Don’t Be Boring

 

I’ve taken to posting encouraging quotes on my Instagram accounts early in the week, in part to encourage others, in part to motivate myself.

I’m in the process of leveling my to-do list, revamping things in an effort to reconnect with myself and my work. (It sounds fairly cheesy, but I was getting in pretty bad shape here.) And I came across this quote (because I’m the kind who scribbles random quotes into her notes and tasks) that reminded me of conversations I’ve had with too many people:

“I’m bored.”

“So go do something.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you enjoy doing? What projects do you have going?”

Blank stare.

A million snarky statements of disbelief pass through my mind. “Surely there’s something you’ve always wanted to do. Read? Something?”

Melodramatic sigh. “That sounds like a lot of work.” Flop.

“Right…”

 

It sounds like I’m saying you don’t have a right to sit around and do nothing. And I’m not. You should take the time to do nothing. Your brain needs it if you’ve been doing things for a while. It needs that breathing space.

But if you haven’t been doing anything and you’re bored and you can’t think of some way to get yourself un-bored, you simply aren’t trying.

How does being bored translate to being boring? Simple. If you’re bored, you aren’t doing anything. And if you aren’t doing anything, you really don’t have anything to talk about or to contribute usefully to a conversation. And that’s pretty boring.

Just remember to not hurt yourself or other people while trying to get un-bored.

 

Cross-posted from my Imzy community. (This is an experiment to see how I feel about cross-posting these.)

The “Fake” Fan and the Enduring Fandom¬†

A couple of weeks ago, an Instagrammer I follow in part because of her charming Harry Potter shots was the victim of a troll bashing her for having a large collection of Harry Potter memorabilia despite having only discovered the books a couple of years ago, claiming she was a fake fan. (We won’t get into how not Potter that behavior is.) The Instagrammer in question is a college student (and I’m fairly confident the troll is younger than at least the very first book), most likely born within a year or so of the first book being published.

It got me thinking, because I was just barely born into a world without Star Wars in it, and then had to work with people who had no idea Episode 1 was released many years after Episode 6. And then I taught kids whose idea of ¬†Star Wars consisted of Clone Wars. And now there’s the new movies. As I wasn’t quite two when Star Wars itself was released, I can’t make any claims to remember the world before it, but it was an integral part of my entire childhood. It was the same for others who grew up around that time.

Those discovering the Star Wars movies today are experiencing a different fandom than the one I grew up with, mainly because they’re growing up in a time that’s nothing like the time I grew up in and fandom cannot escape the effect of the society around it.¬†Does that make them fake fans for coming to the series later on? No. Of course not. I look at the little girl who’s fallen head first into a fandom that existed before her parents were born, and think it’s super cool that she can run around pretending to be Rey the way I ran around pretending to be Leia when I was her age.

Harry Potter is the same way. The first book is just over twenty years old. So many children have been born in those twenty years, and are coming to Hogwarts for the first time. And they’re falling in love with it, and the fandom, and the general culture. As long as those books are in print, they will gain new fans who didn’t even exist when¬†the series began.¬†Does that make them fake fans? No, of course it doesn’t, no more than the girl cosplaying Rey is. With a long-running, long-lasting fandom like that, the newcomer is just as valid a fan as the one who’s been there for years.

That’s both the blessing and the curse of the fandom that spans generations (and there are so many out there) – There will be the elders who have been around since the early days; there will be the newcomers who just stumble in one day and never succeed in stumbling back out. And they’re all there because they love the fandom, and they all celebrate the fandom in their own way. In a way that’s often culturally appropriate to when they discovered the fandom. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Trolling newcomers is just ridiculous and against the spirit of fandom.

Writing Fan Fiction When You’re New to the Fandom

So, I’ve spent a lot of my free time this month marathoning Critical Role from the beginning, finding all sorts of little gems I’d either missed or forgotten about, and reading the fan fiction. And right around the time I got to Episode 45, I came across a fanfic written in response to all the fanfic that have Vax mercilessly punching Percy to a literal bloody pulp. The writer, admittedly a relatively new fan, had written their kinder, gentler version because the trope bothered them, and they just couldn’t see Vax going after Percy at all.

As I type this, there are sixty-seven episodes of Critical Role. It takes roughly 260¬†hours (Thanks, critrolestats!)¬†to marathon them. So, a new Critter (a Critical Role fan) is forgiven for not necessarily wanting to go back and catch up. On the other hand, a new Critter wanting to write what they believe to be canon fan fiction without doing a little research (even if that research is just turning to another Critter and asking, “Why are people so obsessed with Vax punching Percy?”) should probably stop themselves and just go ahead and put in the time.

Maybe it’s the fact I came across this fic while watching Episode 44 that made me scrunch up my nose at the author’s complete unawareness of the punch or the events that led up to it, but that single punch is canon (and an amazing show of restraint on Vax’s part).

I used to have this problem when reading Yu-Gi-Oh¬†fan fiction where it became obvious rather quickly that someone had written a fanfic, not of the original story, but of someone else’s fanfic. Yu-Gi-Oh had been around for a few years before I started reading the fan fiction, and so there were cases where the fanfic of a fanfic ran layers deep, and had problems not unlike what happens when you run a copy through an old mimeograph machine, and then run that new copy through the mimeograph machine, repeating the process several times. The copies eventually contain some of the same elements, but are faded so far as to be unrecognizable next to the original.

Being a newer fandom, Critical Role¬†doesn’t have that deep of a problem yet, but moments like these are a sign of things to come. It’s odd to be in a position to watch it begin. But to the new fan wanting to jump in, I still say connect with the original first so you won’t find your “original” story has unnecessarily reinvented a wheel.

Working Against My Own Sensibilities

I’m not a fan of horror. Really, I’m not a fan of gore. It’s amazing how many things I’ve walked out on because the gore level got to be too much for me.

There’s a funny story from my college days about the great debate over whether or not I could handle¬†Independence Day. My friends (who were pretty good at sorting out what I could and couldn’t handle) literally debated for days over whether or not I should be warned away from it before they finally decided I could handle it. It was over a year before I finally saw it, and could’t for the life of me figure out what the problem was until I got to the alien dissection. If you’re familiar with the movie, you know that’s not a terribly gory scene, and yet I walk out on it every single time I watch the movie because I can’t handle it.

Even stranger, two of my favorite manga/anime are¬†Descendants of Darkness and¬† Death Note. There’s absolutely no question both are gruesome, and yet I sit and listen to them with some regularity. I’d love to say that’s probably how I survive the gore in both stories, but I made it all the way through both manga (such as¬†Descendants of Darkness is). So… Yeah… I can’t explain it.

I point this out because I’m in the process of announcing my newest audio drama project and trying to find the right wording to warn people about what they’re walking into. Despite having done other audio dramas with similar concerns regarding gore, this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to warn people. And I’m having to think about it in terms of, “How would I want to be warned that I might not be able to sit all the way through this?”

A project I willingly auditioned for and worked on…and I’m trying to write my own trigger warning.

Because it’s compelling audio fare, horror is a popular genre for audio dramas. It makes sense from a purely academic standpoint. The tension. The ability to cheese it up or dial it back as necessary for the show. There’s just so much you can do to really create the right mood and pacing. But it also means that if I want to continue working in audio dramas (which I enjoy), I have to suck up a bit of my inherent unwillingness to set foot near horror and gore and just try to not involve my very vivid imagination in what I’m doing. (I fail at that regularly…)

It’s an interesting push-and-pull. One that I have the hang of on the voice acting side, even as I fight to not run out of the room. And when it’s clear from the audition notes that the show is probably going to be way too much for me, I usually avoid the audition altogether, just to make my life easier.

But it’s funny to think about in the grand scheme of things.

Revisiting Meaningful Glyphs: Emoji

A few years ago, I wrote a surprisingly popular post on language as a series of meaningful glyphs, citing a cartoon that employed this in a subtle way. At the time, I compared it to learning any language with an alphabet different from yours, because alphabets are a set of glyphs that really only hold meaning or significance to those familiar with the alphabet.

I’ve also written about the more visual (less text-based) language more and more companies are starting to use on their websites and apps that often force the user to determine what the company meant with a particular image. (My favorite to this day is the Archive button in Gmail, which didn’t read as “archive” at all until a mouseover tool tip was added.)

These days, we have the ability to speak entirely in images (if your phone supports it. Mine doesn’t, which may be a good thing.) Once nothing more than a few keystrokes cleverly strung together to look like something (@-,-‘—), emoticons have now graduated to a growing series of little images. Emoticons are still in use and have their place, but they’re often rendered into little graphical faces. It’s now all about the emoji.

As I mentioned, my phone doesn’t natively support emojis, and that’s probably for the best. Because for all my love of staring at foreign alphabets, emoji often don’t translate for me. A friend posts a row of images containing a car, a tree, and a wine glass, and I have no idea if she’s off on a wine-tasting trip in a nearby town in the woods, or if she is trying to relax with a glass of wine after wrapping her car around a tree.

Emoji aren’t just an alphabet; they’re a graphical language. It becomes more difficult to understand what the person leaving the message wanted people to know, because an emoji may mean one thing to one person and something else to a different person, or a person may use the emoji to mean one thing in one context and another in a different context.

It’s a whole new level of language that opens itself to more creative expression while at the same time failing to simplify communication between speakers. And it’s a bit too much for this girl. Sorry. But it is interesting to watch it it play out.

Lessons Learned From Reconnecting With Journaling

Like so many little girls, I grew up with a journal hidden somewhere in my living space. Okay, mine might actually have been sitting out wherever I left it last. Still is. The point is, I’ve spent most of my life with a notebook in my hand, documenting life, working on ideas, trying to keep track of things.

But last year, my life took a pretty hard hit, and like so many other things my journaling stopped being useful. It wasn’t that I stopped journaling. It’s more that it became nothing but a to-do list of those things I was doing just trying to keep sane when sanity just wasn’t to be had.

I came into 2016 hoping to put 2015 squarely behind me quickly, and that meant getting my to-do list under control and actually serving my various projects. Which really meant getting my journal and my daily habits going again to help focus my day. But it hasn’t been the easiest path.

I started hearing about Bullet Journaling and gave it a look. While it isn’t for me, it has made me realize that my journal is not only my notebook, but also my digital life management tools. And it has inspired me to be more conscientious about how I rebuild my journal. My daily habits have been restructured into Tiny Habits to support my personal and project goals. (I also identified some daily habits that were nothing but time sucks and kicked them to the curb.) I also now have a better weekly review process that is already helping me find and change what hasn’t been working in my weekly routines and work habits. It’s proven to be a good start.

Some of the Bullet Journaling community are exploring merging GTD and Kanban into their journals. While GTD has not historically worked for me, I looked into it again to see if that had changed. I even found a system that converts Evernote into a GTD/Kanban workhorse and started cleaning up Evernote. It turns out my brain still does not do GTD, and Evernote is nothing more than a cabinet in my workflow. But it’s a more organized, more relevant cabinet now, so I consider that a win.

The Bullet Journaling community is a very visual group, which I’m not. But in the spirit of giving it a fair chance, I’ve started adding color to my paper journal in the form of tick boxes shaded with colored pencils, and I’ve discovered washi tape to add a bit of personality to my pages. The tick boxes have turned out to be invaluable. In only three weeks, I started seeing at a glance where things weren’t working, and what really needed to be tracked. (I also started scheduling my colored pencil pattern so it creates pretty gradients on my page.) I’ve made some great improvements in my study habits, inspired by the sudden discovery I’m more likely to keep up with audio materials than text materials, and I’m doing a much better job of keeping up with my daily reading.

One of the stranger side effect of falling in with the Bullet Journaling crowd has been joining #rockyourhandwriting. As I said, many BuJo enthusiasts are very visual people. They doodle. They handletter. They’re really kind of cool. But this hashtag simply invites participants to work on their daily handwriting as they respond to a prompt. I’ve been wanting to create blocks of text in my graphic design for a while, and this has proved to be just the nudge I needed.

I don’t know if any of this was interesting. Maybe you’ll read this and consider looking into Bullet Journaling or GTD to help organize your work and keep you moving forward. Maybe you’ll check out #rockyourhandwriting and come write with us. Maybe you’ll stop following this blog. But for the first time in three years, I feel closer to being in control of what I get done.

Memories of Dancing Outside

This week has been a little crazy. Very few of you will see this when it posts, and you will know that about a week ago, you were given a quick heads up that my blog was suddenly relocating (or you figured it out on your own very quickly). So if you survived that ride, thank you. If you’ve just stumbled onto this blog, howdy!

While surviving this experience (because for some reason it was more heinous that previous blog migrations I’ve been through), things have been changing outside my window. My father is a fantastic gardener. But our yard is a squirrel haven, and they have taken every opportunity to either steal the fruits and vegetables or just pulled out and destroyed plants.

So, my father has spent the week putting up a greenhouse in the backyard so he can grow his plants and the squirrels can just stare longingly. (Meet the first resident!) This greenhouse, a small, clear, cube-like structure, is going into the space I used to dance in when I was in middle school.

I’ve spent a lot of time since returning to this house thinking about afternoons spent in the back yard, my little pink cassette player playing at full volume from its spot under the swing, a small bag of tapes and a pile of ribbons and batons dumped next to it. (Eventually, my mother found a six-pack carrier that was perfectly designed to hold my ribbons and batons.) It was where I danced when my academic schedule left no time for actually being in a regular ballet class.

This persistent need to fill my free time with dancing benefited me when I was finally able to return to ballet class and let me come back at about the level I left. A few years later, I suffered a career-ending injury, and now I just stare out the window and think about grabbing my ribbons (which I still have) and my hula hoop and just going outside and playing for a few minutes.

But this longing to go outside and see if I can still spin a hula hoop like a color guard flag has made me think about the last time I lived in this house (just a couple of years after the career-ending injury, but a few years before we found out just how bad the injury was). Because my body couldn’t handle the desert environment where my school was located, I spent the last year of grad school here.

I was actively involved with a LARP, where I periodically danced and sang in artistic competitions. But it never occurred to me to go outside and work on my dances. I arranged my room to have the space I needed inside. Even now, my room is arranged so I can do yoga and Pilates (foot permitting) inside.

Maybe creativity no longer thrives in that space, but thanks to the greenhouse, other good things will. And really, that’s all that matters.