What Am I Up To?

I got the idea for this post from Seanan McGuire. Initially I felt I simply didn’t have enough going on to do “update” posts. I’ll say it’s still true that I don’t have enough going on to do them every month…but I’ve got a lot to say, and I’ve got subscribers that I’d like to keep up to date.

To start with:

I’m not sure if I’ve ever officially announced this, but it seems that keeping oneself accountable to one’s audience is conducive to the deadline writing process. So, henceforth, full disclosure.

For some time now, I’ve been writing and intending to publish a sort of “Reader’s Guide” to the Star Wars Universe – what is now known as the Legends Universe. This was intended to be a collection of my reviews, split into books by era. The reason I canceled this is because…it was going to be a collection of my reviews. Over time, I’ve reflected on this. I added segments to the draft, tried to add something that other collections of reviews didn’t have…but rather than making it more interesting, they made it less interesting. Perhaps worse than this, they made it less interesting to write, which aided in grinding progress to a halt while I reflected on this.

It is still my dream to write something about the Legends Universe. What it is…I don’t know, nor what form it will take. It is of note that as The Old Republic is the only portion of the Legends Universe still active, the first volume – focusing on the years from before the dawn of the Republic to the time of Darth Bane – would have been the only one to become outdated after publication.

To continue full disclosure, I have two ideas of what I might write, but both have their drawbacks. The first is character studies. This is something I have always been interested in, which might be related to my Psychology Major. Had I continued producing detailed video reviews, the majority of them were intended to become “Case Studies”: videos focusing on a single character, with the review of the source material viewed through that framework. This, of course, is a struggle with the Sith Wars era. Dawn of the Jedi, Tales of the Jedi, Lost Tribe of the Sith, Knights of the Old Republic…there is perhaps one character between the three who has enough story to write about, and certainly not as a start to the story.

The second idea, well, somebody else has that blog. But it’s not about Star Wars. Philip Sandifer’s “TARDIS Eruditorum” blog (and book) series does what I originally wanted to do with my reviews, except better. What that is, is to look at each material in greater depth: to focus less on how good and bad it is, but on how it got that way, and on what circumstances surrounding its creation and reception were. I may yet have some unique ways to implement this, but the idea needs to cook for a while.

For the time being, then, this project is ended. Given enough uninterrupted time, I will return to episodic reviews of Legends material. After that, I will likely return to this project in a new way. Until then, I am focusing on smaller blog posts, academia, and fiction.

Moving on from Star Wars

I’m back to working on Not Enough to be a Ranger (NETBAR), though I’m more and more convinced that the title is going to change sometime between now and the completion of the second draft. Because I’m a full-time undergrad with a full-time job, I’ve set myself a 1/1/17 goal for the first draft. As of right now, I’m at 26,300 words into the first draft. For public consumption, the word count really means very little at this point – every chapter that I’ve written is going to be re-written at least twice before I even show this manuscript to a publisher, so it’s not really a reliable measure of my progress when it comes to buying the book.

What it is a very valid measure of is momentum. Right now, it’s still a ball rolling uphill. A solid chunk of that wordcount is reworked from the partial draft that I had as of 2015, which means I’m still gaining momentum. For those that want to cheer me on, that number is for you.

This has been a lot for one update (I had originally intended to write separate posts about each of these topics but decided not to make you wait) so I’ll wrap this up for now. I’ll fill you in on what else is going on with me soon.

De-stigmatizing the Internet

The way people interact is changing. Some feel that a decrease in face-to-face communication is causing society to break down. Others are more optimistic: the days of hoping to encounter someone with similar needs and interests are gone. Social media has made the world smaller than ever.

And yet, old stigmas seem to die hard. Common knowledge – at least, knowledge that has been passed on to me – is that mentioning the internet (outside of marketing) is resume suicide. While being part of the local amateur softball team demonstrates that you are good with people, leading your World of Warcraft guild (organizations often larger than a local office) means you have no social life, and are therefore terrible with people. We share anecdotes of job applicants who list only gaming accomplishments as a reason they are an asset, but even the long-hired are hesitant to discuss their experiences online in any official capacity.

There are signs that this is changing. At a recent regional meeting, many managers (including the meeting leader) discussed their intent to play an online game together after the meeting. I’ve heard different versions of this discussion elsewhere: supervisors are forging a stronger connection with those who report to them by playing online video games or participating in social media discussions. In some circles, video games may be taking the niche traditionally associated with golf.

This indicates an evolution of views, but there is even more to the internet than improving your social network. Prior to entering management in an official sense, I held staff positions on three websites, each holding the responsibility of providing content and for moderating guest discussions. In each of these positions, I learned skills that I would put to use in future positions.

In these positions, I learned the necessity (and potential for personal and group benefit) of confronting a superior that is acting completely out of line. I learned how to accept dealing with people that are friendly to you in person but will sabotage you behind closed doors, so that I did not do anything career-endangering when facing such people in business. I learned that just because someone is highly motivated to do what you ask them to do doesn’t mean that they will take the initiative when given free reign, and that someone who does not have personal stakes in your venture can only be trusted to keep working hard as long as you have a plan in place for when they’re no longer motivated to do so. I learned when to put my foot down, and when to pick my battles.

These are but a handful of the skills I learned, with little personal or financial risk, by being involved in online communities. These are skills that helped my career and helped me to be a more effective employee, manager, and leader, and yet I was always made to feel ashamed of this, as though the origin of these life lessons somehow made them harmful instead of beneficial.

A generation is coming into the workforce that was not yet born when Instant Messaging became an important part of a teen’s social development, or who barely remember the days when text messages had to be budgeted and long discussions were saved for the landline. As the world relies more and more on skills learned online and on people who have done more of their human interaction there than ever before, we need to keep our minds open to how this helps us. The young woman in front of you may have an empty resume because she leads a guild of 200 people and frequently has to dole out punishments and rewards while remaining friendly. The young man who has never attended a marketing seminar may know the best way to gain five thousand followers on Instagram. So let them show you, because if you make them hide their skills, they will use them to benefit someone else.