It’s my 44th Birthday. Time for a check-in.

Wil and WilToday, I complete my 44th trip around the Sun. It’s only taken me a little over 16,000 days, so my pace is pretty solid.

Most birthdays since I turned 30 have just been another X in the box, more or less, but this one is the first since I made a deliberate choice to reboot my life, so now I can clearly and honestly assess how that’s been going (which I guess is what I’ve done every month since I started, but whatever. It sounds profound so there.)

One year ago today, I was at GenCon, having the worst birthday and worst GenCon of my life. I should have been having fun, playing games, and celebrating Tabletop, but I spent the entire convention meeting with game publishers who had been lied to by the same person (who I thought was a trusted friend) who had been lying to me for three years, using me and his position as a trusted part of Tabletop to advance his own goals. While I was trying to deal with the emotional effects of being so totally and utterly betrayed, I also had to try my best to set it aside and save not just my show, but dozens of relationships that I didn’t even know had been severely damaged. I sat down with people who didn’t know me, who I didn’t know, and had to listen to them tell me about all the lies they’d been told about me, about my show, and about my personal values. It was horrible. I had a terrible time, and by the time the day was over, I just wanted to drink beer until I couldn’t feel feelings.

What a difference a year makes. Instead of trying not to cry all day, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet of my home. Instead of struggling to find some enthusiasm to make more Tabletop, I’m creating and writing the stories I’ve been wanting to tell for months. Instead of cleaning up someone else’s mess, I’m spending the day with the people I love.

Being betrayed by someone I loved like family was one of the most painful and devastating things I’ve ever experienced. But I can take something good out of it: it forced me to look at what I was doing with my life, how I was coping with the way I was feeling, and why I had allowed all of it to happen in the first place.

It forced me to get serious about dealing with all that unhappiness, and ask myself what is important to me? What do I want to do with my life? What can I do to take control of my life? How can I be responsible for my happiness?

It’s an ongoing process. Some days are harder than others. I make mistakes, but I learn from them. Months later, I still have profound realizations about my life, my art, and where they intersect all the time, thanks to the clarity and focus my life reboot has given me.

I never would have expected my 44th birthday to be a Big One™, but here we are. Let’s check-in and see how my seven things are working out.

  • Drink less beer.

I completely quit drinking in January. I just counted, and it’s been 196 days. For someone who loves beer and bourbon and whisky, and pre-prohibition cocktails as much as I do, I would expect this to be the hardest part of the whole thing, but it really isn’t. Compared to my other goals and changes, it’s honestly the easiest thing. There are times I miss having a drink, but I don’t miss feeling buzzed or even drunk. I don’t miss turning off feelings and avoiding uncomfortable emotions. I didn’t realize it when I made this list, but this thing was the first entry because it’s the foundation of the reboot, and the cornerstone that supports all the other things.

At some point in the future, I may have a drink once in awhile, but my days of having a drink and then another and then another and then inviting the Bad Idea Bears to party with me and go shopping online are over. I don’t miss it at all, and (I think I’ve said this in previous updates) what I give up is just tiny in comparison to what I get back. Grade: A+

  • Read more (and Reddit does not count as reading).

I didn’t think this was going to get a good grade this month, because I haven’t finished any books. But then I realized that I’ve been reading every night, and I actually did finish a bunch of things, if I count graphic novels and trade paperbacks as books. Which I do, because I’m an adult, and I get to decide what that means. I read for two primary reasons: to nourish and enrich myself, and to get inspired. One of the things I’m writing is probably going to end up being a graphic novel or series of comics someday, so reading all the Outcast trades, every issue of Bitch Planet, The Fade Out, and Wicked + Divine is not just enjoyable and entertaining, it’s inspiring me to make something that lives up to their example. I’m also reading lots of short fiction in LIghtspeed and from around the Internet, and that’s helping me be a better short story writer. So while I haven’t finished and 500+ page books, I have read a lot, and I have gotten a lot out of it. Grade: A+

  • Write more.

I wrote my keynote address for Mensa, I am nearly finished with the puke draft of a short story, and I broke a story that’s been an idea on the whiteboard for at least a year. It isn’t writing, but I made a thing where there wasn’t a thing before. I mention this because I could easily have substituted “Create more” for “Write more” on the list. I didn’t know it when I made the list, but what I needed to do more than anything else was find my way back to my Art (yeah, it’s capitalized. Yeah, that’s a little too precious. I need it to be that important in my life, so there it is). Writing is a huge part of my Art, but so is creating things, whether they are photographs, or podcasts, or TV Crimes. I’ve been working every week on an animated series that I can’t talk about, so I’m doing good work as an actor, and even though my heart breaks every single time I see something about the new MST3K that I’m not part of, and even though I get unreasonably dejected when casting news about Ready Player One or American Gods comes out, I haven’t completely given up on good on-camera acting jobs coming my way again. Hell, my work on Powers is really, really good, and if it was on network TV so more industry people saw it, I bet it would lead to some auditions or meetings.

But this is, technically, about writing. And since I’ve been writing every day, even if it’s just a few hundred words at a time, I’m doing it. The goal is “write more” not “write everything”. So my grade, including extra credit for the other stuff: A+

  • Watch more movies.

Anne and I watched the entire season of Stranger Things. That, alone, would earn me an A this month. We also watch Outcast, and we’ve been taking in amazing movies, like Green Room, Blue Ruin, The Witch, and The Long Goodbye. The point of watching more movies is just like the point of reading more: to not just be entertained, but to be challenged and inspired. That’s happening every day for me. In fact, I don’t know exactly what it will be, but before the end of the year, I will write and produce a short film of my own, just because I want need to do it. It doesn’t need to be super complicated or ambitious. Just something with two or three characters that I can shoot with my DSLR and edit in iMovie. The more movies I watch, the more great performances I see, the more they inspire me and challenge me to make my own thing. Grade: A+

  • Get better sleep.

My friend, Sean Bonner, convinced me to try this thing that sounds really, really dumb: about an hour before bed, put on these hideous orange goggles that block the blue light spectrum. I guess the blocking of blue light tells our caveman brains that we don’t need to go hunting, so we can relax and go to sleep. It works so well, I don’t need to take gabapentin or anything to help me go to sleep. I’m sleeping restfully every night, rarely going over 8 hours, and waking up feeling like I actually recharged my body overnight. I know that not drinking and cutting out its sugars has been a huge part of this, but the difference between the pre-hideous-orange-goggles era and now is remarkable. But I’ve officially made it a habit to not force myself to stay up and play video games or fuck off online looking for the end of the Internet or anything stupid like that. I finish my day, I go to sleep, and I get rest. It’s a huge part of taking good care of myself, and it’s working. Grade: A+

  • Eat better food.

Before I rebooted, I was just eating garbage. I don’t eat fast food, and I don’t eat a lot of sugar, but my nutrition was awful. My diet was terrible, and I had no concept of macronutrients or why their balance is important. My son, Nolan, really helped me learn how to think of my food as energy and nutrition and fuel for my body (while still indulging in ice cream and stuff, in moderation). It isn’t that hard once it becomes a habit, but making it a habit is a challenge, especially when you’re lazy like I am. But I’ve stayed pretty focused on this, and even when I’ve been on the road or in a hurry, I do the best that I can. I always grade myself on a curve, though, and I haven’t done as well with food and nutrition as I could this month. I made some chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve fallen into the habit of eating ice cream almost every night. I can do better, and I have to, if I’m going to make the last 2-3 pounds come off. Grade: B+

  • Exercise more.

I’ve only run four times since June 29th. Considering I want to run at least 4 times a week, that’s nowhere close to where I want to be. I’ll cut myself a little slack, because I was on vacation for a week of this month, and I spent most of that vacation taking walks and swimming like crazy. I also walk my dogs, but not every day (or every other day when I’m running at least 4 days a week). The truth is, I’ve just been lazy, and it shows. Yeah, I hurt my hip again, and it’s been really, really hot here, but those are just excuses. In a month where everything else is going so well, this stands out as a big disappointment that needs a lot of improvement. Grade: D

Okay, so it looks like it was a pretty good month. Let’s total it up and find out what my overall grade is… 30/30, after factoring in the extra credit. However, I’m taking two points off for the D in exercise, because physical fitness is as important as mental fitness, especially for someone who is now 44.

Final grade for July: A (28/30)

That’s really good, and it reflects how I feel, generally. I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I’m more peaceful, more content, more productive, and more satisfied than I’ve been in months. The whole point of the reboot was to look at my body and life as an operating system that was really fucked up, and needed to be reset (and in some cases, recompiled from source). I can honestly and unabashedly say that it’s working.

But this isn’t a destination, this is a journey, and where I have put myself right now is the best birthday present I could have hoped to give myself this year.

a truck paper rhino

This thing I’m working on has lived in my head for about a year, so it’s kind of stale and not as interesting to me as it was when I had the idea. But I decided that writing and finishing what I start is really important, just like knowing the difference between “I’m bored with this” and “this is genuinely not good” when assessing whether or not to keep on going.

There’s a point in my creative writing process where I always decide that the whole thing is shit, I am shit, the world is shit, and I should set the whole thing on fire. It took me years to realize that it’s just a normal part of my process, and it’s more the frustration of wanting the thing to be finished, than it is any of the other things. I used to worry that this thing sucked, and therefore I sucked, and Carrie’s mom was right: they’re all gonna laugh at me.

But this is the hard part of the work (and it’s still better work than real work) and everything is worth doing is hard. Getting past this, I think, is what separates professionals from everyone else. I’ve committed to finishing a book of short fiction by the end of this year, and the only way that happens is when I do the work.

So I’m doing the work.

The big challenge today, so I could get past this step where I hate it and hate myself and hate the whole idea, was forcing the main character to tell me what his primary conflict was, and why he cared about The Thing He Cares About (and, consequently, why we are supposed to care about it). So I had him ask a character who wants something from him, literally, “Why me?” And we found out, together, what was missing, and what was making me hate this thing. Now that the question is answered, I can finish the draft I didn’t write very long today. It was only a few hours of work, and I only got 470 words down when I clicked save for the day, but that’s more than I had before I started. And, to be honest, once I got into this scene that is forced me to define exactly what was missing from my protagonist, it was really fun to do the work.

At the moment, this draft is mostly crap. But it’s crap I can fix and turn into something I’m proud of, instead of a series of blank pages.


I screencapped the title image from MetroLyrics, because I thought it looked cool.

Some thoughts on the election

A couple of questions have come into my Tumblr ASK thingy recently. If you’re interested in what I’m thinking about the election, keep reading. If not, please enjoy this picture I took of the clock in my kitchen. I think it’s neat.

posterized clock

About Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s VP pick:

I wanted someone more liberal, and someone who was more unambiguously antiwar.

But that’s who I wanted at the top of the ticket, and I didn’t get that, either.

I don’t know too much about him, but people I know and trust who do know lots about him — even Sanders supporters — think he’s a good choice.

Ultimately, it just doesn’t matter to me. The reality of this election is thatwe can choose between a disappointing Democrat and the end of the world. (Unless you’re in a deep deep deep blue or deep deep red state,voting for a third party is irresponsible this time around, given the stakes for the election, in my opinion. Younger me would have argued fiercely against that. Younger me voted for Nader, and look how that turned out.)

What’s really, really, really important is that Democrats take back the Senate, so people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown and Al Franken are in leadership positions. We need to get as many strong progressives in congress, and in our state and local governments, as we can, to ensure that Clinton’s neocon foreign policy instincts and fealty to Wall Street are held in check as much as possible. It’s really important to get as much of the House back as possible, to neuter the Tea Party and force whatever is left of traditional Republicans (like, the non-insane ones who aren’t in the Trump or Cruz wing of the party) to compromise and actually get shit done. Most important of all, Trump has to be defeated in an historical landslide. He needs to be humiliated, and he needs to take as much of his party down with him as possible.

I remember in 2004 how shitty I thought Kerry was, and what a terrible candidate he was. But I remember feeling like America needed to show the world and ourselves that Bush was an anomaly, that Bush was installed by SCOTUS, and when we were given a choice, we rejected him. It was really, really bad when America basically reaffirmed that the Bush/Cheney reign of terror was A-OK with us, and I believe it’s one of the reasons, if not thereason that not a single person was ever held accountable for the Iraq War lies.

So we have another chance this year, and we have to loudly and unambiguously say that We, The People, totally reject the fascist, nativist, white nationalist cult of personality that is Donald Trump.

So Kaine is safe. Kaine is boring. Kaine says that Hillary Clinton takes the votes of the liberal wing of the party for granted. Kaine says that the Clintons are stuck in the 90s and always will be. And all of that is disappointing to me, but it ultimately doesn’t matter because the stakes in this election are as high as they’ve ever been. If Trump is elected, America will never recover. We can’t allow that to happen, and voting for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine is the best way to do that.

Have you seen Michael Moore’s post about how Trump is going to win, and if so, your thoughts?

It’s a useful call to arms that everyone who is #BernieOrBust needs to hear and think about.

I’ve made it really clear that Bernie Sanders is who I wanted for my president, and I did what I could to make that happen … but he didn’t get the nomination, and now my realistic choice is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I think Michael Moore is right about Hillary not exciting young people the way President Obama did and does. It’s now our job to help everyone who is upset and disappointed and thinking about staying home to realize that we’re going to need every single vote we can get to defeat and utterly demolish and humiliate Donald Trump and everything he stands for.

I don’t like that Clinton is a warmonger. I don’t like that she’s too close to Wall Street. I don’t like that she and her campaign were condescending and dismissive of Millennials during the primaries.

But none of that changes the reality we are facing: it’s Clinton or Trump. I understand that younger voters don’t remember the 2000 election when SCOTUS installed Bush, and I understand that younger voters who were in elementary school during his disastrous presidency were effectively insulated from it because they were kids. I was *exactly* that kid in 2000 when I voted for Nader, because Bush was an asshole and Gore was a terrible candidate.

But if I could get my vote back now, I’d build the time machine with my own hands. Think of the millions of people who have died because of Bush. Think of the destruction of our climate that is now a total crisis, because Bush and his administration did nothing to address it. Think of how much horrible debt college students have, because Bush put people who just wanted to take their money away from them into positions of power. Think about the militarization of our police, which began under Bush.

President Obama did everything he could to roll back the damage Bush and Cheney did to our country and the world, and we aren’t even halfway to where we need to be. I don’t know how much President Clinton will work to continue rolling it back, but even if she keeps it in the same place, that’s better for our country and the world than what will happen under a President Trump.

If you, like me, wanted Bernie Sanders to be our president, if you, like me, believe in his revolution, if you, like me, believe that we have to make America work for the 99%, then your choice in this election is Hillary Clinton.

She’s not perfect. She’s not my first choice, or even in my top five choices. But she is the choice I have if I want to protect my country and my children from Donald Trump.

So that’s why, even though I still Feel the Bern, I’m With Her.

broadcasting on the deep space network

This is another one of those visual background noise things I like to make.

I used some public domain moving images that I found at Internet Archive, did a bunch of editing and filtering in iMovie, and then replaced the sound with a classic out-of-print ambient track from Earth to Infinity called Memphis to Mars.

I’m surprisingly happy with the way this turned out. When I watched it all the way through, it made me think of syncing Dark Side of the Moon with Wizard of Oz or Echoes with Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. That wasn’t intentional, but I’m happy it turned out that way.