Something About You

Sometimes, it takes change to make real and lasting progress.

I’ve spoken at length about my feelings on Patreon, and as of this morning, my Paypal account has more money in it than I’d garner each month when all pledges were paid. The irony of that situation is not lost on me either: by refusing to stick with the easy, comfortable and stress-free direction my writing was taking, it was time for a leap into darkness. What hadn’t been clear until last week however was that the drop I’d expected wasn’t nearly as fatal as was imagined. Yet again, imagination got the better of good sense and reason: the reality is that here, where things now stop and begin to settle, holds far greater long-term potential.

The key, in a life previously lacking in focus, has become the path of consistency.

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This morning has been full of revelations, but the one that hit home the most revolves around the set of circumstances which finally separated me from a desire to write and exist as an active part of the Warcraft community. I caused a lot of grief, and upset a fair few people when I refused to complete a series of Podcasts inspired by celebrations around the title’s 10th Anniversary. I was (fairly and accurately) accused of being flaky and untrustworthy. It’s only now the reality is grasped that I didn’t want to be the person I’d become back then. My future wasn’t as a ‘personality’ or a ‘fan podcaster’, and it took a couple of years before finally, I was able to separate myself from the reality that surrounded me.

I know now it was the reassurance that was craved so much: I needed to know I was significant and my voice mattered. I will never forget the moment when someone accused me of using them to forward my own ends and something inside me literally snapped: I’d become a hopeless parody of all the things I hated, and the people who cared about nothing but themselves. It didn’t matter that the accusation was 100% false. It didn’t matter that I’d being wound up by a ‘popular’ streamer, belittled by a ‘high profile’ personality and used as an in-joke by dozens of other people because I refused to play their games or become part of a clique. These incidents were not important, and they still aren’t. It could have been anybody or anything. Until my own house was in order, everything else ended up as irrelevant.

Life had become all about deciding whether I cared about fitting in or not.

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When I took the decision to go it alone last year I lost a portion of interest, understandably, from those people who turned up just because of my ‘Warcraft Brand.’ When this year I announced I’d be selling myself as I now am (without Warcraft being a primary focus) someone DM-d me and pointed out I was a liar and that I should just go back to doing games. I still play, but my content is hash-tagged so the people who don’t give a fuck about Azeroth get the choice. I’m loathed after nearly nine years of blogging just to throw all that away, especially when I know the debt that writing journey owes to everything else that I am. But truthfully I am no longer the same person, and I have little or no desire to hang around with a portion of the people I used to.

The people who don’t like the fact I won’t come and be in their clique have finally got their wish. I have waning interest in anyone whose obsessive devotion to an MMO shuts out logic, reason and common sense. If you’re going to live, eat and breath this game 24/7 at the expense of everything else, please go right ahead without me, because I’ve already done 51 years on this Earth rather badly and really need to fix all the stuff I’ve fucked up elsewhere. The game is no longer a constant in my life and trust me when I say I am definitely better for it. However, as a reminder, the Hotel World of Warcraft allows me to return any time I like, and I am perfectly entitled to play and write about it whenever I choose. If you turn up in my Social media timeline and start being a fucking twat because I don’t play the game in the way you like…?

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In good news I have zero desire to make any money as a streamer, personality or talking head any more. I do have a quite long list of people however should I ever meet them in public that I’d feel quite happy giving a very well measured and scathing piece of my mind, just because they have no idea of what arrogant, stupid and sexist morons they really are… and that’s just the women.

I don’t think I’ll be getting tickets for Blizzcon any time soon.

Sometimes I Fail

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Writers fail all the time. Some of the most famous writers in history only got there via rejection, many after their deaths. If you put pen to paper, fingers to keys… doesn’t matter how you do this gig, inevitably you have to fail somewhere. Not only is it an essential part of process, it is the absolute best way to judge of you have the mental strength to be a writer in the first place. Now, for those capable, self-publishing at least can present a notion of success in a small sphere… except once you grasp that success is relative too, a lot of things change in life for the better.

Dealing with INEVITABLE REJECTION is a lot easier if you’ve experienced it second hand.

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The best training I could ever have had for this came from a very good friend, who was unexpectedly made redundant from a job he’d loved for many years. Refusing to compromise in a niche market, I lived through what was many months of tortuous interviews and almost consistent rejection. It wasn’t because he wasn’t the right person for the jobs, either, but the fact the right job didn’t exist for him. Once he went to employers (one whose work he totally idolised at the time) it became abundantly apparent that what he wanted and what employers wanted were often vastly different, and he was strong enough not to compromise on what mattered. In the end he moved his family to a different country to get what was most important to him. That’s the kind of personal devotion needed to get the job done.

I’ve never really thanked him for this, because at the time it was heartbreaking to have to build him up after every failure. I hated it, and only now can come to realise how much strength he was able to grant me by just being himself. Sometimes that’s all it needs: somebody with enough belief in their own ability and the ‘self’ they exist within. For me, every rejection is a step in the right direction. It teaches me countless different fundamentals about my own ability, and how things need to change. However, because I am a realist there remains the certainty that eventually, if I throw enough sharp objects at a target, one will stick. What is happening now is picking the right people to aim at. My friend’s success came after successfully knowing and aiming at a particular target. Which each new rejection, that’s what I do too.

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Right now, when I get the Novel finished, I’ll have a workable raw material to sharpen and start throwing. That’s never existed before, and when it does, I’ll be ready to use it for good. I confidently predict a ton of rejections, I’ll welcome them happily with open arms, because it will mean I’m confident enough not simply to take them, but to allow them to make me stronger. If all you see is failure, that is all that happens. That’s not one of those dodgy motivational poster things, it’s an insoluble truth from decades of my own practical experience, and only by living the fail do I get how the fail can destroy what you are.

One day, I will hit a target, and when I do, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Communication Breakdown

Origins

Those of you paying attention will know that yesterday was my 51st Birthday. These events are often odd affairs: I can remember my 40th as one of the darkest periods of my life, whilst a decade on I was in Paris, with my family and staying in the fanciest Hotel I’d ever experienced. As human beings, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on these celebrations, and it is only this year that I’ve begun to understand why that is. Those revelations will undoubtedly serve as personal blogging fodder for several days: for now, I wanted to spend some time explaining how a very particular group of people have influenced my journey to this point.

You see, without exception, it is those who take time to be critical whom I respect the most.

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Being positive is, for a writer, often the coward’s way out.¬†I can remember moments when asked to critique other people’s works, I’ve struggled to find anything positive to say.¬†In those cases, the compliment sandwich becomes a difficult meal to make. You know how this works: two positives that act as the bread to a filling where you get to lay bare all the bad stuff. Except sometimes, there is only filling.¬†As a society, we are now pushed to be positive for a lot of very good, noble and totally correct reasons. There are extremely sound foundations for encouraging this behaviour… except when your sandwich is sans filling…

It is a balancing act I’ve always found hard to maintain because I was made a blunt instrument.¬†I’ve had to learn to communicate a balance, and over the years on my three blogs you can, if you take the time, watch this evolution take place. There will be days when I continue to say ‘fuck you’ to various sections of the establishment, and that remains the case because there is the realisation that these people just don’t listen regardless.¬†If your idea of criticism is the passive-aggressive format that at least one of my stalkers took in an attempt to try and make me feel guilty for ostracising him?¬†I can see the difference now. That ploy’s not going to work anymore.

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With everybody else, I can find a working relationship. Language differences do not matter: I can Google translate now if required (and I do when the need is there) and honestly if the willing exists on both sides, everybody wins. The best criticism I get, consistently, is that which simply holds a mirror up to my own failings without fear.¬†It happens far more than most might realise too: the exchanges via Social media, realisations that are highlighted by (often) the most unexpected of people. The number of individuals who still DM me when typos turn up in posts is a true joy and is never going to get old. It isn’t pedantry, but a physical manifestation of care,¬†and I will forever remain grateful.

Being online is becoming less dangerous with each passing day as a result. Those who are annoyed enough to block me from their lives have done their job in teaching the lessons around how sometimes, however hard you try, people will just hate what you are regardless.¬†Occasionally those blocks, however, are for sanity, and the understanding that someone isn’t listening to anyone but themselves. For the people who really matter you just mute and allow them the chance to vent, because they give you that respect in your space to do the exact same thing. Having taken all my Twitter mutes off this morning after a period where I just needed to breathe (metaphorically speaking) there a readiness to engage again.

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Writing isn’t just an exercise in self-satisfaction, despite what some authors might say to the contrary. It is as much about being able to grasp and accept the critical responses of others as it is being able to do the same to them. I am happy to be edited, which was once not the case but only to a point.¬†If I feel someone’s suggesting the removal of a point I feel is crucial to an argument or a narrative, it will stay intact. If someone sees the World in a differing way to me that is absolutely fine (and I can respect this) but not at the expense of my own view or indeed feelings on the matter. If it is obvious someone is not prepared to compromise… then you walk on.¬†With too much else to do, some fights are simply not worth your time.

However, I listen to all the criticism I get.¬†Good and bad, positive and negative, I have found the means to assimilate it all. That is something I know many people just can’t do, but for me, it has become as much of the process as the writing itself. I have been forged in the heat of decades of pitched Internet abuse, attacked by trolls and fools as well as finding some of the best and most brilliant friends a girl could ever ask for in her journey to enlightenment. Sometimes, you take it all because there’s the understanding that on some days, you get nothing at all.

This is what I have become, and it is glorious.

I Saw the Light

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I spend a lot of time hanging around artists. It has become something of a cause c√©l√®bre for me: however, if there was less time admiring others’ work and more time perfecting my own, shit would get done far faster. Right now, however, inspiration is lacking just about everywhere: art provides that fix, vicariously reminding that passion can be seen and felt in pixels and pen strokes. Encouraging others is, like it or not, a greater source of satisfaction than staring at my own inadequate efforts and finding the means to become better. This is, I now realise, a writing slump. Non fiction fortunately does not seem to be suffering from the same malaise, and when critical thinking is applied to the reason, an answer as to why isn’t far behind.

Fictional worlds currently are not required as ‘escape.’

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Time for some brutal honesty: those imaginary spaces were created in my youth, more often than not, to run from from the less than happy domestic situation I found myself within. Only when my kids were born did circumstances dictate that imagination could be used just as it was: the work I have stretching from 2000 until now does, in nearly all cases, exhibit the same basic qualities. There are great ideas but never the ability to complete on them because the confidence in my work simply did not exist. Last year, I found the means to move forward with the help of Ian Fleming. The temptation would have been at this point to go full on fiction projects but in my heart the words now exist in two places where before only one mattered.

I’ve really started to gain pleasure in objective writing away from fiction.

That’s why this new project was born: it allows me to effectively continue therapy for myself using the written word. Where that leaves fiction however is both nebulous and uncertain. Last night after a family row I began and subsequently made worse, I sat alone in the bedroom and grasped that sometimes, there is a reason why everything needs to happen in a certain way. My desire to write has at no point diminished, in fact it grows greater with every passing day. However, what is written has become as significant as my favourite colour or most essential piece of music for relaxation. All the fictional ideas remain part of what I am, but with the practical skills learnt through non-fiction work there is now the means to re-invent each one as something better.

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The best way I can find to describe this is what I would imagine the process an artist goes through when learning the fundamentals of their craft. Learning to ‘see’ and draw people realistically might seem a waste of time to the Anime nut, but that basic grasp of anatomy and proportion, when learnt, allows you to think outside the constraints of accepted norms. Once you learn how to do something so well it can happen in your sleep, then comes the ability to step outside the restraints set upon a mind that looks simply at one thing alone. This, it is becoming apparent, is where I am now.

There was other stuff last night that surfaced, things as yet there is discomfort thinking about or even writing down. I want to mark yesterday as a watershed, moment when the reality of what sits in my head was finally reconciled with how I act when things happen that are out of my control. Words have give the chance to explain feelings, but until there’s clarity on exactly what those are, all that remains is silence. Some days, a lot of money would be offered to find the means for every feeling and emotion not to happen simultaneously, yet that’s where I am. Once everything can be sorted, then there’ll be the means to explain, but not today.

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I still need writing as therapy, but not in the same way this journey began. As I move forward, the desires have altered, needs sublimating into something more complicated than I’d first grasped. This isn’t just about telling stories any more: I am the story.

There is a lot more here to be considered.

All Together Now

I was thinking yesterday about how important Twitter has become to me as a means of communication, but not simply in real time.¬†Any social media ‘expert’ will tell you that the key to using the platform correctly is engagement, and to do so effectively is not simply combining hashtags or imagery. More often than not it can start with the right conversation, especially in a period where the platform’s being used to communicate ideas and feeling in a manner that’s not happened before. Except for me, this has been the means that I’ve generated content for a couple of years, based on the understanding that the people I engage with are the most fertile source of ideas I’m ever likely to find.

This was again apparent yesterday when a conversation over Warcraft hardcore raiding with Sar evolved into what will be my article this week for MMO Games. All the building blocks were already in my head, but without this particular conversation taking place, I’d have lacked the leap in creativity that stuck everything together, and this as a writer is absolutely crucial as a means of fuelling the imagination. Of course, if this were fiction I was writing I’d probably want to do the opposite, and having the opportunity to ‘write’ in public could be full of potential pitfalls. I learnt this quite early on in my writing career from a man who did a brilliant job of balancing communication with a rabid¬†fanbase whilst at the same time never compromising the integrity of his idea.

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This is J. Michael¬†Straczynski (who I’ve been lucky enough to meet) the writer responsible for Babylon 5, which for five years was the subject of a faily concentrated¬†interest and obsession. Back then, JMS walked a fairly precarious tightrope, because if anyone could be seen publicly to suggest a story idea in a forum he (and I) read and that in any way, shape or form appeared in what he was producing? The consequences were too terrible to speak of. Of course, plagiarism is now a constant companion for many people, and with everybody nicking everybody else’s characters (often with a cheeky nod) without even a second thought, the world is a vastly different place. The fact remains however, you credit where due, whenever possible, and you absolutely remember the helpful people on your journey. Without this inspiration on a daily basis, I’d be pretty much nowhere, and it would be foolish not to acknowledge the significance of process going forward.

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The temptation for many of us is to act in a ‘pack’ when a contentious issue appears: some might consider themselves as¬†kangaroos as inspiration, but for others¬†they’ll see only sheep.¬†Social media has a habit of highlighting the dumb and stupid in all things because, like it or not, it is rare people take to the platform to praise. You only have to look at the fight between JK Rowling and Piers Morgan taking place at present to grasp that if you want to be genuinely pleasant to somebody, it’s a hell of a lot harder than simply opening both barrels and taking them down in flames. I will admit I genuinely dread the reactions of certain people I follow now because I know that instead of trying to find the good in anybody, it’ll be a pile of flame-filled abuse that they’ll respond with, because it’s just easier and less stressful to be negative if that’s all you get from engagement. I refuse to let these people get to me, and more importantly I won’t unfollow them, because there needs to be a reminder that your opinion is not the only one that matters. In fact, the overly emotional are as much of a frustration as those who don’t give a fuck.

Somewhere in the middle is where I’d now like to live.

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Elysium’s a hard place to quantify in the virtual world. As the demands of social media make more and more people question their place within it, and whether they want to even participate in the process, there are some hard lessons to consider. Those of us who wish for more empathy will, undoubtedly find themselves in situations where it becomes apparent that it is our own indignation that’s the real issue. You can only blame others to a point: you place unrealistic barriers to entry or restrictions on your own life that can only be extended so far. It is understandable that a notion of control is craved, but eventually there’s going to come a point where the choice is simple: either agree with what you’re given or be quiet.¬†Sure, we’d all love infinite choice, but in this world of 1’s and 0’s you can only do what the programming languages allow. That means, somewhere along the line, you will have to compromise.

For me this is picking one platform to concentrate on: not at the expense of others, but because ultimately I’m only capable of mastering¬†one thing at a time. It means I’ll chase the robots away whenever possible, will defend the right for people to¬†appear as unfeeling bastards because that’s their decision on their feed¬†and grasp that in the modern world, if I want the best I can get, that does NOT mean blocking out everything I don’t agree with.¬†It’s simple to be that person when you think your point of view is all that matters, and I know people on both sides of debates who are just as pig-headed and intractable as each other. The ultimate aim, at least for me, is to find a path that can be walked by everybody, not simply those who agree with my viewpoints. The way to do that isn’t to use Twitter as a soapbox but a meeting place, where the most unexpected of people might grant the salvation you so dearly seek.

As a writer, everybody has something to say I should listen to, at least once.

Wake Up

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I’m getting really fucked off with people not reading stuff.

It’s not my content that this bothers me with, as it happens: I know now, having shifted from Blogger, just how much of my daily traffic was effectively trash/spam. Now it is clear that the robots can’t find me, I have a far better idea of what I’m doing and what needs to be improved, and when I get back to my desk after the scheduled Summer vacation, I am ALL OVER THAT. For now, I’m simply organising and building, but honestly? Some of you people need a right good slapping. I’ve watched a friend today state he won’t be blogging for a while and people automatically assuming he’s vanishing from the face of the Earth. I watch people on Twitter say one thing and others quite spectacularly take the 100% opposite meaning from their words.

On the Internet, you can really make the right wrong with very little effort.

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Then there are those who work really hard to make a point and nobody listens, right up to the moment when *someone else* says the exact same thing and suddenly it’s the best development/news/idea¬†since The Best Thing Ever. Then I just want to toss the metaphorical table and give people a really good shaking: just because you noticed this now doesn’t mean it’s either new or fair to exclude those who’ve worked hard at the expense of what you find easy to cope with. So many people are incredibly good at just not paying attention, and then when I lament this? The range of responses always, inevitably includes the comment ‘I can’t be bothered to read your blog.’¬†Well, if all you’re interested in is your Facebook feel-good stories and your video that runs on mouse-over and the need to feel you have a better grasp on the World?

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Oh, and get that off my lawn.