The Meltdown Heard ‘Round the World

I know the setup on this is gonna be long, but if you hang in there, I actually have something to add on all this foofarah.

A little earlier this week, on March 28th, I read a Tweet by @Piratenami that went as follows;

This is a fabulous train wreck, and a lesson for writers on how NOT to respond to negative reviews.

It was followed by one of those short links, which I have added to the text line as the actual link for those who are cautious about where they’re clicking to. I always get nervous clicking on some random jumble of letters, myself.

I read that teaser, and of course I ignored it, because I’m above gawking at that kind of thing, right?

Heck no, off I scurried!

That teaser really got my attention on two fronts.

First, I fancy myself as being a writing enthusiast, which is my new euphemism for “I’d like to be called a writer but I know I’m not as skilled as REAL writers”.

Second, as an occasional theorycrafter, writer of guides about playing a video game, and blunt Bear about town, I’ve had my share of criticism and negative reviews… and trolling, and threats to my family, and so on. 

I know how I’ve handled criticism in the past, which is to ignore it elsewhere, and to moderate it on my own website for language, threats, and extreme soapboxing.

Protip; if you don’t like something I said, hit your bullet points, quoting where I got it wrong, and end it short and sweet. If you write three posts of massive walls of text in the comments one right after the other counting over 4000 words each, longer than even my original Bearwall… that’s just silly. At that point, start your own blog, willya? Sheesh.

So, a train wreck involving a published writer commenting on negative reviews? Omigod! This I have to see.

Oh. Oh, wow. Oh, that’s simply amazing.

You don’t have to go far to find the author’s replies in the comments to that review… Jacqueline Howett, the author in question, was the very first commenter to the review. Kinda pounced on it. Which is great for our short attention span little minds, it helps us get to the good bits fast.

After my long exposure to Trade Chat in World of Warcraft, I have to say my first thought to Jacqueline’s comments was “Boy, for someone that works with words, she sure did resort to the two simplest words for a rebuttal in record time. What a stunning lack of imagination.”

I’ll give you this one, very small, directly copied sampling of one of her comments so you get a tease of the beginning of her descent. This is from before she really loses it. No, really.

Look AL, I’m not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. You were told to download a new copy for format problems the very next day while they were free at Smashwords, so you could choose any format you wanted to read it in and if their were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. Simply remove this review as it is in error with you not downloading the fresh copy i insisted. Why review my book after being told to do this, and more annoying why have you never ever responded to any of my e-mails?

So, ummm… that’s just the start? Train wreck is such an appropriate description.

I’ve gone about my business since, and thought nothing more of it except to reaffirm my stance that once I say something, it’s out there. If people don’t like it, hey. I need to get a helmet and move on.

Then I woke up this morning to check my Tweet feed before work, and found this little snippet from Neil Gaiman himself;

That poor author meltdown over criticism of her bad grammar & spelling is pure Dunning-Kruger Effect. See transcript at website link.

I read that, and the very first thing that popped into my head when seeing the words “author meltdown” were the comments by Jacqueline. But surely that’s not what…

Yes, yes that was what he was referring to. Holy c^%!

You know, I can only pray that if I’m ever linked to or talked about by someone whose work I respect as highly as Neil bloody Gaiman, it wouldn’t be in reference to something like that.

I’m getting to a point, I swear.

The transcript Neil Gaiman linked to was a discussion about the Dunning-Kruger effect.

To quote snippets of the transcript;

…It’s the idea that the worse you are at something the more likely you’ll hold an inflated view of your own performance…

…across every test, the students at the bottom end of the bell curve held inflated opinions of their own talents, hugely inflated. In one test of logical reasoning, the lowest quartile of students estimated that their skills would put them above more than 60% of their peers when in fact they had beaten out just 12%…

…on the other end of the bell curve the talented students consistently underestimated their performance. Again to the test of logic; those topping the class felt that they were only just beating out three-quarters of their classmates, whereas in reality they had out-performed almost 90% of them…

The verdict was in; idiots get confident while the smart get modest, an idea that was around long before Dunning and Kruger’s day. Bertrand Russell once said, ‘In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.’ From his essay ‘The Triumph of Stupidity’, published in 1933.

Go read the entire transcript here. I enjoyed the way they presented their points and the examples they gave. The ‘juice’ example was my favorite. 🙂

Here is the reason I’m bringing all this up, and no, it’s not just because I like a good popcorn train wreck.

Well, maybe a little.

The suggestion that Dunning-Kruger Effect could help explain the apparent inability of Jacqueline to see anything wrong with her writing could just as easily apply to darn near anything we do.

But it doesn’t REALLY help anything.

Take my own writing, as an example. I’ve said before, I always publish my posts feeling that they’re, if not actual rubbish, close enough for government work.

Now, since I don’t think my own writing is very good, does that mean, by the results of Dunning-Kruger, that it’s actually very good?

No, no it does not. What it means is that I am too deeply involved with my own writing to be able to get an outside perspective on how other people would view it.

My writing may be good, bad or just middling, but being the writer, I’m not really able to have a clear, objective impression on what you as the reader are going to think of it.

I can give you another example from my own life. I have long thought of myself as a damn good Bear tank. I was confident enough in my skills at that class and role that I had the effrontery to write guides and tips and suggestions about how to do it as well as you can.

Does Dunning-Kruger mean that I’m actually completely delusional and actually suck at it?

Well, actually maybe it does. 🙂 But I have no real way of knowing, because with some PUG groups we may go insanely smooth, and other groups we might have massive fail, and on the groups that went well I might have just been carried to victory by a great healer. 

I can’t really KNOW. But being the kind of person that I am, I now have a wonderful new level of self-doubt to explore. If I am confident that I’m good at something, am I really bad and don’t know it? Omigod!

What I love about the idea of Dunning-Kruger, though, is what else it might apply to.

Say… social skills.

The people you meet in World of Warcraft, for example.

Are you talking to people in Trade chat, or in PUGs, or just over vent who are so incredibly bad at social skills and how to interact with other living, breathing people that they really think that the way they talk to people is great?

Did that guy who told you to “l2p, noob” when you asked for a second’s pause to drink to regain Healer mana actually think that you appreciated his taking the time to guide you on your priorities? Did he think you left the experience looking forward to playing with him again in the future?

It boggles the mind. It really does.

The very idea that the people who drive us batshit crazy might be that deluded is fascinating.

And I might be one of them!

The whole idea has added an entirely new level of surrealism to my already weird life. And I’m loving it.

It’s like tap dancing on a mudslide.

Geez, next thing you know I’m going to get into some kind of existentialist BS about “Am I really real”, and somebody’s gonna have to slap me.

Ah well. I hope that I have at the least amused you as much today as this entire thing has amused and educated ME.

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WoW is just so damn awesome!

I’ve been having just the most incredibly fun time on Azuremyst with my new alts.

Wait, how is that possible? I’ve been playing WoW for years and years and years. How can it still be fun? No, scratch that, how could it possibly be awesome?

Haven’t I heard? All the cool kids are sneering at WoW and going off to play other games that are newer and cooler and better and stuffs!

I had heard a bit of that going around, but I do strongly believe that attitude matters. If you walk around looking for an excuse to feel pissed off, seems to me it doesn’t take long to accomplish that goal.

I’ve never been what you could call pissed off at WoW. I’ve just been adrift, trying to find my center. My happy thought.

I can’t fly if I don’t have my happy thought, damn it.

Well, I’m flying now, baby. Figuratively.

The first thing I’m finding is that I really missed the challenge of being broke. Of being on my own without a big sugar daddy supporting my low level adventures.

I made a Death Knight on Azuremyst, but I got so into my Druid that I never leveled him to 60 to get flying. Just having too much fun, you know? I’m sure glad I didn’t now!

Having only the money that I make myself on low level characters by playing the auction house and gathering has added a degree of challenge that has been long missing, and I’m loving it.

Selling that stack of copper ore for 19 gold 24 silver really feels like I scored! It’s the little things.

The second thing I’m loving is I finally have a clear set of goals.

On my normal server, I’ve got 10 characters, and half the time when I log in, I’d be staring at the list, trying to figure out who to play. Too many characters, too many levels, too much damn history.

On Azuremyst, I’ve got a Fury Warrior that I retired as being too bloody easy to level (sorry, but he is), I’ve got my Feral Druid that is just a gas, and I’ve got this up and coming Hunter that I’m really rocking the place with.

Two characters I’m enjoying… and almost as though it’s a second chance to play the game for the very first time, I’m playing them… but I’m doing it up right this time.

My Druid was the first one to go down the road of “Hey, why don’t I…”.

They added this new (to me) kitty mount to Darnassus Rep a while back; the Striped Dawnsaber. I love that mount. I’ve lusted after it for a low level character ever since Cassie bought one for her Night Elf Druid when we started playing Mage/Druid together.

I never had a chance at that mount for any of MY Night Elf characters when leveling. By the time it was added, my Hunter had the Mammoth and my Druid had the chicken mount from Sethekk Halls.

Now, I can finally have that chance. Even better, mounts scale with your Riding skill, so I can have that land mount I love, and keep using it all the way to 85!

Adding to the fun, neither my Druid nor my Hunter are Night Elves. To get that mount… I need to get my Darnassus rep to Exalted. So if I really want that mount early enough to be fun… I gotta work for it.

What’s that, a challenge? Well, aw shucks.

Having that goal made the game even more interesting for the last week. After all, I have to find two different ways to get that rep, or I’ll burn out doing the same zone quests twice in a row.

I’ve almost nailed that challenge on BOTH.

What I did was, I went back to Teldrassil on my Worgen Druid, and played through all of the quests. I’m in the early stages of Ashenvale, and I’m already halfway through Revered with Darnassus. No problem.

Once I got to that point and knew that my Druid was right in the bullseye, I switched over to my Hunter.

My Human Hunter, having the advantage of Human rep bonuses, didn’t go to Teldrassil right away. Instead, after I got the Darnassus tabard, I started doing Stormwind related zones to get my Stormwind rep to Exalted.

I kept at it until I hit Exalted with Stormwind doing quests… and along the way, the shared rep with the Alliance factions got me 1 point away from Honored with everyone else. I also ran some random instances in PUGs, getting rep from the tabard.

By the time I entered Teldrassil on my Hunter, I was well on my way to Revered, and this evening I had barely set foot in Ashenvale when I dinged Exalted. I got it on my third quest in the zone.

Isn’t she pretty?

I really love the looks of that kitty.

Having this extra challenge I set for myself has really been great. It’s been so exciting to see what it would take to get there, without ruining the quests my Druid is doing.

Speaking of kitties, there was that other thing about my Hunter…

Cassie came through. Well, of course she did.

After one hellaciously long run at level 16 through Stranglethorn getting flight points along the way to Booty Bay and the boat to Ratchet, I made my way over land to that infamous den of mindless PvP, Crossroads.

There, Cassie summoned me a pet that I’ve been proud to have by my side ever since.

Say hello to… Moonshine. 🙂

It feels very rewarding to play the game this way. I’m not just questing through the zones, I’m using my knowledge of the game, of the zones, of how reputation works, of what rewards are available and what pets are where, to do what I would have loved to do when I first started playing the game years and years ago.

I have a level 31 Human Hunter riding a Darnassus cat with Echeyakee for a pet. It doesn’t get more gigglicious than that.

Yes, that’s a word now. Shush.

What I’m really looking forward to now are the quest zones I have yet to see.

My Hunter and Druid are both poised to quest in zones I’ve never set foot in since the Cataclysm.

Mu Hunter is heading to Hinterlands, and will do the Hinterlands – Western Plaguelands – Eastern Plaguelands – Badlands sequence. I understand that Badlands, in particular, rocks.

My Druid is going to finish out Ashenvale and move further on down Kalimdor, seeing how the land was sundered. I hope there is lots of fun for Alliance to have in Thousand Needles. South Barrens looks crazy!

Honestly, it’s a brave new world. I’ve limited my character options, removed the safety net of lots of max level characters, no longer have Cassie there to “run me through” something on her main if I just want to knock out a quick instance for quests, and have to earn every silver piece I get, for a given WoW value of “earn”.

It’s just like playing a brand new game… fresh and exciting. Except I, like… already know all the secrets and tricks and where everything can be found, and where resources are on the web.

As a side note, and I know this will seem very sudden to some people, but I can no longer be found in the guild Eff the Ineffable.

The folks there are wonderful folks who went out of their way to try and make me feel right at home, and I am very grateful to them for the invitation that brought me out of my Kael’thas shell to try something new. Please don’t believe that I have anything aganst them in any way. I don’t.

But a guild has to be a good fit for both the guild and the people in it, and while the people are great, their goals and mine within the game just aren’t the same.

I hadn’t realized going into it that they had formed the guild as a new place to make a solid go of raiding, and that there had been a lot of worry and sadness recently over what to do to get a guild of people focused on raiding. They are working very hard to get everything right, and from everything I’ve seen a re doing great.

I had been invited by nice folks I knew through Twitter, and I was very glad to go and spend time with friendly people, but in the end, the fact is I’m not a raider. That’s not my focus in the game. It’s not where my cheese is to be found.

I had lots of fun lurking in the guild chat channel… but I wasn’t a contributor to the success of the guild, and I knew that I never would be. I’d be that guy that dings 85, and then moves on to a new alt. Just when I could finally start pulling my weight in the guild and help them do what they want to be doing, I’d be moving on to another alt.  

I know that I could have stayed and been very welcome, and I’m sure nobody would have ever said anything to me about it… but I have to feel that if I am part of something, I am actually a contributing part of it. I have to feel I’m pulling my weight. 

It just wasn’t going to happen. That was, honestly, the single biggest reason I knew it wasn’t going to work out. I’d been thinking about it all week. I did have some minor issues with one person earlier in the day, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision to leave. I’d been thinking about what I should do from the moment I read up about the guild and how it was formed, and realized they were a raiding guild, and meant it.

So, I said my goodbyes and left.

I’ve got some other friends on the server, I’ve been around long enough that I think I know someone on darn near every server in the US at this point. Hedwig and Matheo have invited me to hang out with Band of Misfits, a more casually-oriented guild on the server. They still raid, a LOT, word is they’ve got three raiding teams, and do so very well from what I understand… but from everything I’ve been told, it’s very casual friendly. I’ll be able to contribute to the guild by running light content in 5 person instances, and questing together with folks, or by being an occasional fill-in if someone needs a hand. That’s something I think I can handle. Plus, I won’t have that feeling that if I’m not raiding and helping the guild push through new content, that I’m not doing my part.

There are a lot of very, very nice people in Eff the Ineffable. They’re going to be pretty big stars on the raiding scene, because they have everything they need; a great GM, wonderful guild members, a mature, adult attitude and a determination to succeed. If raiding with good people is what you’re looking for, people who will actually come prepared, looking to succeed or get a punch to the crotch, then Effs’ the guild for you.

I owe the people of Eff the Ineffable a huge debt of gratitude. I may not be a raider at heart, but they brought me in and put me in a situation where I was able to rediscover all the things I love about WoW, and get my gaming groove back on.

When I get home from work now, I’m really looking forward to what I’m going to do when I log in. I’m thinking of the challenges ahead, and of what kind of neat stuff I can get up to in the world of Azeroth. That’s something that was missing for a while, and I knew I had to get an attitude adjustment to find it. I’m glad I’m back in the game.

If you’ve read this far, thank you all very much for your patience, and have a great week.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

One fact of life here in Minnesota is the concept of the party. Wherever you live, you probably have something close to the same.

Not a real party, like, “Hot diggity, get you some booze and hot tunes, we’re gonna invite all our friends and rock this joint” party.

Oh, no.

No, I’m talking about an organised function where someone has a product, and they invite all their friends and family over for a ‘party’, where the product gets shown around, free samples might get handed out, crafts are done, little snacks are shared… it doesn’t sound all THAT bad, does it?

The only real downsides to these damn things are that you’re inviting your friends and family, and most of them know the idea is that you come over and spend money on shit. The person hosting the party and gathering all these people generally get some kind of kickbacks, the more stuff people buy.

“Hey, come on over to my house this Friday, you can have snacks and buy a few things, and I’ll get free shit.”

If it were presented that way, you’d feel a lot less guilty about saying “No thanks, I have to wash my artificial turf. Big game is only 8 months away, and I want to be ready.”

But no. It’s always, “Hey, do you have anything planned this weekend? No? Well, I’m having a candle party, do you think you’ll be able to come?”

You know the deal. This is a friend or family member inviting you, and you just hit them up for pledges for your son’s Jumprope for Heart Disease marathon or something, and now they’re getting you back. It’s your turn in the barrel.

That’s fine. It’s okay. In fact, it’s nice to have an excuse sometimes.

But here’s my big gripe.

The stuff is rarely shit you actually WANT.

Guys, you know what I’m talking about. Candles. Macrame. Cookware. Tupperware. Dish Soap, for God’s sake.

Dish Soap? Really?

Now, the Girl Scouts have the right idea, but I don’t care WHAT you say, there IS an upper limit on how many Thin Mints and Samoas you can eat at one sitting. And no matter how tasty they are, we need more viable product alternatives than cookies. If all we get are cookies, at some point, you’re gonna look around yourself at the wreckage of empty packages, all sitting there mocking you with their emptiness, and say, “Damn, that was a lot of cookies. I need Jenny Craig.”

It occurred to me today, while discussing the candle party my darling wife will be going to this week, that I feel no draw to go to this thing whatsoever.

It’s a candle.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stores in the mall was called Wicks & Sticks. They had candles and incense and stuff, but my favorite thing was they were the only store in the entire mall that had neat shit like dragons perched on castles and crystal balls and stuff. They had those massive sculptures of fantastic things, and oh yeah… you could stick a candle inside to make, like, the dragon’s marble eyes glow. Hell yes!

Don’t get all excited. That isn’t what a modern candle party is.

They’re actually, like, candles. I know! Candles sound great, but once you’ve got kids, you realise that more than anything else, what candles are are things that, once lit, BURN SHIT.

I like the basic idea of getting some friends and family together, snacks, a few drinks, have some laughs, and check out some small products that you can order while you’re there. I do.

But how the hell to get the GUYS involved in this? There’s gotta be something you can come up with to get my attention. To capture my interest.

To get a big ‘ol HELL YEAH!

And then I had it.

The product has to be something that you could special order, in lots of different varieties. It’s gotta be something that, sure, you could get locally, but there should be something special about ordering it. Like, you’re looking forward to getting it when it comes in.

And it’s got to be something that you could have at a party, and order, that your wife really wouldn’t be happy about your buying normally, but will allow it because they just dropped $350 on a scrapbooking party lst month and are kinda screwed on the whole balance of trade situation just at the moment.

What’s that? A Wine and Cheese tasting?

You’ve got the right idea, sampling lots of different wines and cheeses and then special ordering stuff, that’s a good idea. Alcohol, cheese, not bad. But waaaay too upscale for my tastes.

What’s that? Beer or whiskey? You’re getting a heck of a lot closer, but the trouble with that is, the draw of such a party would be sampling lots of varieties, and unless you own a liquor store, each manufacturer has their own label, and that’s about it. I don’t see Budweiser getting all excited about sponsoring a beer tasting, unless all you’re tasting are Budweisers.

Not seeing a lot of indies in that kind of mix, you know?

Let’s drill down one more layer. Let’s talk about something that is truly, inherently manly. Something you just DO NOT see women buy all that much as a snack food.

Something with tons of varieties, and ALL of them are good.

That’s right. I’m talking about JERKY.

Guys, the time has come we have a party of our own.

We get a bunch of friends over, we have games to suit the group (RPGs, Illuminati, Poker, I don’t care), we have beer, throw a good movie with explosions up on the big screen, talk shit and sample some jerky.

There’s the meats; turkey, venison, beef, ham, bacon, buffalo, ALLIGATOR… if it’s a meat, there’s a jerky. Bet yer butt.

And the flavors! You’ve got your traditional “it’s smoked, stupid”, you’ve got your black pepper, sweet and hot, teriyaki, maple, hickory wood smoke, cajun spiced, habanero, barbeque…

Admit it. This is a product that almost demands passing around a shitload of little samples while men drink beer and get rowdy.

Omigod.

It’s like the promised land of smoked meat.

I can picture it now, a bunch of guys in a den, beer flowing, loud talk, farting away unrestrained. Freedom.

On the big screen, Red is on, and Bruce Willis is being sardonic while John Malkovich is one crazy son of a bitch.

Everyone is relaxed, a poker game is getting fired up, and from out of the kitchen comes a couple guys with big platters of smoked meats.

“Dig in, you bastards.”

When the smoke clears, the beer is gone and the meat has been devoured, a host of satisfied men are asked, one by one, ‘So, what you want to order, Jim? You went through that Teriyaki Buffalo like a ferret on crack.”

“Shit man, I dunno, I can’t even see straight. What’s the biggest size bag ya got?”

“This is jerky for real men, Jim. We go up to 10 pound bags.”

“Hell yes, sign me up for one of those. And, uh… a couple pounds of the sweet and hot fer the missus.”

I have a dream… a dream that someday soon, men can gather together and eat some damn fine beef jerky, drink some beer, shoot the shit, and when they go home, tell their wives, “Hey, bet I got out of mine cheaper than you got out of yours. How many Tupperware cups does one family need, anyway?”

/sigh

Excuse me while I call up Jerky.com, see if I can get a sponsorship deal….

My own worst enemy

I was reading the latest post by Faeldray at Petaholics Anonymous, and enjoying it immensely, when it occured to me that I hadn’t mentioned one of the key things that had brought back some of my enthusiasm for WoW… and which was also one of the things that had originally killed some of my WoW fun.

And it all had to do with being a petaholic.

I think I mentioned it at the time, that when patch 4.0 came out right before Cataclysm was released, Cassie and I both rolled Human Hunters to enjoy the new quest revamps and changed world.

We also simultaneously rolled Horde characters, both Trolls, to try that new quest zone out and explore the flip side of the coin.

Well, we got ourselves up in level on our Hunters enough that I was struck by a funny thought.

“With both lowbie Horde in Barrens, and lowbie Human Hunters on Alliance, wouldn’t it be neat if our Trolls took turns completing the quest that summons Echeyakee the gorgeous White Lion, and let both Human Hunters tame him? We could be the only level 16s running around in Elwynn with white lions. That would be pretty cool.”

We did that thing. Both our Hunters journeyed to storied Northern Barrens, and we took turns summoning Echeyakee for each other.

I loved that cat. I quested through all of Westfall, Redridge, Duskthingieborezone and ALL of Stranglethorn with that cat on my new Hunter.

I really enjoyed the character in all ways.

But there’s a but. On this blog, how could there not be? A really big one.

When Cataclysm was finally released, it was my level 80 Hunter I leveled first. All the way to 85, and then ran things and got geared, and had a great time.

Along the way, leveling professions and all that jazz, doing the reputation chains… I had a hard time imagining ever leveling the second hunter, what with all of my other level 80s clamoring for leveling attention.

For a few months, the low level Hunter sat, untouched and alone.

I’ve long had every slot on Kael’thas filled, to the point that anything I want to make that is new is gonna end up with a level 50 something dying first.

I wanted to try a Goblin Warlock. I’d never leveled a Goblin yet, hadn’t seen the zone all the way through. Somebody had to go.

The Human Hunter, my only doubled class (except for my Troll Druid on the Horde side) was, logically, the one that had to go.

I deleted my Hunter, and in the process the cat I loved was gone.

After the Hunter was deleted, I realized that the white lion represented more to me than just a pretty pet. It was a constant reminder of a wonderful moment where Cassie and I worked together to accomplish something that had absolutely no effect on being more powerful, or better geared, or higher level… it was something we did just for fun and because we love playing Hunters and we love the looks of that cat, and it was something that was impossible for either of us to do without the other.

It took a week or so to really feel it, but killing that Hunter also killed a good bit of my enjoyment of the game itself.

Well, when I created a few new alts on Azuremyst, one of the things I’ve done is create a new Human Hunter. Different name, slightly different appearance, but in general the same character.

And Cassie, without my saying anything, surprised me this afternoon by telling me she created a Horde character on Azuremyst for the express purpose of leveling to the point that she can summon Echeyakee for me.

So, can lightning strike twice? Will I fall in love with a kitty all over again?

I think so.

I know people have some strong feelings that WoW has changed recently, that it’s no longer fun to play.

For myself, I can’t blame WoW. I blame myself, for bone-headed moves like deleting a character that had, in a short time, come to mean a lot to me.

Blizzard didn’t do that, I did. And if I hadn’t made the Goblin and acted sooner, Blizzard probably could have done something about getting the character back, kitty and all.

Has anyone else out there ever done something like that? Specifically, done something for practical reasons that you later really regretted for emotional reasons?

Cat Scratch Fever!

I’ve been kinda flailing around lately over on Azuremyst-US, trying to figure out just where my cheese was to be found.

You know. The Cheese. If you haven’t read it, that’s a great book, by the way.

I’ll let you read the Wiki entry about the book if you’re not already familiar with it. That’ll bring you up to speed fast enough.

Got it? Good!

Lot’s of talk around the community about being bored with WoW. Should I stay or should I go now… if I leave there will be trouble… and if I stay it will be double.

Well, not really. Who cares if someone takes off to play another game for a while? Or even leaves forever?

They’re just video games, after all.

Why do I feel like, upon uttering those words, a flashmob should spawn, with someone in the back crying, “Burn the witch!”

Well, I was feeling pretty burned out about playing WoW for a bit there. I had lost a sense of why I was going through the motions, why level if I just don’t have the time to raid with a guild regularly, and if raids can’t be successful as pugs anymore, then how utterly futile. Why even bother getting to 85 if the randoms are such a pointless mess when you pug. Such… blah.

I did some shopping around. Tried out DC Universe Online, tried Champions, thought about dipping my toe into Rift… they just weren’t feeling very cheesy to me.

I may not have been turned into a newt, but I got better just the same. I found my cheese.

The Cheese.

The Cheese represents your own joy, happiness, satisfaction, contentment. It’s supposedly what you want. It’s the grand prize. It’s why you’re paying a monthly fee to play a game… to get some kind of satisfaction or enjoyment out of it, right?

Unless you’re getting paid somehow for playing, whether by selling in game items or writing about the game for money. We won’t go there. 

If you log into WoW, are you getting your cheese? Are you happy, excited, ‘”Hells yes I’m playing WoW tonight, baby!”?

Or do you feel like you’re trapped in that old 80’s commercial for Dunkin Donuts?

Time to do the dailies… the dailies. Time to gear up to raid… gotta gear up to raid.

I love that commercial.

Is that you?

If so, hey, maybe your tastes have changed. What you find enjoyable has changed. Maybe you’ve mined this node for as long as you can, and it’s time to find a fresh spot to farm.

What is important is that if you ain’t getting your cheese, then GO GET SOME. In WoW, in Rift, in mowing your lawn, whatever.

You should be feeling pretty cheesy.

If you do move on, I have one request of you;

Please don’t shit all over what other people still love to do.

If you leave WoW to play Rift, that’s cool. Have you found your cheese there? Awesome! Just don’t go and shit all over the people playing WoW just because you found YOUR cheese somewhere else. That’s pretty low class.

I know you’re enthused, holy cow hot mama, there be some tasty CHEESE over here! Come and get some of this swiss, baby, this be tops! How can you idiots still be satisfied with that smelly old limburgher, that crap be sooo old!

Just because the cheese you have found is mighty tasty over there doesn’t mean we are stupid for enjoying the cheese we have over here. So shut it. Tell us what you like, thats always a help if we’re feeling a lack of tastiness and wondering where good cheese might be found. But don’t hate on us if we are still enjoying our own cheese.

Still playing WoW? That’s cool, too. No, it IS. Just don’t shit all over the people who leave WoW because they moved on. Yes, there are still lots of awesome in WoW, but if someone ain’t loving it anymore, well, they ain’t. It may hurt like heck, but they deserve to find and enjoy their cheese TOO.

I went looking for my cheese.

I think I’ve found it. Whee!

It was hard to find, but when I get home, I’ll tell you something. I’ve got that excitement to log in again, I’ve got that energy going, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m on a new server. That’s helping. I did NOT bring all my ‘mains’ over, so I spiritually left all that baggage behind. Having a full roster on a server, with many max level characters, means that to do ANYTHING new means something has to be destroyed.

That sucks.

Even worse, all those max level characters represent quests done, experiences had, and in some cases… achievements unfulfilled.

With a new server, there is a wide open slate to fill with whatever alts trip your fancy. New struggles without Heirlooms. Well, not struggles, but without Heirloom weapons at least you’ve got to start caring about upgrades, again.

And new opportunities to craft a new experience different from those before.

I know a lot of other players have pretty much completed all of WoW. Did all reputations, did Achievements, did all of the quest zones, got Loremaster, got anything and everything that cuold be done. It’s got to be hard for them to find any fresh cheese.

I never really did. I came close on my Druid, but once I did a faction change that kinda hosed up achievement tracking.

I’ve found my new cheese, my excitement with the game simply by leveling new characters, following the quests for the zones and experiencing the way the stories have changed… and thinking about completing Loremaster for the first time.

I found myself playing my new Worgen Druid, and thinking that it would be neat to do Loremaster and full exploration as I went. With some other new alts to break in from time to time.

So I spent some of last night banging around Teldrassil, way over level, doing all of the quests so I could get Darnassus rep.

I’m well into Revered, and I’m going to hit Exalted and be riding a pretty tiger mount well before level 30 at this rate. And that sounds pretty fun to me.

It’s unquestionably a sad time in the community. People are leaving to find their cheese, and we miss them. A lot of folks are hanging on even though they ran out of cheese long ago, and they’re getting bitter and cranky about it.

I’m sorry, but it really is that simple. If you run out of cheese… go to where the cheese IS. Or, and this is always an option, make your OWN cheese!

[snicker] Sorry… I’m having a hard time working through the euphemisms here. I’ll get better in a minute.

I didn’t have to leave WoW to find new cheese… and when the cheese starts tasting stale where I’m at, then I’ll either try some new flavor of cheese, or I’ll go see if the cheese I left behind in Kael’thas has started looking pretty darn tasty.

And maybe the horse will sing.

In the meantime, I really do wish each and every one of you success in finding your cheese and cutting off a nice, fat, tasty slice.

For me, for now, my kitty Druid is providing me with a rich, smoky flavor that I’m finding very satisfying.

If I didn’t have so many other things I ALSO wanted to do, like read John Ringo’s “Life Free or Die”, or write James’ next turn, my life would be complete. So much to do, so little freaking time!

And who knows? Someday, when I hit 85 on my Druid on Azuremyst, maybe i’ll even go on some randoms or something? The mind boggles!

In conclusion, I leave you with a little hawt kitty lovin’.

Supersonic and lightspeed!

I’ve been asked via email, “How the heck do you keep writing so diligently? How do you sit in front of a keyboard and find words to put down on the screen? Any suggestions? kthxbai!”

The idea someone would send ME that kind of question makes me want to laugh my ass off.

But hey, look… 1300+ posts and counting. How the heck did that happen? Oh yeah… one day at a time, that’s how.

It’s the kind of question that doesn’t apply to you… until it does, if you know what I mean.

Here, revealed at last, is the grand secret of how I keep consistently writing blog posts here without fading away into the obscurity I so richly deserve.

I sit my ass down and write.

Now, I’m not being sarcastic. I know it seems that way, but that IS the grand secret. It’s the trick, the one thing that lets everything else happen. I sit my ass down and write something.

I don’t put it off, I don’t put other things before it, I don’t say to myself “I want to write a post but I don’t have time right now, I’ll do it later”, and then later say “Oh, I was going to write a post but it’s too late now, I’ll do it tomorrow”, and then tomorrow say ‘Oh, man, I’ve got a crazy day today, I’ll sit down and write something when I get home.”

I sit my ass down and write. I try to do it every single day.

I may not have a finished post at the end of it to hit ‘publish’ on, although I often do. Sometimes I write the PBeM story chapters, and sure, those now go up on the blog too, so you see ’em eventually. I also do other writing that you don’t see, background and research and fundamentals of civic structure and magical systems and military structures and all sorts of other stuff that may not ever see the phosphor-laden screen (or the iridiscent shine of LEDs) but help provide the foundation that my other creative writing is built from.

But I write.

I damn well sit down and write. Even if I have no idea what to say, no thought in my head, nothing going on… or too much going on, all of it seeming petty and meaningless and unworthy of dumping on your feeds.

Here’s the miracle of writing; once you start typing, words start laying themselves out, one after another. Pretty soon, sentences are formed. Whole chapters can develop, and before you know it… you have either dredged up some actual cohesive topic to write about and can keep going, and just go back and clean up that mess in the beginning later… or you can just keep going with inane crap until you kick start your brain.

For god’s sake, don’t tear it up and start over! Push on through, see what comes out. You can always go back and delete stuff later.

A second little secret? Sometimes, that wierd shit you plop down that comes from the back of your head, rambling and disjointed and all over the place, that can be some of the funnest stuff to read later. Save that post as a draft, come back to it sometime, and somewhere in that crazy will be something you will just tee off of, and say, “Oh wow, what was I on that day? Hey, that gives me an idea…”

Sit down and write. Make a point of it. Every day, in some way, do some writing that is for you, that is your own creative ‘kick out the jams’, blow the dust off your head, get the thoughts out of YOU and somewhere else where you can look at them, and give them the sound thrashing they deserve. It makes you feel good to get stuff out of where it’s crammed down in your gut, get it out there and just away. Put it in a blog post, put it into someone else’s words in a story, put it into an angst laden missive in your black leather bound diary with the red rose on the cover, but get some writing done.

How do you know it’s good?

Third secret. You never, ever, think that what you wrote was actually good. The best you can hope for is to look at what you’ve written, and say ‘Those are my thoughts, written my way, and I own them. That’s me on a page. Right, wrong or batshit crazy, hit publish and put it behind me. On to the next post!”

You can be writing theorycrafting articles, screenshots of a summer day, or a short story poem in iambic pentameter (whatever the hell THAT is), and if you are emotionally invested in what you wrote, you’ll think it sucks. Well, maybe not suck, but you sure won’t think it’s really good enough for OTHER people to read. If it’s REALLY good, you’ll be secretly proud of it… and then you’ll really not want to share it, because once you’re that emotionally invested in it, if other people don’t like it, damn that can HURT like a mo’fo.

Publish it anyway. Yes, you are risking some serious pain, but who said writing was for cowards and chickenshits? This is the real deal, this is your heart and soul out there for reals… you don’t do this if you’re a coward. DO IT. PUBLISH. And hell take the hindmost.

Fourth secret. When you write something and have those thoughts that it’s not worth posting, it’s not good enough for other people to read, it sucks, why did you waste your time… post it. Check for spelling and punctuation if you must, give it a last reading for sentence structure and grammar if it makes you feel better, but above all else… read it to yourself as though you were speaking it aloud, and if it sounds like how you’d talk to your most trusted and loved bestest friend, if it comes out smooth and clean and sounding like your conversational voice (or your ranting shouty voice screaming at the idiot that pulled the whole room and then ragequit after cursing at you for 5 minutes in that run last night)… POST IT!

We are not copywriters. Copywriters have very specific rules for professional writing, and they are there, and work the way they do, for a reason.

If you want to write, write. Strive to infuse your personality into your writing. Don’t worry about the rules, those are usually there to try and keep from alienating the short attention span reader. I say, screw that. Don’t focus on tailoring your message to the reader, focus on nailing your message presented YOUR WAY.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again one time; if a hundred people read what you wrote, you will never keep all one hundred reader’s interest. The best you can hope for is to keep the interest of the people who will LIKE THE WAY YOU WRITE.

That said, when starting out, it can be reassuring to have some tips and guidelines to follow. Follow rules if they really help you feel more confidant, if they provide a sort of safety net when you’re out there on the high wire and the spotlight is shining on you and only you. Just don’t let them be the crutch you use to tell you when you’ve written a ‘good’ post.

The best set of copywriting rules I’ve seen anywhere can be found here. Just thought I’d share.

Do I follow those rules?

Nope.

Not because I’m smarter than them, or better, or any other pretentious crap. I don’t worry about the smart tips, because I’m already writing how I love to write. I’m not writing to please an imagined reader, and I’m not trying to take somebody else’s idea and spin it out into an article for a magazine for a steady paycheck. I’m not here to clear the personality from my writing and follow a set pattern; I’m here to blow off some steam, and along the way to use the words I write as I was once told you were supposed to use the words of a poem; to get my thoughts and feelings out there clear and clean for others to see.

If it takes me a bearwall to do it, I do it, not because I think you’re stupid and need shit spelled out for you, but because I’m having fun writing! I don’t want it to stop, sometimes.

Look, here’s the thing. If you’ve always wanted to write, but just don’t know how, you sit down, today, and you write something. I don’t give a shit what it is, take your grocery list from the weekend and turn it into a short story of how you had to escape from ninja pirates that had your house surrounded, and you only had THOSE few items to work with. Plus a kitchen, hey, I’m crazy, not stupid. How would you do it?

Or take some topic, I don’t care what, reach out and grab something from the air. Spelunking. Gravestone rubbings. Whether or not mallard ducks fart while they fly. I don’t care, just pick something. Then write about it. Just start typing it the way you’d say it, and go from there. See where you can take it. Tell yourself a story.

Write anything. But do it.

Put the writing in front of other things, instead of putting other things in front of writing. You can start off the day going to work, promising yourself “When I take my break I’m going to spend 10 minutes writing about x.” Maybe you won’t actually be ABLE to write during your break… but you’ll have been thinking in the back of your head about what you wanted to write all morning. It will be going around back in the ol’ noggin, and that’s some great stuff that comes out of there when you let it simmer long enough.

I take a USB memory stick with me to work most days, and over lunch I’ll do some writing, and save whatever I’ve got on there to bring back home. I may not have much, but just thinking about what to write during the day gets the typing process all smoothed out later.

Of course, there are those horrible moments when you just nail that internal dialogue. You come up with just the most awesome plot twist that sells your entire story to you, you know JUST the right tone to take, you get the words nailed down, ohh it gives you shivers it’s so awesome!… and then later you forgot what it was when you sit down to write it. Oh man, that’s got to be writer hell, right there.

Even with that, I think it’s worth it.

Anyway, for the budding writer, I’m as serious as I can be. You want to be a writer, then sit your ass down and make time to write. When you’re not writing, take time to THINK about what you’re GOING to write. Make it something you do.

And even though you think it sucks, if it sounds like you when you read it out loud to yourself… publish it, and then MOVE ON TO THE NEXT WRITING.

If you happen to have your own tips for consistent writing, by all means share them below. After all, I ain’t kidding when I say that you never really publish something and think that it’s freaking brilliantly awesome… and if you do, trust me. You were wrong. 🙂

I hope you all have a great week, and I truly hope that this trend of ever-growing numbers of blog writers continues. I love seeing so many new voices rising out of the wilderness. Send your posts like an arrow into the heart of mediocrity, for you cheer me up immensely when you do.

Oh, and that blog post title up there? I sat down today to write a post, with absolutely nothing on my mind but inane crap. The words ‘Supersonic’ and ‘Lightspeed’ popped into my head, so I wrote them for a blog title. And then I started writing a post that had nothing to do with those words at all, because that’s where my fingers and the back of my head took me. I didn’t try to force myself to write something related to those words when it wasn’t coming.

I could go back and change the title now… but I think that constitutes a last little secret all on it’s own.

Would you like to appear in my story?

Hello, my friends.

This is for those of you that have been enjoying the ongoing adventures of Baron Terin Trendel and Jessie MacQuarrie in Converging Forces.

Things are moving ahead pretty rapidly now, and it recently occured to me that as a blog writer, I’m not really doing all I could to have the Converging Forces part of the blog be as interactive as the rest of it.

I view the blog as an ongoing chat with my friends, which all of you are if you’re a returning reader, and each new blog post is my seeding the conversation. I toss something out there and then we chat about it. I share my thoughts with you, you share yours with me… it’s all interactive fun.

Plus, it keeps me sane during long days at work, reminding me that the world isn’t actually 100% bloody idiots. Sometimes I need that, don’t you?

But the Converging Forces is so passive. I have two friends with characters in it, and they interact with me as I write the turns, and then the finished chapter is presented as something to read. There’s not interaction with YOUR ideas, there’s no place for you to get into the story yourself. 

Sure you can comment, but it’s not affecting anything in the story. It’s not the same.

Well, I’m gonna start thinking of ways to change that. 🙂

Manny, who plays Jessie MacQuarrie in Converging Forces, likes to tell the story of when his long distance friend was running a sci-fi role playing campaign, and had Manny role play the part of the big bad guy overlord boss the player character were working against, for well… years, I think, without them ever knowing that they were trying to outthink anyone other than the GM.

I’m not talking about going that far, at least not just yet. I’m gonna start a bit smaller first.

My first idea to implement is to see if any of my readers would be interested in seeing themselves as a non-player character somewhere in the story.

If you are interested, it’s not a contest or a competition, but here is what you can do;

Compose an email to me at thebigbearbutt@gmail.com with the following;

  • Title of the post should say “My idea for a character in Converging Forces”
  • The name you would like your non-player character to have in the story.
  • Whether you would like to be good, evil, or have some particular quirk of personality or motivation.
  • Describe in a short paragraph key points of personality and appearance that would help you feel as if the NPC shared something more with your imagination than name alone. 

You can add in anything you’d like AFTER that, but it’ll help me to get a quick idea of where you’re going with your idea, and how I might be able to fit it into my world.

An elven lass from distant shores, traveling the land and healing it of it’s wounds from the ancient devastation a thousand years gone by? A grizzled human veteran, now serving in some force somewhere, that had once ridden with Baron Terin during the wild days of the fall of Madrigal? A named critter that serves as mentor for a brief time, a barmaid making a brief appearance, a noble of a neighboring Duchy, or bad guy minions or even mid-level tough guys (and ladies) are not out of the question, just so you know.

Let’s have some fun here.

Email that in to me starting now, and if it’s something I can work with in the near future, I will email you back and let you know so you can watch for it in the weeks and months ahead. For this round, I will stop looking for submissions this next Friday, March 25th.

I have absolutely no idea if anyone is going to like the idea, but I think it sounds fun. I hope it does to you as well.

Disclaimer:

I do not promise that your named NPC will have a recurring role, or indeed anything other than a walk-on part as someone that appears briefly only to die in a horrible, gruesome death like any of hundreds of Red Shirted security officers in Star Trek. However, if I do use your proposed NPC idea, you understand up front that if I publish the final, much revised version of Converging Forces someday, that all characters appearing in the story are used by your implicit permission. So please, do not offer me your favorite character that is a key component of your own work, you may regret it someday when you go to publish.