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Fat Writer Running – The Triple Dragon August Challenge

Keep your socks on folks, because it’s Fat Writer Running business time!

The most important things in my life are my wife, my friends, and my neurotic dog monsters but after those things there are three big priorities that fight each other for my time and attention. Starting this week I’m throwing these three priorities – I’m going to call them dragons because dragons are pretty damn cool, you guys – into a cage match where they will have to work out their differences and improve the equilibrium of my life. And! The very best part is that I’m going to blog about this and tweet about it and stuff – as long as I don’t get caught in the middle of the rumble.

So, you might be wondering, what are these Triple Dragons, Erik? Are they cake? Is cake involved? I like cake. No, my friends, cake is not involved.

Like Double Dragon but 50% more Dragon-y

My Triple Dragons are Miles, Hours, and Words or more specifically, miles I run, hours I bill, and words I write. These three create a kind of sandwich with things I’m passionate about on one side and things I need to do to not lose my house in the middle. Ideally, there would be proportion in my sandwich but that’s not always possible and lately it’s kind of seemed like one piece of bread has been alright, the other has been wafer thin, and the middle of the sandwich has been made out of lava and bees and workahol. That, my friends, is not a tasty sandwich. Thus, the Triple Dragon August Challenge.

I’m a data nerd, you guys. I dream data sets and metrics and my barbaric yawp far too often comes in the form of a pivot table. I struggle with my addiction to quantifiable measurements (and my tendency to redefine my targets midway through) but for this challenge I think it will be a helpful structure. My ultimate goal is complete parity. Every mile run = an hour billed = 1000 words written. This might not be realistic or smart but that’s never stopped me before!

Starting out, here are my numbers from last week:

Miles: 14

Hours*: 25

Words (in thousands): 8

 

To make this work, my intention is not squeeze more time out of the day but to shift priorities. I want to increase my miles a mile or two a week (that’s my half-marathon training), pull back some work hours, and really increase my writing output. I’d like to get 16/16/16 by the end of August, a goal that I think is both super ambitious and absolutely arbitrary. I’ll be posting about my progress here and on the Twitter. If you’re not following me, look up @erikgrove. I might even tweet out some bonus otter photos!

 

*Yes, I bill a lot fewer hours than the average person works per week. This is a privilege I have worked hard for and do not take for granted. If you have ever been a contractor or consultant you know that billed hours <> hours worked and that there are times of feast and famine. I also spent about 10 years of my life side lining every other important thing in service to my career and I was savvy and lucky enough to get where I’m at now. It could go away tomorrow. Don’t @ me.

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Fat Writer Running – I Just Ran Nine Miles AMA

Hi all. Fat Writer Running here. I’m doing pretty good. A little less fat. Running more. Writing when I can. How are you? Have any good barbecue or anything?

The thing about running nine miles is that it takes a really long time and one of the many things I thought about while I was doing my nine mile run this morning was “oh hey I should be updating my blog about how I just ran nine miles and stuff.” So, here’s a new post, you guys.

Long Ass Run FAQs

How long did it take you to run 9 miles?

Today it took me about an hour and forty-five minutes. My average speed varies between 11 and 12 minutes per mile (5-5.5 MPH) on long runs depending on how hot it is and how many times Eye of the Tiger comes up on my running playlist.

Isn’t that really slow?

Not really. I mean, I run faster over shorter distances. I’ve done a comfortable 6 MPH for 3 miles and my overall speed is trending up. It’s not really about going super fast right now. It’s endurance training.

But I mean aren’t you a slow pathetic loser?

Wait. Are you just the shitty anxiety voice in my head that says mean stuff all the time?

Kinda. But answer me this – aren’t you just a neurotic insecure life failure?

Will you shut up if I put on Eye of the Tiger again?

Yes please. It’s the thrill of the fight.

So many times it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory.

That’s not a question.

Rising up, straight to the top. Had the guts, got the glory. Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop. Just a man and his will to survive. YEEEEEEEAAaaaaahhhhh! EYE OF THE TIGER MOTHERFUCKERS!

Okay… moving on. Next question.

So, running for an hour and forty-five minutes seems like a bad way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. Why are you doing it?

Well, I’m training for a half-marathon. And I like it. It feels pretty fucking rad to keep breaking my personal record. Plus, it really helps me cope with stress and be more creative and just overall improve my health and life.

Do you have any idea how many times you could listen to Eye of the Tiger in an hour and a forty-five minutes?

… No. Why would I know that?

Exactly 28 times if you were listening to the single version of the song.

The song is on my running playlist. I listen to it. It’s a catchy song.

Is it on your running playlist 28 times?

It’s not.

Life failure. What are you doing while you run that isn’t listening to Eye of the Tiger 28 times?

I’m thinking mostly. It’s meditative.

Thinking about what?

Let’s see. Story ideas. Running really helps me work through things.

Are you just saying that to justify this indulgent internal monologue on your writing blog?

Give the people what they want. And by people I mean my wife. I gotchu sweetie.

No YOU’RE indulgent.

That’s what I thought. What are you really thinking about?

Sometimes I think about how boring running is. Sometimes I think about how amazing it is. I think about how I haven’t updated this blog in a while and about blog posts I wish I had time to write. Oh. And I think about how bicyclists are the worst.

Why are bicyclists the worst? 

They’re always cycle spreading, taking up all of the multiuse path, pushing me into the bushes or out into the street. I hug the right shoulder while I’m running. I take up half of a lane in a two lane trail full of runners and dog walkers and baby strollers and we all get along great. But then a gaggle of jerks on two wheels come flying down the trail riding three of them in a row and that’s how I almost die. Also, bicyclists are generally rude. Everyone else that’s out there killing it on a hot day, we nod or smile or wave at each other like keep on killing it killer, I see you but the only thing these helmeted assholes with Tour de France delusions do is shout out “ON YOUR LEFT!” while they pass and glare at you for having the temerity to exist. They’re smug buttholes and I hate them.

Wow. Tell us how you really feel.

Maybe it’s just a Portland thing or just the cyclists on my running route. I have a lot of friends and family that cycle. I like to think they aren’t jerks. But c’mon. I see a hundred cyclists and exactly one guy gave me a Sup Dog nod in almost two hours. I know they can interact while they’re riding without falling down or something because they talk loudly and gesture dangerously while they pretend no one else uses the MULTIUSE path. What gets me is that they’re rude even when they’re stopped and standing next to their bikes. They block the entire middle of the path and they still don’t wave or smile or anything when I’m running along. Just get down off your adjustable seat and stop being an entitled pompous jerk butt.

Are you going to rumble with cyclists? Are you gonna throw down, you slow running life failure man?

I mean, all I have to do to win a fight with cyclists is go up some stairs. So. BURN BICYCLE BROS BURN

I have a note here that says I’m supposed to ask about how you prepare for a long ass run.

Yeah. That’s my note.

I see. So by FAQs you don’t mean Frequently Asked Questions you mean stuff you made up in your head while you were bored because you were running for an hour and a forty-five minutes?

Pretty much yeah. But about the preparation. I try to eat a meal a hour or two before a run so I have some energy. I also try to drink water leading up to it. I stretch a little bit. I check the weather. I find it’s a lot harder to run when it’s over 75 degrees out. The best is between 50-70. Also, I like to scout out the route I’m going to take.

What do you mean by “scout out?” 

I don’t know if it’s primarily psychological or not but it’s a lot easier for me to run a route when I have it all mapped out in my head. I know where the hills are, where the shady spots are etc. Lately, I’ve been doing my long runs on parts of the Trolley Trail in Milwaukie. I’ve gone from the junction at Roethe into Sellwood and across the Sellwood Bridge in different legs. My speed and confidence is always higher when I know what’s coming up.

Alright, that’s a little bit interesting. Anything else?

For a long run I make sure I have my favorite running shorts and shirt clean and my Apple Watch and Beats X headphones all charged up. Also, band-aids.

Band-aids?

*cough* For places.

Oh. Oh God. 

It’s not always glamorous.

New subject. What about after the run?

Water! I spend the rest of the day making sure to rehydrate properly. I’ve also been drinking Muscle Milk after my runs. I thought it was silly at first and I don’t really like milk but the protein and vitamins seem to help. Plus, it does sort of taste delicious. I also try to eat a proper meal with lean proteins, whole grains, and some fruit within a couple hours.

Does it hurt? I heard running hurts and you shouldn’t do it?

It doesn’t hurt me. I run three times a week and walk or cross train other days. I’ve been doing this consistently for 9 months with increasing distance and intensity. I think keeping active on non-running days is important. And good shoes. And not over training or pushing too hard. My knees and legs used to feel worse. The only real danger is chafing around the-

Stop. I saw the link. That’s gross.

I’ve stained a couple of shirts.

You have some serious psychological problems. You shouldn’t do this, you should just-

Fat Writer Running – How I Lost 100 Pounds Without a Fad Diet, Surgery, or Powder Drugs

 

Here’s the clickbait, folks. Here’s how I whupped ass and transformed myself from a really fat writer to a kinda fat writer. These are my secret secrets. The grocery store check out tricks. The life hacks. Just remember:

Actually wait. Forget that. Share this EVERYWHERE. Give me all the web traffic and troll comments. IT IS MY SUSTENANCE YESSSS MY PRECIOUSSSSS

*cough*

But first, some caveats. What I did is just what I did. It is not a template or medical advice or magic. My circumstances apply specifically to me and what worked for me might not work for you. And really, you shouldn’t just do what a guy says on the internet anyway. You should always make informed choices about your life and your body with your healthcare team and in consultation with none of anyone else’s fucking business. There is a lot going on with your body and your life and you are the only one that gets to make choices about it. I’m not fat-shaming or fitness guru-ing or judging or any of that. This is a very complicated web of topics and I’m going to focus on some of them in more detail in future blogs but this one is just what I did that seemed to have good results for my specific circumstances and my specific goals. Take it with salt, sugar, powder drugs, and a chaser of who does this guy think he is anyway? Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with fad diets or surgery or powder drugs. I don’t mention them to belittle them but to contrast my approach with those approaches and because I need a headline to get people clicking on the clicky thing and headlines don’t really have room for nuance. I am completely supportive of anyone that finds bliss and power eating only celery or smoking drugs or cutting a motherfucker with a scalpel just to see a new kind of red. Well, maybe not the scalpel thing. Don’t email me pictures of your murders anymore please thanks.

Anyway.

Here’s what I did:

I consumed less and I exercised more.

It’s not sexy and it’s not one simple internet trick but it worked. In future blogs I’m going to break it down more. I’ll write about how I consumed less and and what less meant for me. I’ll write about exercise. But what’s really most important is not what I did – it’s why I did it and what it meant to do it the way I did it. There were four guiding principles that really worked for me and it’s these principles that I credit with a lot of my success.

Fuck the numbers.

CONFETTI YOU GUYS WOOT WOOT

Yes, my blog clickbait specifically talks about losing 100 pounds and yeah, that’s pretty cool. I hit that milestone between first blog and this series and this one. High five, you guys! But really, fundamentally, the number doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what my clothing size is or what my BMI is. What matters to me is that I feel good, I’m healthy, and I can do awesome stuff. If you feel good and you’re healthy and you’re doing awesome stuff you’re already doing it right so you don’t need my blog or anyone else’s blog to talk you out of the good choices you’ve already made. We get fixated on things that don’t matter. What matters is how you feel, your health, and living a life full of awesome stuff. There’s a tremendous amount of social toxicity that gets in the way of that relationship with our bodies but don’t lose perspective.

There’s no finish line.

I’ve known a lot of people that have done low-carb/no carb/keto diets with a lot of success. I’ve seen most of those same people gain a lot of the weight they lost back. I didn’t want to do anything that was a temporary fix. I’ve done temporary diet and exercise routines before and saw my progress revert. I wanted a fundamental shift in my life that was never going to revert. I wanted to find a path forward that felt like I path I could commit to for the rest of my life. I needed something sustainable and balanced and I feel like I found it. There will be diversions from this path but I know what the trailheads look like and I can head back to it.

No Cheat Days.

I am adamantly and fundamentally opposed to the concept of Cheat Days. They are, in my full-throated opinion, poisonous ideas. A “Cheat Day” implies that you’re being tested and when you cheat you’re getting away with something. Who would I be cheating? This is about feeling good, being healthy, and doing awesome stuff remember. Am I cheating the feeling good part, the healthy part, or the awesome stuff part? I get it – the idea of saying to yourself “ON SUNDAYS I CAN EAT 37 PANCAKES AND LASAGNAS AND CAKES AND MILKSHAKES” compartmentalizes your hunger and shame but nah, man. Fuck that. Hunger is literally your body turning on the low gas light. Metabolism is super complicated and that gas light sometimes goes on when it maybe doesn’t need to go on but if you were driving your car around and that was happening you would get the light fixed – you wouldn’t ignore it or overstuff it with pizza. And shame? Well, shame is our puritanical inheritance. It’s the original anxiety and I don’t want to compartmentalize it, I want to understand it and let it go. So Cheat Days, to me, play into a bad relationship with hunger and with shame. It’s more sustainable and realistic to just have a reasonable amount of pancakes sometimes. I’ll definitely talk more about hunger and shame and finding a place for whatever you might want for a Cheat Day in your regular life in future blogs but I think it’s important to just throw out this idea. At least, it was for me.

I celebrate myself and eat tacos whenever I want because tacos are delicious

Trust the numbers.

Yeah. This one contradicts the first one. I contain multitudes. OLD SCHOOL WALT WHITMAN Y’ALL. For me it was difficult to sort through the psychological and the physical challenges to my fitness and well-being. An anxious mind will whisper all kinds of lies to itself and when you team that up with external pressures and expectations- khaki pants commercials, hotdog vendors shouting “hey fat guy!” from across the street, and that look of panic on someone’s face when they see a fat person is sitting next to them on an airplane – it’s just a lot. For me it was paralyzing. The worst part about losing hundred pounds is that every high five along the way sort of feels like a backhanded compliment. I’m doing great now but boy was it scary there for a while when everyone was afraid I might get hungry and confuse their faces for donuts and go full fat man cannibal. A year ago, thinking about the state of my life it seemed hopeless. I needed to do so much and it was going to be so hard and so slow and what if I couldn’t do it? My head was a mess of doubt, insecurity, and our old friend from the last paragraph, shame. Honestly, my head still is but finally, I trusted the numbers more than the mess. I recorded what I did. Everything I ate. Every step I took. I shut out the shitty lying voices and focused on the data. And then I just mathed the motherfucker. Everyone’s numbers, everyone’s math, is going to be different but if you can find the rights numbers and figure out the right math, you have a place to start. I didn’t start out with a goal of losing 100 pounds -it was the feeling good, healthy, awesome stuff goal remember. I checked my progress and calibrated my approach to my goal with numbers. If I wasn’t feeling good, did I need to eat more? Did I need to sleep more? If I wasn’t able to do awesome stuff, did I need to take some vitamins? I would try things, document the numbers, and see how it worked. In practical terms I relied on smart phone apps to track food that I ate, exercise I did, and my glucose readings, as well as feedback from my doctor. I’ll write about those tools later but the takeaway for me is that I stepped back from the subjective and trusted the objective.

 

Those were my four Big Ideas. Maybe they will help you or help you think about your own principles. Maybe not. At least you got a picture of Uncle Walt. And here’s an otter. You know why.

Fat Writer Running – On the Intersection of Body and Keyboard

A year ago, I started to get pretty concerned about dying. I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for just under 7 years and I’ve been fat my entire life. Last spring, with my health slipping out of my control and the serious risks it posed to my plans of not dying young, I started making significant changes in diet and exercise. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve lost – as of this morning – 99 pounds. I went from taking 4 medications every day to manage my diabetes to taking a minimal dose of only one. I have not tested outside of normal healthy ranges in months. My doctor gave actually me an award for my amazing- and rare- turnaround. I run about 3 or more miles 3 or more times a week and I’m even beginning training for a half-marathon in October. I can’t fit in any of my old clothes, and I haven’t had a serious cold or significant allergies in a year. Intellectually and creatively I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders. I’ve also felt an increase in my confidence and a decrease in anxiety and occurrences of depression. All in – on every metric, in every way, I feel better than I have in literally my entire life. I didn’t begin this to lose a certain amount of weight or fit in a particular size of pants. I began with the intention to transform my behavior and perspective from here on out and the most rewarding thing has not been the change on my bathroom scale or waistline – it’s been in my head. It’s the transformation from “I can’t” to “I can and I did and I’m gonna do it again and then some with rad rock music playing super loud, and you should join me.” It’s pretty fucking rad, you guys.

As I’ve shared parts of this story, more than one person has asked me if I’m “writing it up” and my response has been an uncomfortable “no?” I’ve even had some folks tell me that I’m “inspirational” – whatever that means. I’ve done absolutely none of this for anyone else. In fact, the changes I’ve made in the last year were completely selfish. I did all of it for me. At first I did it so that I wouldn’t die, and then because it empowered me and finally because I really like how healthy feels.

Then again, as weird as it  is for me to write about, I do have a lot to say about food, exercise, “fatness”, and a more balanced and sustainable life, and I am a writer. It says so right up there in the webpage header. So I’m going to try something new here. I’m going to write a series of blogs this summer (possibly beyond) on all of these dense and related topics. Don’t worry – I’m not going full self-help fitness blog. As with most things, I see important connections between what’s been going on with my body and what’s going on creatively. Writers are not merely brains in computer chairs. We are the expression and result of our experiences and points of view. We are as influenced by the health of our bodies as we are the health of our minds and I think –  in fact I have experienced – that a healthier body improves creative output.

To put it more succinctly – take care of your meat suit and you will become a better writer. Let me tell you how.

So, here’s what you can expect from this series:

HI THERE THIS IS AN OTTER

— Some blogs will talk about my personal experiences – what worked and what didn’t work as well for me with food, exercise, and philosophy – over the last 12 months.

— Some blogs will talk more generally about the impact of the intersection and optimization of well cared for meat suits and writing sweet, sweet fiction

— Some blogs will be a combination of both

— Some blogs will feature gratuitous otters

— All blogs will feature plenty of corny jokes because c’mon

My plan is to write and post a few blogs weekly and I have several outlined and in early drafts. While I continue to run and write top secret kick-ass laser kung-fu space fantasy two-fisted action this summer, I will bring you- and the otters- along for the ride.

On Lloyd: Some Words About An Old Friend

Facebook is weird. In the mix of sponsored posts, media click bait posts, and instagram brags, I saw a note shared to someone I’m friends with about someone I used to know named Lloyd Porter that has passed away. Lloyd was this tall, friendly cowboy that smelled like pipe tobacco and worked as the technical trainer in a call center I worked at back in 2003/04. I always liked Lloyd and was happy to see him but I haven’t had occasion to think about him in well over 10 years. Thinking about him today though, I realize I owe a lot to Lloyd. I maybe owe Lloyd my entire life.

https://allthingslorane.com/tag/lloyd-porter/

In 2002 I was not doing awesome. I was freshly dropped out of college and the economy was still reeling from 9/11. I applied to literally dozens of fast food jobs in Eugene, Oregon and was turned down by all of them for not having any experience. I took a few different seasonal jobs before I landed a gig working phones for Harry & David selling gift baskets and fruit of the month clubs that holiday season. I was pretty good at Harry & David and didn’t mind the work but the job ended after Christmas and I found myself homeless, drifting from a couch at one friend’s house to the laundry room floor at another.

I managed to land a job working in customer service for a tech company call center in downtown Eugene after New Years 2003. I was pretty good at it but it was not a career or a real direction. It (barely) afforded me enough money to get an apartment above a beauty salon a few blocks away but I would have quit or been let go from it and not thought anything more about it – except for Lloyd. In talking with Lloyd (he was a chatty guy) I got it into my head that I could probably do the technical support job that made $2 more an hour. $2 more an hour was huge for a recently homeless college drop out. Lloyd encouraged me and a group of customer service workers to take a placement test (that he coached at least me on) and helped get us all trained to be technicians. I was computer literate but I was not a technician before Lloyd’s training. He made the subject matter accessible and stressed the skills I already had – common sense and clear communication. After training I did really well and that job led to another job that led to another job that connected my resume together and created a career that’s kept me from being homeless or unemployed since. The house I sit in is paid for by jobs I got because Lloyd said, “yeah, I think you can do this- let me try and show you.”

The impact that Lloyd’s decency and generosity had on me is both subtle and irreplaceable. Every friend I have now (and I have a lot of them) that I’ve made at jobs since 2003 – Lloyd deserves part of the credit for that. All of my financial decisions that impacted where I’ve lived and all the people I’ve met where I’ve lived – Lloyd deserves part of the credit for that. My dog. My wife. My truck. My MacBook that I’m typing this on. Lloyd deserves part of the credit for all of it.

It seems to me that our lives, that the world, is overflowing with Lloyds. People who do nice things just because they’re nice people. This thought humbles me and inspires me. I want to be a little bit like Lloyd whenever I can be. I want to recognize every other Lloyd I meet.

Lloyd didn’t need to encourage me. He didn’t need to talk to the bosses on my behalf. He didn’t need to coach me about the differences between FAT 32 and NTFS. I didn’t do anything to properly repay him for it. I never had enough context to know how much I had to thank him for. I do now.

Thank you, Lloyd Porter. Thank you for my life. Rest in peace and cowboy boots.

On Writing: If a Tree Falls on A Blogger Does He Get Any Clicks?

Hey. Did you guys know I have a blog on the internet? 🤯 I know, right?

Let me back up and get you all caught up. Over the weekend I attended Norwescon up in the Seattle area. I’d never been and it was really great. I highly encourage writers and fans of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the like to check it out if you haven’t already. Anyway, as these sorts of conventions tend to do, Norwescon made me reflective about my writing and publicly available content. 2 or 3 years ago I was very ambitious about this blogging business and I posted a lot of stuff. That content generation has really fallen off obviously. There are three reasons for it and – shock! – I’m going to blog about the three reasons I don’t blog as much right here, you guys!

BECAUSE OTTERS ARE ADORABLE YOU GUYS

Reason 1: Blogging and tweeting and podcasting and all of that other platform building social media stuff is really time-consuming. When I was doing a podcast it took me at least 8 hours a week to script, record, edit, and post. That’s eight hours I wasn’t writing short stories or novels to sell and eventually that time investment just didn’t make sense for me. I still blog and tweet and I look at my podcasting mic longingly all the time. I want to blog and podcast and tweet out adorable otter pictures. I just need the cost/benefit to tilt a little closer to benefit.

Reason 2: You didn’t clap your hands. It’s kind of shameless of me to blame the audience but seriously, writing blogs without readers and recording podcasts without listeners eventually just starts to seem sort of sad. It’s like throwing a really great birthday party for yourself. You can rent a pony and hire a French horn soloist but if there’s no one else there, the French horn soloist just looks at that pony and then at you and he gets super uncomfortable. Trust me. (I’m sorry, Kyle.) My podcast averaged 3 listeners a week. When I started out I thought “oh, I just need to build up a backlog and then surely, listeners will come” but that never happened and that leads to reason 3.

 

OTTER YOU GUYS CMON

Reason 3: I’m kinda bad at this, you guys. Look, I think my blogs are entertaining and informative. I try to put useful content in them for writers and non-writers. I distill my wisdoms and philosophies and I don’t think that they’re completely without merit. I try to include jokes and pictures of otters. But I’m considerably less good at promotion. I have like 7 Twitter followers and most of my social media presence is my wife giving me pity clicks. I need to meet people and learn hashtags and stuff and while I’ve not been blogging that’s something I’ve been working on. My primary takeaway from Norwescon this weekend was that it doesn’t matter if I write super sweet jetpack otter amazing fiction, if I don’t have an audience I may as well be writing technical documentation on the best utilization of multipage spreadsheets for businessing and oh god i just fell asleep a little bit sorry. If there’s one lesson I could teach 12 year Erik who dreamed of being a writer, it would be to stop typing a little bit and be more social (with people that aren’t his D&D group). I’m not socially shy at all and I don’t feel anxious with public speaking or crowds. That’s a tremendous privilege and I am not unaware of it. I was the class clown in school and I starred in my own play in college. I raise my hands at con panels and shake hands and all that good nudge nudge wink wink retweet my stuff and tell your friends pretty please stuff. The problem I have is that I’ve always valued writing over marketing. I’m a workaholic and always have been. Given the choice between meeting a bunch of strangers or writing for a few hours, I have always chosen to write. I, mistakenly, assumed that once I built up a backlog of content, readers would magically arrive. Nope. I have a whole lot of blogs (WordPress says there are 77 published for this site) and hours of podcasts and literally a million words of pretty okay reading material and I have no magic readers. I have otter pictures and self-doubt.*

But! I know what I need to do. Norwescon lit a bulb over my head and a voice came down from the heavens and gave me guidance – work less and have fun with people more. It turns out people enjoy fun. Who knew? I generally prefer work but I’m willing to see if this fun fad is going to last.

In the meantime, my words aren’t going anywhere. There’s a lot of great content on this blog. I have that backlog. I’m going to link some of my personal favorites right here. I’ll come back and blog more. But it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be very seriously fun. Prepare yourselves. Put that in your spreadsheet and business it.

*Note: I really shouldn’t be grubbing for sympathy here. I have a literary agent that believes in me and I have a book I really believe in out for submission to editors right now. Things could turn out pretty well for Ol’ Erik. But still. Give me all your clicks and retweets and comments. I need your approval so so desperately. I’m an insecure clown man. Tell your friends.

 

Looking for Uriel – A Personal Essay

On Writing: Hey Ho! Let’s Go! The Ramones Way

On Writing: Critics and Trolls

On Writing: Off Ramps, Ice Barbarians and Jon Hamm’s Hair

On Writing: Diversity and the 21st Century Writer (Part 1)

On Writing: Kill Your Tokens (Diversity and the 21st Century Writer Part 2)

Hesitation Marks – A Personal Essay

On Writing: NaNoWriMo Diary 2017 – Day 1

People like images so: MONKEY ON A BICYCLE

Hey all. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo which is what the cool kids call National Novel Writing Month. If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s both an awesome 501(c)(3) and a month long writing contest where us masochistic few write a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 on November 30th. Here’s NaNoWriMo’s mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

NaNoWriMo (the organization) also does other great educational and creative programs and you should check them out right after you read my blog!

November 1, 2017:

Started the first day of this month-long marathon pretty casually. I had a morning appointment downtown, then met some friends for lunch, before heading over to meet my agent and talk about how we’re going to make hundreds upon hundreds of dollars selling my books. He had updates on a couple of projects we’re shopping around and we talked about some future stuff. Good author/agent conversation. Good coffee.

Metal, you guys.

I mentioned I’m doing NaNoWriMo to get my weird out before I start work on some more marketable prospects. He expressed tentative support for my alien brain process as long as I get him the materials I owe him for a proposal while I’m listening to Iron Maiden and thinking about Santa Claus. I agreed to this because I like to be an agreeable author and he is going to make us hundreds upon hundreds of dollars selling my books

After our meeting I decided to walk home instead of doing what a normal not alien brained person would do. It was a nice afternoon in Portland and only a little over 5 miles. I figured the time alone wandering the streets of my city would help percolate my alien brain juices and I was right. I spent some time thinking about listening to Iron Maiden (I forgot my earbuds so this was a music free 5+ mile stroll) and thinking about Santa Claus. I thought about a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles covered in ashes and full of skeletons and demons. I thought about elves on motorbikes and the Backstreet Boys, standing a sad suburban vigil in a fictional mall. Yeah. That’s the stuff. This book is going to be real weird. 

While I didn’t get any words down today, I got excited about my project and worked through some of the finer points of my plot.

It’s important, even in the mad dash race to the finish line of NaNoWriMo that you take the time to daydream about your story. You might not need a 5+ mile walk from the Willamette River to far SE Portland to do that but if you do, hopefully the weather is still nice.

On Writing: Star Trek: Discovery

 

I have other stuff to do but I blog very rarely and also there’s a new Star Trek TV show and I watched it. So. Here’s a little review/response and then a little bit about the impact of audience expectations/branding.

Real quick no spoilers review: I liked the first two episodes of Star Trek Discovery. Sonequa Martin-Green is great. Doug Jones is great. Michelle Yeoh is great. The production design is lush and manages some big budget gravitas. There are things I liked more and things I liked less. I have big picture reservations about the CBS All-Access model and the nature of the show as a prequel. I also think it’s kind of a bummer to watch so far and strains a little more than I expected against my expectations of Star Trek. I’m going to blog about more of that below.

First, the Star Trek bonafides preamble: I’ve been watching Star Trek all of my life. I grew up on the shows and the movies. I’ve seen every movie for the last 30 years on opening weekend and I’ve seen the majority of the TV episodes multiple times* (there’s an asterisk here because I really didn’t like Voyager or Enterprise). When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first premiered it played at 11 PM on Sunday nights in my area. I was in middle school but I stayed up every Sunday until midnight to watch it and went to school bleary eyed. I’m not a convention-going Vulcan-ear-having fan but I’m more inclined to give the brand a chance than literally any other property I can think of based on the strength of my affection and nostalgia for spaceships and budget SFX and phaser sounds. That said, half of the Star Trek TV shows and movies have been pretty bad and William Shatner is not doing his legacy any favors with Twitter. I will always happily give Star Trek a shot but Star Trek: Nemesis happened, you guys, and I’ll never forget.

Here’s what you should know about Star Trek: Discovery. I’m not going to summarize the whole plot but there will be some details that you may want to avoid if you want to watch it without any advanced knowledge. The show’s titular ship, the Discovery, does not appear in the first two hours of the show. The bulk of the cast also does not appear in these first two episodes. This is not an ensemble show in the Star Trek model. It’s a show with a clear protagonist (Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham) and it seems determined to upend some of the familiar Trek conventions. The good news there is that Martin-Green is a charismatic and versatile performer and she can more than carry a show. The decision to give the show a central character and to pin the emotional and storytelling stakes on her is a good one and if the show ultimately goes on to have a long and celebrated life it will be a big part of why. The first two episodes unfold directly as a result of Burnham’s actions – and those actions are not all heroic or sympathetic. That’s a pretty significant change to the usually squeaky clean boy scout image most associated with Star Trek (mostly, to be fair, from Star Trek: the Next Generation onward). The show is steeped in interpersonal conflict and that really creates narrative possibilities we haven’t seen in this property before. I can dig it.

Here’s some other things you should know about Star Trek: Discovery. It doesn’t feel much like Star Trek yet. The characters use Star Trek words and interact with Star Trek things but despite the title it isn’t terribly interested (so far) in strange new worlds, new life, new civilizations, etc. Klingons feature very prominently in these opening two episodes (and, based on what happens, will probably be pretty involved for the rest of the first season at least) and there is some philosophical debate around inter-species contact, but more than ever before these Klingons feel particularly contemporary and familiar rather than strange and new. Where the original iteration of Klingons seemed to cast them as grumpy mustached space Russians, Discovery makes them religious nationalists eager to restore the Klingon empire to glory. That might sound familiar to viewers because we see these sorts of characters on the nightly news. This observation isn’t necessarily a criticism but it gives the show a weary cynicism. At it’s best Star Trek is buoyant and optimistic and this is a little bit dour. It may be that the show runners intend to start with dour, to show a journey through hopelessness and out the other side, but for viewers like me that could do with a little bit more aspiration it’s a little bit disappointing. There’s not really any warmth or humor or wonder. The ending of episode 2 is, frankly, pretty bleak.

There are other things that Discovery does that I liked a lot. The opening credits are beautiful and the makeup is really next level, particularly for Doug Jones’s Saru. Unfortunately, the script has some real weak points that only seem worse with further scrutiny and the pacing, especially in episode 2, is a little too decompressed. I’m also not convinced that this show needs to be a prequel or that they really needed to go back to the most famous Star Trek IP; Klingons and Vulcans. The same story and themes could be explored with new ideas. It makes the universe feel too small to me and the storytelling feel too timid. By opting to go this direction, the show necessitates comparisons with prior iterations and for a franchise that started out with all-new ideas that’s totally unnecessary.

Ultimately, I think Star Trek: Discovery is an appealing television show with a strong, interesting lead and compelling visual design. I am definitely interested in seeing more but it’s a poor fit for the Star Trek brand – especially right now. If Discovery had been released in context with other more traditional Trek content it would seem like a bold alternative and I think would be easier to embrace. But this is the first Star Trek show in 12 years. A lot of fans, and casual viewers, might rightly expect it to feel something like the franchise they know.

Branding is a powerful presence in a story (or content). “Star Trek” has a meaning for people. I show up for “Star Trek.” That’s to the property’s advantage but if they stray too far from what “Star Trek” means for people they create disappointment that they didn’t need to create. There seems to me to be a lot more latter-day Battlestar Galactica in this show than bolding going where no one has gone before. In fact, these seems to be a lot of similarities between these Klingons and Cylons. That really creates a backlash for me with the brand, I’m afraid.

Similarly, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why I so aggressively hate the CBS All-Access distribution model and it has a lot to do with the name and the associations the name generates for me and how it forces me to compare it to other alternative services. I don’t mind paying for TV. I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go. I buy TV shows I want to watch that don’t air on those services on Amazon. I would pay up to $3 for each episode of Star Trek: Discovery and feel pretty good about it. That’s more than CBS is asking for with All-Access. My complaint isn’t about money. I value good content and I pay for it. I think that’s part of being an ethical grown up consumer. No, my reticence is about not wanting to get another user name and password, give out my credit card to another company that might will probably Equifax me on a long enough timeline, install another app, learn another UI, learn all new bugs and quirks. I don’t want that. I think most consumers are sick of that. I would probably pay for an add-on channel on Amazon or Hulu for CBS All-Access.

More than my app fatigue though, CBS All-Access does not compare favorably to its competitors. To get the commercial free version they want a comparable amount of money to HBO Go, Netflix, and Hulu and it does not compare in terms of content available even a little bit. Out of context, it seems like a pretty decent deal. I could watch Star Trek: Discovery and, uh, well, I literally would watch nothing else because CBS is not a network that makes content for me, but if I was the CBS target demo (older, whiter somehow), I could get a lot of enjoyment out of 2 Broke Girls and NCIS and all the fucking Macguyver. I assume. The thing is that Netflix and Hulu and HBO Go make content for multiple kinds of audiences so I can not watch that show with the scientologist guy from That 70s Show that doesn’t appeal to me and still watch the show with the scientologist lady from That 70s Show that does. Next to the alternatives CBS All-Access is real thin. Also, it’s CBS. My whole life CBS has been a TV station you can watch for free with an antenna and it had that comparble quality. Star Trek: Discovery seems like a real stretch in terms of budget and content for that CBS but it’s still called CBS so I expect CBS. The previews of upcoming episodes of Discovery look more like the CBS I expect – the effects look worse and there’s a lot more white dudes – so I have to wonder, are these two episodes of Discovery a bait and switch? If the service wasn’t called CBS All-Access I might be less skeptical. This is the downside of branding. I show up for “Star Trek.” I change the channel on “CBS” before Mark Harmon shows up. These two big brands crash into each other for Star Trek: Discovery and I’m not sure what to do. I want CBS All-Access to fail so it sends a message to stop making new subscription services for every damn thing maybe more than I want this cynical post-Trump new Star Trek.