I am kaitco

a writer's log

My personal fast Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Many of the cleaning staff in my building at first-job are Somalian and I often take the time to speak to least the woman who comes by my area each day. Sometimes it is difficult to speak to her since, even though she’s lived in the US for at least the 5 years I’ve been working there, her English is still lacking, but she told me the other day how much she appreciated how I spoke to her (slow and clear) since it helped her improve upon her English. This of course made me beam from ear to ear.

In one of our daily chats, she shared with me her efforts for Ramadan. Previous to this conversation, I knew that the Muslim holiday involved fasting of some kind, but I was relatively ignorant of anything more. I still am, to some degree, but I was intrigued when she discussed how she had to fast throughout each day. And not just abstain from a certain food or certain type of food, but denying all food and all water from sun up til sun down, every day. I admired her devotion and shook my head since I doubt I’d ever have the resolve to do the same…at least not while I knew I could convert to a religion that didn’t require so much…

Like I said, however, I was still intrigued by the concept of the fast and wondered whether there was anything I could just give up, for even a month. Internet? Not a chance; when the power is out, I start to get the shakes. Reading? Probably, but why would I ever want to fast from reading? Writing? I’ve done this many times earlier in its more commonly known form called procrastination and I don’t think it wise to take that up again. So, from what shall I fast as I move into a new month?

As I looked over this month of July, I find myself sorely disappointed with the lack of progress on my novel and my spending habits, but resolving to do something every day, can work for a month or so, as I saw in June, but once the month is over, I can’t help by slack off whatever I was doing every day. In order to make a real change to myself as the result of some kind of fast or resolve, it has to be something that I would not want to go back to doing every day. While reducing my idleness would be an admirable fast, I’ve done this only to fail in the very next month when the pressure is gone. So, again, I’m left to wonder what shall I do with myself in the month of August.

August is usually a stressful month for me. In the countdown to aging another year, August is like the month of December for most folks bent on doing better with themselves. I look at this entire year from last September til now and take a critical eye at where I was this year versus last and as we end July, I can’t help my yearly ritual. The novel is written, but has yet to be reduced to a publishable form. I still have the same first-job, the same debt, the same weight, the same mild service in my church, etc….With this August, however, and since I’ve got fasting on the mind, rather than just sigh over my lack of progress in this adventure in adulthood, I’ve decided to strengthen my resolve and fast against things that have been destroying any hope of success that I’ve got: fast food and Minecraft.

As far as the fast food is concerned, I’m sure anyone can determine the issues there. It’s mostly bad for me, especially since I’m a vegetarian and can only resolve to order some French fries when I’m forced out to eat, but the monetary hit is what really bites the most. Is it possible to spend more than $1000 in a single month on just fast food meals? Previous to this month’s AMEX bill I would have said “Not a chance.” but now, I’m forced to change my tune. That said, I’ve “given up” fast food dozens of times in the past and, as I’ve before explained, once the month is over (if I even last that long), I’m right back to where I started, so the task here is not about just giving up fast food. To get to the heart of the issue, I’ve got to give up something better, which is my spending money like I actually had it. In order to do this, I have to actually place myself on a budget and thus a “money fast” which will require a fast food fast as well. I’ll have just $20 in cash that I can spend each week if I forget my lunch, etc., but that’s it. There’ll be no swiping my AMEX as if I’d forgot what that swipe meant and since no one can eat out every day with just $20, I’ll have to cook and plan meals each week which sounds simple, but when the mind and body are so accustomed to just going out to get food someone else had already prepared for me, the idea of it is very novel. The ultimate goal is to curb my spending and the way to get there is to almost entirely abstain from eating out.

Likewise, my fast from Minecraft, while very specific and sounding more traditional, has a separate goal.

Sandbox video games where the player can do anything and create anything he or she wishes to do have always been my downfall. The games in which I’ve wasted the most time include The Sims, Rock Band and Minecraft. Rock Band has no real goal other than to just get better and better at each instrument, so I can play just because I want to play and have a lot of fun doing it. The Sims 2 allows me to make any person I choose, dress them up, build them a house and play their lives for as many hours as I choose and even if I were to get tired of that, I can make mods for the game or other downloadables such as hairstyles or furniture. Minecraft plops the player into a space of land and it is up to the player to survive in this wilderness, finding food, fending off monsters, building houses or roller coasters or whatever one could wish to build. All three allow me to do whatever I want to do without any real goals in place and allowing me to play forever if I so chose, so the reason why Minecraft would be the chosen fasted game may not seem apparent at first.

Unlike The Sims or Rock Band, Minecraft takes virtually no effort from me to start and costs me nothing as well. With The Sims, despite having a brand new laptop, the game still takes about 10 minutes to load between the first EA Games screen until the moment I’m in a family’s house. The loading time allows me opportunity to focus on other things, sometimes things that may even pull me away from the game before I’ve had to time start playing. The Sims also requires loading in between different houses or even different places as my sims go on dates or on vacation, so it’s easy for me to get distracted from the game and even easier for me to not want to play because I only have a half-hour to do something and I don’t want to waste it on loading screens.

Rock Band is only a bit better since I mostly like to play the guitar and sing simultaneously. This requires turning on the Xbox and getting the TV to right input, bring out and plugging in the mic and mic stand, finding my guitar, letting the game load and finally deciding on a song or setlist to play. Since I love the game so much, this passes relatively quickly for me, but unlike The Sims where I am sitting for hours on end as I play pixelated characters and their stories, for Rock Band, I am standing and singing for the duration of my play and so again, unlike The Sims, I can’t physically play forever; eventually I’ll get exhausted and will have to pass out on the sofa. The good thing about this is that after a day of being sedentary, just standing (and dancing a little depending on the song) and singing gets in a little more activity in my day. Even with all this said, the setup time frame doesn’t allow me to play just whenever I feel like it and the desire to be lazy also drowns out my love for the game.

This brings us to Minecraft, whose loading times don’t give me enough time to bring my teacup to my mouth and can allow me sit sedentary, though creative, for almost days at a time. This easy access to such a fantastic waste of time has allowed my procrastination to be less of a task and more of an art form. To be honest, other than playing Minecraft and some power outages earlier this month, I’m not entirely sure what else I did in July 2012. This frightens me a bit since I’ve always had at least one or two obstacles in the way of my procrastination, but Minecraft gives me everything that The Sims or Rock Band can with nothing to impede upon my play.

A fast from Minecraft seems like a simple fast from something I really don’t need to be doing every single day of my life, but it’s really far more than that. Before Minecraft (hereafter known as BMC), if I had 30 minutes to kill, I would write or read or makes notes on a new project or even exercise or read webcomics or pack my meals for the day or do some laundry or anything else in the world. BMC I could take that time to do something slightly productive since it would take too long to set up anything that was relatively unproductive, but after Minecraft (which I won’t dignify with its own period), I can kill time more easily than should be allowed. In my fast from Minecraft, I’m essentially resolving to do all things I’ve neglected to do since I’ve been Minecrafting all summer long.

So, here I am. I’m going to fast for the month of August, taking away the simple things that will have the greatest impact on my life. I liken this fast to removing some obstacles that keep a few pebbles from rolling down a mountain. Once those pebbles start rolling, they’ll hit snow and then more snow and then become a snowball so big that my procrastination and wasteful spending will have to run like Indiana Jones being chased by the giant ball out of the temple.

Once again, to keep myself honest, I’ll check in using this blog (hopefully far shorter than I’ve rambled today) and remain accountable to myself since I really dislike interrupting a string of consecutive posts.

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30-Day 5K โ€“ Day Seven Thursday, June 7, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:10 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Goodness, I hate Thursdays. I think it’s because I’m so tired after Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that I really need Thursday to be Friday, but when I wake up and realize that it’s not actually Friday, I get depressed and the whole day sours before I even get out of the bed.

I wrote 5760 words this evening (but neither Brit nor Damen laughed with her) and I know if I pushed a little, I could have probably wrote a bit more, but today being Thursday and all, I’m tired and ready to just play Rock Band and then veg on the sofa.

Some of this fatigue is coming from just looking at the amount of editing this chapter needs. Once again, my problem comes from the desire to “show” but the need to “tell.” Somehow, I’ve got to make peace between to the two to save the word count, especially since I’ve “shown” so much about something that is really just a peripheral story.

I’ll figure it all out tomorrow, I suppose, when I’m less tired and more willing to take my literary axe to this chapter and make meaningful, but concise. For now, however, I’ll concede to the Rock Banding (yes, that’s a word) session I’ve earned this week.

Edit: I knew I wouldn’t remember this until the WordPress Dashboard mentioned it. I can’t believe I’ve done 400 posts in this thing! Woot!

 

The most heartbreaking process of all Monday, March 26, 2012

Filed under: Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 2:13 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I can’t help comparing Damen and Flight, especially when the drafting process is so very different.

With Flight, the goal was to provide as much detail as possible and allow my readers to stay in the Dorienne-version of SVU as long as I could. There were no word count limits; I just needed to tell my story.

Damen has been so tryingly different. Here, I must take word count into consideration with every paragraph, to the point that I must almost re-write chapters to remove some of the detail that, while very pretty and beneficial to painting the scene, does nothing but push my total word count above 120K before I want to be.

A few years ago, I remember writing Chapter 3 of Damen and even then, I thought it was a little too long, but in re-reading it, the detail is so splendid. I see these characters and the setting as vividly as I did when first writing it…but, I have to lose all of it. It all has to go if I’m going to push this thing under 120K. And, 120K is the highest end for first-time authors! I may even have to cut it even further. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I took out some detail this evening that was just plain heartbreaking. When I think of all the time I put into choosing the right words, it all comes down to summarizing the text with “English class, taught by Mrs. Kayler, bored him within ten minutes of the roll call.”

The only good thing I can think about this process is that it’s teaching me to be concise and the true lessons of show versus tell. What good are all these details about what the cafeteria looks like and the nuances of some of Damen’s teachers if we won’t visit any of these teachers later in the novel and it won’t make a difference whether my audience sees my version of the lunchroom versus their own idea of it?

These are some hard lessons to learn.

I’d taken a week off writing notes for Reruns, playing Rock Band and the Sims and even reading other folks’ work for a change as a mini-vacation to make me as fresh as possible for this process, but I’m not sure that was even enough. The only reason I push as hard as I do is that now that I’ve got the novel actually complete, the only thing holding me back from sending this to agents and achieving my dream is how hard I work to pull the book into it’s proper shape.

As dreadful as this process is – tearing apart my baby of carefully chosen words – I know this is necessary and, overall, it’s making me a better writer. All this notwithstanding, I can’t WAIT until I’ve got time to write fanfiction again, where I can be as verbose and detailed as I want to be.

Perhaps fanfiction will be my detailing outlet. Where my creativity is stifled by word counts and the shorter attention spans of the majority of the reading populace, I will find solace in writing what and how I want in fanfiction.

‘Til then…I’m cutting so much my hands are bleeding…

 

C-C-C-Changes! Saturday, February 18, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 2:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My life is experiencing an abundance of change all at once. Fortunately, much of it is good change.

Things at first-job are the biggest change since I’m on a temporary assignment. How this will affect my writing is beyond me for the moment, but the change will be nice.

With regard to my writing, I’ll admit that I’ve not been doing as much of it as I should, but I think this has more to do with the sudden changes I’m experiencing and a lack of inspiration for Damen. A long-standing problem I’ve seen while writing is when I get bored with a project. It’s not to say that the story is boring, but that my attention span is so short that once I’ve other ideas running through my mind, it gets harder and harder to focus on my current project.

The other day, I spent some time backing up a bunch of files to Dropbox and found my original one-page note file for Damen. I was in the middle of writing Flight and was determined to see it through to completion, but even then, I was starting to focus on other things. That is where I am now; Reruns is almost daily at the forefront of my mind, but then there are the other little stories that keep me distracted.

I tell myself that God has led me to this passion and has made me focus on it, hence the reason I see these providentially coincidental happenings in my life. Earlier this week, I was in the middle of playing Guitar Hero (and finished the Hard Tour for GH2, btw ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and all of a sudden, I had this incredibly urge to watch The X-Files. Not just X-Files, but a very specific episode, EBE. I’ve seen this episode probably 100 times since I was 9, but in doing something completely unrelated (though this random spaceship does appear on the screen while playing Freebird), I had the desire to watch this episode. So, I queued Netflix on Xbox and watched the episode I’d watched so often I can practically quote it. The difference, however, is that Mulder and his Deep Throat were arguing about conspiracy and I looked up one of the conspiracies he mentioned, The Tuskegee Experiment. After a simple, but troubled read on Wikipedia, a new story and then a whole series developed within the hour after I’d completed the episode.

I call this experience providential because…well, honestly, how can I be prompted to watch a random episode of a beloved show that I’d seen dozens upon dozens of times and only then have my interest piqued in something that led me to a brand new project? To quote X-Files, If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?

I suppose all this is just an elaborate excuse for why I’ve not come any closer to completing the novel this week, but I thought it worth mentioning just in case I ever desired to recollect how my Lucy Chambers stories became more than just one novel.

I’ve got a lot of changes upcoming at this venture in my life, but with all of this, I realize that I need to change God from something I want to make a priority and instead to something that is the priority in my life. If one whisper in my ear can lead me to a whole series of stories when I’ve not been to church for 2 weeks, what would happen if I did what’s said in the old song: I woke up this morning with my mind…set on Jesus…

 

Drumming Monday, October 31, 2011

Filed under: Gaming — kaitco @ 12:01 am
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It’s frightening to think how “good” I am getting at Rock Band. With just three songs remaining of the “Expert” tour in RB1, I’m now able to play most songs on Expert and sometimes sing and play on Expert as well. Just a few months ago, I thought I’d never get past the Hard tour, let alone be able to start playing songs often on Expert.

All this notwithstanding, I feel a very powerful stress reliever starting to lose some of its hold. While I’ve still got RB2, RB3 and Guitar Hero 2 and World Tour to complete, the “art” of playing the guitar and singing is starting to lose its edge the better I become at the game, so I’ve decided to increase the challenges to myself by moving my focus onto the other instruments in the game.

I’ve played through the Easy and Medium tours in RB1, but I think it’s time to start really start to play the drums. It’s so easy to just literally throw the drumsticks in the air and say “I can’t do it! I’ve got no rhythm!” but in my zeal to retain the perfect stress reliever in my life, I must give it a try.

I’m not sure why or even how I’ve come to really depend on this game so much, but few things can help me clear my mind and remove all the stress and ills of the first-job and the rest of the world.

 

Purpose Sunday, August 14, 2011

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:42 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve reached that time again where I find myself feeling blank and unfortunately bored. The very idea that I can be bored is baffling in itself, but here I am.

I know there’s plenty to write and I’m not stuck on any particular scene, but the desire just isn’t there. I wouldn’t even be playing Rock Band right now if I weren’t so close to finishing Lego Rock Band to as far as I can finish (God help me if I’ll ever be able to complete the solo to Final Countdown on Expert). There’s so much to do, but I can’t will myself to do any of it.

This happens every so often and with so many catalogued instances of it this year, you’d think I’d know how to prepare for and combat it, but here I am.

Around this time, I find that everything I do lacks any purpose. Nothing seems more important or pressing than anything else, thus nothing takes on any significance to me and nothing gets done. This is terrible state to find myself since I’m trying to make the major jump to 1000 words a day as I race to finish this draft before my birthday, but here I am.

I wrote 655 words today (Youโ€™re impossible sometimes, you know that) and I’m just praying that these doldrums will lift before the end of the month where I’ll need to jump to 2K words to make my goal for the end of September.

 

A morning routine Thursday, August 11, 2011

I’m having a difficult time (in general) determining lately whether I’m “telling” my story or showing so much that it feels like tell.

Usually, when I find myself writing “He did X” several times on a page, I’ve fallen into a series of tells instead of showing the reader what’s happening at this point in the story. That said, I’m not quite sure how else I’d say what I’m saying and so it’s coming off as either overly detailed or just plain bland. That’s the infuriating part, though; I can’t tell which!

It seems like a rather simple concept and I’m sure that if I read a bit about it, I’d discover my answer, but I fear “the tell” like a block and I worry that after reading anything about what defines a “tell” versus a “show,” I’ll get “tell” in the back of my mind and end up telling the reader all about Damen and Co. instead of allowing the story to happen on the page.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, if this is one of my greatest worries in the world, I’ve got loads about which to be thankful, but still…it’s worries me.

Overnight, I’ve decided to go back to writing as a part of my morning routine.

In the past few weeks, I’ve stopped playing Rock Band for three to four hours every night and, aside from gaining a bit of weight from not wearing myself out with all the songs, I’ve found simply things stressing me far more often than they had when I was coming home and forgetting the day by playing through my songs.

Nothing technically stops me from playing every night now, but I have an obligation to myself to finish this draft in the next few months, which means that when I come home at night, I know I’ll either sit down to write for the night or play Rock Band, I’m rarely able to do both before it’s time to go to bed. The happy medium, then, is to write in the mornings, presumably after I do my morning workout. This will, hopefully, allow me time to do both of the things I love and reduce stress at the same time.

I just hate falling asleep in front of the television having done neither by the end of the day. Many days I’ll find that I’m not in the mood to write, but because I’ve sat and stared at the words on my laptop for so long, I’ve wasted too much time to de-stress from the day with my game and end up just having something to eat and then falling sleep in front of the TV to either Netflix or my “Dorienne TV” concoction. If I expect something to change, I can’t keep doing the same thing while hoping for new results.

I wrote 413 words this morning (and I want them now. Right now) and, though, I’m suffering a bit from allergies and I’m still a little down from how the past two days have gone, I think I’m at least on the right path.

 

 
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