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Being creative is not easy.

Writing a blog or a story, composing music or sketching; these acts all require an intense amount of mental focus. Sometimes, technical limitations get in the way, and it’s very easy to lose “the flow” that we so crave when creating. Sometimes, it’s the ideas themselves that stop flowing. And sometimes, we are simply too mentally exhausted to continue.

I often find myself “taking a break” from my creative task, only to start browsing the Internet – Twitter, YouTube, etc. An important fact I haven’t considered in the past, is that consuming media drains my mental energy just as much as being creative – just in a different way. It may be the passive act of watching a movie or reading a book, or an active one like playing a video game. Still, these activities force the brain to process large amounts of information, whether we like it or not.

The thing is, the brain – as well as the body – needs time and space to recover. Overloading it with information fills the brain to the brim and it will find a way to shut itself down. In my experience, the only true mental break is to not think at all.

So, as an aspiring creator, I must consider my three options. Do I create, consume, or let my mind rest?

Finding the right balance takes self discipline. It’s about being aware of my mental capacity, and when it is at its limit. It’s knowing when to take a break from mental activity and when to let my brain process all it has taken in. It’s knowing when my brain produces its best work, when I need to get back to work, and learning how to get to that state every day.

When I get in my car after work, I stare at my phone’s App icons as they beg for my attention: Podcasts, Audible, Spotify – all tempting options. These days, I often find myself setting it back down as I drive in silence, letting my pent up thoughts scatter to the nether reaches of my brain-space.

So, fellow creators, don’t mistake distractions for real breaks. If you need to take a break, take a walk, or close your eyes to meditate. If you feel the need to watch your favorite TV show or read a book, make sure you manage your expectations and leave enough space for your brain to recover. We only have a limited capacity of mental power each day. Let’s manage it wisely.

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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in General

 

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Day 31: Onward!

Blaugust Entry, Day 31 

Ah, the final day of the Blaugust challenge.

My life has gone through many ups and downs this past month. It has certainly been an interesting one. I have ten more days for my Hero’s Journey Workout Challenge, and I need to make a plan for my Track-a-day Music Challenge. I am certainly feeling a lot more in control of my life habits than before (except for when I visit B&N… then I’m screwed).

The only downside is that my free time is even more sparse than when I started. The upside is that I am more focused. I am more clear about where I am and what I need to do to move forward. I am more comfortable with taking my time and enjoying games at my own pace. I have come to a realization that there is so much to do and so much to learn that I will never be bored or run out of things to do. These months of alone time may have been good for me, who knows.

Where will this blog go from here? This month has been more like a repository of diary entries than it has been a communicative blog. I never had a specific goal or agenda besides being an avenue for putting my emotions into words, but nevertheless, I want to give value back to the reader. I guess that is what I will focus on going forward. Will it be about gaming? Will it be about music? Will it be about life challenges?

Well, it’s about time to wrap it up. Time for my workout. Maybe I’ll get to play some Metal Gear Solid 2 before bed.

It’s done! This is the last entry for the month-long blogging challenge! Congratulations to all of the challengers who participated! For more info and more bloggers to follow, check out the official Blaugust page.


Music Challenge #18

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

I think this is my best orchestral track to date. There was more room to develop it, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on it.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in General

 

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Day 22: Bookstore = Empty Wallet

Blaugust Entry, Day 22

Today was the most money I spent on making spaghetti. That happens when you have to feed twenty people at a birthday party. I could have cooked the onions a tad bit more, and I may have to add a little more sauce tomorrow since it’s getting very oil-heavy with the butter and sausage juice. Still, it tastes delicious.

If you want the recipe for the best tasting tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted, look no further than my go-to food blog, Smitten Kitchen! And it’s three ingredients! I added sausage and onions, but the base is a very simple, savory sauce. You can drink it by itself, it’s so good. San Marzano tomatoes all the way!

Now I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I keep going to the bookstore, and I keep buying books. This time, I went to buy a gift, and came out with a copy of Press Start to Play. How could I resist?? My dilemma is that I by books faster than I finish them. Kinda like the backlog of games I have on Steam. I guess I have to discipline myself a little bit.

I have two novels partially read as of this moment: Have Space Suit-Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The latter is sitting in my car’s glove compartment, for those rare times I may need a book while waiting in the car. My mission is to finish reading the Heinlein book–which I’m a quarter through–before even touching Press Start to Play. 

Well, I may do a little reading and play some Longest Journey before retiring for the day. Tomorrow’s a long day.

Onward, to Day 23!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust.


Music Challenge #9

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

Simple organ track. voice-leading exercise with a descending chromatic bass line.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Books, Food, General

 

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Day 8: Intention. Clarity. Respect.

Blaugust Entry, Day 8

I loved watching Jon Stewart work.

It was more than for the comedy. It was for the commentary; his hawk-like ability to observe, aggregate, and articulate the absurdity hidden in plain view. This was most evident when he spoke, not from the prompter, but from an unscripted place of sincerity.

Stephen Colbert gave this touching farewell message to Jon on his final show this past Thursday:

“We owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you, by example, how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect. You are infuriatingly good at your job . . . All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for sixteen years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a great man.”

Intention. Clarity. Respect.

They sum up what I admire about Jon Stewart very succinctly. It’s what I see in his interviews with authors, politicians, and other distinguished guests on his show. It’s what I see in those rare moments we witness him outside of his comfort zone of satirical comedy. His sincerity and razor sharp intellect shone through the brightest in his one-on-one, unscripted conversations.

The only other person on my radar that commands my respect in this way in the media is Dan Carlin, creator and host of the podcasts, Common Sense with Dan Carlin, and Hardcore History.

Colbert also drives home another point. Jon was an artist; not only as an architect of the show, but as a mentor and developer of comedic talent. He has been a leader in executing a vision with world-class excellence; a leader who has allowed for others to take their shot – and those others grew into world-class talents because of him.

That is worth admiring, and it’s something I personally aspire to.

Thank you, Jon Stewart, for all you have given us. We will miss you.

Onward, to Day 9!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in General

 

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Day 3: “Be My Friend”

Blaugust Day 3 (Hurry! Join us and participate in this month-long blogging challenge!) 

On yesterday’s post, I wrote the following:

Go [play Tomb Raider], before we’re no longer friends!

Today, I’d like to add to that list.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m a big fan of “well-crafted” pieces of art.

Back in college, we read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy for a music class. The point of this was to explore the two sides of how we experience beauty in works of art. One side is the pure “emotional” experience of beauty. The unexplainable, drunken passion we may feel when we are madly in love; or the raw, powerful state we may experience when we lose ourselves underneath a pair of headphones listening to heavy rock music.

The other side may be thought of as “intellectual” beauty – the wonder and gratification we experience when we realize the perfect intricacies of Bach’s Prelude in C Major, for example; or the excitement we feel in a story when we realize that all the elements which were presented early on converges by the finale to create a sublime and climactic moment of awe and inspiration.

The question is this: Instead of just catering to one side of this spectrum, can we marry both states into a “perfect” piece of art, which can stimulate both extremes simultaneously?

Perfection is a high hurdle to reach, but I have a few personal favorites which I feel are worthy and need to be mentioned:

The Usual Suspects is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of those where it’s a treat to watch the first time, and then you want to watch it again immediately after you’ve finished it. It will make you feel smart and dumb at the same time – the ending literally made my jaw drop. Watch it, or you are off of my friend’s list.

Midnight in Paris. Charming. Intellectual. Wise. It is subtle in it’s delivery of humor, but had me laughing out loud many times. It is my go-to movie when I need inspiration.

If you are a fan of serious anime and not just the high-school-boy-turns-super-hero-type, go check out some of Satoshi Kon’s works. They are wonderfully crafted stories, some heartwarming (Tokyo Godfathers), some subtle, yet deeply layered (Millenium Actress), and some are outright disturbing (Perfect Blue). Most of his works straddle the boundary of reality and dreams (Paprika deals with this topic most directly). They are all great films which makes use of the animated medium wonderfully.

I’m going to throw in a musical here: The Phantom of the Opera – The Original London Cast Recording, with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. For me, this is perfection. The marriage of story, the music, the lyrics, the performances… I haven’t heard a musical yet that tops what this one has done for me. Both the intellectual beauty in the lyrical and musical craft, and the emotional beauty in the story and performances has had me listening to this album over and over again throughout the years.

Portal – an important video game mention here. A cute little 3D puzzle game. That’s what I thought. Oh, just a couple more levels and it’s over, I thought. If you have not played this masterpiece yet, you are not my friend – more importantly, you are missing out on one of the most innovative video games of all time. I have a friend who only played up to level 10 or so. Well, he used to be my friend.

I’m sure there are many more I’m missing, but it’s okay. I think it’s enough for you to do.

Put this check-list on your fridge.

Be my friend.

Onward, to Day 4!

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Gaming, General

 

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The Connection

Hey folks, it’s been a while. This won’t be a long post, but I wanted to share something I came across.

I was reading an issue of Music Connection magazine, a publication dealing with the goings-on of the music industry. This particular issue featured an interesting interview with the band Echosmith, telling their story and their boost into stardom with their recent hit, “Cool Kids”. Although they are speaking about music and song-writing, there is a passage which fits perfectly in the context of writing as well. If you have a moment, stop what you are doing, and take a minute to digest this.

The lead singer of the youthful sibling-group, Sydney Sierota, made this comment during the interview:

MC: What is the key to creating songs that connect in such a powerful way?

Sierota: I think the key to writing is to be honest and write about what you think, feel and believe and stand for. I think the reason “Cool Kids” took off is because that song means something to people. As much as people like the partying songs, the drinking songs or the having-a-good-time-with-my-friends songs, people can’t deny they love a song that means something to them, whether it’s the same meaning I had when I was writing the song or something they interpret.

And it’s important, also, to leave your songs to interpretation and let fans decide what it means to them, because that’s what music is about. It’s about connecting with the listener. It’s important to write for yourself, but it’s important to write for those listening, too, and to be mindful of who’s going to hear the song. It’s important to keep that in mind as you’re writing and make sure the message you want to come across is coming across. It’s your job to share your story with others in the best way possible.

– Excerpt from Music Connection, Vol. 39, March 2015

I always ask myself before I hit the publish button how the reader will interpret what I just wrote. Are my emotions and ideas being transfused into these words in a way that the readers can reach out and receive what I have given? Will they take something away from this visit which will somehow add to their life experience? Even with a self-serving post, am I still giving value to those who visit? Am I making a personal connection with you, the reader?

This is something I can never will into happening. What I can do is to be conscious and aware of who I’m writing for: myself, and for all of you. Because without you, there is nothing to share, and that is where I gain value as well.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in General, Music

 

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Liebster sounds a little like hipster. “You’re such a liebster, man.”

Liebster-Award

Thank you, wonderful people, for this shiny blue ribbon I get to hang on my wall! I have no idea where this came from, or where it’s going, since I’m still a relative newcomer to this “sphere of blogs”.

Actually, I lied. I do know where it came from. I stole it straight from Syl’s Blog!

I’m writing this way too late at night and may regret this later. I’ll just say I was drunk and don’t recall.

Here are her questions and there are my answers:

1. If you could learn a new language overnight, which would it be? Coding. Any of them. Maybe Japanese (although I’m semi-fluent), but I’m enjoying the climb, so I’ll stick with my first answer.

2. What is the first MMO you’d want to visit in full VR mode? If it’s anything like the visual imagery portrayed in the books, Otherland! Or if it exists by then, Sword Art Online…but only after the first patch. For what’s out there now: a tie between WildStar and FFXIV. They are both beautiful, unique worlds worth exploring in person. Definitely not The Secret World.

3. If you got to invite a dead person over for tea and biscuits, who would it be? Biscuits? What is this? Not-America? Maybe my dead future-self so we can share war stories, give unwarranted advice to each other, and either empathize perfectly or annoy one another to death – my first, his second. Is that even possible? I have so many questions for myself at this point.

4. What kind of biscuits would you serve? I just went to my favorite food blog and searched “biscuit”. This one looks yummy.  Although I have a feeling that you meant something else…like these cookies!?

5. Who should go down first: House Lannister, House Frey or House Bolton? Hmm… give me a moment to think.

6. Justice means:

– a) everyone gets what they work for
– b) everyone gets the same
– c) everyone gets what they need 

A. Unless you are one of the three aforementioned Houses. Then B. Let them all go down together.

7. If you could see one of your favorite games get a sequel, it would be….? …Final Fantasy? What? There’s already a sequel? How about Dragon Quest? Megaman? Zelda??? I guess I can die happy, then.

8. If a person were to split a pot of 1000$ between them and yourself on condition of you accepting their first offer, would you rather accept 100 bucks or both go empty?  “Either you give me half, or we both walk away empty-handed. Now, what do you say?” *reaches for the dagger behind his back*

9. Which in-game MMO place/location do you consider a home to return to? There was a city in Achaea half a lifetime ago that used to be my home. They destroyed it (R.I.P. Shallam).

10. Favorite midnight snack when nobody’s looking? Gummy bears or kettle-cooked salt & vinegar potato chips. It’s 2am and I’m out of both. Help.

I don’t know many bloggers yet, so I’ll nominate from fellow Twitterers who I know have blogs or tumblrs:

@doomkitty / @recollects_play / @anyiASDF / @clchaotix

And one blogger that maybe hasn’t received this yet(?): GamingSF

If you have no idea what the heck this is (like me), here’s an explanation (this is Set #2).

Here are my Q’s for you!

1. Are you supposed to be working right now?

2. Are you supposed to be sleeping right now?

3. What is your daily go-to blog or site?

4. What sort of writing are you drawn to, stylistically speaking, and why? Conversational, narrative, journalistic, academic, etc.

5. In terms of your creative process, are you dominantly a creator/inventor, an editor/crafter, or an engineer/technician?

6. Are there any resources you use to better your writing/artistic skills?

7. Who is your Internet/social media crush? (Twitter/Tumblr/Blog/etc.) Confess, now!

8. Favorite comic-strip?

9. Hayao Miyazaki or Satoshi Kon?

10. Lootcrate?

Thanks, and have fun!

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in General

 

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