Imagine if I had a blog…

It'd look a lot like this

Sick of reinvention / About damn time I reinvent

This blog choked on itself for a variety of reasons.

One is a state of internal tension, two halves of my head that are constantly hacking at each other, neither of them ever making it anywhere. It’s all very dramatic, and very ineffective. I don’t want to be that arrogant show off, and I don’t want to fall into obscurity. Trying to find a balance between the two has gone very poorly. We’ll just say that the silence means that for this year, obscurity won.

Another reason is I have found the process of self-editing my first WIP to be utterly terrifying and super painful all the time, and that was something I wanted to be a major part of this blog. It’s been harder than:

  • This
  • That
  • Just about anything else I’ve done in a long time
  • No no, I already thought of that one, and it is harder

And I am really honestly truly tired of starting new things. I’ve moved twice in 4 months, I’ve started a new career arc, I started a different WIP. New city, new line of work, new people: I am grateful for it all, and at the same time I wish any of it felt comfortable. I feel like sometimes I am waiting in line for life to continue, and periodically I step out and go back to the end, or at least a few places. It’s not really true, and I know this, but I am feeling somewhat tired.

Still, when confronted with a problem, you have to do something about it (or else you lose the right to complain, or so I’ve been told). This past year has seen some big successes, and some pretty wretched failures. The wretched failures category includes a lot of things that have fallen apart before(mostly writing, but also other creative projects), and so I’m going to have to reinvent certain parts of my life to get where I want to go. A new strategy is necessary.

That’s in the next update.

6 Days Until Departure

This blog has gone through a bit of a queit period while I’ve been focusing on my writing and on finding gainful employment after returnin home. There’s also been a lot of “OhgodIliveinAmericaagainwhatiseverything” going on, making sustained periods of reflection something of  a rarity.

But some good news is that, as of yesterday, both my significant other and I are employed, which is hardly a record for post-JET job search results, but pretty damn good. Of course, the stress will ramp up for a bit as we have to move from New York to California in the next 6 days.

6 days.

Tickets are purchased. Storage is arranged.  Cats are confused. Boxes are recklessly strewn. People are panicked. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, as one might be inclined to say.

When my blood pressure drops (don’t get me wrong, it’s from all the excitement) and my books are in boxes, I’ll get back to filling in the backlog (With photos! Of China!)

Back stateside

I had recommitted myself to blogging and writing early last month, which was all fine and great until I had to actually begin the moving process. Let me make a recommendation to you: When moving 10,000 miles, simply throw away everything you own (except the cat), and leave with your bills paid. Do not spend time trying to figure what you are going to do with the spare external hard drive or the yoga mat or your favorite beer mug. Once you get home, you’ll have nowhere to actually put any of this stuff (except the cat).

That aside, my body has now acclimated to the time zone enough that sleeping past 5 am is no longer a preposterous dream. I can nearly think straight. So, at long last, I can begin doing the things that I really have been itching to get done. Today is the first day of a course I’ve been looking forward to, and shortly after I return from San Francisco I’ll begin working on my first ghostwriting project.

I will eventually try to digest my three years in Japan and put some of my thoughts on here, but in the meantime I need to begin moving forward, which I will do presently.

Just a few minutes

In the past, I’ve cracked out 1500 words in 20 minutes, and although they were certainly not my best work, I have done this more than a handful of times.

But with the impending move (and not just move within a state or a country, but to a different hemisphere), I just haven’t been very good about BIC, and this blog has fallen off the to-do list entirely. So today, I am spending two minutes here to show myself that I can put down the packing tape and the final lesson plans long enough to crack out a few words. I know that I won’t really remember all the tchotchkes I send home when they inevitably are pushed off a shelf by a mischievous cat, but the words are a slice of time that won’t die if I can just take a minute to write them down.

 

So, here’s to BIC.

Time Travel

Sometimes, you time travel.

Just apply pressure

Imagine, if you will, the kind of clip art you might find if you were to image search the term ‘stress.’ People wincing, visualized headaches, lines of pain and thunderbolts firing into shoulders and temples. Sweaty people slumped over thick plastic keyboards made in the 90’s. Now try ‘pressure.’ Boilers, gauges, more sweat. Being yelled at by your boss. Conventional wisdom says stress is bad. Ruins your day, your sleep, your sex life, your heart. It will strike you dead in the end, so you must learn to fear it.

I think that I should seek to create it.

Last week, I prepared a few lessons for school, prepared the  handover of a volunteer association I am heading, the transition of my body of work that I need to leave for my successor at the end of my contract, graded papers and student diaries, and other random bits of paperwork that you are forced to do working in bureaucracy. I attended the graduation  of the students who were first-years when I arrived at this school, and I fulfilled a promise to a friend and a superb barman by going snowboarding instead of going to work (most assuredly the high point).

I also knocked out about 12,000 words of fiction in five days.

This week, I had only one of those responsibilities (sadly, not the boarding), and I managed to write…

250 words.

What.

Now, this is not to say that I didn’t do anything this week, just no where near as much as I had last week. I ended up spending a huge part of this week reading and researching, and there was an incident yesterday that called me out of work early. But even taking this into account, I had more time to use as I saw fit than I had time to spend on specific goals.

The difference between the two weeks was I never stopped moving last week. If I wasn’t doing something, I knew that I absolutely had to crush the next thing on the list. Pick it up, do it, put it down, next. Rinse, repeat. Insert coin to continue sometimes, free lives other times. Never having more than enough time to take a tiny break periodically (the 26 minute naps or bowls of curry noodles required to keep any body from keeling over) kept me razor sharp, and I didn’t lose sight of any of my goals.

As soon as I lost that, I lost the ability to get anything done, especially the things that were most important, namely looking into the job market and finishing my second WIP.

I have had a sneaking suspicion for a long time that I require extreme pressure to do anything. As soon as I don’t have the Deadline of Damocles hanging over my head, I find myself on my couch playing Mario Kart and trying not to think about the dishes. While that is enjoyable, I really, really, really honestly have a burning desire to see a few goals accomplished before I am violently booted from this mortal coil. So, I absolutely crave stress. It is delicious. It gets me where I am going.

Stress is fuel.

Now, this sounds terrible. It makes it sound like I can’t meet deadlines or I am a last-minute person who could just fix their problems if only they could manage their time better. The truth of the matter is all of the things that I did last week weren’t due until today, and most of them because I am going on a trip the day after tomorrow.  Once these tasks were gone, because I tried to crush them relentlessly, I had nothing to drive me. I think the solution is pretty clear.

On that note, I’m headed to China for two weeks. When I get back, I will have four days to plan an entire semester, possibly with a new teacher or two, and Script Frenzy will begin.

Bring it.

Content and Content: Where I have been

Howdy kids, it’s been a while.

The last time I posted on here was about a week and change ago, wherein I actually posted something that I wrote. I as in me, me as in Matthew. Madness, surely. It was for fun, and that’s good, because I did work hard on it. Then I fell off the face of the Earth, which at least one person noticed (Ok, it was me). I don’t have a considerable readership. This might have to do something with the fact that I haven’t put up enough here to actually read. Well, that’s going to change, and in a sense, I already have the things to change it with.

This week has two projects for me, and while I cannot promise that I will be better about the blog, I can promise that there has been some pretty serious progress with other writing. First, I have taken another flash fiction challenge by internet madman Chuck Wendig, and this time I will actually do some outlining instead of rushing into it and publishing something I made in an hour. I’ve chipped away at it a little, and I think the results will be amusing. These flash fiction pieces will only be kept up for a short while, so read them while they are here.

The second project I am working on is a series of novellas to explore a character archetype that I have held dear ever since I first read a Steven Brust novel. It’s most likely not going to come across as too original, but hopefully not too derivative either. It’s not an homage to Vlad, but I hope it can pay some respects here and there. This morning I finished the outline for the first novella, major character development and part of the first chapter, and I plan on finishing most of the rest of the novella before I go to China at the end of the month. It will sit for two weeks or so, and then I will edit and put a teaser up.

The last thing that I want to leave you with is two links about the creative process by NY filmmaker Kirby Ferguson: one is a talk, and one is the webseries. Watching the first video alone, I felt I had been grabbed by the frame and shook until I fell to bits, It starts off being interesting, but when Ferguson analyzes Star Wars, my jaw hit the floor. When he again brings up some of the ideas that were just mildly improved for the revolutionary Macintosh, my jaw went through the floor, where it is still resting on top of the washing machine. Somehow, despite all the energy put into lauding these ideas and their creators, little is ever shown about the sources they were derived from. I highly recommend watching these, especially if you have ever felt humbled by the great ideas of others.

A Grand Fiction… Section… That Needs More Content

Well, someone pointed out that I have a website about writing, and that I am trying to write, and that I actually do write, but no one ever sees a damned thing.

A fine point.

Then I came across a flash fiction challenge on Terribleminds, which is ever amusing and never safe for children. It’s also totally invaluable. I don’t think I followed the prompt perfectly, and am actually considering taking a second swing at it, but I really have promised that I would put something up, and the only thing that has been holding me back is… me. And a dash of nerves.

So, today I will make my first concession, under the heading above, Fiction. It’s not an entry that I would consider perfectly representative of what I write, because it is missing some key elements to my writing: daggers, multiple identities, demi-gods, the criminally insane and coffee laced with spices and liquor. In fact, it is set in our world, with a particular place that I have distended for my own purposes. The main character is a little childish, bitter and who is not particularly good at being an adult 100% of the time, and gets a cruel, childish revenge. It is someone I know, from the past, from a first person perspective, as close to an admission as I’ll give you, but not someone I would want to be now.

And even though it isn’t my strongest entry, it was a good step, and I feel a bit braver for it.

The Devil’s Orchard… Tokyo edition

What could possibly be more exciting than photos of a concert taken on a cellphone? I don’t think I know! Here’s Opeth:

I believe they were playing Deliverance

The horns being thrown to the right are genuinely Swedish

They did put on a damn good show; you can tell by all the abject worship

Notice how “photos” is plural, which is dual. Perhaps Slovenian might be a better choice for a language (en volk, dva volkova, trije volkovi). In truth, I could only snap two photos because I didn’t actually remember to do so until the last five minutes. I was too busy being totally entranced/yelling at the stage.

This is my extremely roundabout way of saying that it was an awesome show and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would go back right now, but no one would be playing.

In the end, I only spent about 10 hours in Tokyo, which is less time than it took to get there. Gotta love living in the sticks. Still, it was absolutely worth it. I also got to catch up with a friend (Hey Yasmin), who seems to be doing so much better now that she is not in Toyama.

All in all, I feel/felt refreshed. I am going to try to hold onto that feeling for the next few days as I finish up classes, and perhaps the whole burnout thing will be a thing of the past. But enough rambling about me, I actually have some interesting observations of things that happened outside of my own skull.

Despite having lived in Japan for over two years, I’ve never been to a proper concert here. It just sort of hadn’t occurred to me until I heard about this tour back in November. I’ve seen little local events and bands play… a few times. And I’ve certainly never been to a metal show, so this was pretty damn surprising in a few ways.

The first thing that struck me was that concerts here start insanely early. To my shock, when they said the show started at 6, it actually started at the proper time. It might actually have started five minutes early. This is certainly not a complaint, because I remember the last concert I went to at the Roseland Ballroom started an hour and a half late (and only then because the crowd was seconds from just out and out rioting). In addition to being on time, there was no opener. Originally, we had planned on getting the best train out of the Shin-kiba area and kicking around Tokyo until morning to wait for our bus, but the concert ended at 8pm. Finding ourselves with over 11 hours left in Tokyo, we decided trying to switch buses to go home early, leaving at 11pm the same night instead. Wimps! I hear you thinking. Well, it was below freezing and neither of us had more than a few hours worth of yen on us. The night had already gone really really well, so rather than try to test our ability to not die in the cold or drink until 7:30 the next day, we left and I found myself home an hour before I would have left. It doesn’t sound great, no, but I look at it like the concert filled the entire trip.

The other thing I noticed was how unwaveringly polite the Japanese are. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I already knew this. But, goddamn, this was a metal show, and people were still quiet and unassuming. If you are wearing a shirt that says “carcass” in giant red letters, it’s OK to not display perfect manners! Åkerfeldt, who is charming for a man whose profession involves growling, jokingly rebuked the audience for being too tame and demanded immediate head-banging. They played two tracks from Watershed to spur it on, which was pretty nice. At one point someone elbowed me in the spine, and thinking that some guy decided he wanted to start moshing (not a past time of mine) by hitting me, I whirled on him, only to have someone a full foot shorter that I was apologize and calmly step around me. I have complicated feelings about this. I am aware how ridiculous this sounds, but there it is.

The last thing I noticed that the metal fans here came in all ages and sizes, as they ought. And I do means all ages, as there was one woman very close to the stage who must have been over 60, bespectacled and complete with the medical mask to prevent illness. She seemed to be on her own, which earns her even more credit in my book. Cheers to you, unexpected senior citizen, cheers to you.

All in all, a success. Now, to survive one more week, and I can begin cracking out the words en masse again. After finals, I should finish editing the short story I wrote last week (in one sitting, never done that before), and I hope to put it on here shortly thereafter.

The Cure for Burnout

…is something that I am desperately searching for. In the meantime, I have a stop gap.

About three weeks ago I recommitted myself to some of my personal goals. This felt great, and I immediately saw progress towards them. 3o00 words in two hours, 4 short story ideas, one completed short draft. I was a very happy mollusk for three solid days.

The universe, upon hearing this, decided that it was going to collapse on my head. Rather than lay out all the gory details, I will simply say that problems at work came to a head with the sociopathic teacher (and I learned that almost the entire staff has problems with him), and from all the fighting, awkward classes and bad atmosphere, I am really quite burnt out in regards to everything. I had not realized how badly I was feeling until I sat down the other day and realized that there was absolutely nothing that I was looking forward to… even things that I knew on some level I was very much looking forward to. The word well was dry, I couldn’t read, and when cooking last week, the dish I made tasted like paste. Not the good paste even, but some Elmer’s knock-off. America’s Choice paste.

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks trying to push through it, which has only made things worse as I approach my final classes. I’ve learned the important lesson that you can’t always just smash through the wall. Sometimes you need to take a breath.

Since I haven’t the ability to choose my own schedule, nor the time for a real vacation until tests are finished, I am going to do the next best thing: I’ll be spending this weekend in Tokyo seeing Opeth play songs from their new album. I bought these tickets months ago, and part of me, the part that is tired of everything, briefly considered not going. But I know I would have spent the entire weekend staring at a blank page, not because my writing was blocked, but because I was blocked. Entirely. Stepping away from the keyboard and the frying pan and the blackboard is probably the solution.

It’s not the same as two weeks away from work to refocus, but it is a damn good start. I am hoping that I return refreshed and revived, and I can regain my former good spirits. If not, I’ll be sure to whinge about it on here.

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