Motivation Sucks

I always think I’ll end up writing about the same topics over and over until I simply run out of stuff to write about. A good example was that first sentence; I know I’ve already complained running out of topics a handful of times on this blog even if there hasn’t been a dedicated post about it (or has there?). And motivation, the supposed topic of this post, haven’t I already complained about that?

The way blogs work, being sorta in the social media sphere, is that people forget. I could take a post I’d written months or years ago, copy-and-paste it into a new post, and no one would notice. I’m not going to do that because it’s corrupt and shady but if there is nothing directly wrong with doing so, what would be wrong with writing about the same topics again? I doubt what I said in earlier posts is somehow fundamental truth that cannot be changed, altered, or added to so beating the same topics over and over isn’t really that big of an issue. I think I just overthink things in case you didn’t notice. There’s always the fact that life is all about learning, so each post about [certain topic] should have some insights that the previous ones didn’t have.

So motivation. My sister mentioned (and I don’t know where she heard it from) that motivation is like a muscle; you can only use it so much before it’s worn out. Makes sense, kinda simple and obvious really, but we seem to think we can muster motivation out of the ether and do whatever the hell we want/need to do with little care if we can actually accomplish our goals. You’ve heard the motivational stuff: do what needs to be done, don’t think about it, progress, hard work, goals, just fucking do it!

But there is this thing called “Burnout” that you have to be aware of. That’s my problem lately: I’m burned out with writing.

My problem isn’t going too hard at a single goal, but having the inability to focus on a single goal in the first place. I’m trying to do this blog. I’m trying to work on two fictional stories and a Morrowind fanfic. Toss in all the other random shit that life involves and I feel so scattered around mentally that I can’t even think straight. When is that Comcast bill due? Did my dad/mom pay me money for the phone bill yet? Did I even update the spreadsheet to reflect that? Did I reply to that comment on my blog yet? Did I update various autopay accounts with my new credit card number? Oh, I need to fix the car again — find problem, diagnose problem, buy parts, fix problem. What should I write about for my subconscious story? What kinda ending should it have? Nevermind that, what about the story about work? And what about the Morrowind fanfic? I need to have the next part posted today! I haven’t written on Everything Sucks in a few days, better do that even if I have nothing to write about…

This obviously leads to a type of paralysis where you can’t do anything. I want to say it’s like writer’s block, but it’s definitely different. It’s not so much that there isn’t anything to write about, it’s that I haven’t thought about anything long enough to actually finish the thought. There’s about ten blog fragments in my mind and my Google Doc is 53 pages long but nothing is solid enough to make progress on. You might’ve noticed the low-quality and sporadic (more sporadic than usual) posts here that haven’t really went anywhere. I feel like I’m limping along. I was hoping maybe I could rake in record viewers this month, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen. Hey, #2 most viewed month isn’t that bad, right? I’ve sacrificed progress here to make progress elsewhere. It’s a zero sum game. You take from one area of creativity to put it elsewhere. Motivation is like a muscle and you can only do so much before you wear it out.

Big shout out to creative writing for especially being a motivation murder. That takes work; I used to think blogging took work, but I’ve found myself writing blogs here to procrastinate the creative writing process. Blogging is easy compared to creative writing! Who would’ve thought. Even in my scattered mental state I’m sure that I complained about that in the last post. So I won’t continue on.

And as always, thanks for listening to my rant.

Video Game Endings Suck: The In-Game Existential Crisis

I can think of three general ways to end a video game. Firstly, there are games that don’t have a plot or a story to even end: think of multiplayer first-person shooter/battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex, or Black Ops IV. You can probably toss simulation and puzzle games into this category too; Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t have a plot or an ending. You just fly around and when you’re done you’re done. The same is true for Tetris. The second way to end a game is to, well, end it. These games have a plot and story and obviously the developers have to wrap it up somehow. There are a few ways to do this as well. They can end the game in a “harsh” where you can no longer play the game. Think of Dark Souls or Bioshock Infinite. When the game is over, the game’s over. There’s also the “open-ended” endings in this category where despite beating the main quest you are still able to play the game. Skyrim is a great example here. You kill Alduin, save the world, yet you can still wander around and do shit afterwards. These games have a clear ending to the main quest. There is a point where you’ve clearly beaten the game.

By far the worst way to end a game is to have no ending. I’m not talking about the plotless multiplayer games from above either: I’m talking narrative and story-driven open world games that are so open ended there is no ending. The Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are all great examples of games with no endings.

On the surface this all sounds like a great idea: with a game that is open and neverending you can play forever, right? No. These games do have endings even if they’re not explicitly stated; their endings are much more depressing when you think about them too much. These games end in the in-game equivalent of existential depression: the eventual realization that there is nothing else to do in the game. After the challenge is over, you have everything you could ever want or need, accomplished everything you’ve wanted to do, what option do you have besides giving up?

Not that these games lack story or gameplay progression which is usually in the form of crafting progression and/or unlocking items. The whole point of Minecraft survival mode seems to be unlocking items and finding materials. A good example are nether portals. To create these you usually need to craft a diamond pickaxe and diamond is one of the rarest things to find in the game. You need to bury deep within the ground to even find diamond, so unlocking a nether portal (to unlock all of the nether-unique items) takes some work. It gives you something to progress towards. Even if there is no actual narrative story, you have something to drive you further into the game.

Stardew Valley — the main inspiration of this post because it depicts a relatively believable story, farming — uses items to drive progression. The requirement to water your crops everyday adds a huge incentive to upgrade the watering can, which costs money and ores, which in turn requires a large farm, which itself requires an upgraded watering can, which requires exploring the mines, which requires the item to smelt ore. This singular goal — upgrade the watering can — is one of the primary struggles in Stardew Valley. As I hope you can understand now, upgrading the watering can involves hours of gameplay and progression. Carrying the watering mechanic to its limit are the sprinklers; items that automatically water crops daily without you doing a damn thing. Obviously they are a massively sought after item. The best sprinkler requires iridum, a ridiculously rare crafting ingredient that is most easily found in the Skull Cavern. Stardew Valley is fantastic by giving you natural gameplay incentive to progress throughout the game. Most items you unlock make the game easier or your farm more efficient. Progressing through the game is just a struggle to make your life easier!

These games work amazingly well until you run out of incentives to progress. Minecraft is especially terrible because once you’ve built yourself three golden castles towering into the sky, then what? You literally have everything you can even need or want in the game, so what do you do? The same is true in Stardew Valley as it’s another one of the “endless games” that you can play for literal years in-game with no completion. Once you’ve developed the community center and have millions of dollars, then what? When you have a massive farm that prints money all by itself with minimal effort and input from you, then what? After you’re married and had a few kids, then what? Eventually Stardew, and all games like this, reach a point where there is no incentive to play anymore. You’re bored with your in-game life and there isn’t anything else to drive you forward. Your in-game life literally becomes pointless and eventually you simply stop playing. It’s an in-game existential crisis. You question your purpose and what the meaning of all your progress even was. Sure you had fun playing the game, but now what?

It isn’t difficult to allow this dreaded outlook to bleed into your view of life in general. Usually success IRL is a lot more difficult than success in Stardew Valley (imagine trying to have a successful farm on your own IRL), Minecraft (imagine trying to live in the woods and survive for years with absolutely nothing except what you can personally create), or in any other “neverending” game, but the slight and ever-present sense of nihilism depicted in the end of these games always seems to underscore life itself. I just don’t think we ever get to that point in life where you can ask yourself “now what?” Life is so difficult, complicated, and multifaceted that I don’t think anyone can ever feel like they’ve “beaten life” like you can in a video game. There’s always something else to challenge you. But still, some part of me imagines this happening someday especially to certain people. Those who have a nice house, so much money that they don’t know what else to spend it on, and where life appears to have been beaten. I’m imagining this is how Olympic athletes and sports stars feel: their lives are so one-dimensional and filled with a singular goal that once it’s achieved — they win the gold medal or the Superbowl or whatever — that they might feel this crushing and final question of “now what?” that I always feel at the end of certain video games. I feel really sorry for these people and I don’t know if I’m lucky or not by thinking that I’ll never reach the end of what I want to accomplish in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be asking myself “now what,” but what if that means I never reached the end of the game? Like I hadn’t properly beaten it? What if that means I’ve failed?

Deadlines (and Procrastination) Suck

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in while I find myself staring at the screen. I have shit to do — things to write, but I’m really dreading the task. I have a deadline to meet and it’s the type of deadline I’m not used to dealing with. It’s a self-imposed deadline.

I think everyone is used to fighting with dreaded deadlines as they seem to be a part of life, especially for those in school/college or in certain jobs. Seeing as even high school imposes deadlines — study deadlines before tests, paper deadlines, essay deadlines, project deadlines, and the terrible speech deadlines — everyone has surely dealt with the stress of an ever approaching target that they fail to make progress on meeting.

Deadlines are obviously related to procrastination. I find it interesting that in over 100 posts I haven’t written anything about procrastination yet. This makes sense though because I avoid deadlines like the plague. I’m not in school and I have a stupidly cushy job that while having deadlines, these apply to our whole crew in general. It’s never a personal thing to deal with. Everyone suffers together.

Procrastination is a scary beast and I don’t have much to say about it that hasn’t been said already. A few years ago I discovered this magnificent blog post by Tim Urban from Wait But Why, and it says everything about procrastination that needs to be said. It’s awful, we know it’s wrong, but yet we do it. Instead of making progress on our goals well into the future distant from the deadline we take comfort in the time — the time that is always disappearing — that we still have left. Procrastination makes zero sense to the logical human, if you think about it no one should ever procrastinate. If you have time, just use it, right?

(He also did a TED talk on it. It’s like a watchable version of his rather wordy post.)

We all know this isn’t true and I’m guilty of it myself even if I know it’s wrong. I don’t even recall how many month-long papers I’ve had to write that I churned out the night before. And when I was in college I even involved alcohol in the process. I’d buy a bottle of vodka, dread the next few hours, drink, and start typing a multi-page paper. Reinforcing this process was the fact that I’d always get As on them along with a few Bs. There was nothing to turn me away from my procrastination habits besides the dread of it all, and the dread instantly disappears when you’re finally finished and receive a decent grade on the hastily and drunkenly written paper. Sure, I’d remember the dread, but then I’d procrastinate the dread of the dread itself. I’ll worry about worrying about it later. The layers of my procrastination are deep; it’s procrastination all the way down.

My life has been nearly deadline free for years now and it’s been nice. I don’t fuck around with deadlines. A popular way to be consistent with blogging is to force yourself to post on a set schedule: set a deadline. I’ve always thought that deadlines fuck with the creative process, plus the anxiety of procrastination was something I didn’t want to purposefully bring upon myself, so I never worried about a posting schedule. (I really think this dim view of deadlines and the creative process is really just me finding another way to procrastinate. Procrastination is a fucking demon.) Take a look at the WordPress display of my post: there is no pattern to it at all. I sit around taking my time and when inspiration hits I churn out a blog post.

Maybe there is some slight pattern? If there is, it isn’t on purpose.

The same is true with my creative writing. I only write when inspired. This is probably why only write at most three chapters a month. Progress has been terribly slow because I’ve had no reason to speed it up without a goal or a deadline.

Until 2020 that was.

One of my resolutions was to write a Morrowind fanfiction story. You can find a link to it here. I promised myself that I’d write a new chapter weekly and post it on Wattpad on Sunday. That’s tomorrow today by the way…I’m sure you see where this post is going and what inspired it. How hard would it be? It’s a fanfiction so I wouldn’t have to take it too seriously. I’d have a whole week to make a new chapter; that’s plenty of time, right? Yes, it is plenty of time until the procrastination kicks in and you find yourself starting the new chapter on Saturday. 26 hours until it needs to be posted. I need to write it, make it sound good, proofread it for errors. Read it again for errors. And then, after hours and hours of stress, writing, and editing when I don’t want to do any of it, I find success. Writing fucking sucks. And then another six days to piss away until it happens again. Repeat for a year or two until the story is finished.

The first few weeks weren’t a problem because I had already been dabbling in writing the story. I mostly had the first few chapters ready to go and I only had to clean them up before posting. But now? I’m in the thick of it. I’m out of pre-written chapters. This week was the first week I had to actually creating something out of thin air purposefully with a deadline. It’s awful and I’m dreading every weekend even more than I already have been. But I am glad to say it’s mostly done. I only have the dirty work of editing left. Yay…

That’s actually why I’m writing this post by the way: I’m procrastinating. I’ve realized for a few months now that this blog has turned into my procrastination project. Instead of doing the difficult work of writing fiction and being creative I get on here and bitch about stuff. It’s easy to do — well, easier than fiction — and I’m actually surprised I’ve turned writing blog posts into a project to procrastinate. It used to be video games and YouTube, so I suppose I am making some progress.

The anxiety is good though. I see why people set hard goals for their projects. If you always wait until you “feel like doing something” you’ll never get around to it, and if you do, it’ll be a much longer time than what it would’ve been. Procrastination sucks. Deadlines suck. Writing sucks. But despite this it is forcing me to make progress in the things I want to make progress in. It’s just highly uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing.

Well, now to work on that damn story…

Depression #4,872 Sucks

I’ve been in a great mood so far in 2020. Until yesterday that is. It seems I can’t escape depression, and being happy makes me anxious because I know there will be some day in the future where it all comes crashing down. When I find myself happy I almost don’t want to be happy because I know it’ll end. And the happier I am the more violently depression brings me down.

In the first few hours of 2020 I was surprised how taking each day an hour or so at a time was uplifting. In the first hour I was happy, and in the second hour I was also happy. I woke up the next morning and realized that the past 12 hours had been good. And the next 12? Good. Why did I ever let my mood ever deteriorate? Life isn’t hard. Even when something bad would happen, like our van needing new brake pads, I wasn’t upset about it. I found myself facing the problem and fixing it. Sure, it wasn’t fun but it didn’t bring me down into the gutter either.

This is how 2020 was until yesterday. I made it two weeks. Wow! My mood went into a downward spiral. I don’t even want to elaborate on why I feel this way because mostly I’m just tired, exhausted, and don’t want to write about it. Partly I think it’s my own twisted mental perceptions that do this to me. It’s never other people that hurt me deliberately, it’s their harmless actions as perceived by me that screws me over. In one of these moods I’m certain of one thing: everyone really hates me. And if they don’t hate me, they’re at least indifferent about me and I almost don’t know which one is worse. Being hated or being invisible? At least you’re noticed if you’re hated.

In one of the moods where the world seems hollow and pointless I find myself closing up and living in my head. Writing naturally occurs more. At the end of the day where the world is total shit, what else is there to do but to keep busy? Focus on yourself. Sit on the computer and write about anything and hope that with the passage of time I might feel somewhat better. Take each moment as it comes. Distance myself from the past and maybe someday soon I’ll feel better.

I naturally want to write about what I feel; what the depression and anxiety feels like, but I don’t even know what to say. That’s the current state of my mind: I don’t even know what to say about anything. I already wrote a post on depression and anxiety, and I don’t think I have anything else to say that might have insight, be productive, or be useful in any way. (Now that I look, I don’t think I’ve made a dedicated post about depression, probably because there’s too much to say about it. Luckily most of my posts have a strong undercurrent of depression that’s always present so that’s cool, right?) That’s frustrating in its own right. When you feel awful, you naturally want to open up and talk to others or to express yourself, but what if you find yourself having nothing to express besides some dismal feeling of void and space. Of nothingness.

I’m mostly angry at myself for being this way. Do other people feel this way? Am I just bipolar? And not in a “lol, I’m so bipolar my mood is all over the place!” way, but the actual bipolar mental disorder (I’m leaning towards bipolar II I think). If other people’s moods do swing as dramatically as mine, they sure do a good job of at least hiding it. It makes it worse, thinking that while other people go through moods just like anyone naturally does, that my moods might be more extreme than most people’s. It’s terrifying, the idea that you’re fucked in a way most people aren’t. You’re unique in a terrible way. One day (or two weeks into the year apparently) I’ll be fine and the next something will totally destroy my mood to where I just want to find a corner, lay down, and cry. To where everything seems so bleak that I start to passively wonder if there’s a nice place to string a rope up. Not that I let that thought get very far, but it does pop up in these states all on its own. It’s like I feel things ten times stronger than other people, and it’s only a guess because I can’t know what’s going on in some people’s heads, but my moods feel extreme. With this comes the wonderful highs that I’m always suspicious of, and of course the terrible and dark lows.

And it’s me. It’s a problem with myself. It’s my overthinking, total lack of self-esteem brain where I feel, despite all outward signs, that everyone hates me. That I’m worthless. That no one sees me in the way that I see everyone else. People are magical and interesting and multi-faceted, flawed and gifted in so many ways that it’s amazing. And then there’s me. A blob. Just a scummy blob who is so bland and boring that if I were to disappear, no one would notice. After a week people might be like, “Where’s Jeremy at?” but besides that, nothing. I know this is the wrong mindset, and logically I know I’m wrong, but you can’t change these things. It seems to be a part of who I am, how my brain works. You can probably slightly change something with effort but I know I’ve said before the depressive mind isn’t one to exercise effort towards anything. Fuck, I haven’t even eaten today so how can I make a dedicated mental exercise of not feeling like shit? I’m just too tired to try. I drag out minute after minute in an exhausting effort to get to some point in the future where I’ll feel better.

I want to kill off this part of me, brutally murder it. This flawed part of me that always finds a negative and ruins my own view of myself. If I was literally two seperate people I’d find that bastard that degrades my life and shoot him in the face. But I can’t. It’s as part of me as anything other trait I have is. I get to carry him around forever, and despite maybe being able to learn to not listen to him as much, he’s still there finding flaws and signs everywhere that I’m worthless. And other people? Do they have this person inside their heads? Does their version yell as loudly and make as much sense as mine does? Does this internal voice dictate their lives robbing them of any and all enjoyment, self-confidence and happiness? Or is it just me? Or, being as positive as possible, is this some twisted gift that makes me unique?

Sorry for the rant. Hopefully something I wrote resonates with people.

Facebook Advertising Sucks: Feeling Like a Sellout

I feel dirty. I feel manipulative. I feel like I’m part of the problem. I feel like I am capitalism incarnate. I feel like a sell-out.

But not really when I actually force myself to think about it.

I wrote a post last year about how Facebook advertising sucks. My main issue with it was that based on your metrics, you find yourself targeting people that are your core audience. To use a political example: if you write some liberalesque blog posts and set up ads targeted towards conservatives (in an attempt to not be biased and to get people to see another opinion outside of their comfort zones) you’ll either be ignored or totally shit upon. Since money is at stake with advertisements, the natural tendency for yourself is to market only to like-minded people so you’ll minimize your cost per reach metric. It makes sense and this is how capitalism works. No one spends money on shit that is pointless. You find yourself narrowing in on the demographic that already agrees/cares about what you’re writing and contributes to echo-chambers online.

(Big Note About Facebook and Self-Promotion: I took all my rambly Facebook-inspired posts and glued them together into an ebook. If you want to read it here’s the link.)

This post, while sort of similar, is complaining about a different aspect of advertising. I want to write about how advertising makes me feel morally corrupt for some reason even though I know it’s perfectly justifiable. It’s one of those deep-seated personality traits I have that I can’t seem to shake. If I advertise or try to sell anything — even if what I’m advertising is totally legit and real — I feel awful about it.

I’ve been dabbling in Facebook advertising for a few years now, but have never seriously been involved with it. I’d “boost a post” here and there, and back when my sister and I were trying to sell shirts I’d toss some money towards ads. It was never that much, perhaps $25 or $50 here or there, and we never found much success with doing so. I advertised my two ebooks on Facebook and Reddit and once again didn’t find much success with it. Yesterday I decided to give it another shot. I started another ad for my personal authors page on Facebook (gimme a ‘like’ if you’re feeling like it) yesterday and have been suffering all over again with it. The moral dilemma that always comes up. Is this really the way to success? Paying Facebook money to market my page?

It works though. Back in October I advertised for the page and actually hit some success with it. In a week my page’s ‘likes’ went from about 20 or so (all close friends and supporters) to over 100: people actually liked my page after seeing it forced upon them. I’m always curious about who actually likes advertised pages because they stick out like a sore thumb to me. But I’m glad some people don’t notice, don’t care, or are actually impressed by what they see. I think this cost me $50 or so. Then peak season began at work and I didn’t worry about marketing myself. I’d worry about it later, like maybe around January 10th.

We live in strange times. The internet has changed what is possible in the past few decades. It’s strange to think back to times before the internet existed. I think of how “easy” it is to do your own think with the internet; anyone can set up an Etsy shop, self-publish on Amazon, have a blog, sell artwork, make fanfiction stories…anything. Your talents can now be visible to the entire world. Wow. I think we’re literally in a golden age of creativity thanks to the internet. I think of what people did to be authors or writers before 2000. Think of physically printing and sending manuscripts to publishers week after week in an attempt to actually make a name for yourself. We don’t need to worry about that. Anyone can make an account somewhere and start writing, painting, etc. Anyone can be creative and get themselves out into the world, and isn’t that what we all want to do? Express our souls and have people notice what we’re saying?

The problem with the openness of the internet is that everyone else is also trying to do their own things. You get lost in the fray of the millions of people trying to make content. Us WordPress bloggers know what the fight means; out of millions of blogs how do you make your site something unique and worth reading? Let alone the question of monetizing and making a job out of it. We’re all tiny bits in some massive machine and how do you get anyone to notice you? You usually don’t. That’s what the struggle is. It isn’t creating or being consistent, it’s being noticed. You could have the best blog/story/music/paintings/poem in the world, but if no one knows about it, who cares?

Sure there is “organic growth” but that is tedious as fuck. As someone who feels like their life is on a timer tickinging down until you either burn out or die, waiting on “organic growth” feels terrible. What if I write some masterpiece when I’m 60 and about to die and no one even hears about it? What if I’m lost in the crowd, out-viewed by people slightly more talented or better at marketing themselves than I am? It’s a scary thought. Being a successful creative person seems to entail being able to market yourself successfully. Hell, even untalented people can market themselves and sell stuff. Think of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Think of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

This is why I decided to toss some money into Facebook advertising again. I feel like I’m hitting my stride, actually making some small but consistent progress towards my goals, and who is there to take notice? Just a few hundred subscribers and people close friends who ‘like’ my Facebook page. It’s a strange place for me to be in. I’ve struggled with self-esteem recently and still do, but I feel like I’m past it in a way. I don’t feel like the main challenge is being good anymore — this is just hard work, consistency, and stubbornness; a blind eye towards failure — I feel like my main challenge is being noticed. This is the main struggle for us creative types in 2020. It doesn’t seem so much as being good but being noticed in the crowd of millions of people trying to do their own thing.

I feel terrible for advertising though. Once again, logically, I know it doesn’t make sense. I wrote this whole post complaining about “people finding you” and how else do people “find you” besides paying money to make yourself appear on their Facebook feeds? I think of the horror stories on Twitter where people simply buy followers and at least I’m not doing that, right? The people that see my shitty and contrived ads don’t have to ‘like’ or ‘follow’, but some of them do. Am I selling out to capitalism and the tempation of being famous or am I just wanting people to find something that they might enjoy to read? I really think it’s the latter, but my gut still tells me I’m a sellout. I think I naturally want to slave away in total obscurity and never do anything notable and it seems like a conscious effort to sabotage myself in that way. Yes, I feel bad for advertising, but I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m not gaming the system. I’m not “cheating.” I’m not cooking books or making shady contracts. I’m just trying to get people to notice the stuff I’m creating which I’m actually proud of even if I don’t like to admit it. And in the writing/blogging/self-publishing market, isn’t this what the big challenge actually is?

Even after writing this I still don’t feel good about it.

New Year's Resolutions (Don't) Suck? An Update

Note: My last post tried something differenet and that one flopped pretty hard, so let’s continue, shall we?

What day is it? The 11th? Shit. I thought we’d be further in the year than we are. It feels like we’re two months into the year with all the bad shit that’s happening in the world. Oh well. Faced with a world seemingly falling apart into chaos all around you, the best thing you can do is to focus on your own well-being and happiness. After all, you can’t change, fix, or alter the world for the better if you yourself can’t seem to survive day-to-day life. Close up within, and focus on yourself.

Speaking of self-help, how are those resolutions going? Are y’all holding on okay? Or did you pick something stupidly silly and unrealistic that you’ve already failed your goals? I’m especially wondering about the gym rats this time of year. How’s the spontaneous gym membership you got on December 29th treating you? I only wonder this because health goals seem especially difficult to maintain, but I do hope everyone is doing fine with their goals.

I’m actually proud with myself and the resolutions I decided upon. I picked them to better myself (in a roundabout way I guess) and at first was fearing the challenges that faced me. But I’ve found my resolutions are snowballing into pure momentum to where they’re becoming actual habits and changes to my life. As time goes on they’re easier to accomplish than when I started. That is more than I realistically hoped for even if it’s what I actually wanted. I picked some great resolutions and I’m proud how much they’re improving my life.

To list them:

  1. Wake up “early” (I’ve decided on 10 a.m.)
  2. Give someone a compliment daily
  3. Read something daily
  4. Write something daily
  5. Drink only on Sunday
  6. 1,000 monthly blog views?
  7. (Self-)Publish two books
  8. Write a Morrowind Fanfic and post on Sunday

Wake Up Early

I want to start with the most basic resolution: wake up early. I had (it feels so nice to write ‘had’ instead of ‘have’) a terrible habit of staying awake until 3, 4, or even 5 a.m. usually scrolling through Reddit/Facebook or watching YouTube videos. Just totally pissing away time. This would cause me to sleep until noon leaving me with a paltry four hours of freetime before work. I didn’t get anything done. My time management was a fucking mess. I don’t even understand how I maintained this blog as well as I did. How was I realizing three productive hours a day out of 24? I woke a part-time job for fucks sake! The plan: wake up early.

Holy shit it’s been working wonders on me. I mean I still fall asleep around 2-4 a.m. but waking up at 10 gives me tons of time to actually be productive. I’ve had so much time, I usually wake up and play video games shamelessly for a few hours; this leaves me with nearly four hours of productive writing/blogging time full of motivation because I had already had my “freetime” playing video games. Sure, I’m only getting six hours of sleep a night but for some reason I feel more energetic and focused. Even at the end of the work day when I’m in a sleepy haze, I still feel happy about feeling that way. I feel like I exist and I don’t have any energy to overworry or feel anxious about things. I just watch people converse, and enjoy listening to them doing so.

I also think a key part of any successful resolution is to be kind to yourself. My daughter was up puking for a few hours last night and I didn’t get to sleep until 5 a.m. I made the conscious decision not to wake up at ten, but it was a logical and conscious decision. Do I feel like I’ve “failed” my resolution? Am I going to give up because I’ve messed up a singular day? No. It’s my resolution and I’ll do whatever I damn well please, even if it means continuing after I’ve “failed.”

Drink Only on Sunday

This one has been going well since the New Year even if it was hard to get into the habit of. It’s currently Saturday, and I hate the weekends. I really want to pound some beers now because I’m so bored and uninspired. But I can wait until tomorrow. I think drinking once a week is optimal for me: it gives me something to “look forward to” during the week and one day isn’t going to ruin my life with alcoholism. It’s the perfect medium and the only challenge is keeping to one day a week. I might be playing with fire here, but it’s working great two weeks into the year (yeah, wow, way to be hero). As with waking up early, my mood is pretty good following my plans.

Another example of “being flexible” or “not being hard on yourself:” I stopped by my mom’s house Wednesday to grab some money she owed me, and she offered me some beers. Her ex-boyfriend two years ago had left six Bud Lights at her house…did I want them? She didn’t drink shitty Bud Lights. Of course I wanted them! I took them and drank the damn things that night. Did I feel like I “failed?” No. I view it as a singular, special, one-time incident and I’m not going to worry about it…back to my plan. This is a little harder to justify as compared to the waking up early example from above, but once again you’re only really justifiable to yourself as long as you don’t abuse that power.

Give Daily Compliments

I’m also proud to say my entire grand plan for daily compliments has worked out perfectly. Everything I envisioned happening to me has happened; my mood is more positive, I look for things to compliment people on, and I’m being more open with giving compliments. Even 11 days into the year I’m more open with compliments than I ever have been. It’s amazing.

The best example so far was when I had my car window repaired. The lady at the service counter had these like inch-long multi-colored fingernails. You guys might realize what type of person I am, but if you can’t, I’m not the type of person to notice or compliment nails at all. I don’t think I’ve ever once consciously noticed fingernails unless they’re ridiculously long/gaudy and impossible to ignore. Anyways, I seen her amazingly fun nails and thought about telling her that I liked them. Ii hesitated for a second or two — was I really going to compliment some stranger’s fingernails? — then I just ran with it and owned the compliment. “I like your nails, they’re really fun,” I said. She smiled, said thanks, and mentioned how she had put them on for New Years and they’re were getting annoying to actually wear. It feels good to spread a little bit of happiness to people. And remember a single compliment is the minimum I need to do; if I want to dish out more compliments, go ahead!

I try not to make “exceptions” for this one because this is opening myself up to failure. Unlike other resolutions, I know if I skip a day or two here I’ll totally lose it. I’m aware I need to really work at this one, and is my most important one to continue.

Other Random Stuff

I have two books I’m working on and there’s no reason I can’t finish them this year. So that’s one. This blog also had about 700 views last month, so once again in the remaining year I should be able to hit 1,000; I just have to remain consistent. I ditched reading and writing everyday because I’m pretty consistent with writing. It’s not an everyday thing, but I’m not slacking as much as I used to. Waking up early has helped immensely with writing. Reading is strange because sometimes I just don’t want to read, and I think I could be putting too much stuff on my plate with that.

The other notable resolution is my promise to write a Morrowind Fanfiction story and post a new chapter on Wattpad every Sunday. I laid out my plan over on my other blog so check it out if you’re curious.

I know 11 days doesn’t really mean much in terms of yearly resolutions, but I’m feeling really good about mine. They’re already improving my life and I know the longer I keep them up the greater the effects will be. And if you have fucked up on your resolutions a few time? Who cares! Just get back on the wagon and back to them. You don’t have to admit defeat and you don’t have to quit because of a single fuck up. Remember, the only one you need to justify your actions to is yourself, and if you have a good reason for breaking a resolution, don’t be too hard on yourself. 2020 might suck so far, but let’s get those positive vibes out there and have a good year.

Changing Brakes Sucks: A DIY Guide

Our (shitty) Dodge Caravan has an awful sound coming from the right rear tire. It only happens when you push on the brakes and is a horrific grinding sound. I don’t even need to look to know what it is; the brake pad is totally gone and the metal that the pad is attached to is grinding the fuck up against the brake rotor. This isn’t good and if you go long enough without fixing the problem you can fuck the brake rotor up. And those things are a bit more expensive (and more of a hassle) to replace compared to brake pads.  Even if this wasn’t the case, any sane person would want to fix the brakes sooner rather than later just because it sounds so horrific. You almost don’t want to push on the brakes because of the dreaded sound it’ll make.

We also have an impending winter storm here in northern Illinois. Most forecasts say we’ll get nearly a foot of snow, or at least 8 inches, and that isn’t fun at all. I love to procrastinate as long as I can, but shit, the idea of changing brakes on Sunday or Monday after a foot of snow has fallen sounds terrible. It’ll probably be cold, windy, and all around uncomfortable. If you’ve ever worked on a car before you already know it’s uncomfortable enough: no need to make it worse by doing it in a snow drift.

Better get my ass outside and knock that out. I’ll write a brake changing guide for everyone so they can 1. understand how to change their own brakes and 2. understand the hell I went through.

Find the Correct Parts

First off, you need to find brake pads to actually install. Head down to an Autozone or Advance Auto Parts (or whatever auto parts store you have in your location) and tell them the year, make, and model of your vehicle. Pray to whatever higher power you believe in that the person serving you isn’t braindead and gives you the correct parts. It’s not fun to rip the car apart and then realize that the brake pads aren’t the correct ones. Better have a spare car available if that happens, otherwise you need to put the tire back on, exchange the wrong parts for the correct ones, and then try again if you still have any willpower left.

Bonus points if you can see your brakes through the rim. Take a new one out of the box and see if they’re at least vaguely similar. You can do this is the auto store parking lot.

Jack the Vehicle Up

Find a suitable location to put a jack under the car and bring the tire off the ground. Pray to God that your car isn’t so damn rusty that jacking the car up starts to crack the fucking metal.

Loosen the Lug Nuts

They’re probably so damn tight that you should’ve loosened them before jacking the vehicle off the ground. Shit.

Put Vehicle Back Down, NOW Loosen the Lug Nuts

Now we’re back on track with only a minor fuck up. Get a big fucking wrench or tire iron out and loosen those damn lug nuts. Don’t take them completely off because it having the wheel not attached is a bad idea, but break them loose.

Jack Vehicle Off the Ground (Again)

Just like before. You’re really good at this part now.

Kick the Shit Out of the Tire/Rim to Get It to Come off

If it’s been awhile since you’ve removed a tire (which is probably true if the brake pads are fucking non-existent) it’ll probably be somewhat rusted to the hub itself. So go to town on the thing and hope you don’t injure your foot by kicking it too violently, or have the car fall off the jack. You might have to get creative with the tire iron/pry bar to get it off. If using this technique, do not fuck up the brake caliper!

Look at Stuff

Take a look at the brake caliper and notice what silly design choices your automaker made when designing the car. Does the caliper itself swing up? If so you only need to remove a single bolt. Do you need to remove both bolts and remove the caliper entirely to get the pads? Whatever the case, take a good look, hate yourself and dread the bullshit you’re about to put yourself through.

Get Tools to Remove the Caliper

Take a guess about what you need to take the caliper off, find the tools, and try it. It won’t be the correct socket. Some are regular bolts, metric or imperial (yeah good luck!), some are Allen heads, and some fucking idiot that designed the Chevy Cavalier decided to use Torx Bolts. No fucking joke. This step will take like twenty minutes and I hope your toolbox is either portable/nearby and filled with everything imaginable.

Optional: Go Buy the Correct Tools

If you don’t stock Torx bits in your toolbox, good luck, because you’ll probably have to go buy a set just for this one job. Hope that the stores around you aren’t far away or closed.

Take Caliper Off

Once you get the caliper bolts off, you take the caliper off. As with everything involving cars this is easier said than done depending on what shit you need to deal with. Grab the pry bar/tire iron and start ripping away on the damn thing until it eventually comes off.

Remove and Examine the Brake Pads

Next, you take the old brake pads off. Depending on the design you might be able to take them out of clips or whatever while some are attached to the caliper itself. Dodge decided to attach the outer pad via clips that are nearly impossible to get off. You need to lift and pry on them at the same time which is just asking to get your knuckles busted on something. I think there’s a rule that states that you can’t work on a car without getting injured. It’s impossible.

Also take a look at how fucked up your old pads are and wonder why you never got around to being responsible and fixing the issue earlier.

Push the Caliper Piston Back On

If you have a newer vehicle you might be able to do this by hand, but probably not. Walk back to the toolbox and grab a c-clamp. Hope that it’s big enough. Hope the caliper is designed where a single c-clamp will work. If not, go find/buy another clamp or get creative. Cussing usually helps this step.

Remove Caliper Bolts

These bad boys are meant to float inside the caliper, so you need to lube them up before installing the new pads. You might be able to remove them by hand, but I’ve found I need to reattach the wrench to them and twist the bolts while pushing them out.

Clean the Damn Things and Grease Them

I hosed mine down with some WD-40 so they didn’t look like shit. After this, goop a fuckton of grease on them so they move properly like they’re supposed too. Put them back where you got them from on the caliper. This shouldn’t be too hard because of all the grease on them.

Put the New Pads On

Insert the new pads either into their holders/clips on the rotor or on the caliper. Fuck around with any bullshit clips that the manufacturer decided to have just to fuck your day up. Ponder the simplicity of the job in certain repair manuals that state “installation is the opposite of removal.”

Put the Caliper Back On

This is straight forward. The hardest part is trying to line the fucking thing up. You’ll probably find that it’s difficult to actually get everything back where you removed it from. Maybe hit some things with a hammer/tire iron to get it all installed? I don’t know. Cuss some more, drink another beer, etc. Whatever you need to get ‘er done. You’re almost there…

Tighten Caliper Bolts (But not Too Tight!)

Once again, fuck around trying to get the bolts back in their holes. If you did good on the previous step this might not be so bad. If you still don’t have things precisely lined up you’ll need to fuck around until the bolts actually find the holes.

Tighten them according to their specs, and if you don’t know the specs (like 99% of us) just tighten them to where you feel okay with driving the vehicle. You don’t want to get them too tight because then the next time you change brake pads you’ll find yourself hating your past self for being such a safety-minded, strong-armed asshole. You don’t want them to be too loose because then the caliper could probably fall off.

Put the Tire On

Self-explanatory. Fuck around trying to line the tire up with the hub bolts and all of that. Probably cuss. Cussing should be mandatory for each step here really…

Lug Nuts, Jack, Tighten Lugs

Jesus Christ, you’re almost done. Slap this shit together as quickly as you can so you can be done with it all.

Give Up and Don’t Even Attempt to do the Other Side

I’ve heard you’re supposed to change both sides at the same time, but fuck all of that. The right rear side was making that awful griding sound, I replaced those pads, so I’m fucking done. Who cares?

Drive the Car Wash Your Hands Put Your Tools Away

Put everything back exactly where you found them so when you do get around to doing the other side’s brakes you don’t have to fuck around with finding the tools. If you’re really feeling like a go-getter, maybe find a piece of paper and note what size/types of tools you need to complete the job. I’m not this type of person, but I can dream can’t I?

Wash Your Hands

Your hands are black and covered in supposedly carcinogenic brake dust, dirt, and grime, along with brake grease. Don’t even think about driving the car yet because you’ll make the steering wheel nasty. Walk inside and wash that shit. Take a good five minutes doing so because you’ll need to wash them like six times to get them remotely clean.

Test Drive the Car

Pump the brakes before you drive away! If you’ve pushed the caliper in really far you need to extend it before you drive otherwise you’ll hit the brakes and the car possibly won’t do anything like stop.

Take solace in how quiet the car truly is now. And if it isn’t? Well, another side has fucked up pads so hate your life, go buy more beer, drive off a bridge, or whatever else makes you feel better. If you’re feeling up to it, go buy more pads or set to work on the other side. If everything is okay, jack on the brakes a few times violently to make sure everything works like you need it to in an emergency.

Relax

Congratulations! You’re done! You were productive! You fixed a problem with your car! Try not to think how fundamentally changing the brakes is a 15 minute job and somehow it took you three hours to finish it. The second rule of working on cars is that nothing ever works out in your favor. But you got it done. Good job. Fuck cars.