Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stream of Consciousness

Sometimes I write just to figure things out.

I write about four hours a day.  That's counting time spent on the blog, on the wiki, on things of my own interest, writing answers to emails and writing cover letters so that I can get myself a better job.  Some days I write more than four hours; rarely are there days when I write less than one.

I never spend a day when I'm not on a computer.  I get up in the morning and I sit at my computer and drink my coffee, watch the news and think of things to watch or read until I feel awake.  If I'm feeling low, after that I'll play a game, unless of course I have to go out and give my time to someone else.  If I'm feeling good, and I have the day free, I'll settle in to working around noon.  After that, most days when I have the day, I don't stop until I go to bed.

I take breaks.  I walk for an hour.  I give my Tamara a massage or we sit and talk for an hour, or we make plans for much longer; but when those plans are done I sit right back here and go right back to work.  Tamara loves me and she understands.  She likes watching me work and she likes what I do.

I figure I've spent about 1,000 hours this year, this far, writing.  I write more today than I did five years ago, or probably any time in my life.  I'm clearer.  I can think of more things to write about.  My mind seems to be endlessly fertile.  I get ideas all the time.  More often than not, I'm get to working on something in exclusion of my ideas and they are lost to the wind.  And I don't mind, because I know another idea will come.

These last seven or eight months, I've been seeing a counselor.  I know, I know, I said in July I was going to stop talking about my private life and I'll keep to that as best I can.  Just to cover some fundamental details, my father is in permanent care in a hospital for Alzheimers.  He thinks he's in the year 2046 and that he's being watched by aliens.  It is extraordinarily difficult to visit him.  I'm living in a bad situation right now, not one I would choose to live in.  I can't get a job that treats me with respect.

And I can't seem to write this damn book about Herzog and Ruchel, that I call the Fifth Man.

More than anything, I've been seeing the counselor about that.  About why I can't write this book.  We've talked our way all around it, in fifteen different ways, and it just doesn't seem to get anywhere.  I haven't seen the counselor since the beginning of August and at that time, we agreed, it just isn't going anywhere.  He suggested I should take a long break and think.

I've been thinking.  Those sessions had some value.  I would think about things and feel a release of stress and begin to work on the book.  I took myself back to the beginning of it and worked through the 17 chapters to the present all over again, reworking the second draft, then felt ready to refinish the book by writing from chapter 17 to the end.

Then, nothing.  Nothing.  Ten weeks now.  Nothing.  I look at that notification on the blog and I want to tear it down, make it go away.  My readers see that notification and wonder.  I can't take it down.  But it is eating the shit out of me and I don't know why I can't write this book.  I can write and write and write about anything else, everything else, comfortably, peaceably, enjoying the process of writing, not feeling short of words or that I'm struggling, but not with this.  Just not.

I've had these things happening lately.  These frustrating, ego-wrecking things, not my fault, just shit going on around me I had a long time friend on the Internet go nuts on facebook a month ago, doing that thing a lot of us saw after Chancellorsville, comparing the racists against the liberals and treating them like two sides of the same coin, false equivalency ... and it hurt because he went straight to that aggressive place where he struck for the most hurtful arguments he could reach for; and I unfriended him and left it there, okay, happens, no big deal.

I got into the fight with an artist about an image I used for the monsters on the wiki, not a very good image, not really, but of course I took it down immediately; and then I gave an answer and got back this level of vitriol, unbelievable vitriol, from the artist's wife of all people, real 4chan stuff ... and I laughed and blocked the thing and didn't answer.  And again, no big deal.

Then there was that thing with the Pathfinder wiki, which shouldn't challenge my sense of wellbeing; connor gave me a great response to that, saying that "Very little of it is home brew collaboration" ~ and that made me feel better, definitely better, so it really isn't a big deal, it isn't.

And yesterday a friend put my Wishes entry off the wiki onto a private DM site on facebook, which I applied for and got into, and ... oh gawd.  Nearly 200 comments of people who clearly did not read the post (there was no impact on the viewer numbers), spewing the most toxic D&D crap imaginable, no one talking about anything I said because clearly no one went to the link, but immediately exploding into endless self-righteous bullshit about rules as written and I do this and I do that, and no one listening or seriously responding to anything that anyone else wrote, just there to write to see their own words in print.  Awful.  Really awful.  Just the sort of thing that convinces me the community is broken, hopelessly broken, beyond broken.  A lot of hateful, spoiled brats.

And no big deal.  Nothing to do with me.  But I've been looking at D&D today and wondering, where would I be if I had been interested in anything else?  If I had a blog about real estate or economics or fishing, anything else.  Where would I be?  Because just now I am seeing this hateful bullshit on the net and trying to deal with having connected myself to this, this albatross, this painted ship on a painted ocean, writing four hours a day for the same 250 people, with no hope of ever reaching anyone else, ever bringing about any change, ever getting this damn bird off my fucking throat.

Where would I be?  What if I just went and spent ten years writing about something else, to someone else, to adults, to people who can talk about their interest without having to hide their face in shame, without having to explain every time that yes, I'm actually designing a game, yes, I'm wasting my time, apparently, because I'm not writing a blog about Canadian politics or the aerial photography or theatre arts.  What am I doing here?  With this?  What?

I'm so inaccessible, you know?  So inaccessible.  I can be calm and friendly and answer questions and give the best help I can, but I can't seem to get myself down to where I'm dumb enough to be popular.  Even now, this, this strange thing I'm doing, this writing, where my hands are flying over the keyboard like I'm playing piano, and it feels like music to me ... this thing I'm doing ... it's more words than I'm supposed to write.  I'm over a thousand words now and I've been writing for all of 25 minutes, just 25, no pauses, no breaks, the music just pouring out, pouring steady, stream of consciousness ... just trying to work out a thing that's been on me all day.

If I can't be popular, is there a way I could at least write about something people would, I don't know, be educated enough to read first before spewing an opinion.  Not even original opinions, just the same bullshit opinions that have been spouted about wishes since the beginning of the game; the same stuff my 16 year old friends and I used to say, all the things about wishes that make them such a broken, awful, abusive, crippled part of the game. Jeez, if I were writing about water-filtration systems in Western Canada I could conceivably get the readership I have now in ten years and I wouldn't have to deal with people being infantilized swine when someone linked my blog or my wiki to another site.  There might be a dim chance that someone in a university or connected with the government might think, "That Alexis, he's making some good points, he's done his research," instead of, "If a player of mine wished for a sandwich I'd find a way to fuck him."

Being this inaccessible, there's no chance that anything reputable would look at me twice.  I'm just another one of them.  Another freak.  Another dick.  One of them.

There's no future here.  No future.  I always wanted a future.  That was the goal.  That's what artists think.  They think about the future, about having one.

The only damn future I have is in that damn book I can't write.

I shouldn't publish this.  I shouldn't.  It's too personal.  People will take it personally.  People won't get it, won't empathize, won't understand.  I'm too inaccessible.

Too inaccessible for D&D, that's for sure.

Should not publish this.

Should not.

10 comments:

Tim said...

You can't get a hold on the personal until you put it to words and look it over. I understand and empathize, Alexis.

Discord said...

"Illegitimi non carborundum"

You were right to publish this, Alexis. One of the reasons that I read your blog is that, on top of the flat out brilliant writing, you're a person, not a "personality". The times when you let your insecurities show through balance out with the times in the past that you've been extremely curmudgeonly, to give us a picture of you as a real person. Not someone putting on airs on the internet to gain popularity, but a living, breathing person with flaws, just like the rest of us.

Times are difficult right now, whether it's the economy (as it sounds like for you in the Great White North), politics (for me, here in the US), society and all it's various issues (Charlottesville, Anti-fa, BLM, etc.). The Internet, which is one of the most amazing tools ever created, also breeds a lot of selfish, no-nothing blowhards who build themselves up by tearing other people down. It used to be, if you went to a public place and starting shitting on what everyone else said, you'd piss off a lot of people in a hurry and be shunned. Now, with the Internet, a lot of people make that their hobby.

Seriously, fuck the people in that Facebook group. They haven't done the work that you have. They haven't given the Wish issue an iota of thought, other than to think, somewhere down in their tiny brains, where they can't even acknowledge it: "Holy shit! This guy is on a completely different level, one I can never reach. My only option to not feel like garbage is to try to tear him down.'

Fuck Pathfinder. It's a terrible game, and 99% of the homebrew for it is absolute garbage. Yeah, a bunch of people got together and copy-pasted information from other sources and put it in one place. Monkeys can do that. That page is the equivalent of someone tearing out one page from 300 different books, then combining them to call it their own original work.

I don't have any advice to help with your book, as this is more than I've written at one time in several years, but I'm sending good thoughts your way. Actually, maybe that's the advice: You're inspiring people to write more. It's not hundreds of thousands of people, but you're having an impact, whether you see it or not.

As for the industry, and for this game that we love, we don't deserve you. We don't deserve someone who's trying to legitimize a fringe activity into something that resembles a work of art. We're a bunch of pissing, squabbling children who have crawled so far up our own asses that we can't see daylight. You're trying to elevate the conversation to the next level, and we're just not ready for it.

You're a single person, up against several corporate juggernauts (WoTC and Paizo). You're fighting a damn good fight, and I don't want you to give up. We need torch-bearers in this difficult times, and you're one of the best.

Vlad Malkav said...

Wow, so much here ...

i'm sorry to learn about all those little bits of "no big deals" piling up. That can be a slowly harrowing experience, and I sincerely hope you'll get better.

Take your time, take your fucking time. It is not wasted, I repeat, IT IS NOT WASTED ! i shout it out to you. You made another batch of awesomeness while taking your time. (although, not being an artist myself, I can't imagine how hard it can be to have a wall like that)

Concerning those hateful, spoiled brats ? They're like that, they're the problem, not you. They are not educated enough (on different aspects).
By the gods, you're working on yourself, you made tremendous progress and widened the horizons of many of your readers, you keep on giving the best stuff !

Most people can't "get" what you say, what you give, what you present, but that's not a fault of yours, but a deficiency of theirs. Assuredly, you're not the easiestwriter to follow, it takes effort to absorb, to understand, to use.
And considering the level of what you're giving, it's a miracle that it's not far harder, you know ?

Eh, yes, you're not touching as many people as some others. You're not getting as much appreciation, attention, praise. A shame, they're missing on the cutting edge of RPGaming comprehension.

Keep going, my good man.

Oddbit said...

Not sure what to say here.
I've never been the reassuring type I think.

I also can't promise there's a real future in writing on this topic.
Honestly, despite it being one of the few things I can get very excited about, I've never seen this industry as a viable employment opportunity.

That said, I can honestly say I've changed a lot of things in my games, and the way I approach them. And even the few I've run.

I think my approach to some other things and life has changed based on stuff I have read here.

I've made a point to share links to potentially interested friends. And talk about the awesome posts or the things that have happened and even the world you show through your run games and maps and wiki.

I don't know if 'touching people' was your goal, or what but that's what came out of it.

Anyhow.

I imagine if you had picked up something else you would have become an expert. You would have then discovered the toxic element of that field. You would have butted heads A LOT. It would be taxing. But there would be a section of the field that would respect your work.

Furthermore any articles shared to random blogs or groups would be commented on as casually as an image meme with little or no thought by a majority of folks. Not much consolation to have another "no big deal". But TBH I don't know how one would get recognized in other fields. My understanding is that many of them are just in-crowd award ceremonies and such.

Anyhow, I hope you keep writing, I've been enjoying the monsters and the maps, and the lore. I'm sure you will keep writing, I don't think you could stop if you wanted. I'm just hoping to be able to appreciate it.

Behold said...

Why is it these odd posts I find the most interesting? I read this while listening to a podcast about cultural appropriation of food; even natives who move to other countries and adapt to the new culture. It seems no field is safe from petty uncultured fools who seek to tear down brilliance and creativity. Perhaps that's why it's brilliance it stands out from the drab everyday like a diamond in the mud.

Ozymandias said...

Thank you.

I just left that group. You're right, it's toxic. For what it's worth, I'm sorry if I've somehow contributed to your situation.

We'll do better, my friend.

Mark Van Vlack said...

I empathize.
I know what it's like to have ideas. Ideas that I put into words. Work which no one ever sees.
I'm no writer. The struggles of writing a novel are well outside my experience. so the best I can do is wish you all the best towards your book.
As for your work on the blog. I both enjoy and respect your work here.

Wishing you the best.
-Mark

JB said...

When did you write this? September 12th? Okay, that was my brother's birthday and I was too busy to even take him out to lunch that day, despite us both having no employment and residing 5 minutes away from each other. *sigh*

I've published my share of "too personal for the blog" posts over the years. Sometimes it's cathartic; sometimes (as Tim wrote) you need to write shit down to really get it straight in your own mind, just what's bugging the shit out of you. Most of the time, when I look back months (or years) later at these posts I don't feel bad about them at all...they're a nice record of where my head was at (at the time) and with the perspective of time, I can see the progress and growth I've made (mentally, emotionally, sometimes professionally) since then. And I feel better about it.

Regarding The Fifth Man:

It's obvious (duh) this is bothering you immensely, and I'd guess your frustration is caused (at least in part) by the things it represents. The culmination of a lot of time and effort (the hours of writing). A tangible "this is what writers produce" accomplishment for your identity/ego. A product of your create mind that could actually earn income. All that stuff.

Chances are, you won't feel better till it's finished and published. It IS a fucking albatross, and that's the only way you'll get it off. Think of that as a positive bit of insight: you know something that will make you feel better. You know something you can do to lighten the myriad stresses in your life. All you have to do is finish.

I don't know what your counselor has said to you about it. Is your counselor a gamer? Does he understand you're writing a fantasy novel that you expect to be judged (possibly harshly) by the very community to whom you've spent years proselytizing? That you've asked for financial assistance from folks who might be your core audience and the tremendous pressure you feel to deliver something perfect or damn near close to it? Especially after (elegantly, eloquently) pointing out the flaws and failings of the many morons and jerks in our particular corner of the nerd world.

I know, I know. Astrology is a big pile of crap. The many Virgos I've known, though (especially my brother) have a strong tendency towards self-criticism, over-analysis, focusing on perfection rather than perfecting and have the damnedest time saying, "good enough." Perhaps you have this tendency.

Or perhaps you just need another set of eyes. I'm no professional, but I'd be willing to take a look at the current draft and give you an opinion of development, continuity, etc. I won't charge you, and I'll be honest about the current state of affairs. I even have about a week of free evenings before my wife gets back in town. I'd like to help.

As for future prospects, I might have something for you there, too...but that's something I'll email you about privately (no, it's nothing for my wimpy little books...). If I'm judging correctly, that's not the most pressing priority for your peace of mind, but there IS something, a possibility anyway, that I'm willing to follow-up on and that might be up your alley. Just don't want you to think things are completely hopeless on that front.
: )

Anyway. Um, yeah...that's all I've got to say at the moment.

Justin said...

Damn. So many people who clearly care deeply about you. You say you're wasting your time, that none of the things you've done make any difference, but these people clearly care. A teacher, with an average class size of say 30 students, would teach just 300 people in a 10 year period. You've reached 250 active readers and probably a bit more, on a subject you love, without forcing them to attend.

Thinking about your post on measuring yourself as a DM, I think the same idea could be applied here. 10 years later, with way less infrastructure and accessibility than a highschool social studies teacher would have, and you've accomplished something closely comparable.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you Justin,

But consider a teacher's salary, and compare that with my earning $800 a month, plus what I can make on patreon and book sales, with a debt I'm servicing to stave off bankruptcy, a minor back injury and one adult dependent that I'm supporting, both of us living in a room in my daughter's house.

When I say, "not making any difference," I mean one that will get me out of the poor house.