ROW80 Check-In 1/10/18

Progress has been fairly good this week. I’ve enjoyed writing more informative blog posts. Tabletop RPG supplement writing is an interesting balancing act between writing fiction (all the background and setting details themselves) and informational writing (all of the rules tidbits and instructions for players). I thought that a series of blog posts would help me sharpen up in both domains. So far it definitely feels like it is.

Aside from the daily writing, I’ve also been making a conscious effort to read more. Reading is something that I was very passionate about in school, but I think I got kind of burnt out on it through the end of high school and college. I never really went back to it until recently, where again life got in the way of my free time for a while there. Unfortunately I have a tendency to go for the longer books. I’m currently reading the Stand. With my lack of focus on reading lately, it feels like I’ll never finish that damn book, but I’m enjoying every page of it.

Off I go to write another Canopy background post! The next one will be a quick primer on the world of Canopy itself. I think I’m going to stagger future posts a little bit though, try to schedule them to publish ahead a bit so I can avoid the cluster of posts follow by a long drought.


What I’m Doing

In this post: My plan for this blog, and a little bit of info on what the Canopy project is.

My current plan is for this blog to become a lot more active. I’m transitioning this to a more general-purpose personal blog, away from the one-off prose poetry project that it started out as (although that still might be posted sometimes).

So what will this blog be then? For my friends and family who read this blog, part of ROW80 is posting updates on goal progress to the ROW80 site and their Facebook group on Sundays and Wednesdays. That means that twice a week you’ll see an update regarding my writing process in general.

In addition to that, I’m going to start posting about Canopy itself. Even in the Facebook group dedicated to it, specific setting details have been fairly vague so far, intentionally so. I was afraid of putting out too many concrete details, both because I was afraid many of them might change, but also out of a slight paranoia about people plagiarizing my ideas. In actuality the finalized setting books should have enough inherent value in terms of finalizing those ideas and drawing them all together into a greater whole, and such articles can only really work to the projects benefit. Plus, if people copy me that just means that I’m doing something right. I am going to start putting together essays on the people, sites, and dangers of the canopy as a way to both inform people who might be interested, as well as get a more fluid place to put my thoughts together to decide on what all goes into the finalized books. Full disclosure: These ideas are not necessarily final. What goes into the final books may be modified from what I post here.

As far as how I’m holding to my goals so far (30 minutes a day on the project, 5 sentences complete) I have been struggling, but I have found that my mind is on Canopy more and more throughout the day. I have been getting some ideas for it driving to work, preparing meals, and brushing my teeth. So it’s already started paying dividends there, and the actual measurable goals of it are getting a little easier.

Since this post is aimed at the ROW80 folks, I figured I would clarify exactly what it is I’m doing in this post as well. I’ve received quite a few questions about the Canopy project, and I quickly realized that the idea of a tabletop role-playing game supplement is a little alien to most people. For the uninitiated, tabletop role-playing games are essentially story-telling games. You might hear it described as improv, but with dice. To me, it hearkens back to the days of our ancestors sitting around a fire telling stories: a live, collaborative, creative activity. The one most people have heard of is Dungeons & Dragons. You have one game master, and usually between 3 to 6 “players.” The game master (or GM) describes a situation–“Your party enters a cave and sees a small band of goblins guarding a treasure chest”–and the players take turns describing what their character does in that situation–“I try to sneak around and see what’s in the chest” or “I attack!” The players or GM then roll dice to see if they succeed, and play continues from there. It’s a way for participants to act out the roles of different characters, with a framework of rules that provides structure and probabilities to their choices.

Canopy is a setting. Back in the early days of the hobby, all that existed was Dungeons & Dragons (it was the first). It had a bit of an implied setting that the stories took place in; you had elves, dragons, hobbits (known as halflings), goblins, and a set of magic spells named after great wizards. Aside from that though, it was mostly open. Game masters were expected to make up their own maps and dungeons and backstories and castles and villages for their players to adventure in.

Over time though, companies saw that many groups were interested in playing in other peoples’ worlds, where they wouldn’t have to do all the legwork. They started to put out supplements to the rules that detailed adventures and settings that people could play in (many of which started out in their own homes for their friends). All the maps, locations, and backstories were detailed in advance, so GMs could decide to play in that particular world and hit the ground running.

So there are really two main types of products for RPGs: Rulebooks, which tell you how to play, and supplements, which detail where the adventures take place.

Canopy is a supplement. It will detail the peoples, the important locations, the history, and the villains of my setting. It will allow other people to play in my world in their own homes. The ruleset it is based on is called Savage Worlds (which you can find here), which is a set of rules that are designed to be generic and fit in wherever you need. So you use their rules, to play in my world. Canopy will also offer some new rules and modifications to rules that will make it more unique to my world, but that will be detailed in other posts.

Feel free to ask me any questions about the Canopy project, or RPGs in general, down below. I am very passionate about this type of gaming (I use it in my work as a residential counselor with youth to help in skill building) and love to talk about it! Also, keep in tune to my blog for any updates on Canopy in the future. The next post I hope to give a general overview of the setting itself.

New Year’s Resolutions (ROW80 Goals Post)

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I tell myself it’s for all kinds of pragmatic reasons, bundling them in with self help best-sellers and superstitions in terms of universal feel-goods. I’ve always felt they’re a bit of a salve to ease the sting of a year’s stagnation, promising next year will be better. We celebrate a year finally over, then slap a whole ton of aloe on it and look toward a brighter future.

As I get older I’m starting to gravitate towards them more. That stagnation just stings more every year. I think though that it has always stung, I’ve just been better at denying it in the past. Now I feel like I need to do something about it. I also think that more than ever before, I realize that there is a use for that salve. Sure, if you fry yourself, aloe up, then go out next week and do it all again it’s merely a means of temporary comfort. But if you use it to atone for your bad habits, then make changes, it has a purpose. That healing can be here to stay.

So ROW80 can be my pharmacy. It can give me the salve to give me hope of healing, and I’m going to do my damnedest not to burn again.

So as I’ve stated before, my ultimate goal is to write consistently. I’ve been too focused in the past on turning writing into money, trying to create something out of nothing (“Phase 1, start writing; Phase 2, ???; Phase 3, profit”). So my plan is to build good writing habits. For more concrete goals, my plan is to spend 30 minutes on writing a day (planning, research, etc.) and end that time with at least 5 sentences of actual writing (inspired by this post by EdenMabee).  The project I am working on is a setting supplement for a tabletop roleplaying game, so hopefully that will help me get back into the habit of not only the writing itself, but also the planning and outlining involved in that kind of writing.

So off I go to slather up. Wish me luck!

The Little Engine that Could

Man, I have been feeling full force what losing momentum can do to you. My last blog post (and my last [and first] ROW80 update) was over a month ago. Between family medical issues and an emergency remodel of my bathroom my great journey to good writing habits died before it even really had a chance. I feel it full force. I sat down to try to write on Tuesday and as soon as I began to push that great boulder rolled right back over the top of me, laying me flat.

But I’m back, with a renewed focus. 6 days are left in the current ROW80, and I plan to finish it out completing my goal I set forward over a month ago–to spend an hour a day wholly focused on writing. Hopefully with the next round coming around, I’ll be able to build up some of that momentum that I so dearly miss.

A Transition: NaNo to ROW80

So, for those of you that I know on Facebook, you are probably aware that I was intending to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It is something I have attempted in earnest 3 times before, but never actually saw it through to the end. This year I declared my participation out of a kind of blind desire for the achievement of it: To prove that I finally could.

In the weeks leading up to November, I started having doubts about it. Not just for the blistering pace of writing required, but if it was actually something that aligned with my goals. In the end, I want to “become a writer.” To me, though, NaNo is a contest for writers (or “tourists” to writing, but that’s a whole other subject). I think it works best for those that are into the habit of writing and want a motivation to bang out a draft, try a different way of writing, or just for the prestige. I am not in that habit at the moment. I am so rusty it’s a little shameful. So much of my time spent on my NaNo project this week has been looking up how to format dialogue or the differences between en and em dashes, because I had simply forgotten. NaNo is not a good exercise for someone with my status.

I am confident I could complete it if I buckled down and dedicated the hours to it, but it would be a miserable month. At the end I would have a first draft of my story (actually an anthology of short stories), but I wouldn’t have developed healthy writing habits, and I would have that draft at the exclusion of doing much of anything else this month. A big part of my interest in NaNoWriMo in the past has been to try to jump-start my writing again. I think at the end of it I would just be burnt out, and not very far ahead in terms of “being a writer” than where I started.

While looking around the web at writing articles I stumbled across A Round of Words in 80 Days (known in shorthand as ROW80), which you can find here if you’re interested. ROW80 is much more immediately appealing to me. ROW80 runs for 80 days total, and repeats 4 times a year. It is much more fluid and flexible, letting participants set their own personal goals, which are allowed to change as circumstances require. Additionally, these goals are encouraged to be set around the how and not the what: Rather than focusing on a finished product or a word count, it’s intended to be focused on how to build yourself to accomplish that. Also, since it runs throughout the year in stages it encouraged building habits that lead to better writing, rather than a mad dash one month out of the year.

So, I’ve decided to pick my hat back up out of NaNoWriMo, and throw it into the ROW80 ring. My goal shall be to spend an hour a day writing on my work days and 3 hours a day on my days off; whether that’s writing on my short story anthology, developing out Canopy, trying to get back into writing poetry, or reading articles and blogs on writing. This will help me to rebuild those writing skills that I’ve lost over the years and work towards a healthy, sustainable habit of writing.

Any further updates on my writing and on ROW80 will take place here, and will be auto-shared to Facebook as well. Feel free to comment at either location. I’m always happy to hear a bit of encouragement!

Day 14

I am starting to hesitate. The initial intention of this being a daily blog n0w seems short-sighted. It is extremely difficult to post something daily, and on days that I don’t have a particular desire to post I feel like the content then isn’t worthy of posting; that is too mundane. Does it detract from the overall quality? Is it worthwhile to give simple updates of positive days?

I don’t know, but it’s something I’ve been considering. My concern is that less frequency will be less habitual and that will lead to abandonment. But what if I burn myself out by posting when I am not in a creative mood? What if I burn anyone out there out with excessive, subpar content? Is the journalesque and more straight-forward content even worth doing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Perhaps a few times a week? I feel oddly attached to that “Day XX” title format, but that’s not really a good enough reason to stick to it.

I’ll have to consider it more.

Lost in a great ponder,


Day 12

It’s funny that the better I feel the less I feel the need to write. I suppose that’s “a thing.” Angst is good for creativity, eh.

Today was good. I attended a CPI training, which is our non-violent crisis intervention for my work in the case of a resident that’s a danger to themselves or others. I always enjoy those, because they actually have a ton of good information. They cover not only holds and various physical responses, but how to de-escalate situations and a whole method for categorizing how escalated youth are and the proper responses etc. It’s kind of old hat at this point for me, but a refresher is kind of nice. Plus I got to spend some time talking with some old co-workers.

It was held in the previous facility I worked at, which was much more high stress and bombastic than where I am now. I hated it while I was there, but coming back to it I kind of missed it. It’s been upgraded quite a bit in the 8+ months since I’ve been there, but it felt familiar. I missed some of the staff there especially. Then a resident made an inappropriate comment to a female co-worker about how much he loved the smell of tuna fish as she walked by. Didn’t miss it so much after that.

This is the first vacation that I returned to work actually feeling refreshed and rested. Although I’m extraordinarily tired now, so I think I’ll head off to bed.

In a fierce sleepiness,


Day 9

Well, my predictions turned out to be correct. Today was a very relaxing day. Got some much needed time with the misses, drove down to Brookings and ate some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. Found out the hard way that unripe figs make your tongue all prickly and numb. Hand picked some blueberries at a u-pick place. Only felt anxious once and it quickly passed.

A very relaxing day indeed.

On another positive note, I think I’ve finally figured out a great bloody mary recipe that I can make at home.



Day 8

I missed a day.

It was lost into some kind of black hole. I had full intentions and plans to post, but I didn’t. I actually thought I did. It was a very relaxing day at least, full of lounging and grocery shopping. I suppose it’s inevitable to miss one here and there, but I’ll play make-up anyways.

Today is shaping up to be a very relaxing day as well. We’re taking a day trip south down the coast and driving until we decide to head back. That’s my favorite kind of trip: Aimless, meandering, without pressure. I have never understood itineraries and timelines when it comes to relaxing. It seems counterintuitive.

So off we drive.

The wanderer,


Day 5 – The Quiet

Today is a quiet day.

Yesterday was rough. I had a sort of camping hangover going on. Between being woken from sleep every fifteen minutes or so due to little doggy disruptions and the combination of hard ground and surprisingly aged bones it took quite a toll. Even with several naps and quite a bit of caffeine I still felt like I could barely manage to navigate my own house. I think the nap/caffeine combination actually worsened the condition, merging into a sort of semi-living status like something out of a George A. Romero flick.

But today is quiet.

I think my brain finally caught on to the fact that I’m on vacation. I finally blugeoned it into submission. I think the misery of yesterday kind of worked like a hard reset for my soul. I’m at about the halfway point of my time off. It’s at about this point that I historically start turning my attention to going back to work. Even with 6 full days left (the length of two of my normal weekends) I start to dread going back. I love my job, but I still dread going back. There’s got to be some kind of a mindset issue going on there; what we’d call at work a “thinking error.” It’s an issue of positive self talk and framing.

This time I actually feel pretty good. Maybe it’s just the fact that my brain is still five days behind and just now registered that I’m on vacation, but I feel good. I think this blog has been a good way to structure my thoughts a bit and provide some focus to what would otherwise be a week of aimless meandering. I’ve always been a fan of metaphors and parables, and the weird and occult. I think I’ve stumbled onto a good synthesis of those things. That was the first objective of this blog: To write about what interests me. I feel like I’ve succeeded in bundling up all of my divergent interests and cramming them into one focus. It feels good.

This blog is also entirely authentic. It is an accurate representation of my reality. That is its second objective. When I started this blog I wanted a way to organize and repurpose my thoughts into something managable; something I could control. I wanted somewhere I could overuse semi-colons and wax poetic without restriction.

I would like to be direct about something. For those of you that aren’t close to me, you should know that I am a deeply anxious person. I’ve come to an understanding that my anxiety is an addiction. I feel like what many would term a “functioning addict.” I feel relatively successful in managing my anxiety overall, but it is fully dependent on the day. There are many days where I feel unstoppable and confident. There are equally as many days that I do not feel in control. I feel like a school child hiding under my desk, waiting for tremors to stop.

For a very long time my response to my neurosis was to neglect it. Because of the way that anxiety works, whenever I put focus on it there is an initial swell in anxiety, like its a seperate sentience that is resisting me, fighting back. So I would walk away. I would let it win.

I’m starting to see that the solution is a combination of acceptance and confrontation. For a long time I tried to confront it in private, but put on a brave face for everyone else. I had this facade when I was around other people that did not acknowledge that this other part of me existed. I consider myself a person of dedicated integrity, but that dichotomy created a barrier. It created a barrier to my integrity and to my wellness.

So there is quite a bit going on here. This is my radical acceptance and declaration of my illness, as well as my creative outlet. This is deeply personal. I worried for the first few posts if I was being overly personal for something that is published to the whole world, but I think that’s a necessary component of what I’m trying to do here.

I am all in. I have to be.

Hoping I haven’t scared you all off,