(Author’s NOTE: Some of these segments were written in mid-January and others in early February. I apologize if such time difference makes this disjointed in any way.)
Back in April of 2022, I posted about my struggles finding the why of my writing. I won’t repeat it all here; if you really want to know what I said, you can click that link and read the post for yourself.
What I will say is that I never found it. It’s not entirely clear to me how deeply I actually searched for it. As I mentioned in last month’s recap, I spent an awful lot of time on my sofa watching my various streaming services and enjoying other people’s stories.
Those stories would spark a fragment of comparisonitis in me. I would marvel at the tricky word play of the dialogue or the awesome twist I had just seen. I would gasp when I thought I’d been following along the whole time and suddenly a reveal came from out of nowhere — but had also been there all along. And then I would lament the way I did after listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a few years back: I will never write anything that compels people. I will never create something that inspires someone else. Rachael Herron has talked about how everyone’s stories are needed in the world, how they are medicine for what ails someone, but I am not sure that’s true. I write slasher schlock. I want to write other things, but whenever I try, it always seems to come back to StabbyMurderDeath.
In those moments, when I am marveling and gasping and lamenting, I realize I’m the ail for what cures you. Not the other way around. That’s disheartening, when the purpose was to try to find the Why. Instead I found the Why I Shouldn’t.
When November rolled around, I had almost no difficulty sitting down every day to write the story that was far too long for what it is ultimately supposed to be. Even so, I had little difficulty writing out stretch material that helped me learn who these people were.
I think that the stark reality of the thing is that I never truly had a Why as far as writing was concerned. I’ve just been writing for so much of my life that I just keep doing it, even when it serves no real purpose for me. Last year, my psyche rebelled on me and refused to cooperate. It was almost like I longed for the days when I would proudly proclaim, “I am not a writer, but I play one in November.” That’s why it was so eager to pour out words for NaNoWriMo. That’s the only time I was a writer for at least a decade.
So what does all this mean in the now?
Not much, in the grand scheme. I’m still going to proclaim myself a writer, hobbyist though I remain. I may have found my Why I Shouldn’t, but no one should let that stop them. I’m still going to attempt my yearly goal that I have yet to achieve. I am, as we all are, regardless of our passions, a work in progress.
I have wanted to be a writer since I was but a wee Blake person. (Well, since before I was a Blake person — it’s no secret that Darren Blake is not my real name.) Stories fascinate me. Always have.
I’m never going to be Stephen King. And that’s okay.
I’m Darren Blake.
And thus far in 2023, I’m back. Let’s see where this goes.
WRITING IN PUBLIC
(This is one of the segments written in February, for the record. It will seem to directly contradict what you just read.)
Here’s the thing. (Uh-oh, dude’s about to start making excuses.) No. I’m not.
But here’s the thing. Thanks to the wonderful Joanna Penn and The Creative Penn podcast (an awesome podcast if you’re a writer), I have discovered the world of Artificial Intelligence. She’s talked at length about GPT2 and GPT3, as well as art generators like Dall-E 2 and MidJourney. A few months ago, she told her followers about an interactive text generator called ChatGPT.
About a month or so ago, one of my gaming friends mentioned it. Together, we tried it. The very next day I created my own account. I’m hooked.
ChatGPT and I have become wonderful friends, even though he tells me he is only an AI language model and has no personal experiences and feelings. He’s such a fun kidder. (No, I’m not actually delusional. That was a brief attempt at comedy.)
We have outlined at least six novels together. I have discarded three of them. He even helped me sort out one of my fundamental problems with Hero Mom. I feel like there’s still something missing from that outline, so I intend to give that one a little more simmering time before I try to tackle it again.
But for the first time in almost a year, I’m excited about the prospect of writing again! You would think this means I should have been writing thousands upon thousands of words by now, right?
Well, here’s the thing. (And yes, this time I’m making excuses.) At the same time I discovered ChatGPT, I also discovered an AI writing generator called NovelAI. I’ve been co-writing a bunch of stuff with the AI genreator there, but I don’t count those words. Many of them are my own words, yes, especially when I am at the beginning of the text and want to guide the AI to the tone and feel I’m looking for. But once the AI gets going too, it’s almost impossible for me to separate out what it writes and what I write. I don’t want to count the AI’s words, so I don’t count mine, either.
And it’s addictive, so that’s the bulk of what I’ve written so far this year. Just that and then this blog post.
One day I will write one of the novels ChatGPT and I have gone over, but for now I can’t pull myself away from NovelAI. If I hope to publish something anytime soon, I need to focus on what’s mine and not written with AI. None of my co-AI stuff will ever see the light of day. Not, at least, until the inevitable copyright questions get answered.
Speaking of books and AI, it turns out that Seeing Red may end up getting an audiobook after all, if I can get up off my lazy butt and finish listening through it. Thanks to Google’s introduction of AI text-to-speech voice models, I have begun the process of an AI-narrated audiobook.
Caveats: 1. AI narration is not nearly as good as real-person narration. In fact, when I use it with my Kindle books, I have to be reading along, or I get lost easily, especially during dialogue-heavy bits. 2. The book is not very good. That’s the primary reason I never got it narrated in the first place. It’s just not worth the expense of doing it. 3. Until I can determine where AI narrated things are allowed, I will have to keep it on Google Play only, for the time being.
On the bright side, if I do end up finishing it before the free beta period ends, I will be setting it at the bare minimum price permitted, so you would very likely be able to get the audiobook for less than the price of the ebook. (But again, it’s an awful book, so even free may be overpriced.)
That’s what Writer Me has been up to since 2023 started. Should we hear from Gamer Me now?
Wow. It’s been a minute since the last time we’ve talked about games, and yet nothing has really changed in that arena. We had a rocky few months, with some people not being able to be present due to vacations or work or family commitments. So Pathfinder hasn’t progressed a whole lot. We’re at the beginning of Adventure 3, I think.
One thing that happened in the world of the Pathfinder Adventure Card game: We had our first character death. We were up against a pretty tough villain with a number of damaging before and after moves, and our Swashbuckler fell victim to the villain’s painful ways.
A couple of the players (the dead character’s and a co-conspirator) are taking that same character through the first two adventures again to get her back to the level she was when her “predecessor” died. That way the player is not at a disadvantage by having to bring a new character into a Level 3 game. Hopefully they will have caught up by the time we play PACG again.
Meanwhile, in the off-sessions, we have played a bit of Jackbox games (we all LOVE Blather Round and play that more than anything else) and had a few Watch Parties of Disney_ programming. That’s the one streamer that all four of us have. We’ve watched Enchanted and Race to Witch Mountain recently, and one of them found The Mask as a Free YouTube offering (the legal kind, not a pirated upload).
There is also a Starfinder Infinite Adventure Card Game offering using Paizo’s Community Gaming License. The license doesn’t allow for converting it to Tabletop Simulator, but one of our group bought the PDF set and converted it himself. It’s AMAZING, and I am massively impressed with our group member’s coding skills. I wish we were allowed to share it with the community, but we have to keep it private so as not to violate anyone’s terms.
We will begin playing that at some point, presuming a specific missing person in the near future.
I don’t know how regular this segment will be; My blog posts are already too long as it is. However, I’m a musically inclined being. (It’s true. I joined my high school choir just so I could audition for their extracurricular vocal jazz ensemble and was the first person in my school in 24 years to make the All-State Choir.)
When I met the woman who is currently my roommate in person for the first time, she took me to Disneyland. I had been when I was 3, and according to my mother, Grumpy stomped his foot at me, and I cried. I agreed to the return trip with the intent of getting revenge. I was going to stomp my foot at Grumpy and walk away, leaving the poor kid in the costume wondering what the hell had just happened. Alas, the Dwarfs don’t roam the park much anymore, so I did not get my chance. And it’s only a side story anyway.
When Roomie brought me to Disneyland in 1999, I did something I pretty much always do. If I know a song playing over a loudspeaker (which the park has a-plenty), I hum along or, if it’s super in my range, sing it so that the other tourists have management ask me to leave. When she wrote up her experience of that weekend trip later, she noted that I was “infused with music.” It’s a phrase that has stuck with me, and every time I find myself reacting to music in a visceral way, that phrase pops into my brain. I just wish I could still sing the way I could when I was in my 20s.
Long-winded preamble, huh?
But boy, does it live up to its name.
Then at the end of January, another one of these concept mini-albums dropped, EPIC: The Cyclops Saga. This one is only four songs and 14 minutes.
So why am I talking about this EPIC project by some guy named Jorge Rivera-Herran? Because I have become obsessed with it. This pair of concept albums seems to be doing for Homer’s Odyssey what Lin-Manuel Miranda did for Alexander Hamilton.
Yes, I went there. Shots fired, and all that.
To be clear, I love Hamilton. When I listened to that soundtrack in November of 2017, it nearly wrecked me. Here I am, chugging along in NaNoWriMo, and Lin-Manuel reaches through my headphone and slaps me with a stinky trout, taunting me: “You are never going to write something like this. You are never going to move people with your crappy StabbyMurderDeath the way I have with my amazing Hip-Hop infused Broadway genius.”
And he was right. I won’t. I can’t.
And again, not the point.
The point here is that with his two EPIC albums with their total running time of 30 minutes, Jorge Rivera-Herrans has done it all over again. Only this time I wasn’t in the middle of NaNoWriMo, so thanks for that. In about two weeks since it dropped, I have listened to Cyclops no fewer than 50 times. No, that’s not hyperbole. I love this stuff. He himself has an incredible voice, as do the supporting players, and there are enough callbacks between Troy and Cyclops that you know they’re connected. Plus, Cyclops has a different enough feel that you know it’s its own thing.
If you have half an hour to kill, check these out. The links I provided will take you to Spotify (my musical outlet of choice), but they are available in at least two other places; I’ve checked.
Incidentally, I asked ChatGPT if I was weird for liking a range of music. I grew up loving Country and Top 40 Pop, and now I’m more into K-Pop, with a bunch of these other things mixed in for fun. ChatGPT says it’s good that I like a mix. The fact that I like music in a language I don’t speak could potentially broaden my horizons and give me a cultural appreciation I might not otherwise have.
Infused with music.
On the bright side, you’ve reached the end of another one of my too-long blog posts. On the not-so-bright side, you’ve just wasted time reading another one of my too-long blog posts.
I don’t know what I’m talking about next month. My hope is that I’ll have something fun and/or exciting to report. If not, it’ll be another fun excursion into the depths of my inanity. (No, I did not miss an S. Why would you say such things?)
Have a wonderful month. Do some fun and exciting things of your own. Listen to music. Let it infuse you. Be kind. Be you. (They’re the same thing, right?)