Put in the Work

Let me open this thing up by saying that I firmly believe that talent is a very real thing and that some people do have a good deal more of it than others.

But talent alone is not enough. Like in sports, like in music, like in art, writing takes dedicated, consistent practice in order to succeed. Being born with some kind of gift is a great jumping off point, yes, but even the most talented artist isn’t going to get too far without applying themselves regularly.

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I say this as kid who tested with a high IQ, who was put in gifted classes in school, who was always praised for being smart. You want to know the secret about being smart? It is something you are and not something that you do. Can you study? Can you read? Can you learn? Yes. But that’s different from hitting some kind of genetic lottery from birth.

I honestly think we do people a disservice for praising them for what they are rather than what they do. For being pretty, or smart, or tall, or having a good speaking voice. These are overwhelmingly things we are born with, and praising people for these gifts can create in them a need for external validation based on a lucky break – not on work.

As a smart kid, I coasted by in school, rarely applying myself. Through high school and most of college, I put in minimal effort and still got excellent grades. There were a few subjects where I had to really put in the work, and I floundered in those because I had never really learned how to learn. But I was smart! Everyone had always told me so! And so I grew quickly frustrated with music and math and assumed that they were nigh impossible topics for me.

Anyway all this to say, praise people for their work, not their talents.

And you there, artist: put in the time and effort. It’s hard and it’s not necessarily fun and it takes practice and you’re not going to nail it every time. Do it anyway. Do it for you because you deserve your best efforts.

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Birthday Wishes

It’s my father’s birthday tomorrow and I’m planning on visiting him in Philadelphia this weekend, assuming my neck injury from a recent car accident doesn’t prevent me from making that drive. He’s always done his best to offer me encouragement and support throughout my lifetime.

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Happy birthday, dad. I love you.

Audiobooks Are a Blessing

I am ashamed to say that I’m not reading for fun lately. I haven’t just sat down with a book in months. A lot of this is because my down time is currently spent rewriting my manuscript or reading slush for Clarkesworld. That doesn’t leave a lot of opportunities to just quietly enjoy a book. I last read part of Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness in January, but that’s not exactly light reading, and I simply haven’t kept up with it.

That “quiet” part of book enjoyment is, I realize, probably overrated because I just remembered how I can solve my reading problem: audiobooks! My commute to work is about 45 minutes each way, which I hate (but which is really the only part of my job that I could do without, so I’m grateful for that much), but which gives me ample listening time four days a week (I work from home on Thursdays). Now, currently, I tend to listen to actual play podcasts of tabletop role playing games (The Adventure Zone, Campaign, One Shot) while driving, but I could spend some of my drives each week listening to a book instead.

One of the women in my weekly D&D game kindly sent me an audible book: Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon, after my group talked a little about the Dresden Files and I admitted I’d only ever read the first title in the series. How thoughtful! Now, it’s time to kick start reading for pleasure again, which is something my overworked self could surely use.

What books are you reading lately? Do you prefer audiobooks? Hardcover/trades? Ebooks/kindle?

Happy reading, everyone!

Gatekeepers Part 2

Last week, I was talking a little but about the phenomenon of Gatekeeping in the nerd community and took a little time to break down what that means and where it tends to come from. The long and short of it is that it is generally insecure white men who act as Gatekeepers, clinging to some illusion of power and insisting that they’re keeping their hobby pure and free from meddlesome outsiders.

Come on. That just sounds gross, doesn’t it?

This concept of what Gatekeeping means in nerd culture can wrap around to the newfound popularity of tabletop role playing games, in large part thanks to streams and podcasts like Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, One Shot, and Campaign. There is a terrible fear in the Gatekeeper that now so many Others will show interest in The Thing that the creators will go and change The Thing to appease these newcomers, who the Gatekeeper thinks are not “real fans.” They think these Others will show up and ruin The Thing that the Gatekeeper loves.

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There were a lot of complaints about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition because a lot of the play was streamlined to make it more accessible to new players. I cannot possibly understand how this is, in any way, a bad thing. Just because more people now enjoy The Thing, it doesn’t suddenly delete The Thing from existence or erase the Gatekeeper’s memories of enjoying it in the past. In this case, the Gatekeeper can go play with 4th Edition and battle maps and can get over himself.

The Gatekeeper fears the Other, often the SJW (Social Justice Warrior, a pejorative term for feminists who seek diversification and inclusiveness in many spaces where traditionally there hasn’t been any), and that she will show up in his hobby and, through her influence, “ruin The Thing.” In fact, many believe that SJWs are out there pretending to like The Thing just to ruin it for others.

Here’s the thing: this SJW does not exist. She is not gunning for the Gatekeeper’s Thing. She is not out to ruin it. She wants to enjoy it as well, though perhaps the things she would enjoy about it might be different.

Gatekeepers, a word: if you genuinely believe that more people liking or engaging with your The Thing is bad, if you think a bigger group having fun is somehow making the world a worse place, you are the problem. There is no wrong way to enjoy The Thing and no one is “ruining” your hobby. I’ve heard horror stories of gaming groups mercilessly torturing their Other players (lying to them, having their RPG characters raped or killed, making inappropriate remarks or “jokes” until they are driven from the groups). If you don’t want to play with certain people, just don’t. Do your thing at your table and don’t try to, in turn, ruin someone else’s experience. Yes, “ruin.” Gatekeepers can do it, too.

No one gets to decide who is allowed to enjoy The Thing. It’s out in the world for everyone. So get off your high horse and go enjoy The Thing, okay?

Wil Wheaton is right: don’t be a dick.

Gatekeepers Part 1

So apparently D&D Gate is a thing now? And it seems aptly named, because it’s a question of the old guard of the game playing the role of Gatekeeper and trying to shut out new players and other people interested in role playing (whether by playing or watching streams). And you know what? It’s gross. The concept of who is or isn’t a “real fan” is so misguided and I’m going to try and lay out some thoughts about that.

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Gatekeeping, as a phenomenon,  is nothing new. It’s often a white man who, having felt persecuted in his childhood and teen years, dives into something traditionally considered nerdy, and embraces that hobby or thing as a massive part of his personality. He comes to define himself a great deal by his attachment to The Thing. He wants to become an authority on The Thing and often spends money on related merchandise and a lot of time learning obscure information about it. Without his place at the top of the hierarchy of The Thing’s fans, he feels lost.

His self-perceived value as a person is intrinsically linked to his status as an authority and ultimate fan and he guards this jealously. He will meet the challenge of other fans of the The Thing in a sort of contest, always seeking to be the biggest fan. This is messy to begin with, but it’s the possessiveness of the The Thing that drives him to bad behavior.

When people who fall into the category of “Other” (women, PoC, queer people), sometimes from the groups that the man felt persecuted by in his youth, want to engage with The Thing, the Gatekeeper appears as if summoned. “You’re not a real fan unless,” “Name three things about The Thing,” “I bet you’ve never actually played/read/seen The Thing.” These are all the rally cry of the Gatekeeper, whose sole passion is now to keep the Other out of his hobby. As a “true fan,” he feels like he has a right to decide who does and does not deserve to engage with The Thing.

To be continued next week…

 

CSA

In the spirit of Treat Yo Self (a la Parks and Rec), I joined a CSA this summer with a few friends. Yes, fresh and locally grown vegetables are my idea of a treat. Maybe my priorities are a bit skewed, but I’ll be damned if I won’t try to eat the rainbow as often as possible.

Treat Yo Self

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for consumers to be more directly connected with the local farms that grow their food. In most cases, joining a CSA means subscribing to a “share” of crops during the growing season and, on a regular basis, receiving a selection of farm fresh produce.

In my case, I’ll be getting a weekly box and this will determine my meal planning for the next seven days. Each week, a few days before pick up, I’ll get an e-mail listing what will be in the box and this will change weekly depending on crop quality and availability. Honestly, I like the challenge of creatively working my meals for the week around something that someone else is picking out for me. It’s like an episode of Chopped, but less intense and terrifying.

This week, it’s asparagus, Chinese cabbage, beets, mushrooms, kale, potato, radish, and zucchini. My friends and I are already negotiating who gets more or less of what (I’ll trade mushrooms and cabbage, not my favs, for more kale, beets, or asparagus) and of course I went food shopping yesterday and bought some zucchini because I wasn’t thinking. It’ll just be a zucchini party at my house. Zucchini boats for days. Wow, the more I type “zucchini,” the less it looks like a real word.

Anyway all this to say, buy and eat local when you can and treat yo self to good and healthy food sometimes. Nutrient rich foods are an investment in good health. Worth it!