Fun is a good enough reason

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As a parent, I have often been told that a toy or activity promotes something. (Eg: Playing with blocks promotes small motor skills and spacial awareness.)

It feels that our current society is very focused on the end goal. There are extremes where parents will structure and plan every activity towards a specific goal. But even the laid back parents fall into the trap of assuming that their kids will want to do a job because they enjoy an activity.

I’m guilty of this for myself and my kids. It’s a dangerous attitude because it turns everything that you can do as a stress reliever into some form of marketable product.

Even things that were once just hobbies have started to be marketable. There’s an entire new economy for Professional Game Facilitators for table table games. (AKA Dungeon Masters or Games Masters) Video game testers, reviewers, and streamers are huge.

It’s an attitude that made me choose to give up hobbies because I’d never be “good enough” to make money from it and I didn’t want to waste the time it would take to get to that point. Poetry, bass guitar, drawing, soccer, fencing, photography, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

When I was in high school, I took music. I had to take it in the English school since mine didn’t have the option. I must have been okay because I made the cut for the band and we won several competitions. I played the tenor saxophone and my first exam the teacher told me I sounded like a tortured cow. Despite that “tough love,” I continued to play and enjoyed it. That was the thing, I enjoyed it. I’d play waiting for the late bus or on Sundays. When I graduated, I had to give back the instrument and a tenor sax is not cheap.

It’s now been 19 years since I touched a sax and I doubt I’d remember how to do a scale. I’ve seen used ones and considered getting one, but it never seemed worth it.

In university, my brother wanted to start a band, so he bought me a bass. I practised, but wasn’t great. After a while, I just decided I wasn’t good enough. Also in university, I was in the residence life choir.

I made some great friends and had lots of fun. I did karaoke with my brother (who was super supportive) and my roommates (who were hyper-critical).

Like the sax, I liked singing and since I was being told I wasn’t that great (I wasn’t), I decided it wasn’t worth doing it anywhere but the shower.

This summer, to avoid copyright infringement, my wife decided to write an original song for a novel she was writing. It turned into her deciding to learn guitar so that she could include the chords in the book. At the same time, we were binge watching High School Musical: The Musical The Series.

I watched the show and my wife learning guitar and something inside me became sad. I wanted to make pretty noises. I wanted to recapture the joy I had at playing the sax or singing.

I struggled with the idea that I would have to dedicate a lot of time, which I didn’t have, to become good enough to perform or join a band. How could I make money or show that the work was worth it if I did decide to learn or continue with music.

That’s when I realized that enjoyment can be enough. I don’t have to be good, I don’t have to make money, I don’t have to do anything with it. So I decided:

Fuck money, fuck side hustles, and fuck society’s need to monetize everything! I’m going to learn the Ukulele.

We bought a used tenor ukulele which will come in the next few weeks and a really cheap soprano uke that I’ve been learning on. It’s fun and frustrating, but when I get into the groove, it’s just as wonderful as I remember.

I’m terrible and I have a lot to learn, but I’m having fun. I’m still struggling with the idea that doing something for just me isn’t selfish or silly. It’s stress relieving and fun.

And you know what? To paraphrase Dragon’s current catchphrase, “I’m allowed to have fun.”

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Don’t Shit on Other People’s Hobbies

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

There’s a trend that has been pissing me off practically my entire life. The self-righteous arrogance of judging what others do with their time.

It’s a hundred times worse when it comes to parenting. (Pro-tip for parenting: No matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong according to someone.) Here’s the meme that set me off most recently:
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It’s cute isn’t it? Daddy teaching his little girl how to fix cars.

There is so much wrong with this meme but let me stick to two major points:

  1. Men are not immature idiots and we shouldn’t treat them like they are.
  2. Just because you don’t understand my hobbies doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

1. Men are not immature idiots and we shouldn’t treat them like they are.

It’s a common trope that men are irresponsible or unable to take care of themselves or children. It’s a common and pervasive stereotype. I mean boys will be boys… right?

You know what happens when people are always expecting, and allowing, you to be a certain way? You start thinking you should be that way or that you’re wrong/broken for not being that way.

I don’t fix cars, I don’t build things, I hate yardwork, and couldn’t care less about the latest sports thingy. I do love to watch sappy movies, read, cook, and be responsible.

No matter what your gender identity is, it’s possible to be an inconsiderate deadbeat stupidface.

2. Just because you don’t understand my hobbies doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

I will never understand wanting to get on a motorcycle and cruise around. It sounds uncomfortable and bothersome to me. That doesn’t mean I think it’s worthless. It offers people a safe (when done properly) thrill that they enjoy. Yay to enjoying yourself.

So why is driving a dilapidated boat into the middle of nowhere to throw string into the water to maybe catch fish considered a wonderful bonding experience, but playing a video game as a family is an immature waste of time?

Seriously, why is one hobby considered more valuable then the other?

Video games are educational, emotionally compelling, and even the worst of them help develop problem solving skills.

Anything can be valuable

When I was a kid I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my father. I don’t think he knew what to do with a nerdy bookworm. He tried to get me into helping with the car and I was totally not interested. I tried, but it usually devolved into him calling his buddies and them drinking while they did car stuff. To me, it was smelly, greasy, and generally uncomfortable.

On the opposite side of the coin, my mother and older brother loved video games. I grew up watching and playing with them. I remember being the navigator for old role playing games. We played as a team, each of us having input in what we did and where we went. I learned so much from those games and those times we did things as a family.

I understand that this meme is trying to say that doing something with your child is more valuable then ignoring them. But a person can ignore their child while working on a car just as easily as playing video games.

How about we as people, and especially as parents, show tolerance for things we don’t understand and back off on the gender stereotypes?

Later Days,

Éric

Gaming and Writing

Hello my Imaginary Friends,

I may have way too many things on my mind right now. It has nothing to do with being busy and everything to do with my mind working in overtime. I blame running oneshots and preparing to run a new campaign.

Gaming

After nearly four months of not running or playing in any games (pen and paper games like D&D) I ran a oneshot two weeks ago and another yesterday. Oneshots are short adventures that take an evening to start and finish.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons with both games. The first being that rules light games are harder for people to grasp as a first gaming experience. Second is that I’m very rusty with the D&D 3.5 rules. It took me forever to make characters.

I also got the Emerald Spire Superdungeon in the mail from Paizo. It’s the special Kickstarter, leather bound edition. It’s beautiful and exciting. I can’t wait to run my group through it on Thursday.

Hobbies

I’ve noticed most authors I know have another creative outlet. It varies from person to person, there’s gardening, sculpting, drawing, painting, music, acting, web videos etc.

I think it’s important to have an outlet that lets you do something other than writing. I’m still not an official author but I’ve noticed that writing sort of steels a section of my brain. I’m constantly thinking of scenes, stories, novels, characters and other things for what I’m writing or want to write. It’s exhausting and sometimes builds into stress.

If I don’t do something else with my mind, I often feel guilty for not writing. Writing is a combination urge, craving, and need.

The closest thing I have to another creative outlet is gaming. It allows me to use the same parts of my brain that create stories for another purpose. A good gaming session, or preparation session feels like I’ve rebooted or defragmented my brain. It’s great.

I’ve also greatly enjoyed working on my own gaming system called Four Attribute Duel Dodecahedron System or FADDS for short. I’ve talked about it before but I’ll be doing some playtest at the end of August for the game.

I’m toying with the idea of filming a playtest oneshot to see how well it plays.

fadds

Parasomnia

On the note of writing, I’m hard at work on chapter 20 of Parasomnia. It started out as a Supernatural Suspense but I think I’ll have to re-classify it as a Drama Fantasy. I also started writing it for Adults but I’m fairly sure it’s better suited for Young Adults, or that odd new category called New Adults.

The book should have roughly 23-25 chapters and I’m going to do something with it that I’ve never needed to do before and that’s edit the crap out of it before my Weditor (Also known as my Wife) looks at it.

Unlike the Elizabeth Investigates series, I find this book needs a lot more cleanup. It might be that I have 5 POV characters instead of 2 or maybe the others need it and I didn’t notice. Either way once I’m done I’ll have a few weeks’ worth of work before I send it to the Weditor.

An author I know, and respect, sends her beta readers her new books one at a time. So she’s already edited what the first one says before she sends it to the second one. I think this is a brilliant way to get a book edited and that’s what I’ll do with this one when it’s done.

It’s been a hard book to write. Each of the five main characters is fundamentally broken. I don’t mean a fatal flaw but a mental problem that hampers their development and their ability to deal with the world. It’s hard to include those things and try to make them realistic without caricaturizing them.

There’s still a strong dose of action and adventure throughout but this book has more character introspection than I’ve ever attempted.

I’m very proud of it so far and I hope it will be well received.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow with more random topics.

Éric