Just Checking In,

There’s been a lot going on in my life lately. I finally got hired at a new job that pays way better and lets me do things I like doing (namely, not customer service). I now have economic stability, which is great. It’s been over a year and a half since I was about to save any money in any real sense, so it’s nice to feel “on track” again. 

As for the job itself, I love it. I’m working with the hearing impaired which has been a  bit of a culture shock. For one thing, my family has what my physician mother describes as an “Aspberger’s streak,” and making direct, sustained eye contact makes me nervous and uncomfortable; the hearing impaired function primarily through their visual sense and make really strong eye contact. It’s been taking some getting used to. 

One positive thing though is that for detailed communication between myself and my coworkers, I get to write notes. I actually prefer this mode of communication over speaking because it allows me to think about what I’m going to say, and because I tend to write out my thoughts more than I speak them, it feels more natural.

The main benefit, however, is finally not having to do something customer service related. Even though there is a lot more work to be done at my new job, and the tasks are more physical in nature, I find it is way easier to manage simply because I get to do it at my pace on my terms. With customer service positions (like the ones I currently hold) there will be a few hours of dead, minute-crawling boredom, followed by a thirty minute slew of angry people who all arrived at the same time. 

Maybe it’s just a personal thing, but I prefer to have a degree of control over social interactions. Perhaps that’s why I like doing stand-up comedy. There are rules. I know when I’m suppose to talk, and when I’m supposed to listen. I know it’s strange to still feel this way at twenty-five, but I have no idea how to have conversations with 3-5 people; beyond that I just don’t talk. I know how to do one on one. When they stop talking, I start talking. When I’m done talking, they talk. 

Part of it is I genuinely just don’t like having to dart my eyes back and forth between multiple people. I have an astigmatism and doing that a lot makes me really aware of the warping that occurs in my glasses. It also makes everyone involved look like a shifty-eyed pirate. 

On a mildly related note, that’s what I love about texting. In a real conversation, if someone asks you something you don’t want to respond to, you can’t just walk away. You have to waffle uncomfortably and lie, poorly.

 

Other things that are going on:

I have started submitting my experimental writing out to publishers. There’s a milestone for ya. I don’t think I ever would have done it if it weren’t forstand-up, which put me in a position where I was basically begging for 7 minute spots from strangers on Facebook. Now I’m just doing the same thing, but with publishers across the nation. The trick was to break it up into very small parts. I made a giant excel spreadsheet of all the viable publishers and rated them based on how promising they looked. Then I input data like when they accepted submissions, or if there were any contests involved. Turning the process into distinct steps helped it seem that much less narcissistic and ambitious. For all I knew, I was just playing on excel. So far, I have submitted to about five publishers, and as the year goes on, I will continue to submit to more. 

Another important realization I had was that the work is never done. Between the third and fourth submission, I had an idea for the last section of the “book,” and wrote it in. You can always change things, and tweak them, and you should. But yeah that’s just a thought.

I’m starting a new book project as well. It’s technically an extension of the old one, so if you would like a preview, just check out the “This is a Book” section. It is an expansion of this story, while adding in some experimental writing devices.

Here is the experiment – to have limited control over the plot and outcomes. 

The idea was inspired by dice and paper role playing games. The stories are going to be character driven, and the success of their actions will be determined by rolls of a die.

I first came up with this idea about six-nine months ago, after I started listening to Nerd Poker, Brian Posehn’s podcast. I thought it would be fun to write a short story where I didn’t have control over one of the characters. The original plot was this: A highly functional schizophrenic cartoonist who has learned to hallucenate only wonderful things, decides she wants to commit suicide because none of the wonder is real. As she makes this decision and prepares for it, a second character (the one whose actions are controlled by dice) prepares to make his debut as a serial killer. In my initial conception, everything done by the killer would be controlled by dice, from the method of execution (ie. 1 = choking, 2 = knives, 3 = gun, 4 = fire, etc.) to the success of each action. (ie. killer tries to pick the lock to the back door, roll 1-4 = fail, 5-12 = success)

I never got around to writing the piece because I didn’t feel the characters were strong enough,  then I got tied up with the last experimental piece, then I started doing stand-up, then I got a girlfriend, then I got another job, then I kept coming up with more excuses. 

 

Sure, this idea does sound like the most lonely thing ever. It’s basically me playind D&D with myself, but in practice it has proven to be quite entertaining, not just to read, but as a writing activity. 

Since doing stand-up,  I have become a true believer in the fact that for art to be really spectacular, you have to genuinely enjoy what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. From my personal experience, the jokes that work best are the ones I am excited to tell on that given night. In this experimental practice, I find it massively entertaining because I have no idea what’s going to happen. 

The other day, I started doing “practice runs” to work out the kinks of how the dice rolling structure would work. I had just bought my first ink well/fountain pen duo and was excited to try it out. I gave myself a basic, almost “hack” premise that I thought would go well with the format. A guy is stuck on a desert island. I have not enjoyed writing anything as much as this in a long time. It’s nice not having the pressure of a “cohesive plot” to worry about while writing. Removing that aspect of the process let me focus more on the character, pace and language. Of course, there will be no “point” to the piece. There are no morals or principles advocated. It’s primary function is to be entertaining, which it is for me as a writer, and my girlfriend has found it very enjoyable as a reader. 

I will consider posting segments of it on here. The only problem with it is that I have no idea how long the piece will end up being. He could literally die at any moment. In fact, when I put down my pen to go to sleep last night, I had left him in a coconut tree. There is a real chance he will fall and die. 

But I am excited to continue to develop this concept and see where it goes. I want to take my time with it, and intend on working through these “practice pieces” and the larger book project over the next five years. Finishing it is going to be my 30’s bucket list. 

 

How’s stand-up going, Eric?
Thanks for asking, other Eric.

 

Stand-up is pretty good. I keep telling myself I’m going to go out more than once a week, but I haven’t really done it. I did do 3 mic/shows in one week a little while back, which I have never done before, but it wasn’t as draining as I thought it would be. Not that I find stand-up draining, it’s exhilerating, but to the point where I can’t fall asleep after a performance and then I’m a zombie the next day. 

But now that I have my new job, and I’m going to be slowing down on the other two, I think I’m finally ready to start amping it up a little bit. I’ve become more comfortable with myself on stage. Against the advice of some comics, I still bring a notepad with me on stage. I don’t even use it, but I like it as a security blanket, and beyond that I like the audience knowing that things aren’t “off the top of my head.” 

I did stand-up in a church yesterday. I did all my normal, psychotic material and it went pretty well. It was the longest set I’ve ever done (12 minutes) and there were a few things that I left out. So I am on track to meet my New Year’s resolution, which was to come up with 15 minutes that I was happy with. If this pattern holds up, I will have my hour by my 30th birthday as well, and I couldn’t think of a better gift to myself. A book and an act. 

Some people have goals like, “by the time I’m 30, I want to be married, have a house, a car and maybe start thinking about a family.” 

I want to be able to talk about dicks for an hour. 

 

Finally, I’m thinking about starting a podcast. I’ve wanted to try it for a long time, and I think it would work on a lot of skills that I am lacking in, like talking off the top of my head. I don’t know what the podcast would be, or really anything, but I’m interested in talking to self-defined artists about their craft. 

But things are good. I also got new clothes. That was way overdue. & a folding keyboard for my phone. I haven’t really used it a whole bunch, but I’m sure it’ll come in really handy.  

That’s about it.

Love you,

-Eric

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