Blaugust: Free Ideas Lockbox!

Here we go, fashionably late to Blaugust Reborn 2018.

  • August 1st – August 7th – Topic Brainstorming Week – posts about ideas for topics that the participants can then mine for the rest of the month.

So a fun tip for all the WordPress blogs out there:

You can pull up a random post from way back when, simply by adding /?random to the blog link.

For example, https://whyigame.wordpress.com/?random will likely link you back to one of my rants written during my more prolific days.

This discovery has quite thrown me down the reading rabbit hole as now I’m starting to reread all my old posts (boy, I sure had a lot more ideas in those days) and then running around to someone else’s WordPress blog and sampling some ?random posts of theirs too.

Now there is no excuse for not being able to riff off someone’s else blog posts, because you can rummage in their back bin of history to vehemently disagree with their opinion of seven years ago.

treasurechest

Much like a lockbox, you may end up clicking and opening a bunch of crap first, but persist and you might get lucky and discover an ideas treasure trove that inspires a blog post of your own.

What is old is new once again.

And hey, it’s free and kinda addictive.

Blogger users are, sadly, out of luck on this one. It appears to take a lot more arcane coding beyond my comprehension to do the same thing on Blogspot. But hey, y’all have the best blogroll out there.

Short Format Experiments

Oh look, a post!

Such a crazy, elusive, rare sighting it has become.

The good news is, I kinda miss blogging and want to get back into the swing of things.

The bad news is, I don’t think I actually have the time for it, given the immense spread of projects I have on my plate lately.

This is not a To Do list.

imightforgetlist

This is merely a list of Routine Things I’d Like to Get Done Every Night But am Most Liable to Forget if Not Written Down.

There are plenty of other individual project-related things (eg. scan books, work on a Minecraft goal), non-routine things (eg. explore new patch content from GW2, or actually blog) and really-obvious-routine things (eg. shower and eat dinner) that fight for attention.

Still, it’s a three-day-in experiment into trying to cope with the rather ridiculous propensity of ALL games these days to over-utilize dailies of some kind or another.

Obviously, if I’m not actively playing the game, I don’t give a hoot. (Sorry, Dragonvale, Trove, Cooking Fever, Marvel Heroes, other games I am not interested in and thus have entirely erased any offhand memory as to the existence of daily log-ins, quests, challenges, to-dos.)

But GW2 alone, at the level I want to play at, in order to progress on certain arbitrarily self-chosen goals, is enough to require a bloody reference list.

Anyhow, the other piece of good news, such that it is, is that reading about the impending (chill) Blaugust has got me thinking about attempting another kind of experiment into scheduling and habit-setting and juggling routines.

While not actually officially participating in Blaugust (because that implies a level of commitment I don’t have the confidence for -right now-) it occurs to me that I have, once upon a time, wanted to experiment with shorter format posts.

It is quite unthinkable -currently- to find the time daily to write said short format posts.

It is, however, -potentially- possible that I might be able to find time on a weekend to write a -couple- of short format posts.

Which then get scheduled out and posted daily the following week.

In theory.

Maybe.

I might try.

Worth giving a shot, at any rate.

superherofeels

And in a complete non-sequitur, I would like to state for the record that I had an epic City of Heroes moment, a vibe that sent nostalgic superhero chills running down my spine, recalling Eden trials and Hamidon raids, in the latest map to hit GW2.

Some fifty to a hundred heroes in flight. Check.

Gaudy colors and costumes. Check.

Gliding -together-, towards a map-wide boss fight. Check.

That moment of shared experience, attention and focus funneled in one direction. Priceless.

The current zerg size somewhat obscures the potential right now, I think, overpowering the encounter via brute force, but in time, as the crowd dissipates somewhat, there might be something pretty cool here.

P.S. My non-spoilery first impression thoughts on the story bits of the first episode of Living Story Season 3 can be found in a quick comment on Bhagpuss’ well-covered non-spoilery patch summary.

NBI: Dear Reader, I Have Nothing to Write About

Foo, quaggan is writer's blocked!

You may have noticed that I’ve been alternating between silence and incoherence for the last month or two.

I wish I knew why.

I might have fallen out of the blogging habit when I went full tilt obsession into Path of Exile, giving up my usual routine in favour of devoting more hours into achieving an arbitrary challenge.

It might have begun even earlier, when I settled into a comfortable daily routine of a couple games that made me happy and decided not to get all huffy and bothered about other people playing other games or not playing my games.

The problem is that there are only so many blog posts one can write about doing the same stuff in a game and being content, nor can one muster enough interest to care much or spend time thinking about topics beyond that narrow focus.

It could be because I’m feeling rather lost and aimless in my current set of games. I’ve definitely hit ‘endgame’ some time ago, so most of the activities are essentially busywork – do a bunch of things to maybe get a rare RNG chance at improvement or adding to a collection, or gather a bunch of things that will increment an achievement or collection.

It’s not grind, because grind implies a lack of enjoyment and enduring to get to the end reward.

I still -like- doing the activities. I’m not forced into doing the activities every day. I can and have skipped days. Given a choice, though, I’ll do these activities over not doing them because I want to do them and have fun in the process of doing them.

afarmingweshallgo

But really, it’s a toss up over whether you’ll come over to mercy kill me if I wrote blog posts entitled “Day 1 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 2 – Farmed Silverwastes,” “Day 3 – Farmed Silverwastes,” or if I bored myself to death writing about it first.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I just can’t help but wonder… Is there something more I could be doing? Something new to write about?

The irony has not escaped me that I am battling a bout of Blogger’s Block during the same month as this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Given this struggle, I cannot muster sufficient energy to officially be a blog sponsor of any kind, but it strikes me as a great opportunity for putting my money where my mouth is and practising what I preach.

This month of May, I’m going to write. And write. And write some more.

I hope to do this alongside the new and returning bloggers that are joining us for this exciting, exhausting, intriguing, infuriating, depressing, uplifting, agonizing, engaging and altogether roller-coaster journey of distilling one’s thoughts into words…

…and offering them up as a gift to oneself and others.

There is a beautiful energy and synergy in the shared struggle, one topic spinning off from another, one blogger’s post inspiring a string of others, knowing that we’re not alone.

(I desperately need that energy to kickstart my blog writing again, and I hope in turn to contribute to the spirit of the NBI with the posts produced.)

I’ll be creating a modest set of goals, so as not to burn myself out in the striving, and also to create a fun writing challenge and a change of pace.

The target is a blog post of 500-1000 words, every 1-3 days or so.

And I’ll end off with a writing prompt or blog idea or exercise of some kind, to help combat that uncomfortable moment of staring at a blank page and having no ideas (or worse, deciding that one has nothing to write about, and avoiding sitting down in front of the blank page in the first place. Guilty.)

NBI Writing Exercise #1: So, you have nothing to write about. No ideas. Zilch. Your real life is boring. Your game life is boring.

No one, including yourself, could care less about the routine of incrementing some number or another, but you’re still doing it anyway, for reasons that escape you.

It’s time to freewrite.

Open a blank document or get a piece of paper – something different than your usual blogging method – and just start writing about how you have nothing to write about.

However you want. Stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments. Loose grammar. Every ohter word misspeled. Whatever.

Brood about why; philosophize; throw in random ideas and things you might want to do in the future; discuss what another person might do in your stead; talk about things you hate; talk about things you love; talk about things that you have a ‘meh’ response to, and why; go with the flow of where the writing takes you.

Keep freewriting until you’ve stirred some threads of interest, something that makes you go “hmm, maybe there’s something here.”

It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be a fully formed thought. You just need a tiny thread of something that vaguely resonates, that you can pick up and explore further in writing, and right there, that’s your next blog post in potentia.

NBI: To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

Breaking News: Grumpy old fart pandering for relinking and pageviews takes controversial stance on starting a new blog in 2014.

He advises: “Don’t. There’s more modern means to start a discussion. And you won’t become famous.”

Sure.

If you want a lively, quick firing, discussion comprising of short sentences – there’s Twitter, Reddit and various forums.

If you want to be famous, try Youtube videos, assuming you have the face, voice and personality for it.

However:

If you want a personal platform to pen your thoughts, express your opinions and practice writing…

… AND produce content that people at work can sneakily read so they aren’t bored out of their minds…

Then

BLOG.

This post was brought to you by the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014: Decreasing Work Productivity by 8% Annually.

NBI: A Behind-the-Scenes Example of My Writing Process

Ok, the truth is that I write a lot of these posts off-the-cuff and in the browser form because I usually have something I’m dying to say.

I’ve also been using a very similar tone of voice and writing style for a long time now, and used to do a great deal of freewriting before.

So I know I can backtrack and edit a word here and there to make things read more smoothly, and then get back to where I was without missing too many beats.

I don’t do a lot of revision on this blog because I enjoy the rawness that seeps out from something fairly -close- to freewriting, with just minor edits for readability. It’s a stylistic choice.

Other blogs are more formal and you can expect that they did quite a bit of clean up and formatting to get to that point. Write how you like.

But when I struggle, that’s when I pop open the word processor and start typing up a document’s worth of junk that will probably never see the light of day, but serve as a crucial link in the writing process.

Today, I want to share with you all the behind-the-scenes stuff that people sometimes don’t tell you they go through before that perfect-looking piece on the page:

As an example, we’ll be taking the sonnet challenge that Syl gave me for the poetry slam.

1) Research. Google. See what others have had to say.

Petrarchan sonnet? What the hell is a Petrarchan sonnet?

My old high school literature teacher would probably be very sad that everything had returned to her, but in truth, I had no idea. Google to the rescue. Some research later, I figured, okay, I can do that, and accepted the challenge.

teq-landscape

2) Take screenshots. Formulate preliminary ideas.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I had anything more to say about Tequatl.

I joined TTS. I have him on farm. (For now, till I or critical mass gets bored.) The waiting sucks. All themes I’ve covered before.

I did know that I wanted some better quality screenshots than the low-res ones I get in a hundred man zerg. Maybe that might spark some ideas.

So I camped out at odd hours on the main Sparkfly instance, when as predicted, barely a soul shows up any longer, even on the Tarnished Coast and got some nice ones.

(You can skip this if you don’t need screenshots in your blog post, but I personally find it fun and part of my creative expression.)

Unfortunately, after looking at the screenshots (of which I take a bunch and pick the nicest, just like freewriting and revising), I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about Teq.

In a bloody poem too.

teq-landing

3) Preliminary poem phrases, structure and format.

Fortunately, poetry has restrictions, and Petrarchan sonnets have quite a bunch. So in my Word document, I wrote out the rhyme scheme.

a
b
b
a
a
b
b
a

c
d
e
c
d
e

The sonnet is also separated into two parts, an octave (first 8 lines) and a sestet (last 6 lines.) A change from the first rhyme group to the next is supposed to signify a change in the subject matter or the tone of the poem in some way.

Then I scribbled my first ideas, completely ignoring rhyme schemes or iambic pentameter, just trying to solidify some sense of theme.

First verse, herald his majesty (stuff we love about Teq)
his animations – his rock jumping, the clarity of his attacks
the awesome splendor of multiple embers popping
the incredible surge of a hundred names all commited on the same task
beating on a shatterer that ignores you just isn't the same

Second verse, do a heel turn about him (stuff we hate about Teq)
alarm clock camping and all that waiting is boring
can only see in low pixels or I'll crash
where's mah LOOT, dammit
still no mini
the home server sparkflies are emptied

As you can see, ridiculously messy. But we are comfortable with messes when creating.

I started a list of phrases and images I liked. Maybe they could be fitted in later. (Once your brain starts working on a problem, have notepaper handy, some of these turned up while half-asleep or in the shower.)

the spectacle draws crowds from servers all / far

Surely better rewards so endless the wait
As time wears by, that love doth turns to hate
the longer the wait
hark, the dragon, it is swiftly brought low
the players eagerly race to the chest
mass dis appoint ment reigns, still not hing good
with/in time, the more that love doth turn to hate
Shall I compare thee to a starless night?
'Gainst the Shattered dragon, crystalline blight
there is no wait but no risk
just punching bag the foot
be still, my heart
and how one charr can turn the tides
the more that love abides

the loot dismays
eclipse
cool
Majesty
cruel
low pixel
luscious
swamp
poisonous caress of thy fingers
thousand embers burning
the roar of a hundred embers
lava fonts blossoming
champion of Zhaitan

4) Freewrite

I was still having problems figuring out what I wanted to say. Peter Elbow to the rescue. Skimmed the chapter “Poetry as no big deal.” Decided to do a verbose dump instead.

Today I'm trying to freewrite and figure out what I want to say about Tequatl. I've gotten a number of somewhat satisfactory screenshots, though I am still unable to get a single good quality picture in a big zerg. So Teq is still gonna look shitty in combat pictures. Now what I want is some power, rather than fakeness in my writing.
I like Teq's design – their model, the fight mechanics are nifty, the animations are clear and well signposted as to what to do and when. There's a lot of small things that people can get better at. Dodging, killing hypnoss, maintaining repair focus, etc.

The camping around for hours is fucking annoying though. For a good hour, I'm busy looking for things to do in the other screen. I've web browsed till I'm sick of it. I've been trying to play games on my mobile phone.

And we do all this for what? The hope of a good lottery reward. Ok, the consolation prize is not bad. A bunch of blues and greens for magic find and some paltry amount of gold for your time.

The experience of it was nice the first few times. But now it's just an obsessive habit. Eventually I suppose I will have to stop. But it's just hard to stop because you're scared of losing out, and since there's such a huge demand and overflows filling, you just kinda feel like you have to get in on it or lose out to everyone else.

The fight itself is pretty fun and exciting.
The wait is NOT. It is anything but.

I like the fight. I like being in the zerg and supporting and being supported. To see the might stacks going. The trickle of healing keeping everyone upright. The ability to plunk a warbanner down and see a bunch of people rezzed. I like being able to watch Tequatl's animations, his foot slam down and dodge a second after, and the satisfaction of seeing evaded pop up at the right time to avoid his shockwave. I like seeing his hands plunge into the ground, knowing the fingers will be poping up and dropping a wall of reflection in a square or triangle to protect the zerg. I like that all this just gels and synergizes without having to state exactly how.

I love turret defence. I love being on guard for the finger and getting ready to hack it down. The satisfaction of knowing that you're the one interposing themselves between a turret operator that is relying on you and a risen ready to bite their face off. I love the pleasure of being able to go all assassin and precision strike down a hypnoss, and watching all his summons fall apart and explode, removing targets from others flailing away wildly, not knowing who to properly kill. I love moving the mouse to scan all three of the turrets' health – they are my babies, and I will grab a hammer and repair them if they're the slightest bit dented or scratched. A job well done means turrets firing in uninterrupted unison, scales kept down, cleanses going, the zerg functions because things went right here.

I hate the wait. It is a bunch of standing around doing nothing. Of listening to obnoxious dribbles of what passes for small talk over mapchat or teamspeak. Words cannot describe how boring it is. Of being chained to your computer, afraid to afk for too long. The compulsion to check the screen every so often. It is a major turn-off. It is something to be endured. A marathon of dead soul boredom.

Creativity tries to arise by looking for a million and one other things to do. Maybe I can watch a video in the other screen. Read a book. Play a browser game. Pick up my phone and play a mobile game of tower defence. Side procrastination. Doing anything but playing the actual game. Enforced period of non-gameplayingness. I'm getting ridiculously good at Bloons TD5.ss

You see? Freewriting is messy. But this could be cleaned up very easily into a proper blog post.

I -did- have more to say about Tequatl, after all.

One of the more important revelations for myself was that I actually reveled in the fight. The combat was a thrill. I liked dodging at the right time based on his well-signaled animations and NPC chatter. The simultaneous charge of zerg and embers to and fro from the megalaser has to be experienced to be believed. And I could do turret defence a thousand times and not get bored, it just checks all the protective tank aspects of my soul.

I tried another love/hate verse to get the theme down.

I like the Teq fight
The experience in the moment is unmatched
The charge of the foot zerg back and forth
The blossoming of embers during the burn phase
Turret defence sings to my tank soul

I hate the waiting for hours to get to it
I'm getting so good at not playing GW2
The loot sucks
It has become an obessive habit to camp Teq
I want to stop but I'm scared of losing out

Wasn’t quite it either.

The last two lines are also pretty significant to me, but they just didn’t fit into the structure of the poem, and so were cut. (For now.)

But from the false starts, I determined that I liked the ‘sunless day’ and ‘starless night’ lines, that I had Shatterer screenshots that I wanted to include, and that I liked the repeated wordplay of ‘love turning to hate’ and ‘love abiding.’

So suddenly I knew there had to be TWO sonnets. (Dammit.)

The first verse of the first sonnet would be relatively eager, turning to disappointment and ‘hate’ by the second verse. The first verse of the second sonnet would continue from that mood of dismay, then twist back to love (which for me, would be love of the fight.)

5) Edit. Prune. Revise. Fill in the Blanks. Repeat. Iterate.

I had enough to get started on an actual draft of the poem. (If not, I would have freewritten some more. Maybe put on some music for more ideas and tap into one’s emotions.)

I placed the lines I knew I wanted into position. Began counting syllables and making sure they (somewhat) fit iambic pentameter. Ten syllables. Unstressed, then stressed. da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. (As much as possible, though I got lazy in parts.)

I very knowingly chose words with LOTS of rhymes for my a b b a lines. Then decided to get all fancy and do an echoing b a a b twist for the second sonnet.

And tried to fit in as much of my prior generated imagery as possible while going line by line and trying to tell some kind of story with the whole thing.

shattererfoot

6) Format. Add pictures. Ruthlessly cut pictures that were nice but couldn’t fit.

The final round of revision is via the blog post preview.

After all my trouble with the verses, I didn’t want them separated line by line with screenshots. So I only had room in between the verses to fit them in.

I had too many screenshots.

I DIED to take some of those screenshots.

I tried to fit two screenshots in between the verses.

Looked terrible.

I cried a little inside (and my asura who gave his body is surely not happy about it) but ruthlessly cut them anyway. (Note to self: write new blog post so that I can show them off.)

You can see them here instead. Because they’re still pretty. (Oh hey!)

teq-clawstrike

TL;DR:

Writing can be messy. And that’s okay.

Whatever gets you to the final product in the end.