BA Quest

Where College Students Meet Their Fate

The Impostor Syndrome

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By Daniel Fockler

For the past few years I have had this feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be where I was in my life. Sometimes I felt like I shouldn’t have the job I have, or have the grades that I get. I had just chalked it up to my already low self-confidence. I made myself believe that the accomplishments I had made were because I was lucky. I worried that everyone around me was doing so much better than I was and that I wouldn’t be able to compete with them. My self-doubt and low self-esteem in my abilities had prevented me from participating in high school activities before. My stress about failure coupled with my confidence issues, felt crippling when confronted with competition. I’m now a senior computer science student and these feelings still crop up. I worry that all of the other students will be able to find jobs and I will be unable, due to my self-evaluated programming skills.

Just recently I learned that this feeling was not uncommon but has a name, the Impostor Syndrome.  In a study done by psychologists Clance and Imes in 1978, they found that many female graduate students felt like they didn’t deserve what they had accomplished. In further studies done by other psychologists this same phenomenon was found in many other collegiate students and teachers in some cases. They also found that the syndrome presents in men equally to women. Often the ability to self-evaluate creates a situation in which the person cannot accurately evaluate themselves. They compare themselves to their peers even without the knowledge of their peers abilities. For all the impostor knows the other people they are competing with could feel exactly the same way, or have equal or worse abilities to them. Often times people will not congratulate themselves for their accomplishments, but they will dwell on their errors and failures. It’s a difficult thing to realize and even more difficult to correct.

I realize that more and more life is all about fake it til’ you make it. In my experience people with confidence rarely believe that they are better, they are just pretending until it becomes normal for them to feel that way. As a scientist it seems silly to judge my ideas on unknown information, but that is exactly what I was doing. I was letting my feelings of doubt affect how I viewed others and consequently how I judged myself. Whether I knew how my abilities stacked up didn’t matter. An important step in overcoming this feeling is to take an accurate look at your competence in your field and not to judge yourself against others without objective information of your progress. Do you know the materials you are learning? Is there any solid evidence that you are doing worse than you should be doing? It’s easy to slip back into the impostor way of thinking if you are having a tough time with your work. Truly analyze your abilities, look at your accomplishments and don’t let yourself undermine what accomplishments you have achieved. It’s easy to keep raising the bar and devaluing what you have done, but keep looking at the evidence and you will find that you are keeping up and deserve the success that you have.

Written by dfockler

12/14/2011 at 2:14 PM

NaNoWriMo: The Aftermath

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Well it is over, National Novel Writing Month is done. It was 30 days of grueling work, but the deed is done.

I first wrote about NaNoWriMo back on the 27th of October. When I started the exercise, I didn’t have a good memory of exactly what it took to forget the world around you every evening and just write. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing. I have a degree in creative writing, if there is any dedication to a cause greater than getting a laughable degree and going deep into debt for it, I can’t think of it. Oh right, there is also dying… I guess there is that.

I got this from a stock image site. I made myself sad.

When I Started

…everything was okay. I thought I knew where I was going, I had my outline and I charged ahead. My hook was tight, my character was interesting from the first page. That is when I ran into my first problem. The character had an interesting personality, but by his own nature, he was quiet and stand-offish. He didn’t have wild conversations with others, he put them down, or ignored them. So as a writer who thrives on dialog, I wrote a main character that couldn’t participate in my favorite writing mechanic. Brilliant move on my part. I was determined to stick to the character in my head though, so I stuck with it. The obvious solution eluded me.

In The Middle

As the weeks went on, things got difficult. This is what I call the ‘OH JESUS THIS OUTLINE IS NOT AS LONG AS IT NEEDED TO BE’ phase. I have tried outlines several times now, and it always ends the same. I know the start to my story, I know the characters and setting, I know the viable ending, and I know some important stuff that will happen in the middle. What happens is that you write a scene that you thought would be good, but it turns out to be three pages instead of 10 pages. You go through a dramatic moment, and it turns out that it took a page to finish, and lead a different direction than you expected. So what is there to do? You power through it, there is no time for revision, you cannot reverse the flow of time, this isn’t Prince of Persia this is NaNoWriMo dangit.

My character’s lack of dialog was drawing conversations to a close much faster than I expected. My new succinct writing style gained from school was ending everything in half the time. This wasn’t looking pretty. So some changes happened in the story, dark changes dreamed up in midnight fevers.

They were beautiful. Like a Dostoyevsky character, madness and frustration drove me to the edge, and there I found salvation. Actually, I found it in driving my character mad. His personality was slowly corrupted by the pressures of the world around him, and instead of a background madness his became real. This change is exactly what makes me love NaNoWriMo, by forcing my hand, I came up with an alteration to my original idea that was better than anything I could have originally imagined. Would I have gone there eventually? Maybe. The event is a fire that burns away impurities and leaves something at the bone, but it may not always be the delicious marrow you want.

Okay, not this 'mad'

As I pushed forward, several obstacles got in my way. Star Wars: The Old Republic, an upcoming MMO, had beta events several weekends in a row, and I gave them a try. I had nights where I did no writing at all because I played so late that I had no time before I had to get some sleep. Thanksgiving loomed as well.

The Big Finish

Finishing the story wasn’t going to be easy. I was behind by thousands of words. I was so far behind my 50k word goal that I was wondering if success was even possible. I pushed ahead anyway, writing down new daily goals. Soon I was supposed to write 3,000 words a day instead of 1,660.

My conclusion no longer made sense either. The development of my character was straying from my original plan, which now seemed shallow or even offensive. So something had to change, and fast. I turned my character’s friends against him, made his own mind a torture dungeon. As I threw more obstacles in front of him, I had my character climb to a conclusion that was way beyond the original. What started as a argument between former lovers was now a trial for an ostracized man.

This was about when I realized my horrible mistake. Every situation with my main character was stuck with him and his stunted personality. He was the one having a crisis, but he also never voiced it. I found myself yearning for the minds of other characters. Except I was in first person. That was the solution I missed back in those first days. The story should have been in a close third, and I would have had the freedom I wanted. Instead I had the troubled mind, but nothing else. It dragged me down every day.

The days got harder, and soon I hit the last few days. I had to write over 5k words each day. Each night I stayed up and fought my keyboard until it gave up words. Even if my story didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted, I would reach 50,000.

As the month ended, I stayed up late on that last night and threw up my word count on NaNoWriMo.org. I was over the 50k, 2,000 over actually. I made it.

NaNoWriMo tested me more this year than any previous year. The world around me was tougher than before, working a day to day job with hours that forced me to sleep at 10pm. My goal was greater, to write a story that had a serious edge, to write in a genre I never wrote in before. Still, the essence of NaNoWriMo, and the support of my friends, got me over the finish line again.

A Winrar Is Me!

The novel is a piece of crap, but that is a problem I’m saving until January.

Thanks for reading everybody.

Written by MD Kid

12/11/2011 at 10:13 PM

TOP 10 REASONS THERE ARE TOP 10 LISTS

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Top 10 list are everywhere. Lets face it, if you’ve been on the internet for more than a few hours, you have probably seen one of these. We count from number 10, all the way up to number 1, which is supposed to be the best of the best. It doesn’t have to be 10, the number could be 20, 6, 100, 3, it isn’t important. These are all ‘top’ list, the slough of the internet. Cracked.com is a whole website of them.

So why do we need so many lists to count stuff down? Why does the human race torture itself with these numbered cookie-cutter examinations? To answer that I’ve created a top 10 list.

#10 Humans Love Countdowns

Walk into a public restaurant, somewhere quiet but not too snobbish, bring some friends. Now everyone get up and start counting down, maybe start at 15 or something and head down toward 1. If the people in that place don’t join in, you’ll see the tortured faces of those that want to. When a count happens, it is contagious. The whole crowd wants to be part of it, whether it is because the noise overtakes us, or we just want to see what is at the far end.

Bonus points if we know confetti is coming

This is why you should never make a list the old fashioned way. Bullets are for chumps, they are the sort of list a pansy would make. If you want to list right, you go from the biggest number, and lead right down to the number 1 spot. Do you need to explain the finer points on why your spouse should respect you more? 10 to 1. Need to tell someone why you’re deleting them off your friends list? 5 to 1. Writing your essay on why Miracle Whip is superior to Mayo? You get the picture.

Of course, this is heavy on the instinctual side. This is unconscious. There are other pressures at work.

#9 How Do You Avoid Them?

So lets say you aren’t such a big fan of top 10s, or tops in general. What do you do? I have scoured the internet, and managed to come up with the only five ways to avoid these things while browsing. I will use the less popular ‘top 5’ format for this.

5 – Die. Surefire way to avoid just about anything. That is unless someone’s after-life includes DSL.

4 – Remove your eyeballs. You might still hear a top list, so this one is not recommended.

3 – Unlearn to read. This one is expensive, very experimental, and requires a brain surgery technique that I just made up in my head.

2 – Get off the internet. There is a world out there, it just isn’t all that interesting. Watch out for pamphlets though.

1 – You don’t. Well that’s not a very good answer, not a good #1 either. Doesn’t seem fair. I’ll come back to this later.

THEY.ARE.EVERYWHERE

You better start liking tops list boy, you're in one!

The internet is metaphorically, literally, and metaphysically, inundated with tops lists. There is at least a tops list for every single subject you can think of. If there is not one, it is because your topic is very new, you will have to give the internet at least two hours to churn one out of its cess-hole. Even better, if you need a way to find the best tops list about a subject, you may even be able to find a tops list for the proper tops list.

If this hasn’t driven home yet, that means there are people out there collecting the top 100 websites with top 20 park rides, and then they post them on their GoDaddy.com site and they wait, in darkness, for you to come along and enter just the right words in your search box. Suddenly, when you hit their front page, they are assured that their righteous quest was the correct path all these years.

#8 Silly Internet Pictures and Videos

Well this one is easy. If it comes with cute and silly pictures, the internet cannot get enough of it. This is twice as true if the pictures are obviously photoshopped.

Something isn't right

I'm sure you've seen this one before

If you are going to sit through an inane list describing the top reasons that the N-sync should have a return tour, you may as well have silly pictures included right? This means that when you nod in agreement that Justin’s voice is the 8th wonder of the modern world, you can be tickled pink by the photo of him surrounded by a tourist trap line. Isn’t that funny? They captured your feelings through a badly edited picture. If it was any other way, you wouldn’t be sure if they truly agreed with their opinions. The bad picture is the extra miles that prove they mean business, in the least business-like way possible.

#7 Doing Actual Research is Hard

I’ve done some of that school stuff myself, I know how you feel. Sometimes you want to know a little more, you want some information to itch that little tickle of curiosity. You don’t need any of the hard stuff, forget peer-review, even hard dates are a little much for you. Who needs to know when, where, or why something happened, I just want to see something cool and fast.

Newspapers are hard to hold

What is this? I didn't go to school so I could read at home.

I know that there are some topics that are just too annoying to research myself. So I trust the ace reports of therestoftheinternet.com to do the work for me. You see something that interest you, and you just go with it. The other day I saw someone mention the top 10 ways for a writer to get noticed, well **** yeah I want to know about that. Who is this person? I don’t know, probably some other guy who read a list on the top 5 ways to get noticed as a writer, and listened to the number 1 that said, “MAKE A TOP 10 LIST!”

Besides, who cares if the person’s research is faulty, you probably won’t share the things you saw there anyway. I mean you’ll just link it to your friends, post it on your facebook, retweet it on twitter, and then drop some of the factoids into casual conversation. You won’t take it seriously though, that will cross a hard line.

#6 Boredom

This one is about halfway up for a reason. When you’ve had a long day and can’t find anything to do, sometimes you want to put your brain to sleep and see what the internet has to offer. So why not read a list. There will be funny pictures, maybe a joke or two about a movie you recently saw, I bet someone will even throw in a nostalgia bomb. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll count down to 1.

LOVE ME

I made this a puppy to wake you up.

Who said that entertainment had to be intellectually stimulating, no one, ever. If someone wants to tell me the top places I can go to see people bungee jump, it is only a matter of time and lack of other things to do before I’ll read that list. I have never bungee jumped, I don’t plan to ever bungee jump, I don’t even particularly like heights. That list is still on a slow-moving to-do list that is waiting for me to give up on every other productive task in life.

#5 Getting Trolled

Still A Troll

Adorable

Now for one of the reasons these things get created. You ever been halfway through a list and seen something that just peeves you to next Tuesday? How dare they put Ocarina of time as #40 on the list of greatest games. They said that “Thriller” was below what song? Any list made by an expert, a protopper if you will, includes things like this. They want you to glow with anger early in the list, that way you have to see what else is there. You can’t just tell your friend “They said Snooki was only the 8th worst thing to come from New Jersey”, someone will ask you, “What was number 1?” Well what do you say then silly goose?

That means you have to finish the list, so you can have strong categorized points of frustration to tell everyone who gets in your way right after you read the list. I feel sorry for those poor saps.

#4 We Love To Similar

Anyone who tells you they are unique is either lying, or plotting to murder you. It is just a matter of scientific fact, we are a giant pack that strives to do whatever the cool kids are doing. The more unique someone claims they are, the more likely they are trying to join some popular group. I don’t need to tell you this though, this is the internet. If you don’t know this by now, you have other problems, and should probably just shut your internet box down.

Family

It feels good to be special

When you see a list that includes something you might know something about, you are already making a list in your head of where things should be. You create your own top 10 before you even see their top 10. You and the author are suddenly co-topping, which is probably also the name of a dangerous sex position. When you see anything on their list that matches your top, you now can give a little cheer. You aren’t so weird, you are part of the crowd, just as cool as this cool guy who managed to put something on the web. If it is on the internet, that means a famous person had to be involved right?

Well I’m not going to argue with that. Every right answer is going to give your mind another one of those instinctual jumps. Hoorah, I am one of the pack. The author gets the same thing, though usually in some after-the-fact satisfaction through comments or forum posts.

Of course we don’t always like to agree, especially with those we are actually close enough to know.

#3 Competition and Vindication 

Sometimes you just want to know that you were right and everyone else was wrong. This is especially true for any top list made by more ‘official’ sources. Which usually means that some giant company hired their media managers who hired their PR guys who hired a writer you don’t know to write a top 10 about some product that the aforementioned giant company owns. Maybe some technology was used to calculate this list with hard data, or maybe it is just based on random opinions and TMZ articles, it is obviously fact and you are obviously smarter than Stephen from 8th grade, that jerk.

Whoever is to the right is a busta

Everyone who doesn't agree is a loser

Not that pointing and laughing is the best way to make new friends, but it is one of the best ways to start a petty argument with old ones. Sure there is probably an equally important list that says the exact opposite of what your list just said, but this is the internet people, and we play for tops. That means facts aren’t important, the only thing that is important is that number 1 spot.

#2 Anticipation

Once you’ve come this far on a list, you don’t know what to do. I mean, number 2 is always a downer. Maybe it is your favorite, maybe this is the ultimate troll spot that is going to force you to head down the page further to check out number 1.

That poor barely dressed white woman

Everything was suspenseful in black and white

How could you possibly stop at this point. The final answer is just right there. Especially if you haven’t seen your favorite answer in the list just yet. I mean, I read through 14 Disney movies so far and they haven’t listed the Genie as the worst sidekick, so that means he should be #1 right? It is the only possible solution. I don’t have to commit myself to this, I can just look down, get my answer, and leave. Come on weakened heart, you can make it, we will get through this together.

So you prep yourself, still your baby-bladder, and you move forward to see what is at the top of the list, by looking at the thing at the bottom of a web page. Alternatively, they will enhance your anticipation by putting the #1 on a different page, or making you wait until next week. Okay cool, now I’m dedicated to your ridiculous list, and your funny pictures, don’t mind me as I subscribe to your site just so I can forget to read the conclusion.

#1 Disappointment

Baby tears

Your tears fuel the internet, random baby

You will be disappointed with the top spot. Those few times that you are not disappointed, you won’t even remember. It will be just another thing on the internet, some code that floats off into the aether. That isn’t what a top 10 list author wants, that isn’t his or her diabolical plan. When they put this list together it is to drag you, kicking and screaming from the page your mother linked you, to its horrible conclusion. Then when you get there, you face the horrible monster at the end of the page.

Your own rage.

I just want to strangle myself

If you see red, they see green

Why should they make you hate them, why should the top spot be something you will categorically disagree with? Because that is what keeps people coming back. If you agreed, if you liked it, you would go to sleep satisfied. I don’t go around the internet reminding people of things that made me feel really calm, neutral, mellow. My links are about my unfathomable rage, that will be exacted against JTBLOGGER94 and anyone on his, I assume, respectable staff of internet writers.

So when you go spreading links to their top 10 just so you can tell everyone how much you disagree with it, they get hit after hit. Notice this is the opposite of how a lot of things work. If I wanted to get more hits on a news piece, I would try to be agreeable. I want the hugs and kisses of all the internet peoples. A top 10 list? I want you to hate my guts, I want you to think I have betrayed mankind on a fundamental level.

What will I be doing? Collecting your screams of agony in specially prepared bottles meant to keep me alive for another 10 years. My plan is in motion, and there is nothing you meddling readers can do about it.

Well, you could write a top 10 list of your own, that would show me.

Written by MD Kid

11/07/2011 at 2:33 AM

A Rapidly Deteriorating Lifestyle

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By Daniel Fockler

When you get into college you have this idea of how it will be. You might imagine that you will study diligently every night in your dorm, and you will hang out in the library with the comforting quiet of the books surrounding you like a blanket. You might envision yourself partying everyday, coming to class hungover and tired, but still skating by on wit and charm. How ever you thought it would be there are fundamental truths about college that persist through the many years of the collegiate institution. It’s not about studying or partying though, it’s about the life you have in college.

The more I think about it the more I realize that school is a lifestyle and working is a completely separate lifestyle. I’m in my senior year and as I think about graduating, it feels like being let out of prison into the population. I’ve served my sentence for 16 years and my time is finally up. As soon as you’re done with your last day of classes the world is completely different than the minute before. You have no responsibility other than to your self. You have been trained for this for a decade and a half. A decade and a half of people telling you what to do, assigning you homework, and expecting things from you. Whether you flounder or fly is up to you, but you have been pushed out of the nest and the reliance on any form of structure you once had has disappeared beneath your feet.

I would imagine it’s similar to culture shock. The idea is that when you are introduced to a culture other than your own, their practices and standards are completely disorienting to you and cause you to have social anxiety. How you change from one lifestyle to a completely different lifestyle over the course of a month is the difference between succeeding as an adult and being stuck in your culture shock. Eventually people get out of their shock and acclimate, but until that happens not much progress is made. For whatever profession you chose/choose people will tell you the tips and tricks, how to network, how to succeed. But it doesn’t matter all that much compared to you, and how you are able to progress from one part of your life to the next.


Written by dfockler

10/31/2011 at 1:56 PM

Now You Must NaNoWriMo!

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Over the last four years there has only been one event that has made me put all other goals on hold. That is the amateur writer’s digital pilgrimage, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo to its friends.

From November 1st through November 30th, writers from all around hunker down for the chilly holiday season by spilling their sanity across notebooks, loose leafs, and keyboards. If you aren’t already getting paid ‘phat ducats’ through your writing, there is very little reason not to participate. Well, there is the whole time-consuming-exercise-purely-for-your-own-benefit thing. No one will pay you, sure, but if you manage to make it to the 50k words that signify a NaNo winner, you won’t have much left to do in life. I mean, writing a novel in a month’s time has to be at the top of a lot of bucket lists.

For this junior starving artist, NaNoWriMo started off as something to do because I really had nothing to do. I was done with community college, and I hadn’t started going to university yet. What could I do that would signify that all my talk of being a writer wasn’t a bunch of bluster? Well I could have started an internship at a publishing firm, or started writing on blogs so that I could actually have a career today. Yeah, that would have been the ticket. Instead I did NaNoWriMo, and the rest is not even worth history.

My trophy

I wrote 50k words and all I got was this microscopic .gif

So what does the average NaNoWriMo look like for me? It usually starts a few days before the big event. I remember my first year I made the decision of what to write about the week before it started. This may not cause alarm for some, but let me spell this problem out for you. When you are writing a novel, fifty-thousand words, you need an atomic butt-load of content. I’m not talking your momma’s butt-loads, this is some new age junk. I had a wonderfully creative idea, that I stole from the anime Big-O. What if everyone woke up and didn’t have their memories? I decided that I didn’t like how Big-O was conveniently sometime later when everyone got over losing their memories. I wanted the nitty-gritty, the chaos and bloodshed, the return of civilization from the ashes of amnesia.

I just didn’t plan out a single darn word of it.

The story started well enough. A man wakes up in a bed, doesn’t know who he is. What can I say, I was a genius in 2008. The story trailed from event to event, with the man stumbling, without language or comprehension for the world around him, through the remains of civilization. He finds a dog, he finds a girl, and then he finds a community. Altogether it wasn’t the worst thing ever written. I learned a lot while writing it. Romance is very hard to do when a character should only understand the basics of their body and non-verbal communication. Things get stereotypical quick when you don’t have a plan in advance. Your novel will never end where you want it to end.

My original idea ran dry at about 20k, too far away from the 50k goal. While the original idea was going to be guy meets lady, figure out they can do this together, credits, I trailed into a plot of jealousy and revenge. The ending was far from what I expected. I clamped it closed with the ‘twist’ I designed when I began, that the main character was not as cool as he thought he was. At that point though, the twist was a hanger-on to a deeper story, with a deeper purpose.

That is what NaNoWriMo does, it takes what you expect to do, and it turns it on its head. You cannot just pull NaNoWriMo out of your atomic butt. You also cannot just turn off NaNoWriMo. If it sticks, it is going to take you for a ride that you didn’t expect. That is why it has ballooned up from its original 21 participants to over 200,000. A community that should be in major cities across the US (and more?).

This year I will be writing a story that I don’t think I can share with the world. At the same time I’ve done more preparation for this novel than any other I have written. Four short stories have already been finished in the same alternate-history setting as the main novel, and one more should be done before the 1st of November. I know my world, I know my character, I know his problem and his views. Now I just need to shut myself away from the world, and go mad for a month or so.

I’ll see you all in December. Hope you do something amazing in the meantime.

Written by MD Kid

10/27/2011 at 3:43 AM

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The Trickster’s Ruse

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The worst part about trusting people isn’t when you give them the initial okay, it is the eternity afterwards while you hope you made the right choice. This isn’t so important if you want to gain employment at a place like Taco Bell. The structure of Taco Bell is mechanical, no one worries if the manager at their local Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, or Minimum-wagetown, is trustworthy. As long as they don’t sexually harass you, and give you enough hours to pay your bills, everything is fine.

Someone finally gave me a shot to do content writing for them. It may seem odd to say it, but it has been the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me. That isn’t shocking, my life has been short and rather easy. Compared to say, sleeping in until 11am and then walking to class, something like this should seem stressful. The problem was why it was stressful.

Let me say that my final goal is not to be a content writer. The work seems fair, the pay is workable, but it is not what I spent four years learning. It is not what keeps me awake at night with a passion that forces me to scrounge about for my notepad at 4am. Content writing is a means to an end. It allows me to work where I play, to sit on my butt for 20 hours a day instead of just 12. So when someone bit, and asked me to do some content writing for them, I didn’t know what to say. Ignore that I quite literally didn’t know what to say, and then put on top of that the metaphorical “I didn’t know what to say”. How much money do I ask for? How do I ask who they are? How do I get paid? A few hundred questions went bouncing around in my brain.

I’ve accepted the work. Then I was asked to give a rate, aka how much do I want to be paid. This is a funny story, you’ll like this part. Now I was told in original e-mail correspondence that I would be doing a ‘couple’ of articles. Couple, 2-3 right? So I went on a grand journey to figure out how much I should be paid. The end goal of being paid is always to make enough money for the time you put in. A couple of articles a week said to me that I should be able to work on these couple of articles, and at least make enough money in a week that it felt like I was actually working at minimum-wagetown. So I set my per-article price at something like forty dollars each. The reality? I was going to be working on around 20 articles a week. Making my original rate sound like I was trying to murder them debt. It was all worked out in the end though.

Not all of it, actually. I still only make minimum wage if I can finish each articles in about 20 minutes. If I take any longer, I’m being underpaid. I also still don’t know anything about the people paying me. Since they aren’t public, they didn’t want to give any details they didn’t have to. All I have is a name, and an e-mail address. I get paid through pay pal. I haven’t received a new assignment for a week and a half. It isn’t perfect, it wouldn’t even keep me off of the street if I didn’t have the support of my family. It is a start though, an extremely shady foot in a dark door.

Should I worry that I’m effectively making spam for someone who doesn’t want to be named? I’m more worried that days after I got my first paypal payments, I received an e-mail in Chinese that said my paypal account was going to be sending $300 dollars to some guy named Wong. I wish that was a joke.

So I’m just going to trust these people for now. They seem alright, and they have actually given me a chance, and paid me. That is more than I can say for Wal-Mart or Taco Bell. I’ve already learned from these people, my resume is growing, and I’m still not being sexually harassed. So it seems like everything is going great so far.

I’ll keep pushing forward.

Written by MD Kid

10/04/2011 at 8:18 AM

The Mentor Approaches

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Networking is one of those skills that means everything, and is rarely taught. When I received training to work at my community college, networking was always on the topic of the day. My boss, an amazing lady by the name of Dr. Mari Kruger, made sure we knew that communication and connections were just as important to to success as any skill. There are thousands if not millions of people out there that have skills like mine or better. That means the only way to get anywhere is to know someone who is willing to give me a shot.

That said, I suck at networking. It is probably because I’m lazy. I’m also shy. I’m not very hip. I don’t always have the best haircut. I also have a pretty goofy laugh. The lazy part is big though. There have been many bridges extended to me, and I usually leave them hanging in the air. Anyone who knows bridges, or has played one of the estimated billion bridge building games on the app store, should know that a bridge extending to nothing but air is going to crash and burn. Now that I’ve entered my 4th or so month of unemployment, I think my feelings about bridges should make a change.

When I went to the Penny Arcade Expo, I had the chance to hear from a lot of people who do exactly what I want to do. They write, and they enjoy writing. They are freelance writers who work on game magazines and websites. They are indie role-playing game developers who create stunning worlds for others to play in. These people are living the dream, and they were there for me to talk to and ask questions. They gave me a lot of good advice about stick-to-it-tiveness (a real word, look it up), and how to survive in a world where writing isn’t exactly the quickest way to the white picket-fence. I don’t remember any of their names, so obviously my bridge-related skills are taking baby steps. I remember some of the projects they worked on, and I have absorbed a lot of their advice.

The panel on freelance writing was full of people, more than even the panel organizers expected to have there. It was interesting to see a room full of nerds who wanted nothing more than a chance to formulate essays and articles about their hobby. Actually, it wasn’t very surprising at all. It was more disheartening to realize exactly how many people were trying to get their foot in the door of the freelance market. I don’t like having my feet stepped on, so shoving my tender foot into a mountain of sweaty shoes is a turn off at best. Still, I listened to what they had to say. The main advice was to be persistent, and to start out where you can. Make a blog (I don’t know where I’ll get one of those), write your own articles, don’t try to start at the top. A good piece of advice came when a man asked how he could get in the door to interview game developers so he could sell the article to magazines, he was pretty much told he couldn’t. It was hard enough for magazines to talk to some developers, a freelance without any ‘cred’ wasn’t going to get very far. The main thing I learned was to get myself out there, which I’ve been trying. It is good to know that I wasn’t on the wrong track.

Another panel was the indie developers panel. This wasn’t for digital games, with bleeps and bloops on one of those LED screens. No, this was about pen and paper, dungeons and the dragons that populate them, nerds imagining their way to entertainment. The creator of some indie projects were there, like the creators of Panty Explosion and Apocalypse World. The greatest advice here was that an indie developer does not need to sacrifice their own money to publish. The best idea is to start small, work with playtesters online, and then self-publish through services like Lulu.com. That way when a copy of your game sells, you make money. You never have to print a large mountain of copies and hope to sell them all, you can work on 100% profit.

So what does all this mean for our dashing hero? I’ve decided not to quit yet, that is one thing. The experience of PAX was already amazing, yet hearing from people who have been published only reignited my quickly fading flame. I know that I need to get all the experience I can get, and to keep writing here and other places. If I can get one break, any break, things may turn out fine.

In the meantime, I need to start writing down people’s names. At least add them on twitter or something.

 

Written by MD Kid

09/18/2011 at 9:32 AM