“A novel is something that stands at the end of a lengthy process called writing.”
Victoria Nelson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

YPP Weekend Blockades, February 3-4: git yer PVP on
Sat 2018-02-03 13:24:54 (single post)

Hullo! This is your weekly Puzzle Pirates report. If you are waiting on the weekly Friday Fictionette release announcement, that'll be showing up later on today because I kind of sucked at life yesterday. It is almost finished, it will be out in a few hours, everything will be fine. Meanwhile, we got blockades.

I also sucked at Seals, unfortunately--not a single one of my pirates achieved the January 2018 trophy. Better luck this month! The trophy trigger for February 2018 is completing 2 different expeditions (Imperial Outpost, Viking Defense, Buried Treasure Atoll, or Lost Shipwreck). Dunno about you, but I'm halfway done already, for one of my pirates anyway. Woot!

What else is new? Well, there's the January 29 client update. Looks like a lot of stuff related to faction bounties on Obsidian/Dark Seas, and some bug-fixes and seasonal content for all oceans. Click through for the full details.

And of course there are blockades! Full schedule below. Enjoy, have fun, pew-pew, etc.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 3 ***

12:00 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (3)
Attacker: Pew Pew
Attacker: Lit
Undeclared: Black Flag

12:37 p.m. - Ashkelon Arch, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pew Pew
Attacker: Spoon Republic

12:38 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pew Pew
Attacker: Spoon Republic

12:39 p.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pew Pew
Attacker: Spoon Republic

12:40 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pew Pew
Attacker: Spoon Republic

12:40 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pew Pew
Attacker: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Lit
Undeclared: Invicta

12:52 p.m. - Isla Ventress, Jade Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Sortilegio (1)
Attacker: T unit

3:04 p.m. - Jubilee Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Who Gives A Sheet

6:21 p.m. - Polaris Point, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Who Gives A Sheet

*** Sunday, February 4 ***

11:00 a.m. - Viridis Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Vanguard
Attacker: Dragon Lords

11:24 a.m. - Olive Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Dragon Lords

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 3 ***

12:01 p.m. - Diastrophe Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (1)
Attacker: Pandamonium

12:09 p.m. - Terra Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Secrets of the Deep
Attacker: Tyranny

12:10 p.m. - Conglin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Secrets of the Deep
Attacker: Tyranny

8:37 p.m. - Jorvik Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Secrets of the Deep

8:48 p.m. - Garden Cradle, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Secrets of the Deep
Attacker: Tyranny

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 27-28: "Think game mechanics."
Sat 2018-01-27 13:34:59 (single post)

So it's blockade time again, but I'm gonna be immersing myself in the pillaging game instead because I still want to earn the January Seal o' Piracy at least on some of my pirates. (Complete 10 each brigand and barbarian sea battles.) But you may have different priorities. Thus, the blockade schedule.

There are, at the current time, two islands that may be blockaded on the Dark Seas (Obsidian Ocean), and, by golly, they are being blockaded. Magpie Island, won last weekend by Consider It Sunk, is being attacked by Blame Brenda. The defense intent post proposes that you job for Consider It Sunk so that they may continue their island development plan, which includes fostering a monopoly on the frig market to prevent extraneous blockade attempts and the elitification of Obsidian. The blockade (attack) intent post simply promises to add island attractions and "rename all buildings to a less stupid theme."

Meanwhile, Loggerhead Island is coming under attack by Friendly Fire:

If we win, we will be dusting the shipyard for a bungalow (because the poor pirates need a place to live too). All other buildings will be replaced with weaveries so everyone can enjoy the best puzzle in the game.

Defenders are Amateur Hour.

Over on the Cerulean Ocean, the flag Tyranny has "scuttled" for BKs to attack a bunch of outpost islands. This is part of their strategy to protect large islands from BK attack--thus keeping blockades strictly PVP--by allowing BKs to own enough outpost islands that they don't spawn flotillas. I expect this means Tyranny won't be defending their outposts this weekend. Babylon isn't too pleased, accusing them of "self-serving interests" and of being "bullies and thieves," and have announced intent to blockade any Tyranny-owned islands next Sunday, February 4. So far popular opinion seems to be with Tyranny on this one, but we'll have to wait until next weekend to find out who gets more jobbers.

Scroll down for the rest of the schedule. Good luck, have fun, shoot cannonballs, earn PoE!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 27 ***

3:58 p.m. - Prolix Purlieu, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Who Gives A Sheet

4:17 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: Friendly Fire

4:24 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Blame Brenda

*** Sunday, January 28 ***

12:00 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Jinx (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 27 ***

12:17 p.m. - Chaparral Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

4:02 p.m. - Iris Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

7:00 p.m. - Frond Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Jinx (1)

11:00 p.m. - Orca Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Jinx (1)

*** Sunday, January 28 ***

11:15 a.m. - Park Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The All-Consuming Flame (2)
Attacker: Because I Can

12:00 p.m. - Spectre Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Black Veil (1)

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons
this fictionette proposes a new game that we can all play together
Sat 2018-01-27 02:13:51 (single post)
  • 933 words (if poetry, lines) long

The wee hours of Saturday still count as Friday if I haven't gone to bed yet, right? Which was, for once, quite easy. Whenever I do several hours of work at a pub or bar, I feel like I should always be drinking or eating something to excuse my lengthy presence. And after two beers and two small plates, I was not up for more food or alcohol. So I ordered coffee. And of course they didn't have decaf. And of course I had coffee anyway. I may yet be up awhile.

And but so anyway please accept this Friday Fictionette as a token of my dedication to you. It is called "The Proof is in the Post" (excerpt available for all, full-length ebook and audiobook for pledging Patrons). It is about truth, and the risks of telling the truth, and how sometimes you don't actually know what your truth is until you hear it come out of your mouth--or until the post office imps helpfully edit your letters for brutal honesty and you see what comes out at the other end. Because that's how this version of the world works: The post office will not deliver a lie.

I had a lot of fun with the freewriting session that eventually turned into this story-like object. It was an exercise in worldbuilding. Supposing that any letter you send gets altered in the mail so as to correct inaccuracies, clear up ambiguities, and replace any lies, whether by commission or omission, with the truth. What are the implications? What does that do to communications, economy, contracts, paychecks, love letters, invitations? I had so much fun with the worldbuilding that I never actually came up with a plot. So this week I had to come up with a plot post haste. (Get it? Post haste? Because post office? See? OK. Right, so, anyway...)

I didn't expect the character to get so well fleshed out. I didn't expect to have to pause the audio recording because I suddenly got all choked up at the end because, dang it, she's me at fourteen and I feel for her very strongly. I want to reach out and hug her and assure her it's all going to be all right.

So that's the story behind the story.

Here's a story about the Friday Fictionettes project in general: I'm going to add a feature! If I remember come Monday, that is. I'm writing it down now so that I will remember. Let's see if it works:

On first through fourth Mondays, I propose to make a public post on Patreon sharing the writing prompt associated with the Fictionette that will be released that Friday. So you can play along at home. If you want, you can share your results in the comments. Then everyone can see how differently multiple stories based on the same prompt can turn out.

I mean, it looked cool when Chuck Wendig did it. Let's try it and see what happens.

oh hey look i stayed up all day today good job
Thu 2018-01-25 00:44:26 (single post)

The Boulder County Bombers' 2018 season is officially on. We kicked it off last week Friday and Sunday with a guest clinic led by Luz Chaos, who is fantastic in every way. She's an extraordinarily strong and agile and smart jammer, some might say supernaturally so. She was here to teach us how we, too, could be supernatural. Then, last night, we had our first actual Travel Team practice. It began with a team meeting to set the tone, and it ended, as all practices for the next three months will end, with one full hour of off-skates conditioning. Half an hour of strength training; half an hour of metabolic workout. One full body of all the sore. My quads have been letting me know about it all day, I can tell you.

I'm not really complaining. I need to get stronger, and this will make me stronger. But in the meantime, it's put me on notice. I will have to curate my energy intake and expenditures carefully in order to continue pursuing my other-than-derby interests, like writing and keeping up with the household and volunteering and actually having a life. It is hard to have much of a life while flat on one's back in bed. Which is what happens when Sunday afternoon's post-derby collapse leads to an utter failure to sleep through the night, which leads to getting little done over the next couple days, not to mention an inability to adequately prepare for or recover from the next physical effort, which is probably derby since what with all the energy mismanagement and exhaustion I'm not likely to have much of a wherewithal left for any optional physical exercise.

And so the spiraling descent continues.

Basically, it's going to come down to a rational and consistent sleep schedule, a healthy diet, and appropriate self-care before and after exercise. Also not only getting up on time but getting to work on time, so that if I fall prey to an afternoon nap attack, it's not before I've gotten the majority of my day's work done.

Discipline. I hate discipline. It doesn't like me much either. I suppose we'll have to declare a truce.

Meanwhile, our season schedule includes "structured time off" for the entire month of October, so I guess that's when my annual run-away-and-hide-in-the-mountains week is going to be. There is also a blissful lack of bout-type events in July--great news for anyone planning to go to RollerCon (the big roller derby conference in Las Vegas) but also really great news for this New Orleanian who hasn't been able to participate in the Running of the Rollerbulls for three years now. Well. Guess where I'm gonna be the second weekend in July? Yeah you right.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 20-21: Did you know a magpie can recognize its reflection in a mirror?
Sat 2018-01-20 12:21:42 (single post)

We've reached the final date on Cronus's Obsidian Blockade Plan with the much-anticipated opening of Magpie Island. Admiral Finius will defend it against all comers, declared currently as Consider it Sunk and Lion's Bane. (Links go to flags' blockade intent and island plans posts in the forum. The post by Lion's Bane includes interesting trivia about magpies.)

Worth a mention: On the Opal Ocean, Das As Team are moving in on two flags with absentee owners; no defender is listed for either Tumult-Insel or McGuffins Insel. So those islands are theirs for the taking unless another player flag should declare their participation. It's a valiant attempt to introduce some activity to a too-quiet ocean. In the meantime, they are defending Doyle-Insel against a small attack by the forces of Admiral Finius. (Fish-face's fleet is getting a real multi-ocean workout today!)

In other news, Demeter announces the twice-annual competition for ownership of Ice Ocean's Fort Royal. The upcoming decision date will be February 15th; if you are interested in competing, your crew must register by January 31. Of those crews that correctly register, the crew with the highest fame at decision time will receive the transfer of Fort Royal.

That's a wrap! Good luck, have fun, puzzle hard, shoot many cannonballs, etc.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 20 ***

10:30 a.m. - Doyle-Insel, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Das As Team
Attacker: Flotte ihrer schuppig-charmanten Hoheit (1)

12:00 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Pew Pew

12:00 p.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Pew Pew

12:01 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)
Attacker: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Lion's Bane

12:22 p.m. - Tumult-Insel, Opal Ocean
Attacker: Das As Team

12:23 p.m. - McGuffins Insel, Opal Ocean
Attacker: Das As Team

4:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Lit
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (6)

6:01 p.m. - Ashkelon Arch, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)
Attacker: Pew Pew

*** Sunday, January 21 ***

12:01 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: The Jade Empire (10)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 20 ***

12:00 p.m. - Ostreum Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Because I Can

Cover art incorporates public domain image created by NASA
this fictionette had to make it up as it went along (and takes its waking slow)
Fri 2018-01-19 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 1,337 words (if poetry, lines) long

On time this week, by a hair. "The Education of Baby Rocket" (excerpt for all, ebook and audiobook for Patrons) is now available for your perusal. It's about fear, mostly, but also homesickness, and what exactly we mean by "home" in the first place.

I lost a 4thewords battle for the first time today. Let it be known: Not a single loss until Day 67! Lesson learned: I can do 800 words in half an hour easy if I'm drafting but not when I'm revising. Second lesson learned: No naps with a battle deadline less than two hours out, Mr. Rabbit. That's how Mr. Tortoise beat you, remember? Alternately, don't start a two-hour battle if you think you'll need a nap before you're done.

Speaking of lessons, sometimes I think a writing life primarily consists of learning not so much a long series of lessons over time but rather a small handful of lessons over and over again. This is probably true of life in general, come to think of it. But it's certainly true of writing.

Here's the lesson I had to relearn this week: I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it.

It's less that I forget it and have to relearn it, and more that I keep discovering situations where it's relevant. Still makes me feel stupid, though. Like, "Ohhhh! The swimming pool is wet! Because all water is wet. Dammit, I knew that."

This week, the application was, Because I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it, not knowing what to write isn't a reason not to write. Also, and very importantly, "I don't know what to write" is a perfectly cromulent first sentence to write on a brand new fresh blank page. It helps lube the word-making engine, and I can always erase it later.

It came up while I was working on the Author's Note for "The Education of Baby Rocket." Well. That's rather overstating things. It came up while I was staring at the blank new document upon which I had tasked myself with writing the Author's Note. Staring at a blank page is not conducive to getting the Friday Fictionette released on time, but that's what I was doing: Staring at a blank page and thinking, "I don't know what to write."

Fun fact: Thoughts circle around and chase their own tails, but words written down are done. No amount of thinking "I don't know what to write" was going to get me anywhere. But typing "I don't know what to write" allowed me to move on to another thought, another sentence. It sort of forced me to really observe and acknowledge what I was thinking, you know? Like Morning Pages do. "I don't know what I'm going to write for this, so I'm going to just babble until I figure it out. I'll start by telling myself the story of how the writing prompt turned into the first draft, although that's not enough for an Author's Note by itself because really there's only so many weeks in a row the Author's Note can be 'here's the prompt, and here's how I got from prompt to story idea to first draft to finished story'...."

And off I went for, oh, several paragraphs. Three or four at least. Then something went click. I knew what I was going to write because by then I had already written it. Now I just needed to tidy it up and then delete the bits of babble that wouldn't be part of it. Don't get me wrong; that babble was essential. As in the Buddhist metaphor, it was the little boat that got me across the wide river that had separated blank page from finished draft. But it had done its job. It was no longer needed. I could leave it behind me on the shore and walk away.

As the poet said, "I learn by going where I have to go." As another poet said, "We make it up as we go along." I don't really have much to add to that except to testify that it's true.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay
i'll take the 1800-word entree and a side order of sticking my tongue out at jerk-brain
Wed 2018-01-17 23:55:30 (single post)
  • 1,534 words (if poetry, lines) long

Two things tonight. Well, maybe three. Three things tonight.

Thing the first: I am having a hell of a time coming up with things to blog about this week. That I have three things tonight is kind of amazing. I think maybe I if I had been better sticking to my writing schedule this week, I would have more things. That is, indeed, the whole point of the actually writing blog. Anyway, that's the first thing.

Thing the second: I was late with last week's Friday Fictionette because I suck and also it was bout weekend. Time management continues to be a struggle, and that struggle is a work in progress, so when Saturday is going to look like "bout venue set-up, emergency last-minute painting of numbers on jersey, skate in two mini-bouts back-to-back, afterparty until 1:30 AM," the whole week leading up to it is probably going to look like AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH! Then throw in a friend's last-minute birthday party (I mean, I had to! I wuv my teammate! <3 <3 <3 Also, a bar that was also a classic arcade was involved, making the whole thing mandatory) and suddenly Sunday is the new Friday.

But the Friday Fictionette did go up Sunday. It's live. It's called "There's an App for That" (excerpt, ebook, audiobook) and it's about a smartphone app that takes matters into its own hands, for want of a better term, during a zombie apocalypse. The story includes a bonus game of "spot the irritating, condescending and ultimately ineffectual project manager" which you can play along at home. (I won't tell you who that character is based on, because A. that would be mean, and B. it's been long enough that I honestly don't remember his name, except that it wasn't the name the character got. The character is named after one of my better and more fondly remembered project managers, actually. It's rather unfair that his name was the first that jumped into my head.)

OK so finally, Thing the third: I found yet another thing to do with 4thewords that it probably wasn't meant for! But it is a writing thing! And using it to win battles with stupid stupid aracnu that barely give out spider legs, let alone rope made me more determined to do it all in one night rather than parcel it out over several!

Which is to say: Composing critique feedback for colleagues' stories!

There's kind of a lot of that needing to happen with, well, all the contests I'm participating in, actually, but today I'm particularly concerned with the one where everyone writes flash fiction over the weekend and then gives each other feedback during the week. The word limit is only 750 per entry, but there's enough contestants that, even once you split them into four divisions, each contestant still needs to read and critique and vote on almost 20K words. Which is a thoroughly worthwhile task, but long. It got me through nearly two aracnu who didn't give me so much as a single piece of rope, I probably should be battling Rudakai instead but they are expensive and also WHERE ARE THEY. Which isn't to say I actually turned in almost 1800 words of critique--I edited things down!--but I darn well typed 'em.

On the purely personal scale of "This is really writing and these are real words" to "OK, now you're just cheating," composing peer critique in 4TW feels less like cheating than does, babbling for 750 words or so about not knowing what I want to blog about, but, oddly, more like cheating than does composing a dream journal entry.

And that's weird. Peer critique is, objectively speaking, much closer to Professional Writing Practice than dream journaling is. But I guess dream journal entries feel more like first drafts of brand new stories, whereas peer critique feels like thinking aloud on the page, and that's where the cheating/not cheating divide is in my head.

It only goes to show I should continue striving to totally ignore the jerk-brain voice that says "You're not really writing, don't you dare give yourself credit for writing, that there doesn't count as writing." Far from having a reliable yardstick for such things, jerk-brain uses a yardstick that is actually missing a few significant inches and gets used primarily to smack knuckles. So if I say I'm not cheating, it can darn well take its yardstick for a hike somewhere else.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 13-14: Skates, ships, what's the diff?
Sat 2018-01-13 14:19:26 (single post)

It's Saturday! I'm late with everything, I'm pressed for time because [see below], but I am still going to bring you the weekend blockade schedule because that's how much I love you. Here are some highlights scavenged from the Puzzle Pirates Forums; for the full schedule, keep on scrollin' like a bad parody of an REO Speedwagon song.

On the Obsidian Ocean, there's only one island that can be blockaded at this time--and yes, it is being blockaded. Blame Brenda won ownership last weekend, and today they are defending it against Amateur Hour.

On Cerulean, Queen Auraluna will lead the Forces of the Resistance, i.e. Defiantly Deviant, in an attempt to wrest control of Napi Peak from the ghastly forces of Barnabas the Pale.

And over in here in Longmont, Colorado, the Boulder County Bombers are hosting an event blockade... er, roller derby mix-up tournament, I should say, although same thing really once you get past the cosmetic differences... ANYWAY, the four houses of Hogwarts will be skating against each other for ALL THE GLORY. Your humble chronicler will be skating under the Ravenclaw banner. If you're in the area, we'd love to have you in the audience. Doors open at 5:00 PM (Mountain Time) at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall. Admission is $15 for adults and free for ages 17 and under.

PS. Jazz raised $819 for St. Jude, y'all. Eight hundred nineteen dollars. Hearts and flowers and rainbows!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 13 ***

12:31 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Blame Brenda
Attacker: Amateur Hour

2:04 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Bandera Roja

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

11:09 a.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Dragon Lords

11:32 a.m. - Harmattan Island, Meridian Ocean
Event: 1 round, nonsinking
Hosted by: Dragon Lords

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 13 ***

6:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (2)
Attacker: Defiantly Deviant

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

10:00 a.m. - Remora Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

and then jerk-brain tried to drink up all my rocket-fuel but i said
Thu 2018-01-11 23:56:32 (single post)

There's another side of the Jerk-Brain vs. Gamification battle I didn't talk about yesterday because, frankly, that post had already gone on long enough. That was a post all about what happens after the writing that determines whether I get to actually feel accomplished. (It was also, briefly, a post about fruitcake, because I am a multidimensional being.) This post here is about what happens before the writing that determines whether I wind up writing at all.

It's the question of motivation.

The motivation aspect is a lot simpler than the External Validation Brain-Hack Machine. It's what gets talked about more. Almost every new member of 4thewords mentions it in their introduction post on the forum: "This is giving me so much motivation to write!" Motivation works in opposition to avoidance, the way thrust opposes drag when you're flying a plane. Motivation pushes you toward writing; avoidance pushes you away. It's never a matter of not having motivation; if you want to write, you've got motivation. It's a matter of which force is stronger at any given time.

To be clear, when I say "avoidance" I don't simply mean procrastination. I mean anything that acts to push the writer away from the act of writing. The looming difficulty of finding time and energy after a hard day of work, the inevitable drama of stealing back time and privacy from a demanding and unsympathetic family, the feeling that time spent writing is time stolen from more important pursuits. And yes, the temptation of just one more game of Two Dots. If motivation says "I want to write," avoidance says, "but I can't/won't/shouldn't right now."

Jerk-Brain is very good at strengthening avoidance and whittling down motivation. It says that whatever you're contemplating writing isn't important enough to be a high priority. It says you're selfish for demanding that people leave you alone to do it. It says that freewriting and other forms of writing practice are just busywork, that drafting new stories is your excuse for of abandoning other projects as soon as they get difficult, that the story you want to revise is pretty much awful and unfixable and no one's going to want to read it so why waste your time.

Jerk-Brain tells poisonous lies with lips all stained from drinking up all my rocket fuel to keep me from achieving anything like escape velocity.

Enter gamification. When natural sources of motivation fail, gamification is pouring a gallon of 100% Synthetic Motiviation in the gas tank. In the case of 4thewords, that motivation is generally something like "I still need 300 more words to beat this monster and only 5 minutes to do it in!"

Well, usually it's something less high-pressure, like "I'm on a quest to make a bunch of stone blocks, so I need to defeat a bunch of Grult since they drop raw stone. Then I need to find rope somewhere. I could buy it, but that's hardly satisfying. Guess I've got to go back to Mama Tree and fight a bunch of illi." But today after my fictionette work I got distracted watching Team Colorado's bout against Team Kansas and only remembered belatedly that I was still in a battle with the aforementioned Grult.

So I was all like, "Shit! I'd better get to it! Five minutes! Go!"

And it was like I was running at full-speed and then flying (thrust and lift beat gravity and drag!) while way back behind me on the ground Jerk-Brain was all "But, but, but, I was talking to you, I was saying--" and I wasn't listening anymore because I HAD ALL THE WORDS TO WRITE HURRY HURRY HURRY--

And that's how the bulk of tonight's blog post got done.

working around a broken gold star dispenser
Wed 2018-01-10 23:56:50 (single post)

Announcement: I have begun to mail fruitcake to people! This involved taste-testing it, of course. (Also I hadn't had breakfast yet. My taste-test was rather thorough.) Past taste-tests indicate that rum really isn't the right flavor for fruitcake, at least not in my opinion. It's just too sweet. The right answer is cognac. Brandy will also do. I used cognac to re-booze the cheesecloth wrap a few days ago, and the flavor is much improved.

I was trying to remember what went into the fruitcake so I could list the ingredients on one of the accompanying greeting cards. Raisins, black and green; currants, black; ginger, candied; dates, pitted because there are limits to how much work I'm willing to do. But... was that all? I mean, yes, and slivered almonds, of course, but--no other fruit? Maybe dried cherries, but--no, I remember in the grocery store thinking, "Not both cherries and strawberries." But I certainly have no memory of julienne-slicing several ounces of dried strawberries by hand. If I had done it, I would remember. Trust me. Having done the same to the dates and the candied ginger was extremely memorable.

Well. Guess what I found in the back of the Volt this afternoon. That's right. A sealed pint container of dried strawberries. From December.

It's cool! It's fine. Dried fruit is fairly shelf-stable. But I'm thinking, dang, that's a lot of oatmeal I'm going to be eating those strawberries with.

OK, so, anyway, what I came to blog about the first time: Writing Gamification and Brain Hacks, Part Lots of Many.

Writing is not a job with a lot of external validation. Not at my stage of the game, anyway. There's a lot of time spent churning out words that no one cares about but you. There's a lot of story submissions that result in mostly rejection letters. There may be some self-publishing but very few eyeballs successfully attracted.

Common wisdom says that, for this reason, this is not a job for someone who needs external validation. The only validation that counts has to come from within. You know that what you're doing has worth; that knowledge has to be enough to keep you going. And if it isn't, maybe you aren't really cut out for this writing gig. Many people aren't. It's OK.

Y'all, common wisdom is mean.

I think most of us really do need some form of external validation. We're not robots, for goodness sake. Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" isn't self-congratulatory; it's ironic, and the irony is bitter. We're not rocks, we're not islands, and if our internal validation process doesn't get the benefit of an external reality check from time to time, at least a little, maybe we start to doubt.

And what if your internal validation process is broken? See, I'm not actually very good at telling myself a did a good job and believing it. I'm much better at finding reasons why what I just accomplished doesn't count. Look, I've been spending more hours writing per day, or doing affiliated writing tasks that need doing. My daily word count has gone up. I'm submitting more stories more frequently. Two of my previous publications will debut in podcasts this year! The writing is going great...

And yet that little self-sabotaging voice in my head says, You're just making yourself a lot of busywork so you can feel accomplished.

It says, So how many of those 4,000+ words went toward actual publishable works?

It says, Easy to surpass five hours in a day when that's how far you are behind schedule.

It says, But what are you submitting lately? Not new stories. Not full-length stories. Certainly not good stories. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to check off the Submissions Procedures to-do list item on a technicality.

There is no private workday writing-routine accomplishment so great that that little self-sabotaging voice can't tear it down. It will find a reason why the latest thing I did doesn't count.

So if I'm not getting external validation from acceptance letters and reviews and fans and stuff like that, and I'm not getting internal validation because that self-sabotaging jerk voice is overwhelming any sense of legitimate accomplishment, then where am I supposed to get any validation from at all?

Possibility one: Self-administered gold stars. Respond to the accomplishment by awarding myself some small tangible pleasure. It can be a literal gold star sticker, a small piece of chocolate, a walk in the sun, a few minutes playing a fun game. Main thing is, it's enjoyable. Self-sabotaging jerk-voice can make me question my right to feel accomplished, but it can't stop chocolate tasting good or gold stars being shiny and cheerful. Establishing a pattern of "accomplish something--get a yummy treat" can over time help dislodge the pattern of "accomplish something--realize it was worthless." Or at least give it some healthy competition.

Possibility two: Self-initiated external validation systems. Otherwise known as--you guessed it--gamification.

Take 4thewords as the example, since I'm using it right now this minute. 4thewords doesn't care if the 1300 words you defeat a dust-zombie Villager with were story draft, blog post, freewriting, or even a bunch of incoherent babble. Write 1300 words, defeat the Villager, get rewarded. You'd think that this would further fuel the Jerk-Brain--It would have rewarded you for pasting in 1300 words of lorem ipsum, so it doesn't mean anything--but, weirdly, that doesn't seem to be the case. Possibly because I know that I wouldn't just paste in 1300 words of lorem ipsum and call it writing. Possibly because the incoherent babble has a purpose.

And definitely because it's like that piece of chocolate: It still tastes good. It still feels good to see the pop-up that says "You WON a battle against Villager. You received 4 dust and 136 XP."

That last bit is the brain hack. It's magic. It should not work. I'm the one pulling the marionette's strings. I'm the one starting the robot on its preprogrammed sequence. And yet when the sequence completes and the robot says "Good job!" I react emotionally like my old Null-kitty getting belly rubs. Because even though I'm the one awarding it to myself, chocolate still tastes like good.

Basically, I've installed an artificial connector between "write a bunch of words" and "feel good about having written a bunch of words" to replace the built-in connection that got broken somewhere along the way. It's actually "feel good about the game quest that writing a bunch of words enabled you to complete," but it doesn't matter. It is still a direct line between writing and feeling good, and that line is vital to keeping me motivated to write.

Now, there's a whole 'nother speech Jerk-Brain likes to give me about what a pathetic specimen I am for needing all these brain-hacks and artificially induced belly rubs and chocolate when Real Writers Don't Need Tricks to Get Themselves to Write... but that speech, at least, I've learned to shrug off. "That may be so," I tell Jerk-Brain, "but I'm still writing."

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