#314: The Bar, Part 1

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Despite being an amateur poet, I could never write song lyrics successfully. There’s a certain musicality to the words that I lack and can’t seem to grasp. It’s not that I’ve ever really tried, though. My experience with words is in function, mostly; I look at words and see them as having clear definitions with clear usage cases. Use this word here under these circumstances, don’t use this word when this other word precedes it, things like that. Words are complicated, fickle things, and it’s impossible to ever really know what sounds right to everyone. People interpret language differently. Grammar was invented to create a sense of what’s “proper” and “improper,” but grammar varies by location. Certain rules are consistent across location, but regionalisms exist for a reason.

Originally, I was going to write this blog post about experience bars, and how they incentivize progression in video games. Instead I went on a tangent and decided to talk about words. I’m not sure how the connection came to be, but I’m going to just keep going and see where it takes me.

In grad school, I took a class on morphology, the study of word formations, and we learned sentence diagrams and morphology trees. They were essential to our growth as future English teachers; being able to justify how sentences work and the intrinsic grammar to them was a fantastic gift.

When doing creative writing, I found that mixing up my grammar created the best reading experience. Trying different sentence structures and fiddling with the rules a bit is necessary to diversify the reading experience. You can’t just write a bunch of bland, declarative sentences over and over again, with hopes that it will eventually sound good. There’s a reason the greatest writers are masters of grammar; they know when to break the rules.

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#313: The Newest Group

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Starting a new Dungeons & Dragons group is always a daunting task. There’s the issue of finding an appropriately knowledgeable and qualified DM, and of course finding players that are willing to play according to the group’s expected play style. By that I mean, not letting players act like jerks or chaotic evil dirtbags. That can definitely happen from time to time, if you let players play exactly how they want to. It’s important to set standards and limitations to what players can and can’t do, as a Dungeon Master, to ensure the game progresses smoothly and without complication. I’ve had some groups end because players got frustrated with each other and weren’t able to reconcile their differences. It can be frustrating to watch unfold, as people argue with each other over what’s the appropriate way to handle a situation.

But that’s not what D&D is all about. It’s about making memories and telling stories with your friends, it’s about making new friends in the process, it’s about developing your own, originally-created character in a social role-playing world of your imagination. It’s about all of those things and a lot more that can’t fully be described in a short blog post. I owe so much of my development to this game, and to think it will only continue further with a group at work is awesome news. I’m so stoked to hear what the kids decide to do, and where they take the story we’ve been working on together.

What I’m looking forward to most about joining a group is being able to sit back and relax as a player, while also meeting new friends in the area. Since starting my job in Norwalk, I’ve still been hanging out mostly with people I know from the New Haven area. It’s not the same.

#312: The Camera, Part 2

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Being observed as a teacher can be one of the more stressful experiences you could have. There’s a rubric they’re using to watch you and grade you, as if you’re a student, but the rubric determines how good you are at the job they’re paying you to do. If you’re not doing a good job, who’s to say you deserve to stay there? It can be terrible to think about the implications of a struggling grade on an observation. Thankfully, my observations were all fairly positive and I didn’t have much to complain about there from my teaching experience. But I’m thankful again that I don’t have to worry about that in my current job. Evaluations are different, though I might actually appreciate having regular, planned observations rather than the current system. Having a structured system at all would be great.

Evaluations are stressful, no doubt, but evaluations can also be validating, just as cameras can be validating in some ways. I like being told that I’m doing a good job, as I think everyone does. It restores a bit of my confidence, which can be sorely lacking and vulnerable during times like these.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a job where everything is absolutely perfect? You’re not constantly being watched, you have supportive coworkers you feel comfortable talking with, and you don’t have the pressure of being punished unreasonably. Sometimes I wonder if that’s all just fantasy, if I’ll never actually find that type of job when I have the chance. Will it come my way, or do I need to be tireless in my pursuit of it? I know that nothing in life is easy or simple, but I wish this part was. I’d work forever if it meant working in the perfect environment.

#311: The Camera, Part 1

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Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Like no matter what you do, someone else is sitting there, at a computer or in their office, making sure that everything you do is appropriate and correct? Sometimes that’s a little too much for me. I don’t like the idea of being watched, which is why it’s one of my biggest fears and a cause of paranoia. Having the aching feeling that someone is keeping tabs on you sucks, even when you’re doing everything appropriately and correctly.

There’s something to being watched, though; it’s reassuring to know that your work is constantly being evaluated, and if you’re prepared to justify everything you do, it can feel a bit nice. Sometimes I feel like my work isn’t being observed enough, like I wish someone was seeing everything that I do and commending me for a good job when I succeed. That doesn’t happen all the time, no matter what job you’re in. In teaching, it’s said that you usually only hear the negative feedback. No matter how hard you try, everyone’s a critic in some way. I’d like to believe that life isn’t so bleak for my profession, but I’ve experienced both sides quite a lot. Again, it’s one of my phobias that I just can’t really seem to beat.

When I went to London as part of my study abroad trip, I made sure to buy a camera to bring with me so that I could remember the trip well. I don’t think I have the camera any more, as one of the shutters broke, but I have the pictures saved forever on my Dropbox, so I’m not especially worried about losing them or those memories. Sometimes I worry about my memories fading away with time, but then they come back when a similar occasion happens.

#310: The Technique, Part 3

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A three-parter! Here we go. I wouldn’t have guessed having started this series that it would’ve ended up so much longer than initially anticipated.

Writing is a liberating hobby. You are always expelling some kind of demon from within you for someone else’s personal enjoyment. I think back to all the memoir writers I’ve learned about, who must’ve tormented themselves over their writing to perfect the story as it happened, while also creating a unique, memorable narrative at the same time. It’s not easy to say you’re a writer without others immediately asking you what that means, and what kind of writing you do. How can you answer that question with “personal writing” without feeling a bit selfish and self-important, as if your life is worth writing about in the first place? I wouldn’t say I’m living an especially significant life, just a normal one in the 21st century. I wouldn’t even say my story is a story that needs to be told; I don’t know who would really benefit from hearing another white, middle-class, coming-of-age story. But the reason I write is not necessarily just so that I can be read by others; the real reason I write is because it fulfills my professional goals and makes me feel productive. It makes me feel like I’m keeping track of myself, my history, and the world I live in, even while I slowly but surely lose track of it, bit by bit. I used to write frequently, and I want to keep that part of myself going, most of all. I don’t want to abandon it, so here we are, writing about personal lives because it’s often easiest to write about yourself.

In college, I wrote a conceptual metaphor paper on how teaching is performing an exorcism, every day. Imagine how exhausting it must be to exorcise demons from your classroom on a regular basis.

#309: The Technique, Part 2

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Last time, I spoke about the technique that goes into writing fiction, as well as the general rules that I follow (or try to follow, unsuccessfully) because of my difficulties when it comes to paying attention. Having ADD makes writing an interesting hobby, allowing on the one hand for my mind to drift and visit whatever worlds it needs to in order to fulfill my imaginative vision, while on the other hand enabling a lack of focus and attention on the important details. (Is “enabling” the correct word for that? I’m not so sure.)

Regardless, I wanted to talk more about this subject. This is the first time I’m doing a two-part blog post without having written them back-to-back. As in, I’m writing these on separate days. To think it took me 309 posts before I realized I could do this.

The best technique that I’ve personally employed is writing wherever possible, whenever inspiration strikes me. Sometimes while at work, when I have a little bit of down time and can afford a few minutes of personal leisure, I turn on the computer, open up my Google Docs folder, and expel all the ideas taking up space in my head onto the page. It’s a useful and helpful habit to build upon, because the way my brain works necessitates a kind of urgency when it comes to ideas entering it. Being able to write freely helps so much, and without it, I’m not sure I’d be able to trust that the story I come up with is natural and faithful to whatever vision I have for it. Being faithful is essential, as I would hate to read a story that’s not an accurate representation of what the author wanted it to be. Writing is all about representing things, and authors are represented from their stories in great detail.

#308: The Technique, Part 1

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There’s a special technique to writing fiction, a recipe that always creates successful and thought-provoking writing. I don’t know what it is, but when I find it out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

I write all over the place. My thoughts are so haphazard and spontaneous that I need to write wildly or else I risk losing the thoughts that organically come one after another while writing. Preserving that train of thought is essential to my writing process when writing fiction. I need to be cognizant of where the story is going, while also letting my brain handle the gritty word choice parts. I also sometimes let the spontaneous nature of my brain do the writing and planning for me, even though I probably shouldn’t.

This blog post is kind of a continuation of the previous one, “The Distraction.” They’re both about living with ADD and how that affects what I do and how I live.

Let me give an example of what I mean. I’m writing a multi-part, one-off story involving characters from an established universe. I didn’t know how the story was going to end until… probably about 3,000 words in, and the story is probably only going to be about 4,500 by the time it’s done. I wasn’t building toward an established ending in my head, so that made writing difficult at times. But I was able to let my brain dictate where the story was going, which made the story come off more naturally, I think.

(Did you see how I moved from one topic to another between paragraphs just there? I promise that wasn’t intentional.)

If you’ve read this blog consistently, you might know that I don’t edit my blog posts. I write them and publish them as one rough draft, without any proofreading or reviewing. This one especially.

#307: The Distraction

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Being distracted is easy. I’m distracted right now, as I’ve decided to spend time writing personal blogs rather than doing something productive, like preparing for tomorrow’s day of work. Distractions are nice, though; productivity isn’t everything, and you have to balance your workload with fun in order to survive. No one wants to live a life of complete work forever, otherwise what are you living for? Just to wake up, work, and come home too exhausted to enjoy your free time, only to fall asleep again and repeat the cycle? There’s so much to life and living: places to see, travels to undertake, people to enjoy the company of.

Distractions are everything, which is why I decided to write about them today. It’s not enough to just live plainly. But being distracted is often considered a weakness or a struggle to overcome, a deficiency. As someone living with ADD, my attention wavers depending on the subject. It’s hard to stay focused when your mind is thinking of other things and wants you to move with it. I’ve lived with this deficiency for years, and even with the help and support of my primary physician, you still feel the same feelings, just with a reduced potency. The lack of focus persists. I hyperfixate on small things and interests that stick out to me, and my mind never seems to be able to focus for very long if it’s not so fixated.

I’m not complaining, though. All of this is what makes me who I am. I’m not sure I would be the same person without my ADD. And like I said at the beginning, being distracted makes life worth living. So I’m not bummed or anything by the cards I was dealt. If anything, I’m grateful for being able to have such a unique living experience.

#306: The Banjo

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This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#305: The Work Study

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Bella, my youngest sister, just texted me that she got a work study job at college. She’s a freshman and having on-campus work that early is impressive and awesome for her. I’m hopeful she can keep this job for awhile, as it can be a valuable resource throughout the rest of college. When I lost my one consistent work study job, it stung, and I had to look elsewhere. Thankfully, I found a better job that helped with my degree and made me a better teacher in the process. But having that one work study job for the time I had it really allowed me to enjoy college without worries. When it was suddenly upended from me, I worried that my senior year of college wouldn’t be as enjoyable and liberating as the previous ones.

I used to work as a resident life assistant for my freshman year. My friend Sam introduced me to the job, though we never ended up working together. It was pretty demeaning, to be honest. I made coffee and copies for people and talked to supervisors who treated me like I was a child. I didn’t much enjoy my time there, and I didn’t even end up getting an RA job like I was hoping I’d be able to. I remember walking across campus to let people into their dorms; that was pretty much my job in a nutshell, along with answering phone calls. Sometimes I would get phone calls from people who needed to be let into their dorms. Sometimes those phone calls were from friends, and so we had fun memories like that. I remember once letting Sam into his dorm, and I stayed around his room to watch him play Fortune Street for awhile before heading back to my job. It was gnarly. I was a typical college student, what can I say?