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The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Wasting Time January 9, 2013

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 1:19 PM

(Yikes, I missed the weekend again. This is what happens when you go on break. You lose track of time.)

Today I’d like to talk about time. Specifically, wasting it. We’ve all been told we’re wasting our time – maybe while watching a favorite tv program, browsing the internet, or simply enjoying doing nothing. Why aren’t we working on homework or overtime or schedules for our next busy, busy day?

I’m here to tell you that when you’re doing those things, you’re not wasting time. Slaving away at jobs you don’t like, sleeping through classes you don’t  need, talking to people you don’t care about – that’s a waste. We waste enough time with our daily inescapable duties. Alleged time wasters are what we do for fun.

Some people say life is short. Others point out – reasonably enough – that it’s the longest thing we do. Either way, it will end. What would you rather do with the time you have? In the end, what will you remember?

Lurking internet forums or trying valiantly to understand Doctor Who isn’t on par with writing a novel or composing a symphony, I’m aware. However, indulging can lead to inspiration – or even just entertainment. That’s allowed!

So don’t let other people – or your conscience – guilt trip you for having fun. Enjoy the things you enjoy. Just make sure you get life’s necessities done too.

 

December 29 and I’m Still Here December 29, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 2:21 PM

Humans have a certain preoccupation with destruction. We turn out films like 2012 and Armageddon. We write book after book about post apocalyptic landscapes. Even kid shows like Adventure Time have an end of the world flavor. And, of course, every few years some crackpot predicts the apocalypse. I’ve lived through more end times than Buffy the vampire slayer. If they’d all happened, I’d be the toughest girl around.

The interesting thing is that some people seem to look forward to the apocalypse. Dystopias are the new hot literary craze. There are television ‘reality’ shows about doomsday preppers. And amid the sarcastic Facebook and tumblr posts about 2012, I got the feeling that people were rooting for something to happen. Winter break can be pretty boring, after all.

So what leads to a fascination with the end times, particularly among young adults? I have a feeling it’s because our future doesn’t look too rosy, Armageddon or no. The job market is terrible. Our economy, questionable. The planet is ravaged by war and environmental disaster. Is this really a future we want to inherit? Maybe we’d rather go out with a bang. An identifiable catastrophe – be it an Armageddon style meteor, a zombie apocalypse, a tsunami, etc – would give us something to blame. It would give us a way out of acknowledging the mess we’ve created. Instead, we’re going to have to face that the world – while not optimal – is going to stick around. It’s our job to patch it up.

You’ve almost made it to the new year. We’ve survived Y2K, the Rapture, 2012, and probably several other ends of days no one bothered to inform us about. For better or for worse, we made it to 2013.

Let’s make this year worth living.

 

Finals Approacheth December 8, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:09 AM
Tags: ,

The end of the semester is nigh, promising holiday food, a break from homework, and a chance to sleep in. If you’re in high school or college, though, there’s one last hurdle to jump. Finals.

Finals can be detrimental to your health in a lot of ways. Stress can do a ridiculous amount of damage to your system, and anyone facing hours of testing that can sink your grade is going to be stressed. Many people stay up late into the night studying – 0r doing anything to put off studying – and the lack of sleep compromises their immune system. Students with notebooks full of information to review aren’t likely to go outside. We don’t have time. We end up sitting or lying down all day flicking through pages, getting absolutely no exercise. On top of that, I know I tend to eat more junk food when I’m stressed. I’ll often ‘reward’ myself with unhealthy stuff after accomplishing something, but finals can engender mindless snacking. Also, at my university, most of us are now spending our extra meal points, and most of the items available aren’t very good for us either. Put all of this together, and I’m afraid we’ll all come out of final weeks as fat slobs – just in time for the holiday season.

With this in mind, try to avoid becoming an amoeba – even if you’re studying biology. It won’t give you an edge. The weather isn’t too bad in my location, but even if it’s cold, try to move around a little every day. Many universities have recreation centers, and many neighborhoods have parks or gyms. If it’s cold, bundle up well and go for a short walk. Exercise may feel like a waste of time when you’re staring down a deadline, but it can give you a much needed break and chase away that sluggish feeling.

Eating healthier food is, allegedly, better for your brain. You also won’t regret it later. Depending on your location, healthy stuff can be hard to find. If you eat at school, swing by the salad bar and pick up fruit instead of a cookie. Drink water instead of soda. Tell yourself you can indulge once tests are over, and use that as motivation. It’s a pain – trust me, I know how tempting it is – but avoiding junk food will pay off in the long term. This doesn’t mean not eating any, of course – I don’t think anyone could make it through finals week on carrot sticks – but try to tone it down.

Whether you manage to get outside and eat well or stay curled in the fetal position on your bed surrounded by chips bags, good luck. I hope you all do well on your finals and have a wonderful break.

 

Kat vs Real Life: Working October 20, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 10:24 PM
Tags: ,

I had bad luck on my job search.

I wanted to get a job before I left for college. I really really did. But unfortunately our current climate has perpetuated a vicious cycle. You need experience to get a job. You need a job to get experience. See the problem?

I was given one offer but, for reasons I won’t go into now, I couldn’t take it up. I went into college experience-less, which isn’t very promising for an English major in this environment.

In college, it turns out, jobs are everywhere. Fluorescent fliers coat billboards and are plastered onto walls. They offer shady, not well described jobs promising ‘flexible hours’ and ‘competitive pay’. I’m not quite that desperate. It’s probably making phone calls. Phones are the enemy.

I do have a job. Kind of. It’s a fellowship, paying minimum wage, but for work that is somewhat respectable. I’m doing research work for a professor, which consists of getting lost in my campus library or reading centuries-old theology on the internet. (St. Augustine wasn’t as clever as he thinks he is.) It’s not work as many people would think of college ‘work’. It doesn’t pay super well. However, it’s a job that doesn’t require much personal contact and I’m getting about $200 a month.

That by itself is pretty cool. Yeah, I could make more at McDonalds. But still, it’s mine. I earned that money. (The notion that they’re basically paying me for  chunks of my life, although creepy, is easy enough to brush aside.) I’m worth money. Real tangible stuff that I can use to buy other stuff. Mostly hot drinks once it gets cold, probably. It’s another tiny baby step toward adulthood.

If only I could get a raise.

 

It’s Just a Game (Or is it?) October 6, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 2:32 PM
Tags: ,

This week, I (maybe foolishly) got involved in an ARG.

ARGs, or Alternate Reality Games, are an interesting subculture I’d rarely heard of before. They’re a strange cross between video games, roleplaying, and real life. Players communicate through the internet, but seek clues scattered both online and in the real world. The creator of the game – the Puppetmaster, I believe the typical term is – feeds you enough snippets to get you going. After that, you and your teammates need to figure things out on your own.

I jumped into this one a little late, just in time for the story to start. Earlier puzzles had unlocked an animation that simulated ‘entering’ the game world. It even gave us our location. With my luck, I ended up in the Land of Darkness and Fear. My brother, more successfully, entered the Land of Tea and Frogs. I’m not jealous. At all.

The next phase involved cryptic snippets of numbers and letters that looked like this:

Fairly quickly, we realized that these corresponded to words in the World Book Encyclopedia. (An advantage of ARGs is that you have a lot of people to work with. This one’s pushing 40,000 and someone will always have solved the puzzle first.) I ended up literally running to the library four times in one day (it’s a thirty minute round trip, and I was sore for two days afterward), only to end up having to decode numeric ciphers. The decoded messages spelled out an ominous message, warning us about a mysterious enemy. The final clue, based on the ‘time trail’ of when the other clues were posted, led to this screen:

Fun.

Eventually our PM revealed what was going on (although they are a fairly unreliable narrator). He/she gave us a very long, convoluted story about (surprise) something powerful and nasty that wanted to kill us.

Players harassed the PM with questions and suggestions until our mission was clear. We had to gather enough points to destroy our enemy’s assets. (There’s a lot of fancy terminology, but I”m ignoring it.) The turn the game took then was extremely interesting.

Points could be gathered by ‘selfless acts of charity and kindness’. This ranged from holding the door for people to playing freerice.com for hours on end to drawing commissions for each other. I thought it was really cool that a game could inspire people to start doing stuff we really ought to do anyway.

That’s not all, though. Playing the ARG inspired all sorts of creativity. People were drawing their in-game personas, their lands, their adventures. RP posts popped up where people narrated their ‘adventures’. Players from across the country got together via the internet to talk, puzzle out clues, and have fun together.

From my limited experience, ARGs are really cool. It’s the closest you can get to living a video game, and it inspires cooperation, friendship, and innovation. As I worked to solve puzzles and guess what was going on, the writing part of my brain was ticking away, imagining what adventures would really lie in wait for me in a land of darkness and fear. So if you want to have some fun and ‘write’ a story in the real world with other people, try to find an ARG nearby! (Or one that doesn’t depend on location.) Just be prepared for some confusing puzzles and sore legs.

 

Exploring the Abyss September 18, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 8:41 PM

I might walk for an hour without encountering another human being. My footsteps raise echoes off the high ceiling and concrete walls. Caged enclosures hide their contents with curtains. Lights flicker and dim. Entire rooms are filled with no noise above the sound of my own breathing.

Welcome to the college library.

This place is not the cheery, colorful room I knew in elementary school. It’s not even the moderately welcoming building from high school. This is the library where students go to die, their bodies discovered years later by a hapless graduate student searching for a useful thesis. A friend said he thought the books would start screaming if you opened them.

So far my adventures in the library have been met with mixed success. A few times, I located the tome I needed and escaped with my limbs intact. Once I wandered for an hour looking for 2 A West, which was in no way connected to 2 West, 1 West, or (as far as I could tell) this plane of existence. Many times, books listed as ‘not checked out’ where mysteriously not on the shelf, overflow stacks, or in the re-shelving room. I’m beginning to think they heard me coming and ran away.

My research shenanigans are a big part of why I haven’t been posting as regularly (fitting eight hours of research into the week can be rough) but hopefully things will work out soon. Otherwise I might have to tweak my posting schedule. We’ll see how it goes.

Have any of you dared enter a college library? How many of your company did you lose? Any horror stories?

 

Trying Not to Drown August 28, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:19 AM
Tags: ,

I am a spy.

That’s what I say, at least. It sounds a lot more interesting than the more accurate terminology. During my first year of college, I get to work with a professor. Right now, I’m using my blasted slow internet connection to lurk other colleges’ programs and learn what they’re doing to attract students. As I said, spying. Kind of.

I’m paid a little for this project, and so far don’t have another job. Because of that – and because I have fewer hours of class time than in high school – I assumed college would be less stressful. Life lived at a slower pace, lots of free time – fun. Not work.

I was very wrong.

On my second day of classes, I was assigned fifty pages of reading (and an entire memoir to get to when I had the time). I’ve already taken a quiz, signed on for an oral commentary date, and taken at least twenty pages of notes. I’ve read, typed, and checked school emails until my eyes burned.

That’s just the schoolwork. I’ve made countless treks to the bookstore for last minute supply refurbishment. I’ve tried to snag the piano when it’s free, be early enough to get a place in exercise classes, and reach the laundry room before anyone else (so I can lose $1.25  to a broken machine without an audience.) Right now, sheets are draped across my bedpost and chair. A pair of damp pants hangs off the edge of my desk. My drying rack isn’t quite big enough. Laundry days are fun.

Every day I need to clean my breakfast dishes, tidy, and dash down four sets of stairs to check my mail. Later today I’ll need to rent out a vacuum for our sadly messy floor. At some point, I’ll need to develop an organization system for my even more sadly disordered desk. And did I mention I have quizzes to study for?

College is like jumping into deep water. It’s not a question of swimming. It’s a question of trying not to drown.

 

(Note: I wrote this post on Sunday, but neglected to post it until now. The quizzes will be faced this afternoon, and my pants are dry. All is relatively well. Still treading water here.)