Defining Characters by the Crap They Own

Setting a scene in a story, no matter the medium, benefits from attention to detail. The best video games have taken this art to new levels. It has to, if the player is allowed to poke around in every corner of the scene. In fact, the setting often forms the core of the story. Building an environment around a culture or set of characters gets lumped in to “world-building” among writers, but it’s something all writers do, when they select the objects a character owns or the kind of house they live in.

Environment design is a nebulous discipline in game design and animation, ranging from laying out virtual buildings to lighting scenes and placing clutter. Creating a game environment with a strong story is the secret to “immersion.”

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Dropping Ballast to Gain Momentum in Life

De-cluttering is one of those things we do to make ourselves feel better, because who wants to live in a mound of crap. However, it also tends to be an exercise in procrastination. You clean your desk before sitting down to write, for example, and end up vacuuming the cat until dinnertime. I’ve managed to turn it into a routine activity that gives me energy for writing instead, so I’m going to talk about how.

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How the Talent Myth Hurts Everyone

“Some people are just naturally good at some things, and other people aren’t. If you’re no good at something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found what you’re good at yet!”

If you’ve heard that, or any variation thereof, feel free to roast whoever said it over an open fire because that person is feeding you a comfortable lie. It’s bullshit – especially that “don’t give up” bit, because that’s exactly what they’re telling you to do. Here’s a similar quote to put the first one in perspective:

“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

—Homer J. Simpson

How are those quotes even close to the same thing? Here’s what the first quote really says: “If you’re not good at something first try, then give up and keep giving up until you find something you’re instantly good at, because that’ll totally happen. In the meantime (meaning until the day you die) you can pretend your genius is all pent up inside instead of taking a big scary risk to do something you actually enjoy with your life.”

The above sentiment is often trotted out when someone complains that something is “not fun” or “too hard” and desperately looking for reasons to give up instead of useful advice about how to tackle the problem. However, the most pernicious lie is in the first sentence: “Some people are just naturally good at some things and other people aren’t.” Because this plays on the myth of “talent” and the idea that skill is innate instead of learned.

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How I Stopped Smoking: The Slow Habit Shuffle

I’m an impulsive, all-or-nothing type person. What’s moderation? What’s discipline? How the hell did I quit smoking? Especially since I loved smoking. Well, here’s the story, along with some motivational bullshittery because it’s New Years, the time of year where people vow to quit smoking and get in shape – and I’ve had some success so far.

First Some Background

I first attempted to quit smoking about 12 years ago, when the taste of cigarettes had become utterly foul to me. I managed to get all the way down to one cigarette a day, but just couldn’t give that one up. So I gave up. I said, “Screw it. If I’m going keep smoking, I’m going to damned well enjoy it.” And I bought myself a pipe and 25 grams of some shitty vanilla tobacco.

I smoked that damned thing for 10 years, until all I could stand was the finest Virginia tobaccos. I loved it. Other people loved it. The same people who used to do that “hack hack, cough cough” routine as they passed by would take a deep breath, fill their lungs with the stuff, and say, “Mmm, that smells so good!” It was like burning incense, with nicotine, and I still get a twinge of nostalgia thinking about it – but I don’t get the craving.

The thing is, I haven’t touched a cigarette since. I’d completely transferred my habit to the less addictive, less additive-infected pipe tobacco. The cravings were different. They didn’t come with the same pain and urgency. It’s probably the same reason vaping helped my SO stop smoking around the same time.

Vaping didn’t help me quit the pipe though. I was definitely addicted, smoking on average about 50 grams of tobacco a week. I had a pipe in my mouth the whole time I wrote my first novel. I didn’t want to quit, but I had to. The reasons were piling up: my teeth are trashed, my SO developed an allergy to my favorite tobacco, taxes raised the price to $1.50 a gram and I’d lost my day job due to chronic migraines.

So how did I finally quit? I’ll break it down into a nice little listicle, because everyone loves listicles!

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