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Troubles of an Over Thinker: Making Friends

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Have you ever found yourself wondering about the many ways of the world? Perhaps you daydream often about things you’d like to do and say, or people you’d like to meet? Do you enjoy philosophical discussions with others that allow you to drift off into the realm of ‘what if’? And better yet, do you often find yourself analyzing the people around you; watching them interact with their peers and making your own small theories as to why they act and feel the way they do? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are what we call a ‘deep thinker’, but is popularly described as an ‘over thinker’.

Deep thinkers are a rare jewel, often coveted by many but only appreciated by a few. This is because we seem special to the average person, but in reality, we often feel cursed. The problems that deep thinkers face in life are often different than the problems others face, and so we tend to handle our difficulties in a more curious manner, sometimes confusing or offending others.

I believe this is due to our never ending urge to analyze everything and everyone around us. Our mind says to say or do one thing, but our Spidey Sense is telling us that it may not be received well by our audience (mostly because we haven’t figured them out yet). Therefore, we may try a more PC version, but it isn’t really what we wanted to say. This causes us to feel as though we didn’t connect with the people around us or as though they didn’t understand what we meant (which they probably didn’t, because we gave them an edited version of something that was probably fine in the first place). If you ever feel this way around others, don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

So let’s take a look at our first problem as a deep thinker: How do we communicate and connect with the people around us? How do we make friends? Let’s look at some quick tips for fitting into social situations and enjoying yourself while in unknown company.

  1. Find Others Like You

The first step to connecting with people is to realize that you are not the only one of your kind. There are other intelligent people out there that think about things just as ridiculously deep as you do. They are probably floundering as well, and you could save them. If you are at a social gathering of any kind, look for people that seem to feel uncomfortable in their surroundings. Look closely, however, because if they are anything like you, they can probably hide it well. When you spot one, make conversation. Open them up a bit by trying to get them to talk. Once they start talking, you’ll know if they are the friend for you, and you can pitch in on the conversation, showing them the same thing.

  1. Realize That Not Everyone Should Be Your Friend

In this, I simply mean that it’s ok to have four quarters, rather than a hundred pennies. Don’t feel bad if you only connect with one or two people, because those people are the ones that are on the same page as you. Your future friendship with them is going to be more satisfying than making friends with the girl who spent the entire evening bitching about her boyfriend and checking her phone. And who’s to say you’d ever get along with Mr. BusinessSuit? I’m sure they’re great people, and their friends must love them, but you’re looking for people more like yourself, and that’s a rare find.

  1. Quit Analyzing For, Like, FIVE Seconds

This one is easier said (er, typed) than done. People like us tend to like control. Not because we are controlling and want to rule everyone with a master thumb (although that would be cool). The reason we like control is so that we know what to expect and how to react. We feel more at ease around people we know and like than we do around strangers because we have a better sense of control. If you feel a certain way about something, you can say so, and you know how the people around you will react. When you are in the middle of a group of strangers, you are more reserved and immediately begin trying to understand the people around you so that you can feel that same sense of comfort and control.

Here’s a tip: That’s not gonna happen. Come to terms with the fact that you are all on equal footing, trying to figure each other out, and just be yourself. The truth is, they are either going to like you or they won’t. Be courteous, but don’t try to be somebody else, because you won’t enjoy the experience and this is YOUR life that you’re living. If you start analyzing someone, you are going to start forming your words around the imagined boundaries that you think they have, and that’s not being honest. Just as with you, these people have a right to know if you’re on their page or not. This isn’t about politics, so loosen up and enjoy yourself. Bring a friend if that will help you relax.

  1. Tell Stories

If you’re feeling too much like a silent wall flower, or even if all eyes are on you, (which will sometimes happen) don’t panic. Just tell a story. Having thick Irish blood in my veins, I like to believe I have practiced this trick to near perfection, as the Irish are great at telling a good story, but you don’t need to be Irish to capture people with your words. Do you have any tales that pertain to the current subject at hand? If not, find a way to change the subject to make the story fit into the conversation. It can be anything as simple as, “that reminds me of the time my uncle’s dentures fell into my principle’s coffee…” This is a (hopefully) appropriate topic that will instantly grab the interest of anyone nearby, unless you’re surrounded by humorless snobs.

The reason behind this: everyone loves to laugh, and everyone loves to laugh with other people. Why do you think comedians are so popular? So tell your (true) story and feel free to mildly exaggerate where it’ll add a bit of flavor or minimize where you think it may cause offense. Don’t worry if you aren’t very good at it. Practice makes perfect and there is usually a funny fellow nearby that will jump in with comical tidbits to add character to your tale. Sharing a story with those around you is a wonderful way to open up and relax. It will also help those around you to relax, putting you in a favorable (and even glorious) light as the more nervous people begin to enjoy themselves.

  1. Open Up About Yourself

It’s a commonly known fact that opening up to someone on a personal level will help them to do the same. Police use this trick often when hunting for a confession to a crime, and so you can use it too! Tell people things about yourself that aren’t commonly known, and it will subconsciously make them feel closer to you on a personal level. Be careful to keep the information relatively positive, however, or people may feel that you are phishing for attention or are just generally being a Debbie Downer. It’s alright to tell people you were adopted, and feel free to tell them whether or not your birth family was happy about it or not. You can even mention how your adoptive family was too strict or wasn’t very supportive of your goals, but throw in some positive stuff as well. Make sure that your story has a point, and make sure the point is a positive one, before you start speaking. Throw in a bit of humor as well if you want to add the cherry on top, and move the conversation along by asking someone a question about themselves. They will open up, which will encourage everyone else to as well if you are not alone, and this will bring you all closer.

  1. Be Comfortable With Silence

We are always thinking, and sometimes we tend to do this out loud. This means that we have a tendency to always be talking as well, so make sure you aren’t hogging the spotlight. The best way to move conversation along is to ask questions. Be careful, however, as sometimes silence is necessary. Studies have shown that in every group setting, a silence occurs on average every seven minutes. This is natural, and should be appreciated, not feared. Silence is only uncomfortable if you are uncomfortable with the people around you. This discomfort can be due to not knowing the people well enough, and so it feels as though the silence is awkward. Just remind yourself that the silence is naturally occurring and that not everyone is uncomfortable, so you shouldn’t be either. Unless you just told a terrible joke and you can hear crickets in the background, relax and enjoy the moment. Someone will eventually speak again, or something will happen that will spark new conversation, so just sit back and wait for it.

Whatever you do, don’t pull out your phone or feign interest in a nearby plant. These are sure signs that you are uncomfortable, and other people can pick up on that easily, which may cause them to feel uncomfortable in turn. Just do whatever comes naturally to you. If it’s simply too intense, feel free to excuse yourself to mingle or use the restroom, or perhaps you’d like another drink. Ask if anyone wants anything while you’re away, putting you in a favorable light, and slip away to avoid your imagined awkwardness. No harm, no foul. By the time you return, conversation will be booming again.

So there you have it: my own little methods of keeping the crazy at bay. Let me know if any of these tips worked for you, and please feel free to leave any additional ideas in the comment section. Making friends is hard for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be. There are people just like you around every corner, looking for someone to discuss the ways of the universe and the people who think they run it.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Fantasy Novels and Writer’s Block – 5 Steps to Getting Back On Track

calvinWriting isn’t something that comes easily to everyone and, in fact, it can even be considered a super-power in many cultures and societies. However, as any avid Marvel or Capcom fan will tell you, every super-power has its weakness. Superman has his Kryptonite, the Human Torch can’t stand asbestos, and even the Hulk struggles with his uncontrollable rage. For authors, our weakness is strong, but simple: Writer’s Block.

Although there are many tips and tricks out there designed to help budding authors get over this impenetrable wall of doom, I have gone and made a list of my own; one more dedicated to those who have taken on the challenge of writing in my own particular genre – Fantasy.

  1. Have a creative friend to bounce ideas off of.

This is perhaps the most important of all my writing tips, and it is a very big key to any successful author. After all, let’s face it – writing is a lonely profession. We spend hours upon hours hunched over our laptops or computer monitors, tip-tapping away on our keyboards while drinking copious amounts of caffeine. Sometimes we hide away for days at a time, and rarely do we find people who are as interested in our book projects as we are. However, without the opportunity to openly discuss your novel and ideas with other people, you are limiting yourself to just one mind. This means one path for your imagination to follow and one person to catch any flaws, holes, or errors in your book’s plot. So, pick a supportive friend that you trust and make sure they have creativity of their own (writing, painting, acting, etc.). This friend will listen to even your worst ideas, while hopefully presenting a few ideas of their own and, even if you don’t take any of their suggestions, this will give you a broader scope of things to play around with in your mind.

  1. Play Dungeons & Dragons.

Having also been the center focus of an earlier post, I firmly believe that Dungeons & Dragons is a major stepping stone to creating any fine fantasy novel. This nerdy little game is jam-packed with enough awesomeness to kick-start any author’s imagination, and I have found it to be a tried and true method of banishing mental fatigue and Writer’s Block.

  1. Perform a Daily Fantasy Warm-Up.

There are many articles out there that advise young or new authors to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just a sentence. It could be about anything at all, and this will help you get over your writing obstacles. However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes we just need things to be a little more specific. So, if you’re struggling with Writer’s Block, instead of writing something random every day (some blah-blah sentence about the weather or a description of that blanket Grandma’s making), write one sentence every day that eventually tells a small story. For example, if I were struggling with my current novel, I would wake up today and, on a separate piece of paper, I would write something simple: “Once upon a time, in the small city of Linford, a young boy came across a golden coin while sitting on a park bench.” The next day, I would add one more sentence that related to the first: “As he plucked the coin up off of the ground, the boy felt a small tingling sensation begin to course through his finger tips and up along his arms.” The sentences are simple but they get your mind revving, and the story doesn’t have to be related to your novel.

  1. Read.

Reading is a very popular method for ridding yourself of Writer’s Block, and it is also a favorite way to find inspiration for new plot ideas. This is not a method that works for me, however, but I thought it worthy of a mention just in case it could help one of my readers. If this method does not work for you, don’t worry. Some of us are very critical of our own work – more critical than others, perhaps. Because of this, reading a great book may only intimidate us or make us question the value of our own work. If this is the case for you, just as it has always been for me, then I would suggest watching a fantasy television series, such as Game of Thrones, to get that brain bubbling.

  1. Always bring a notepad!

I cannot stress this enough, and so I’m going to try harder: Always, ALWAYS scribble down your ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, ideas that strike in the middle of the night or when you have soap in your eyes, it doesn’t matter; they are all ideas and an idea is the first step to making a decision. Just because something doesn’t fit in your plot now doesn’t mean it won’t later, and you’ll be glad you kept it within arm’s reach when inspiration strikes as suddenly as it tends to do with our kind. The primary downfall to any author’s successful novel would be thinking the words, “That’s a good idea, but I’ll remember it later.” It doesn’t matter how many times you go over that idea in your head, trying to make it stick like glue, it’s still going to float out of your head like a butterfly the next time you get distracted. A large contributor to Writer’s Block is a lack of content, but you HAD content… you just forgot it. Now your notebook is empty and you have nothing to add to your new novel.

So that is my own personal list of successful tips to get over that pesky Writer’s Block, and even a couple ideas to help you find further inspiration for that epic fantasy novel of yours. Let me know which ones worked best for you and feel free to leave a couple ideas of your own!

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How Dungeons & Dragons Will Make You a Better Writer

Dice

For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy game that is mostly played via word of mouth – with nothing more than the use of your imagination. Sounds lame, right? Well, it isn’t. In fact, if you ever decide to give it a try, you just may find that it’s the best, most addictive game you’ve ever played. The best part about D&D is that it’s almost completely free to play! All you need is a set of dice (yep, the weird-looking ones with all the sides), a piece of paper (or the real character sheets if your Dungeon Master is feeling fancy), a  love for fantasy, a few friends, and an experienced nerd.

Once you have what you need, your Dungeon Master (who was hopefully awesome enough to make his own campaign story) will now lead you on an epic journey of twists, turns, monstrous creatures and moral choices, all tied nicely together with a healthy dose of controlled chaos. Your job as an adventurer is to decide all the actions and dialogue that your character makes in response to everything and everyone that crosses your path and, depending on your luck with dice, this will shape your character’s destiny either miraculously or terribly. You’ll never again feel the same joy as when you rolled that 20 while shooting an ogre with your bow, killing him with one hit! But you’ll also never know shame like that time you rolled a 1 and shot your healer in the eye (or whatever other terrible punishment your sadistic DM can think of). So, now that I’ve explained Dungeons & Dragons to you, my dear readers, let me explain how this game has shaped my own own perspective and how it will help you achieve greatness in writing.

The first time I ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons, I was nothing more than a young teenage girl. I had already developed quite the imagination and was often found tucked away in a corner with my nose in a book, but I had yet to dabble in the fine art of playing any kind of game that wasn’t presented on a TV screen (Super Mario Bros. anyone?). However, due to my teenage obsession with being accepted, coupled with the negative attention that was given to those who played the game (mostly from school bullies), I didn’t have the nerve to try it for many years. After finally leaving home as a fresh adult, I eventually met a few friendly people in my new apartment building and, after several months of good friendship, it was finally brought to my attention that my new friends were… well, nerds! Among many things, these wonderful people taught me how to fix my own computer, how to program certain software and, you guessed it, how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

From the first several minutes of playing this game with my friends, I was hooked. Not only did I get to create my own character essentially from scratch, but through this character I was able to experience virtually anything that the DM could throw at me. My friends and I fought dragons, found treasures, made friends along the road that later betrayed us, and even paid for a prostitute or two in a brothel (always use protection!). The adventures were long, usually lasting months, and eventually my character (if he/she survived very long) became so bad-ass that I couldn’t help but feel like I’d officially reached pro-status.

Despite all of the laughter, fun, and even occasional outrage, the one thing I picked up on while playing this game was its complete and total flexibility… almost as if the boundaries of the game were meant to be manipulated. You could literally do anything! If you were clever enough to make it sound legit, and if you were mildly lucky with your dice, there wasn’t a thing that couldn’t be done. Cornered on the edge of a cliff by a giant ogre? Well, remember that time your friends laughed at you for choosing the ability to create a gallon of water anywhere? You thought you’d need it in case your character got stranded in a thirsty desert, but who’s to say that gallon wouldn’t best be located inside the skull of that giant ogre? Roll a good number and enjoy your Dungeon Master’s fury when his precious goblin’s head explodes without even swinging his over-sized club.

The first thing a game like Dungeons & Dragons will teach you is how to always think outside the box. For example, a well-placed Mage Fist to an enemy’s unfortunate testicles can give you a much needed advantage and end a battle much quicker than regular attacks that simply drain health points. The craftier you become, the more you challenge your DM to keep your character in check and, in the end, the campaign may simply turn into several adventuring friends trying to drive their diligent Dungeon Master clinically insane. Because of this, the game can get quite competitive, but if your DM isn’t clever enough to explain why you can’t flood his ogre’s brains with water, at least without creating new rules or worldly guidelines, then you have free reign!

In writing, this concept is often the same. I have had many people approach me with a constant concern: “There’s a huge hole in my plot and I can’t make it work without starting over.” Here’s my advice: Play a few hours of D&D with your friends. If you don’t feel clever enough to stretch or manipulate your plot to make something work, then you aren’t exercising your imagination, which is almost a muscle in itself. Just as writing regularly will actually improve your grammar and literacy (without even taking a class), so, too, will your imagination improve when forcing it to think outside the box. As with all things, practice, practice, practice, and watch the plot of that epic novel start to wrap itself together nicely without you even breaking a sweat.

However, I must warn you: don’t think you can take a shortcut and play a video game instead, as it’s highly unlikely that you will achieve the same result. With video games, there is too much structure and, therefore, less options. If your character in Assassin’s Creed is in a tight spot against a big boss, you can’t think to yourself, “I’ll just throw dirt in his eyes! That will distract him while I take out his minions.” Instead, you are stuck with the abilities your character has and the small map around you. No room for imagination, and no DM to piss off when you thwart his best attempts to kill you.

An added bonus to playing this game is that, because you’re playing with actual people, you learn what other adventurers would think and worry about along the way. Your sister is playing the healer? How sweet. But she’s getting real sick of you meandering away from the group and getting yourself caught in traps – probably because she has to use her vital resources to keep you alive after she finds you bleeding out on some spikes. The lesson: the healer in your novel probably feels the same way, and this may give you a small idea for something to add to your chapter, or even a bit of personality depth to give to that character. That’s right! If you want to have true insight into your characters, you have to listen to your buddies rant and rave while you journey through the amazing world of Dungeons & Dragons. Observe the roles they’re playing and how those characters interact with each other – this is literally your free ticket into the minds of real people while they journey through a fantasy world! Sounds like a good cheat sheet to keep nearby if you want the characters in your novel to be more realistic! Take inspiration from the different personalities around you and flex that imagination by getting yourself out of tough situations (or into them, if you’re hungry for adventure!). Unless your dice are cursed (and we know this happens), there should be no reason you can’t have an amazing experience. Not to mention, if you have a good Dungeon Master, you just may learn a thing or two about creating breathtaking worlds, giving life to various villains and heroes, and even discovering and using loopholes to your advantage. With the game of Dungeons & Dragons, and especially with your writing, the only limits you have are the ones you place on your own mind.

So go and find that dusty basement full of nerds, throw on that Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and make sure you brought your best set of dice (yes, the sparkly ones!) because you’ve got adventures to go on and that book’s not going to write itself!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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