Freeing Myself From Fear: My 2018 Resolution

I spent six hours writing a whole different draft of this blog post that wound up coming out as something akin to a horror movie; dark, threatening, and with almost zero light at the end of the tunnel.

Not exactly the kind of tone you want to set for a brand new year, is it?

But in taking my fingers off the keyboard and eating some lunch while a few episodes of The West Wing played on Netflix, I realized that the reason the previous draft of this post came out like a horror movie was because I’d lost focus on the real reason I was writing it in the first place.

My one, solitary New Year’s resolution.

To free myself from fear.

Now, obviously I could go on about how fear is an innate, biological response to certain stimuli, but I think that’s a bit too literal a take for the purposes of this post. After all, I’m a writer, and where’s the fun in writing if you don’t get to indulge in a free few moments of theatricality? That said, all kidding aside of course, I think this could be the most important new year’s resolution I’ve ever set for myself. Because looking back on my life, especially in the wake of my 2017, I have been an incredibly fear-driven person. There are so many things I wish I could’ve gone back and done differently, now that I have a much higher level of self-confidence than I did way back when. And even today, here now in these present times, I still find myself doing or not doing certain things because I’m afraid of what could happen. I’ve been afraid of getting hurt, I’ve been afraid of losing something dear to me, I’ve even been afraid of being afraid in some instances. And in each and every one of these cases, these fears have stopped me from doing something that hindsight has told me unequivocally I should’ve done.

So for 2018, I say no more. I say not again, and I say never again.

Because the thing that 2017 has shown me, repeatedly and with startling clarity, is that the big and exciting changes that I’m sure we all hope for in our own ways? They don’t happen if we let ourselves be cowed by our own fears into the same old dreary routines that we so desperately seek to break out of.

For the longest time (far too long in the eyes of most, probably even myself if you pushed me to it), I didn’t get a normal 9 – 5 job because I was afraid that it would mark me a failure, and because I was afraid I’d fail at it. I was afraid of dealing with people on regular basis, I was afraid of screwing it up and letting people down, and I was afraid of getting fired because I screwed up and let people down. But then in July of 2016, I found something that mattered more to me than not being a failure. I found something that mattered so much to me that I was willing to risk failure (my actual greatest fear) in order to make something happen.

I found GuardianCon, and the Destiny Twitch community that made it possible.

So I got my first job.

I got my first job and I used it to pay for my cross-country trip to GuardianCon 2017. That was the first time I’d ever booked, bought, and went on any kind of trip completely by myself, and that in and of itself was a whole series of fears that I had to face. But you know what? I faced them. I faced them, I overcame them, and I had a truly life-changing experience because of it. One that I am still feeling the ripple effects of all these months later.

Which brings me back to my New Year’s Resolution.

To free myself from fear.

There is a very specific person I have to thank for this. Someone that I’ve met through Twitch who continues to be a surprising source of inspiration to me. Not just as a streamer, but also as a person. Because this resolution is actually the result of a conversation that I had with them months ago about fearlessness and not getting what you don’t ask for. It was a conversation that wandered back into my head yesterday morning as I was out for my morning walk, trying to figure out just what the hell I was going to do with all the different writing problems and projects I had rattling around in my head. I was honestly starting to freak out a little over it all, and then in walks this memory, almost out of the blue. So I start thinking about it and as I’m starting to think about it, I begin to realize that there was actually something there. I could feel it, like this subtle tugging at my heart, as if something’s trying to pull me towards this specific direction. So I went back to the conversation and staring turning it over, pulling apart the various lines and exchanges, and looking under just about every other word and letter, trying to find the answer to a question I couldn’t quite remember asking.

And then I found it.

I was afraid.

I was still afraid.

I was still afraid of the one thing that I kept telling myself I was almost ready for.

“Just one more book,” I would say. “Just this one or two, or maybe three more books, and then you’ll finally be ready to tackle the big one.”

My heart felt like it cracked under the weight of this realization.

All this time, all this planning, all this work… and it was all because I was still trying to run away from the one book that I told everyone means more to me than just about anything else.

The Demon.

This book, this story… quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. Because that’s just it, The Demon is Hell. My Hell. It is the fictional distillation of the Hell that I’ve spent the last thirteen years of my life trying to crawl out of, and every time I’ve tried to write it in the past, I’ve felt the remnants of that Hell boil back to life in my soul. Because to write The Demon is to travel back to that Hell. To write The Demon is to stand on the edge of that abyssal pit and look back down, to feel the infernal heat of it burning through my flesh and to see the monsters writhing within the flames, screaming and screeching that my true place in the world is back down there with them.

So I run away. I run as far and as fast as my mental and emotional legs will carry me, paying no heed to the fact that there’s still a great, big, gaping hole back there that leads straight into the depths of Hell. And even from a distance, the gleeful, taunting shrieks of the beasts that live within it echo through the breeze. In the moments where I hear those echoes, I know the only way to silence them for good is to travel right back to the edge of that pit and face them down once and for all. To accept all of the pain and grief they’ve inflicted on me and use that acceptance to break the final chain of theirs that’s still wrapped around my heart.

And yet, as ever, it’s the fear of failure that stops me.

What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s not enough? What if they do actually convince me this time that it’ll be better for everyone if I just jump right back into their pit and get this whole charade over with? These questions and all their myriad permutations are what fly through my mind every time I try to sit down and seriously think about writing The Demon, and every time those questions have the same answer: “Eh, don’t worry about it. We’ll think of something else. There’s always a different story you could write to try and launch your career as an author.”

Except that this isn’t just about my career as an author, and that answer is rotted to the core with fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, but most importantly, fear of my own past. Fear that if I look too far back for too long, my past will somehow consume my present and ruin my future. Which might sound like a not-unreasonable fear, were it not for the fact that this fear itself is a child of that past and listening to it now really will be my past consuming my present, and potentially ruining my future.

And so to this I say no more. I say not again, and I say never again.

I say that 2018 will be the year that I free myself from this fear.

I say that 2018 will be the year that I finally finish The Demon.

 

Happy New Year, everybody. 😊

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Thirteen Years

(Author’s Note: I received the email from Twitch inviting me into the Affiliate Program three days ago as of this posting, on Nov. 13th, 2017, and I have been wavering on the verge of tears ever since. I wrote the following blog post at 3AM the next morning, and while it will hopefully explain 90% of the reason why, there remains a critical 10% that did not get included. A 10% that I haven’t the heart or emotional energy required to go back and edit in. As such, I will lay it out plainly here.

As a child, a powerfully influential person in my life taught me to believe that I would never achieve my dreams. That the odds were stacked impossibly high against me, and that I was too weak/stupid/whatever to overcome them. This was a belief that became rooted in the very core of who I was, and whose poisonous tentacles wrapped themselves around every single neuron in my brain; infecting my thoughts and twisting my emotions.

I say in the post below that I don’t know why I’ve kept fighting so hard for so long, but that is no longer true. I now know exactly why I’ve done so. I have fought so hard for so long because I simply could not live in a world where this person was right about me. In every sense of the word, I needed to prove them wrong. Not for them, and not for anyone else in my life. I needed to prove them wrong for me, and thanks to all of the love and support each and every one of you have shown, for the first time in my life, I finally feel like I have.

Thank you.)


Thirteen years. A decade plus three.

That’s how long I’ve been trying to make even some semblance of a career out of my passions. That’s how long I’ve been pouring everything I’ve ever had into making that dream a reality. Sometimes I would be sprinting forward with reckless abandon, leaping into the sky and flying high on wings of purest hope and joy. But other times, most times, I would be crawling broken and bloody through the mud; snarling and grimacing as the demons that had followed me out of my own, personal Hell clawed at my heart and stabbed pitchforks into my mind. They whispered of doubt and death and failure, and on more than one occasion, they came very close to dragging me back down into the abyssal pits of darkness and despair I’d fought so hard to climb out of.

For thirteen years, I have fought those battles.

For thirteen years, I have waged this war.

And for thirteen years, I have refused to give up.

To this day, I don’t know whether it’s been stubbornness or insanity that’s kept me going. Most of the time it feels like it’s been at least a little bit of both. After all, what possible logic or sanity could there be in persisting for so long in a conflict without a single, demonstrable victory? What rhyme or reason could there be in continuing to fight with nothing but heartbreaking defeats and soul-crushing stalemates to your name?

I don’t know.

But I kept fighting anyway.

I kept fighting because at the end of the day, of every day, it felt like the only thing that I was actually good at. Writing was my weapon. My words became my swords and my shields, and even with every battle lost, I could still feel myself getting better, faster, and stronger.

‘The next one,’ I told myself. ‘The next one will be the battle that I finally win!’

And so it was that I would pick myself up off the dirt, no matter how badly I’d been beaten down into it, and charge headfirst back into the fight.

For thirteen years, this pattern played out.

Fight, Lose, Get up.

Fight, Lose, Get up.

Fight. Lose. Get up.

Fight.

Lose.

Get…

Back…

Up!

My calendars rolled through birthday after birthday; from fifteen, through sixteen, through eighteen, all the way up through the most recent one of twenty-eight.

Fight, Lose, Get up.

The drumbeat pattern of my life continued. Became a constant. Became the single point of reference I would use to judge all future successes and failures by.

Fight, Lose, Get up.

Fight, Lose, Get up.

Fight.

Lose.

Get the f*** back up!

To say that anger never became a factor in all this would be to lie. Anger very much became a factor. Indeed there were days where the only thing that would actually get me back on my feet was the pure, unfettered rage I would feel at the thought of my demons finally overcoming me. That thought felt worse to me than just about anything else and so I would channel this fury, use it to reforge my word-swords and fly myself back into the fight.

For thirteen years, this pattern would be the single-most defining feature of my life, the axis upon which everything else would spin.

Fight. Lose. Get back up.

It got to the point where the thought of actual victory became little more than a pipe dream; a comforting fantasy I would let myself indulge in to numb the sting of fresh defeats. The battle was all I had, all I really needed. The war had become a waltz, and all I wanted to do was just keep on dancing it.

And that’s where it finally happened.

Out of what still feels like absolutely nowhere, I won a decisive, indisputable victory.

At 1:31 PM yesterday, I was invited to join the Twitch Affiliate Program.

To be perfectly honest, it still doesn’t feel real. After thirteen years of fighting, losing, and getting back up, my mind has been conditioned to reject this as reality. My brain has been trained to believe that this just another impossible fever-dream that I will soon wake up from.

And yet… I know that it’s not.

I know that it’s not because despite how it feels, this did not come out of nowhere. This is in actuality just another impossible event in the string of impossibilities that feels like it’s been happening to me since the first day of TwitchCon. I don’t have any words for this. All I know is that for the first time in my entire life, I finally feel a sense of true victory and accomplishment.

For thirteen years I have fought, I have lost, and I have gotten back up to fight again to make even part of my dreams a reality.

And yesterday, finally, after all that time and pain and effort, I’ve won.

Even if it was just this battle and not the whole war…

For the first time in thirteen years…

I’ve won.

Sailing Off the Edge of the Map

“You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here there be monsters!”

This is a line from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, said by Captain Barbossa to Jack Sparrow at the beginning of their duel during the film’s climax. It’s a line that’s been playing through my mind for the better part of the last month or so, any time I stop to think about the reality of what I’m doing as both a writer and a Twitch streamer. Because I know there are people who have achieved success from nothing through writing, and I know people who have gone from nothing to success on Twitch. In both cases, there’s a fairly solid blueprint to build from; a fairly detailed map you can follow that will generally lead you towards success, provided you have the right combination of skill and good fortune.

In my case however, I don’t feel like I have that map. Not anymore anyway. Because while I’ve heard all the stories of authors coming up from nothing to the heights of the New York Times Bestseller’s List, and I’ve even watched as people on Twitch have gone from streaming on the couch with their dog to grasping the Holy Grail known as Twitch Partnership, I haven’t heard even a single whisper of someone who’s managed to do both. Let alone do both simultaneously.

Which is, of course, what I’m trying to do.

Feel free to call me crazy. I’ve been calling myself crazy just about every day for the last four months or so; ever since I truly committed to becoming TheGamingAuthor at GuardianCon back in July. That was the first time that I realized I would be sailing off the edge of the map to pursue this dream, and in the intervening four months, the edge of that map has only gotten further and further behind me. It’s a state of affairs so intimidating, filled with so many unknowns, that it’s almost enough to send me screaming back to the safety of dry land and never again deviate from the trail that so many others have blazed before.

Almost enough.

Because there’s another line that’s been rattling around in my head for the last few days. One whose sentiment pre-dates Pirates of the Caribbean by an amount of time I couldn’t even begin to guess at.

“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

To give this one proper context, we’re gonna have to wind our clocks back a bit. All the way back to March of this year, if you can believe it. Because that’s when a fellow Twitch streamer talked me in to going to TwitchCon; the massive annual convention put on by Twitch itself. Now, at the time, I was just starting out as a streamer and had no idea what a fry as small as myself would do in a pool filled with all of the absolute biggest fish in the Twitch Ocean, but I also very much enjoyed talking with this fellow streamer and wasn’t about to pass up the chance to meet her face-to-face. So even though I was still saving money up from my cross-country trip to GuardianCon, I also started saving up even more money to attend TwitchCon a few months later in October.

And attend I did.

I’ll set aside my stories of meeting the streamer who talked me into it, as well as all the other streamers I’d come to know in the interim, and simply describe my experience like this: If GuardianCon felt like a gigantic family reunion, then TwitchCon felt like an amazing corporate bonding retreat. One that only further cemented my commitment to figuring out a way to marry the author half of me with the streamer half, and become TheGamingAuthor in full.

This was only two weeks ago, and once again I realized that I am sailing way off the edge of the map. But this time, thoughts of steering this ship around and returning to safe harbor never really occurred to me. They never really occurred to me because attending TwitchCon showed me that while I may be sailing my own ship and plotting my own course, I am not alone. The people that I have met on this journey, both at GuardianCon and especially at TwitchCon, have been without doubt or exception the kindest, warmest, and most welcoming and supportive group people that I have ever met.

I’m off the edge of the map, but there have been no monsters here.

And all of this brings us to Saturday, October 28th 2017.

I’ve been back home from TwitchCon for all of two days, and one of the biggest streamers I follow is kicking off his broadcast that day with an hour-long Q&A session for and with small/beginner streamers about the basics of streaming and other related topics. I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to line up to ask the one question I could come up with, and eventually just said “Meh, what the hell?” and got in line. Long story short? What I thought would be a five-minute answer turned into a fifteen-minute interview about why I chose TheGamingAuthor as my username and how I’m trying to integrate my writing with my streaming.

To say that this was unexpected is just a little bit of an understatement, but the boost that it’s given to both my writing and my streaming has been tremendous. It’s given me what feels like the final piece of the puzzle, the final variable that I needed to solve this GamingAuthor equation, and the support that people have been showing for it in the week since that interview has been so much greater than I expected. To the point that the three-day weekend I gave myself this weekend has been a surprising shade of unpleasant. While I was able to overcome that on Saturday by binge-watching all Stranger Things: Season 2 (which is AMAZING, by the way!), I was much less successful at that yesterday. All I’ve wanted to do this weekend was keep writing, and keep streaming that writing under Twitch’s “Creative” directory, and not doing that has been a miserable experience.

Because while I may be sailing far beyond the edge of the map, doing so has finally let me find a job that I truly love, and it doesn’t feel like work at all.

My name is Zachery Richardson, and I am TheGamingAuthor.

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 7

To say that the author half of my “GamingAuthor” equation has been a grind this week would be an understatement, though you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the numbers. If I averaged it all out, I was writing about at least thousand words a day, even on days where I was streaming and had to split my writing sessions in two. That was something that I’d tried to do before while I was still working at my local grocery store, and I’d failed at it pretty completely. So the fact that I was able to succeed at it this week is not an insignificant accomplishment for me, and it’ll definitely be something I try to maintain going forward.

However, this also starts to touch on one of the two big reasons why writing turned into such a grind for me this week. That reason being that I was just having a great week on Twitch. I picked up a new game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, to satisfy my craving for a fresh and exciting RPG experience, and boy oh boy did that game live up to all the hype. I’ve sunk nearly 20 hours into it already and have barely scratched the surface of all it has on offer. On top of that, I saw more than a few familiar names in chat while I was streaming it, and that’s always a special kind of gratifying. It’s the thing that makes Twitch streaming such great fun; getting to hang out and talk to people from all over the world in real-time while you collectively share in your enjoyment of video games.

So I’m sure you can imagine how going from that to the cloistered, solitary practice of writing a book was a… less than exciting process.

In addition to some personal life-type stresses, the simple fact of the matter was that pretty much all I could think about on Friday, Saturday, and yesterday was how much I wanted to be streaming again on those days. Sure, they were my days off from Twitch and sure, I had a book that I needed to finish, but what could it really hurt? I could always pick the book back up once I got the streaming bug out of my system. The thing is though, I know that thought process, and I know all too well what kind of trap it really is. It’s the trap that sucks you into procrastination, the trap that leaves half finished manuscripts collecting dust in your computer’s digital drawers, and convinces you insidiously that whatever plans you have can always wait just one more day.

Needless to say, I would have none of that.

I kept my nose to the grindstone and my fingers to the keyboard in spite of how violently my mind was rebelling against me at times. I kept telling myself, over and over again ad nauseam, that all I had to do was write one more word, one more line, one more sentence. I reminded myself of the cartoon I’d once seen of two men digging for diamonds. One is further back than the other, but charging full-steam ahead, all systems go. The other is turning back after giving up, crestfallen and exhausted, even though he’s just a hair’s breadth away from breaking through to this massive cache of diamonds! I refused to let that be me, and so even though I actually hated the thought of trying and failing to write for even one more second yesterday, I forced myself to keep going.

And you know what? It paid off.

By making myself power through, I was eventually able to drag myself to a point where the words started flowing again. They may not have been flowing in a direction that I originally wanted them to, and I may have resented them for taking the story off of what I felt was the right track, but that wasn’t the part that mattered. The part that mattered was that I was writing, I was getting the story out of my head and down on to paper, and if this new direction truly didn’t work out, I could always go back and change it later.

Because of this, by the time I was done yesterday, I’d written nearly 1,500 words and finished yet another chapter.

I’d say that’s a pretty solid accomplishment for a day where writing The Wolf was the literal last thing I wanted to do, and it’s kinda confirmed something that I’ve been kicking around in my head for most of the week. When I was still working my grocery job, I set a daily writing goal of 500 words. Not a huge number, but something that I felt was legitimately doable even on what amounted to ten-hour workdays. Now, I turned out to be wrong on that account, but it brings me back to perhaps the most important thing I learned about myself from that job.

I can push myself pretty crazy far if I set my mind to it.

So that’s why in the wake of this week, I’m setting myself a new writing goal: 1,000 words a day, even on days that I’m streaming. If I can maintain that pace, that’s essentially one complete draft of a novel every two to three months. Now, this doesn’t take into account all the pre-production work that goes into a novel like character building and plot development, but as far as the Horsemen are concerned, this pace could allow a blistering rate of completion. Which would be great, considering how my plans for these books have shifted a bit lately.

In any case, that’s been the story of my life this week. It’s been about as smooth and pleasurable as a sandpaper massage, but all that really matters is that I got through it, and there’s about 7,000 new words making themselves a home in the manuscript I call The Wolf.

See you all next week. 🙂

Werewolves, New Artwork, & War, Oh My!

For those of you who follow my blog for my writing alone, consider this Part 6 of “Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf”. I actually tried writing an isolated version of that blog post yesterday, but honestly? So much had gone on over the last week that I just had too much on my mind that I wanted to talk about for it to work. So, here we are today.

I suppose then that the first thing I should address is The Wolf, and whether or not I jinxed myself by crowing about my progress last week. Short answer? I actually didn’t. My pace has fairly consistently leveled out to almost 2,000 words a day when I sit down and commit to the keyboard. Which hasn’t been every day, mind you. Truth be told, it hasn’t even been most days. One of my uncles passed away last week and those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that it knocked me off my game in a very bad way. I was depressed, I was viciously angry, and the last thing I wanted to do was write a happily-ever-after story about reunions with a long lost love. In fact, I almost went back to working on The Demon just so I could have a proper outlet for all the rage I was feeling.

But I didn’t. I stuck with The Wolf and just hunkered down for a few days to ride out the storm. And when the worst of the storm had passed, I wrote all the things. In just two writing sessions, I cranked out nearly 7,000 words, with probably close to another 1,000 added today. At least if we count the complete re-write of Chapter 6’s ending. And with the completion of Chapter 6, as well as the commencement of Chapter 7, I feel quite confident in saying that we are officially passed the halfway point of this story. There are only two more major events left in the plot before the climax begins, and if all goes well, I might actually be able to complete this draft before TwitchCon!

Speaking of TwichCon and other streaming related things, you all may have noticed that this whole website looks a little bit different. That is thanks in large part to the talents of an artist friend of mine known to the internet as CCSpectre. I’ve actually been unhappy with the look of this place for a while, and with the conclusion of The Wolf now in sight, I’ve started thinking about what I’m going to have to do going forward with regard to publishing and marketing it. And the first thing that came to mind was that if I was going to be serious about being a hybrid author/Twitch streamer, I needed a website for the author half of that equation that was a bit more professional that neon designs on black backgrounds. Since my website is called “Quills & Controllers”, I hit upon the “Ink & Parchment” theme pretty quickly, and CC was kind enough to apply that theme to the existing artwork she’d already done for me. The result has been a universal branding update that I feel ties my writing and streaming together beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

One thing that I could be happier with however, is my streaming. Specifically how and what games I stream. I’ve made no secret of my love for the Destiny franchise, but taking these last two weeks off of streaming has really highlighted for me just how ridiculously fast I blew through the opening content of Destiny 2, and how little enjoyment I was then getting out of it as a result. I was in such a rush to get ready for the new raid that I completely forgot about the things that actually make games like Destiny 2 so much fun for me; exploring new worlds, experiencing new stories, and in general just immersing myself in a different reality for a few hours. By the time I realized I’d done this, I was already so disheartened and disappointed in myself that I didn’t even want to go back through it all on a new character.

Now that’s not to say I don’t want to play Destiny 2 at all anymore. Far from it, in fact. I’m still hugely excited for the PC version’s release, and honestly can’t wait for the chance to have a fresh start with a new character on it. Because this time, I won’t be in a rush to complete the story. I won’t be in a rush to get ready for a raid I won’t actually have enough friends to complete. This time I will stop to smell the roses for a while and poke my curious nose into all the little nooks and crannies of the world, and quite frankly, that’s the part I’m most excited for with the PC release.

That said, there’s still almost a month between now and when Destiny 2 launches for PC. That’d be a painfully long time to go without streaming, but fortunately, there’s another game on the horizon that I’m almost just as excited for.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

That game is the sequel to my personal Game of the Year for 2014; Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, these games tell the story of Talion, a Gondorian Ranger, who is murdered by the agents of Sauron and resurrected by the spirit of Celebrimbor; the elf-smith who Sauron tricked into forging the Rings of Power, and who Sauron later tortured to death in an effort to learn the secrets of the three Elvish rings that Celebrimbor forged by himself. Shadow of Mordor is a great game built upon a thrilling narrative idea, and while it may have stumbled in the delivery of that narrative sometimes, the core gameplay was fantastic. And in every way that matters, Shadow of War looks to expand upon that core gameplay in every conceivable way. Even better, based on recent articles that I’ve read, Shadow of War also looks to be stepping up it’s narrative experience in equal measure.

If you can’t tell, I’m just a wee bit excited for this game.

Because of that excitement, and because of my badly self-inflicted burnout on Destiny 2, I’m switching things up with the stream for the next few weeks. Things will start with a nostalgic stroll back through Shadow of Mordor next week, and then when Shadow of War comes out the week after that, I’m going to apply the lessons learned from Destiny 2 and take my time to savor the smell of ash and sulfur as we rip control over the Land of Shadow right out from under Sauron’s gaze. Fun times will be had by all in attendance (except for the Orcs and Nazgul), so feel free to tune in via Twitch itself or the embedded player here on Quills & Controllers under the “Twitch” tab in the menu bar. The shenanigans begin next Tuesday at 1:00 PM, Pacific Time.

Now, about that Wolf that still needs taming… 😉

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 5

8:56 AM, Pacific Daylight Time – September 17th, 2017.

That was the exact time that I finally cracked my knuckles and got back down to the nitty-gritty of writing The Wolf yesterday. This after nearly a week of trying and failing to re-plot the rest of the book after deciding to completely upend the previous chain of events that I’d forged through three previous drafts of this novella. So many repeated failures at this made me realize that the only way I was ever going to really figure out where this new direction was going to take the story was to just sit down, and write it out like it had been part of the story all along.

In hindsight, this was clearly the right thing to do because while I started writing yesterday at 8:56 AM, I didn’t really stop writing until 10:34 PM.

More than 13 hours later.

I mean, to be fair, it was probably closer to ten hours of total writing time. Because, you know, I did eat and go to the bathroom a couple times, but I think the point still stands: I put in serious work at the keyboard yesterday. By the time it was all said and done, and the dust had started to settle, I came up out of the writing trenches with eight new pages, nearly 4,200 words, and two complete chapters added to The Wolf.

All in a single day.

I haven’t written that much in one sitting since March of 2013, and the eleven-day marathon that resulted in the The Wolf’s first complete draft.

My heart tells me this is a good sign, but my brain is still so hungover from all that writing that about all it can do is gurgle incoherently and give a vague thumbs up of approval. Or is that the middle finger? I can’t really tell from this angle…

In either case, I can feel the peak of this project approaching. Just one, maybe two more chapters, and all the hardest parts are over. The characters will all finally be established, all of the exposition will have finally been delivered, and all that will remain is the ever-exhilarating rush towards the climax. And even before that, there are still one or two scenes left that get me just as excited in and of themselves!

I won’t say that I’m close to finishing The Wolf. I’m too superstitious at the end of the day to risk jinxing myself like that. What I will say however that I feel closer to it now than I have since completing that first draft more than four years ago. I’ve already crossed the mark where all the other drafts have fallen apart and wasted away, and despite having been reduced to near-mush by all the writing yesterday, my brain is still pushing me to write out another two to three thousand words. And that I know can only be a good sign for things to come. 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 4

I’m gonna be completely honest, everyone.

I got zero writing done this week.

Destiny 2 entirely consumed my life.

However, that’s not to say I made zero progress on the writing front. In finishing Chapter 3 last week, I actually cut it off several pages before the original end point, and that randomly opened my eyes to a new (and probably better) direction to take the story. Obviously I can’t say much because spoilers, but it all hinges around a relatively minor detail and the realization that I don’t have to rely on an admittedly awkward lie I had my main character tell to explain it in The Wolf’s original draft. A lie I had him tell in order to avoid a conflict I didn’t know how to resolve.

But in taking this new pass over The Wolf and approaching it from a somewhat different mindset, I realized that there is a far more interesting way to deal with this little detail, and to actually take the story into what I feel is far more compelling territory. Largely because I’ve learned to embrace conflict in my stories, and that the lack of it in this next section of the book is one of the things that honestly held it back in the previous draft.

That’s not to say this new direction is all sunshine and daisies though. A big part of why I chose The Wolf to be the first of my Horsemen was because I already had the entire story locked down, and it wouldn’t take all that much work to get it fixed up and ready for life in the world. By pursuing this new narrative direction, I’m sailing off into entirely uncharted waters, which means a whole lot of extra work that I hadn’t planned on. It means entire plot and character arcs need to be re-thought at best, and re-constructed at worst. Thankfully I’m not entirely at a loss for how I can make this change and still preserve the overall shape of the narrative, as well as the few key scenes that drive that narrative forward.

The real test, quite frankly, will be if I can pull myself off of Destiny long enough to take all this theory and put it into action. 😛

Clawing Through Concrete to Climb the Mountain

I struggle to think of a time where I felt better, more confident, and more accomplished than I did as I was going to bed last night.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was beating my head against a steel wall, unable to break through to the other side where the reality of my dreams awaited. Writer’s block would lurk around every corner to steal my thunder every time I built up even a modicum of enthusiastic charge, and streaming felt much the same way; a near-Sisyphean task of trying to grab a greased-up bar of soap in endless shower. Every time I thought I’d found a game that I could build something off of, it would slip through my grasp for any one of a thousand reasons. Destiny 1 held nothing new or exciting for me, Shadow of Mordor proved less dynamic and engaging than I thought it would be as a streaming game, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was… well, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

But then, something happened. After nearly a year of active anticipation, and three years of desperate longing, Destiny 2 finally dropped onto my Xbox One and proved to be everything that I’d hoped for and so much more. It blew open door after door of exciting streaming potential. There were adventures to go on, dungeons to plunder, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans to engage in! For the first time in my journey as a Twitch streamer, I had finally found a game that I *knew* I could dig my hands into and really craft something out of.

And at almost the exact same time, I reached an equally impactful breakthrough with my writing.

My struggle to tame The Wolf and tell the story of it (a story that’s been running wild inside my head for years now) as been one filled with frustration, set-backs, and despair. For no matter how much I loved this story, there seemed to always be yet one more utterly unworkable aspect of it that would thwart even my hardest efforts to write my way beyond it. And yet yesterday morning, as I was still lying in bed no less, my heart caught on to a feeling that my still sleepy brain soon began translating into words. When I realized that those translated words would be the perfect way to finally crack through the writer’s block that had parked itself at the end of Chapter 3, I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I plucked my phone off the nightstand and started writing them down as a memo, which I then copied into The Wolf itself once I’d finally finished.

So many times the journey to success is described as a mountain climb, but for me the journey didn’t start at the base of the mountain. For me, the journey started on the outside of a concrete wall that wraps around the mountain’s base, armed with only my hands to claw my way through it.

But you know what? I did it.

After nearly seventeen years of frustration, rage, despair and rejection, my point-blank refusal to give up on my dreams has at last broken through the last of the concrete and brought me to the base of the mountain. And to be perfectly honest, after having to dig bare-handedly through what felt like miles of concrete, this climb up the mountain is going to feel like cake in comparison. 🙂

The Light of a Game: A Guardian’s Retrospective Look at the Original Destiny

I had an astounding experience with Destiny last night.

In theory, Destiny 2 is supposed to launch tomorrow. In practice however, thanks to various workarounds and a rolling release schedule, Destiny 2 is basically launching today. As a result, for me at least, last night was my last hurrah with Destiny 1.

And what a hurrah it was.

There remain a number of things I never did in Destiny 1. I never went to the Lighthouse, I never got an Eyasluna, and I’ve never owned one of the many legendary Exotics like Icebreaker of the Vex Mythoclast. However, the only thing I’d never done that actually made it onto my Destiny 1 bucket list was this:

Run through Wrath of the Machine.

Destiny 1’s final raid, the apex of its cooperative multiplayer experience, was something I’d long since given up hope of ever completing. With my old Fireteam having scattered to the winds more than a year ago, I no longer had anyone to run the six-player activity with. And in all reality, that was fine. By the time I’d made it through to the end of Rise of Iron’s story campaign, I was already so primed for Destiny 2 that I largely no longer cared about anything Destiny 1 had left to offer. However, as the actual release of Destiny 2 crept closer and closer, I realized that as much as I just wanted to devour all of the new game’s content, I also wanted to bid a proper farewell to the old game.

But how? To this day, I don’t particularly enjoy the Crucible (Destiny’s competitive multiplayer offering), and the lower level, three-player Strike missions had become so well-worn that they were hardly the blaze of glory I felt my story with Destiny 1 needed to go out on. I thought about replaying through all the story missions, but my fully leveled and geared Guardian would make them all far too easy, and starting a new character meant losing access to all of the endgame gear and abilities that made the game so fun.

But Wrath of the Machine? That’s something that would fit the bill.

So with that as my goal, I took to the community forums on Bungie’s website. Sure enough, there were a number of threads posted by other like-minded Guardians and within a matter of minutes, we had a full six-player team ready to go.

We cut through the raid like butter, laughing and joking with one another pretty much the whole way through. The only time we really had to shut up and get serious was during the final boss, where callouts of enemy positions and other status effects became paramount. It took us a few attempts to get everything right, and at one point we lost a member of our Fireteam to his out-of-game responsibilities. So while we all took a five-minute break, I invited another player I’d met on a different raid a few days ago to join us. He did, and after one or two more attempts, the final boss of the Wrath of the Machine raid lay dead at my feet for the first time.

But as high a point as this was, it wasn’t the true highlight of the night for me.

That point came after the raid, where the six of us gathered together in one of the game’s three social spaces to try and gain an achievement which (according to our consoles) only 1.84% of Xbox Destiny players had actually unlocked. It was an odd activity that involved ringing a series of hidden bells in a specific order with specific timing, and yet just as the final boss in Wrath of the Machine had fallen to us, so to did this challenge. We got our achievement, we sang the Iron Song, and after we celebrated, we at last went our separate ways.

Most of us anyway.

The other player I had invited and I continued to hang out in the social space, and while I decided to climb the mountain that lay at the back of it, our conversations drifted away from the game and towards our mutual, real-life interests. For well over an hour, we talked movies, technology, we told jokes, and even made a brief foray into politics. When we eventually logged off to get some sleep for the coming day, I realized that even in Destiny 1’s final hour, it was still connecting me to people I could easily see myself becoming friends with.


Let’s wind the clock back here a little bit.

When it comes to the Destiny player base, I’m almost as grizzled an ancient as you can find. I’ve been playing the game since the open beta that went live in July of 2014, two months before the full game would ship. I pre-ordered the game soon after, was one of countless Guardians who threw themselves into the fight against The Darkness on Day One, and I have had an intensely hate/love relationship with the game ever since.

I say hate/love because from Day One, and through pretty much all of Destiny’s first year, my relationship with the game was heavily weighted towards hate. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the fact that I’m a writer, I am very much a story-driven gamer. I love the level of interactivity that video games can bring to a story, and if a game doesn’t have a good one, it becomes much more difficult for me to play through it beginning to end. When Destiny first launched, to call its story abysmal would be to insult the horrors that live in the impenetrable black. I will never forget the frustration I felt when the first major character I encountered said that he could tell me of all the history that led up to my characters resurrection… but then never did. Nor will I forget the hair-pulling madness that came over me when another major character said “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” And what made all of this so much worse was that Destiny’s developer, Bungie, basically set the standard to which I hold all other video game stories with Halo, their previous franchise. To this day, almost exactly three years later, I struggle to articulate the soul-crushing disappointment I felt after completing Destiny 1’s paper-thin campaign.

But even after all that, I still kept playing.

“Why’s that,” you may ask?

Easy. I kept playing Destiny because the actual, moment-to-moment gameplay of it was just. that. good!

Seriously. Being able to seamlessly transition from running and gunning on the ground, to soaring through the air and blasting groups of enemies with massive energy bombs as a Warlock was just so viscerally satisfying that even now, no other game has come close to it. And when I started teaming up with my out-of-game friends to tackle our first Strike missions and the bosses therein, the synergy we found between the three different classes the game offered players was second to none. Combined with the amazingly satisfying core gameplay, the act of teaming together with other Guardians to take down foes that you couldn’t challenge otherwise turned Destiny into a singularly addictive grind for better and better loot.

So I kept playing. Even though there were still parts of me that hated this game to their core for its unparalleled failure of storytelling.

But then, on September 15th, 2015, everything changed.

Bungie released Destiny: The Taken King.

Though this was technically the third expansion Bungie had released for Destiny 1, it was the first one that truly caught my attention and excited me for the possibilities it presented. Not just for all the new content it offered, but for the changes it was making to all of the old content. Heeding the complaints of the player base, Bungie implemented a proper questing system into the game, finally tying all of the disparate story missions together with proper narrative threading. This “Questification” of the base game finally turned Destiny 1 into the kind of game I had hoped it would be at launch, and playing through it all again on a fresh character remains one of my fondest memories of it.

This was the point that I truly fell in love with Destiny, and at the suggestion of one now-famous Wizard, I began exploring the larger community that had sprung up around it.

Before Destiny, I didn’t even know Twitch was a thing. Let alone that it was already so big that people were making their livings off of it. CaptainTwaz suggested I check out KingGothalion, which led to me discovering ProfessorBroman on my own, followed by Soliferum, TheSpazzyProf, 3vil_Aura, Angry_Iceberg, and so many other awesome streamers. And the more time I spent in their respective channels, the more I learned that these weren’t just great entertainers, they were also just flat-out great people. So I started chatting with them, and with other people who were watching them at the same time. Before I knew it, hanging out in Destiny’s Twitch directory became just as big a part of my experience of the game as actually playing the game was.

I even started dabbling streaming Destiny myself; going live for the first time during one of the game’s monthly “Iron Banner” events that I jokingly referred to as “Game of Thorns”, owing to the near-ubiquitous presence of the poisonous hand cannon at the time. CaptainTwaz was even kind and generous enough to whip up some Game of Thrones­-inspired artwork for the occasion!

game-of-thorns-SOFAR

(I still love this image)

Still, as fun of an experiment that was, I didn’t feel any particular drive to keep streaming once the Iron Banner that month was over.

Until nearly a year later, when the Destiny Community Convention charity stream went live.

To this day, even in the wake of GuardianCon 2017, I’m still blown away by how much the Destiny community came together to accomplish that week. I’ve told my version of that story before, so I won’t repeat it at length here, except to say that watching the community raise more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the tipping point for me. That was the point where I had to become more involved in the community. That was the point where I was no longer content to just sit back and be a passive observer; I had to really dig my hands in and become an active contributor. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much without even knowing it, and so I made two choices:

1) I was going to start streaming for real instead of as a passing curiosity.

And 2) I was going to go to the next Destiny Community Convention.

These two choices would wind up changing my entire life over the course of the next year. I got a job at the local grocery store (the first real 9-5 job I’d ever had), which pushed me so far beyond my mental and physical comfort zones that my close friends and family still occasionally comment on how much of a change for the better they’ve seen in me as a person. I’m more outgoing, more confident, and I say hi and smile to strangers where previously I would generally bow my head and look away. I even flew cross-country for only the second time in my life, and the first time where I was by myself and not meeting family at the airport on the other side. And I did, in fact, attend the second Destiny Community Convention.

Or GuardianCon, as it is now known.

Again, I’ve told my GuardianCon story before, but it bears repeating that it more than anything else I’ve written about thus far, was a truly life-changing experience. Finally getting to meet all the streamers & designers I’d been talking and gaming with online for nearly two years in person was a truly surreal experience, and it made GuardianCon feel less like a gaming convention and more like a gigantic family reunion. And when that feeling combined with the overwhelming rush of emotions that came with seeing a real St. Jude’s patient and his family walk up onto the main stage to tell their story, that was the moment where I knew I’d finally found my place in the world. I’d finally found where I belonged, and as someone who has gone through their whole life by flying under the radar and skating around the edges as the perpetual outsider, there will never be words for how powerful a feeling that was for me.

And all of this came about through a single, stupid video game that I actually hated for a year.

A video game called Destiny.


I don’t know what the future holds for the Destiny community with the release of Destiny 2, but I do know that I am excited beyond words for its potential. A new game with new mechanics means new players, as well as the return of old ones. It means new content for my fellow streamers and I to explore with our audiences, and it means new experiences for us all to share as a community.

But perhaps most importantly for me personally, it means a new beginning. As a Twitch streamer, it took me a very long time to find my footing on the platform, and I played a lot of games across both console and PC before I did. I found it in a certain game’s open console beta back in July, and I found it again when that same game launched another open beta on PC.

I found it in Destiny 2.

There is so much of that game that already feels like home to me. The competitive experience in the multiplayer Crucible has been re-tooled considerably, bringing it far more in line with other competitive shooters that I’ve played and enjoyed, and the story campaign in just one mission had more plot and character development than the entirety of Destiny 1’s base game. And this is all without mentioning the new raid that will be coming out just a week after launch!

To say that I’m excited for Destiny 2 would be to speak the gravest of understatements, but I’ll speak it anyway just to say that I am so excited to share this next leg of my Destiny journey with all of you, starting right here tomorrow at 10AM Pacific Time. I hope to see you there, and I can’t wait to see what new stories and adventures Destiny 2 holds in store for us! 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 2

I got incredibly lucky this last week.

As many of you may know, a few weeks ago one of the two hard drives in my computer died on me. And when it died, it took all of my writing folders with it. Thankfully, a majority of that data was backed up on a USB drive and had also been copied onto my laptop. So a few days ago, on a whim that came out of nowhere, I went looking back through that USB drive to see just how much of The Wolf was still there. Lo and behold, I found two partial drafts of the manuscript itself and when I read back over them, I realized that however unsteady things may be in my head, the story as it exists on paper is still wonderfully solid.

And having two different drafts from two previous attempts at re-writing this book gave me a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast my own writing. To compare where my mind was, where it is now, and make a decision about how best to move forward for the sake of the story. Part of that decision was to craft a new first chapter by actually mixing and matching different parts from the different drafts, and doing that finally gave me a version of chapter one that I can actually be proud of.

I think some of you are going to hate me for how much more viciously it stabs at your heart, but that’s kind of the point in the end. 😉

After wrapping up chapter one though, I got another shot in the arm of gratification when I started re-reading chapters two and three from the more recent draft. I realized while doing that just how much of those chapters still worked. How many times the different scenes actually hit the emotional mark I was aiming for. So rather than re-write them entirely or re-construct them with parts of the earlier draft, I was able to just do a simple revision for clarity and emphasis. That’s not the kind of moment I often get to have with my writing, so it’s a special kind of sweet when it happens.

Now however, comes the real challenge. Chapter three of the most recent draft wasn’t finished. That ending and everything I’d had for Chapter four actually did get lost with the death of my hard drive, and I can’t for the life of me remember what emotional mark I was aiming for beyond the point that chapter three got cut off at. Now, given what The Wolf is about and what all has to happen with the rest of the story, I’m not at all concerned about finding another proper emotional mark to aim at. However, I still remember how I felt about the chapter and pages that I’ve lost, and I can’t shake the feeling/fear that whatever new target I take aim at just won’t be as powerful as the last one I actually fired at.

I realize that this fear is likely irrational and unfounded, but it’s one that I will definitely be struggling with for the next few days as I get back to work.

Such is the life of a writer. 😛