamn books.  I just got to the part where real things are happening.  When I say they are talking and expounding at length, I don’t mean like they are on a battlefield spouting philosophy at their enemies.  They are literally sitting around the citadel in the capital city, sitting around campfires, sitting around temples, sitting in front of a hearth, sitting around mansions, et-fucking-cetera.

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Sorry I nodded off there.

Its so annoying to me that this book starts off so dry.  Like a big bowl of steel cut oats served on a hairdryer.  His books have this quality to them that’s hard to explain, and this book is not delivering what I’m looking for.  I look forward to his books, and it bums me out because it took him approximately 3 Big Bang’s ago to write this one.

Steven Erikson loves to subvert expectations normally found in high fantasy.  And that resonates with me so very deeply.  He creates his own races with their own cultures.  His pantheon is vast and varied.  His books don’t rely on existing tropes to come flesh out his narrative.  There are no elves, and there are no dwarves.

Tolkien fantasy is still fine, I don’t hate it, but so many novels use it as a crutch.  Elves are ageless, beautiful mystics.  Dwarves are hardy, drunk Vikings.  Orcs are ugly, stinking, cannibalistic warriors who respect strength.  Seeing a book, or idea, or setting that uses Tolkien fantasy always feels so assumed.

Why do the elves use the bows in your book?  Why do dwarves use axes?  You know dwarves all live in mines, so of all the tools they could use as a weapon an axe that is used to cut down trees in a dark, deep cave makes senseElves use a weapon that traditionally needs great visibility and lines of sight over a battlefield.  You know what place doesn’t typically have those things.  A forest.

I mean- it’s a very contrived argument to have against this stuff.  Tolkien fantasy is classic and established.  People can use the setting as a backdrop for a quest line or a story and the rest sort of fills itself in.

Its not the only way Erikson subverts what the reader expects.  Characters aren’t all dashingly handsome or strikingly beautiful.  I’d say a majority of his characters are intentionally described as plain or ugly.

Some personalities are grating.  Some hobbies are disgusting.  There is a dude who frequently spits phlegm into his hands to smooth his hair back with it.  There is a character who wears and unwashed shirt made of his dead mothers hair.   There is a dude whos nose was mutilated and has to constantly wipe snot away with his arm.

The way Erikson describes events is equally unexpected.  People don’t die on heroic manners.  There are no characters that have a graceful, glorious death.  You know the scene with Boromir from Lord of the Rings?

A heroic death.  He slays orc after orc, takes arrow after arrow, but he is filled with such magnificent purpose that he fights until he cannot stand or hold his sword.

Characters in Steven Erikson books don’t die like that.

Death is ugly.  Its bloody, smelly, and is a wholly singular experience.  You don’t die surrounded by friends.  You don’t die fighting and struggling.  War is random.  Battle is unforgiving.  You are lucky if anyone remembers your name.  Soldiers are a number.  Thousands get sacrificed for a different regiment of a thousand faceless soldiers can have the chance to achieve the greater goal.  War is never noble, and the results are never worth it.

Its this divide between being beautiful and being hideous, or being heroic and being no one, that Erikson loves to play with.  He creates this negative space in his books; so when a character is beautiful, or when a death is heroic, you take notice.  Granted, its fewer and farther between, but it makes you appreciate the beautiful moments.

Not to mention there is a lot to explore in the interim.  Soldiers understand their grim purpose and lo, we get some of the best gallows humor I’ve ever read.  The dialogue isn’t sad, its not happy, its a completely believable comradery that Erikson manages to capture in these snapshots of marching soldiers.  It makes you feel.  It makes you understand.  Sometimes squad mates don’t like each other, but they are all they’ve got.  You’ll get characters bickering for chapters and chapters but then in the end they absolutely work together, or grieve for the other.  Its an army of brothers and sisters.  War isn’t about glory.  War is about survival.  You fight for that next dawn, and that is what makes it beautiful.

Will I convince you to read these books?  No.  Would I recommend them to everybody?  No.  Hell, I’m currently reading one of his books and I’m struggling with it.

Listening to the books again reminds me of what I appreciate in the literature I read.  It helps me understand what I should be looking for in a book.  It gives me a sense of direction of the types of things I want to write myself.  I have played with the idea of writing a book, and just as soon as I have an idea I’ll get started.  The Malazan Book of the Fallen series stands the test of time to me because it doesn’t walk the paths of other fantasy books before it.  It doesn’t rely on tropes.  It doesn’t rely on what’s expected.

And I love it.

Except the parts of the book I’m currently readying that suck.  Fuck those parts.

-DTM

Cutting out the Middleman

After many infuriating hours of trying to jog my memory, I finally remembered what I wanted to write about. Note to self: in the future, write my ideas down. Just taking a second to jot this down would have saved me hours of frustration. What I wanted to write about was how spectacular it is that sites like Paypal, Ko-Fi, Patreon, and Kickstarter exist.

Recently, I’ve been trying to find easy ways to put a few extra dollars in my pocket. I have a full time job with decent pay, but having some extra money to throw at my student loans would be very, very nice. I’ve looked into freelance writing and other flexible online jobs, but I’ve been having an incredibly hard time getting hired. I’m sure thousands of people, in similar situations, are applying for these positions and it’s so hard to sell yourself over email. So what’s a woman with some debt to pay to do?

I know I have talent, but how can I make money from it if I can’t convince big companies to hire me? Well, the answer is easy. Skip the big companies and go right to the consumers.

I’ll admit the internet has it’s problems. It’s my primary source of procrastination. I waste a ton of time mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr and Twitter, time I could be using to actually improve my life.  On the other hand, the internet has created a whole new way to make money from art. It’s cut out the middleman by giving artists, writers, and other creative people the ability to let their work speak for themselves.

So before I jump into this, let me just clear something up. I define art as anything that is creative. Therefore, despite what a lot of people think, to me the term artist includes painters, sketchers, writers, dancers, musicians, poets, and basically everyone who creates things to make people feel something. I consider myself an artist, despite the fact that I do not paint or draw or sculpt. I am an artist who works with words and yarn, sometimes at the same time.

Anyway, before the internet, only a few very lucky artists could live off of their work. An artist would not only have to be talented and hardworking to make money, they would also have to be in the right place at the right time to find their audience. Now, with the invention of the internet, the world is a much, much smaller place. My work might be very niche, but now, using the internet, I can find that niche even if it’s on another continent.

Now I’m not going to lie, finding a freelance writing job would be much, much easier.in terms of making quick money. Making money online takes a lot of hard work, but at least my work would get to speak for itself. I can say on a resume that I am a good writer, but a person would actually have to read my work before they would really believe that.

So, I guess I need to think about where to start? I’ve been working on opening an Etsy shop, so should I also look into selling my writing skills? Looking at my student loans, maybe that’s not such a bad plan.

-EMS

 

Writing for Rogue Trader

I’m going to run a Rogue Trader game for my friends soon.  For those who don’t know: Rogue Trader is a role-playing game based in the Warhammer 40k universe.  You are a group of explorers headed into the Koronus Expanse: a part of the Milky Way galaxy far from the Imperium of Man.

You are given a holy Writ of Trade from the Administratum on Holy Terra.  With this Writ, you become an official Rogue Trader and have the influence and clout to represent humanity on the furthest fringes.

My role is the Game Master.  This is only my second time trying to do this with the first being a relative failure.

I have resolved myself to try harder on this one and press through even when its been pissing me off, like it thus far has been.

My current problem is that I hold myself to a high standard of game play.  I’m trying to write stories and missions with complex problems and innovative solutions.  I could write simple “go to place on map and kick serious ass” but that feels so basic.  Maybe its because I’m a starry eyed newbie GM, but I really want to involve my players in what’s going on in the universe.  I want them to feel like they are making a difference.

I want missions to end with them excited but maybe asking themselves questions.  Better yet, asking themselves if they did the right now.  I don’t like perfectly tied up endings.  We’ll see.

I am pretty outspoken against video games and how they tell their stories.  My main thing with most games that I complain about is that “they don’t know why people are still playing.”

I want to keep that in mind.  There will be missions that are fun for me to GM, and there will be missions that are fun for them to play.  I’ve asked my players to let me know what kind of stuff they wanna do just so I can swing into their wheelhouse.

Well the issue is, at this particular moment, only one of my players have chimed in and he gave a detailed idea of what he wants the game to be like.  Which is simultaneously helpful and hard to use.

So I’m writing the opening mission as just a fucking slew of different things.  Mostly to teach everyone the different types of challenges they will encounter, flying their spaceship, fighting in their spaceship, and fighting on the ground.  Exploring cities and exploring planets.  Interacting with the Imperium and the Underworld.

I’m still just trying to figure out a style to write into.  I got to find my voice.  I’m really good at the brainstorming part but pretty shit at the execution.  I’m hoping this helps me develop a muscle so I can become a pretty great GM.

I have to re-acquaint myself with the system.  I remember the broad strokes but this time I want to learn the universe so damn well that I can eventually just free ball missions and interactions.  There is a lot of lore which is to my benefit but its also going to be a problem.

My players have access to all the books and as previously mentioned, I haven’t read all of them back to front.  So they are likely going to try and derail me all the time.  That is there prerogative as players but I sense it might be annoying when I’m trying to craft large strokes of a story and someone wants to argue with me over the wording of an expansion book I’ve never read.

That’s where this is going to be an exercise in being adaptable.  Its already fucking happening.  I’m going to have to learn how to be a freakin’ politician.  When to appeal to my constituents and when to slap their wrist so they know not to fuck with me too much.

Oh my god I have to become my cat.

-DTM

 

What will I regret in 2018?

Remember when we used to be timely with our posts, Daniel? I used to write my post Thursday morning, carefully proof read it, and then schedule it to post early Friday morning. Now, I’m lucky to have the post done by the middle of the day on Friday. Eventually, I’ll be routinely posting Friday night at 11:59 p.m.

Anyway, I enjoyed your post about your plan for 2017. I’ve also never been much of a New Year’s resolution person because why wait until January to start a new goal? I also feel like calling a goal a New Year’s resolution just sets you up for failure. How many people do you know who’ve actually followed through with their resolution? I can’t think of a single person in my life.

However, I do have some things I want to accomplish this year, but I don’t want to call them resolutions. Resolutions are something to give up on. Instead, I’ll think of it the way you did, Daniel. At this time next year, what will I regret not doing?

Well, for one, I finally want to write a novel. I have so many half-finished novels lying around and, this year, I want to finish one. This has literally been a goal of mine since I was 15 and I regret not doing it every single year.

I also want to look into self-publishing my novel. I’ve wanted to write books since I was little and now there are so many opportunities for me to do so without the struggle of finding a big name publisher.

I want to open an Etsy shop for my crochet pieces. Everytime I crochet anything the first thing people ask me is “Do you sell anything on Etsy?” My answer has always been no and when they ask me why I don’t have a very good reason. I think I’m just nervous to put myself out there. Well, time for that to change.

I want to read more books. I already read a lot, but I feel like I don’t make it a priority in my life anymore. There are so many books I’ve been meaning to read and there’s no time like the present.

I want to run a half marathon. I’ve run 5ks, 12ks, and Triathlons. Time to step it up a notch.

I want to earn my beer server certification. Now, I know this one seems a little random, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I graduated college. There is a test online that I can take and become a licensed cicerone, which is like a sommelier for beer. Why the heck not? I know a ton about beer already? Why not make it official?

I want to be more aggressive with my freelancing. I’ve been wanting to start freelancing on the side for a long, long time and, much like my Etsy store, I’ve been nervous to put myself out there. Time to change that!

I want to teach myself calligraphy and hand lettering. I’ve always been attracted to words and  I want to turn my words into art. There are so many free tutorials online so there’s honestly nothing standing in my way.

It’s easy for things that you really want to do to end up on the back burner, isn’t it? Well time for that to change. 

-EMS