Skyrim Life Skills

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You can find all sorts of stuff while exploring Skyrim. Like this beacon of a demonic goddess.

Despite not considering Skyrim a particularly great game, I find it strangely addictive. At first I thought it might be the world: in gaming, as in life, I crave exploration, travel, and discovery. However, my love for exploration is inextricably linked to my love for story. I like exploring partly because I like discovering new characters and stories, and seeing where they lead. There’s a lot of pretty stuff to find and look at in Skyrim, but the game’s relatively hollow stories take some of the thrill out of exploration.

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Still gotta fix this tree at some point.

The real answer became clear when I looked at how I was playing the game. Rather than being motivated by quests or stories, I anticipate leveling up certain skills and unlocking new perks. Usually, the leveling process is one of the things that interest me least in the game. The skill system is one thing Skyrim really gets right.

Today we’ll look at how you can apply that system to your real life.

Do What You Love

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Back on the road again.

There are games that I enjoy far more than Skyrim, like the Witcher or World of Warcraft, that could learn a thing or two from Skyrim’s skill system. The draw isn’t the skills themselves, or the fact that you can level any skill rather than being constrained by class. The magic is that the skill improves when you use it.

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Travel takes a long time in Skyrim when you keep your speed toggled permanently to walk….

You can specialize in alchemy skills in the Witcher, which of course I do every time, but the only way to improve those skills is to go and kill enough nekkers and complete enough quests to level up. World of Warcraft does have professions, including alchemy, which do level up when you use them. But as far as class abilities go, it doesn’t matter if you’re a warlock trying to summon stronger demons or a rogue trying to develop more effective poisons–you learn these new abilities by killing boars and completing quests. Not that leveling in these games can’t be fun and addictive in its own way, but Skyrim is a step up. If I want to be a better alchemist, I make a bunch of potions and my skill goes up, allowing me to make better potions.

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….but it’s worth it to enjoy the view.

The skill system doesn’t just motivate me to do alchemy, though. Buying ingredients for potions is expensive, and when I run out, I need to go find reagents in the world or complete jobs to get more money to buy them. Leveling up my alchemy skill, more than the game’s story or world, is what motivates me to go out and quest.

Love What You Do

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At least I’m going the right way.

If this system inspires me to sink countless hours into developing fake skills, could it inspire me to sink at least a few hours into useful real life skills? I decided to find out.

I selected a range of skills that broadly reflect the skills available in Skyrim as well as my interests. To reflect Warrior skills like weapons and armor, I went with skills like running, lift strength, karate, and so on. Since no amount of practice has ever allowed me to wield real magic, I substituted Mage skills for more spiritual ones, like mindfulness, yoga, and self-care. Thief skills are things I technically could in real life, but lockpicking and sneaking don’t have much application in my day-to-day. I replaced them with mental and creative skills, like writing, Spanish, and art.

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Spotting a building in the distance, I thought it would be a safe place to spend the night.

In Skyrim, skill points and character levels are easy to attain at first, but become progressively more difficult. I modeled this progression with a set of simple formulas. To level up my writing skill, for example, I must write n x 1000 words, where represents the level of skill I’m trying to attain: I have to write 2000 words to go from 1 to 2, then an additional 3000 words to get to 3; getting from rank 50 to 51 will require 51,000 words (in addition to all the words from previous ranks). Alternatively, I may level up by completing n writing exercises from various how-to books I own.

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I was wrong.

I’ll get into the skills in more detail later. For now, the question is: does it work? Well, I started tracking my skills today. It’s just past lunchtime, and so far I’ve meditated, written a journal entry, did laundry, and read a chapter of a book. Now I’m writing this blog post, and I’m about jump in to writing my novel.

So far, so good.

The Road to Falkreath

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Why are there ALWAYS bandits?

After slaying my first dragon last time, today’s play session brings it down a notch. We left off last time as Aemilian went to investigate a fire. Instead of another dragon, he found a camp full of giants and their mammoths. I need to get a mammoth tusk for Ysolda, but I wouldn’t stand a chance of taking them on. Instead I sneaked through their camp and looted a chest, hoping they might have a tusk lying around. They didn’t, but I found a strange beacon, through which the Daedra Prince Meridia demanded I pay a visit to her shrine. Interesting.

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Yeah dragon you better run.

On the way back to Whiterun I heard some disembodied voices shouting at me. When I met once more with the jarl, he told me it was the Greybeards of High Hrothgar, who had summoned me for training. He insisted I go at once, but I have other plans.

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My new home?

I set off down the familiar road between Whiterun and Riverwood, but this time followed it toward Falkreath. I stopped to kill some bandits on the way, and spotted a dragon wheeling overhead. It was night when I arrived, so instead of going directly to the jarl who had summoned me, I stopped by the local tavern. Immediately, some stranger challenged me to a drinking contest, and I took him up on it.

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I’m always down for a drink or two.

What could go wrong?

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DRAGON!!: A Worthy Adversary

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This doesn’t look good.

Despite my general aversion to the Main Story Quest in whatever guise it takes, fighting dragons will always be cool. It’s one of those immortal cliches that will never get old. A while back I did a post on why dragons appear in almost every European and Asian mythology, and dragonesque figures appear in most of the rest of the world. I came to the conclusion that dragons represent the awesome and terrible might of nature. Early European cultures saw nature, and thus dragons, as something to be fought against and overcome. Early Asian cultures saw dragons, and the nature they represent, as forces to respect and learn from.

Dragons in Skyrim are something to be fought and something to be learned from. In addition to being a metaphor for nature, they’re also analogous to something that strikes very close to home for anyone working in a creative field.

Dragons are creative competition.

Lethal Creativity

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Mirmulnir: the Hemingway of destruction.

There’s a scene in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris in which the protagonist asks my personal hero, Ernest Hemingway, for feedback on his novel. Hemingway says he already knows he’ll hate it: either he’ll hate it because it’s bad, or he’ll hate it because it’s good and that makes him competition.

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Something to respect…

Most creatives have a love-hate relationship with others in their field (in addition to with themselves). Anyone with talent is simultaneously a mentor and an adversary. When I read a great novel, I am both learning how to write better and confronting an enemy I must overcome if I want a greater share of the spotlight.

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…something to fear.

This all sounds pretty cynical, but ideally competition between creatives can be friendly and constructive. I use terms like “enemy” because we’re looking at this through the lens of Skyrim, where my character and dragons are literally trying to kill one another. Competition between writers is usually nonlethal and can result in both writers getting better at their craft.

Enter the Dragonborn

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Umm…is this supposed to happen?

What does all that have to do with dragons? In Skyrim, dragons are masters of the thu’um, a magical kind of shout. Rarely, and with great difficulty, humans can learn to wield the thu’um. After slaying his first dragon, it is revealed that Aemilian (or whichever character you make) is Dragonborn, a mortal with the soul of the dragon. The Dragonborn can learn shouts instantly by absorbing the soul of a vanquished dragon, making him the only mortal capable of learning a wide variety of shouts in a single lifetime.

 

Though this is the part that originally put me off Skyrim–nothing ruins an open-world sandbox adventure faster than discovering you are the True Ultimate Hero of Prophecy and your destiny is already Written in the Stars–it does serve nicely for my metaphor. Like an aspiring writer, Aemilian has taken his first step toward mastery in a complex and challenging craft. This puts him in competition with dragons, whom he must vanquish, but also learn from.

Off the Beaten Story

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And all I ever wanted was to pick flowers and brew potions.

I’ll keep my in-game recap brief, since anyone who has played even a little Skyrim already knows what happens: a dragon attacks a watch tower outside Whiterun, I go out with a bunch of guards to kill it, I absorb its soul and learn my first shout.

I will say that, on legendary difficulty, battling a dragon is truly epic. Any of its attacks can kill me in one hit, including its breath, which can’t be dodged–the only way to survive is to dive behind cover. When I ran out of arrows and had to finish the fight with my mace, each step needed to be executed perfectly to avoid being eaten.

Before returning to Whiterun to tell the jarl what happened, I am distracted from the Main Story Quest by a glimpse of fire in the distance. Another dragon?

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What’s this, now?

I must investigate.

An Opportune Moment

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The road to Bleak Falls Barrow.

I often give my posts terrible titles. Last time, I came up with what I thought was actually a pretty good title, then forgot to explain what it meant in the post itself. Luckily today’s adventures offer a chance to revisit and expand upon the concept. When last we left Aemilian, he was about to embark, reluctantly, upon the Main Story Quest. Then something unexpected happened.

A Place to Call Home

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Opportunity knocks.

Just before I set out for Bleak Falls Barrow, a courier arrived, bearing a message from the Jarl of Falkreath. He has a job for me, and will reward me with a title and, more interestingly, some land to build a house on. I don’t know a thing about Falkreath so I can’t say just yet if it’s a place I’d like to settle down, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Main Story Quest–we meet at last.

When I titled my last post “Head Down Eyes Open”, it was in reference to following the main story instead of more interesting side adventures–a metaphor for real life, where you sometimes have to do the work that is available to you., rather than the work you want to do. In these cases, you just have to put your head down and get it done.

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As usual, bandits.

At the same time, you should keep your eyes open for new opportunities. If you’re already working toward your dream job, you don’t have time for anything else. If not, it’s a perfect time to explore your options and yourself, taking whatever “side quests” present themselves and opening yourself up to new experiences. The jarl’s letter caught Aemilian at a perfect moment, after he put his personal quest on hold.

Not So Terribly Bleak

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I like waterfalls.

Bleak Falls Barrow itself is nothing special, but it did a lot to reward my commitment to the Ridiculously Slow philosophy. When I played Skyrim before on a much lower difficulty, the bandits and draugr that haunt the ruin were more a nuisance than a threat. This time around, every encounter was deadly, and I noticed details I’d missed before: pools of flammable oil on the ground, for example, as well as jugs hanging from the ceiling which could be shot to start a fire.

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Hmmmm….

I didn’t notice these clever aspects of the encounter design before because I simply didn’t need them. Taking it slow and playing on the highest difficulty not only increased my enjoyment of the game, but also forced me to increase my skill as a player.

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….interesting.

And So On

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Skeleton king, word of power, you get the idea.

Other than that, there’s not much to say. I fought my way through the rest of Bleak Falls Barrow, learned the first word of my first shout (the infamous Fus Ro Dah), found the ancient tablet the jarl wanted, and returned to Riverwood.

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Sounds suspiciously like another Main Story Quest to me.

There I was accosted by an orc who wanted me to join the Dawnguard, an elite group of vampire slayers. As a player I know this is the beginning of Skyrim’s first expansion, which I’ll definitely get to eventually. As far as Aemilian is concerned, it’s just another lead, and not one he’s especially interested in.

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Nice night.

I returned to Whiterun, meeting some khajiit merchants outside the gates. Then I made my way to the jarl’s keep–and scarcely had I told him of my success than a guard came bearing dire news.

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Dire indeed.

The main story is about to heat up….

Quest Accepted: An Adventurer’s Journal

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For many creatives looking for meaning in life, this random NPC encounter is Skyrim’s most relatable character.

In addition to philosophizing about how my experiences in Skyrim can inform my real life, one of my goals with the Ridiculously Slow Let’s Play is to actually do things in the real world inspired by the game. We’ll start simple. One of my main goals for 2018 is to get into the habit of keeping a daily journal. There are many ways to keep a journal. It can be a record of events, a spotlight on things you’re grateful for, or even a creative exercise in stream-of-consciousness ramblings. I’m going to try something different–something that will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played an open-world RPG.

Your Personal Quest Log

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My quest log says West, but my heart says North.

Yesterday I talked about how I found some of Skyrim’s storylines more interesting than others. Specifically, I felt more drawn to a trivial “Miscellaneous” quest than the game’s main story. That got me thinking: what makes games so appealing, even addictive, is that you always know what you’re supposed to do. Even in Skyrim, where the whole point is that you can explore a vast open-world at your own discretion, there is something comforting about carrying a log full of quests that you can refer back to at any time, a handy tool that places little markers on your map and tells you how to move forward.

In retrospect, we can order the events of our lives into neat narrative threads, seeing how one thing led to another and got us where we are today. In the moment, it’s just a lot of chaos and noise. When you follow a quest in Skyrim, you know it’s going somewhere. Regardless of whether it ends happily or not, whether you succeed or fail, you know in advance that you are doing something that the game considers Meaningful. In real life, you might meet a Mysterious Stranger or apply to join some Heroic Organization–and never hear from them again. In a game there is guaranteed to be closure. Even if the stranger comes back and tries to rob you or you fail the organization’s entry trial, that’s somehow more satisfying than getting invested in something that eventually turns out not to matter.

Life is not a game, or if it is, the writers need to be fired and replaced with someone who comprehends the basics of narrative structure. Until then, it’s up to us to write our own quest logs, and it’s up to us to do it right. That means only accepting quests we have control over. For example, let’s say you want to be a professional photographer, so you decide your main quest is to get your friend’s cousin to hire you to photograph her wedding. Two months before the big day, the engagement falls through. You’ve failed your main quest for reasons that have nothing to do with you. A simpler and better goal would be to leave it at “become a professional photographer”. Opportunities will come and go, but as long as you keep working toward your goal, you’ll be making progress on your own personal adventure.

A Purpose in Skyrim

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Maybe I’d be more interested in this quest if the wizard who gave it to me wasn’t, like, just the worst.

Back in Tamriel, Aemilian is looking for his place in Skyrim. I’m not familiar with the world of the Elders Scrolls games and don’t know enough about Hammerfell to construct much of a backstory, so I’m keeping it simple: Aemilian was caught poaching and fled to Skyrim, where he was then mistaken for a Stormcloak. Now that I’ve escaped both Redguard and Imperial justice, I can shift my focus from running and laying low to figuring out what I actually want to do with my new life.

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After seeing how much depth and texture alchemy adds to the world, I decided to dabble in the game’s other tradeskills.

The Jarl of Whiterun and his court wizard have their own ideas: they want me to go to Bleak Falls Barrow and recover some artifact that has something to do with the dragons coming back. With nothing better to do, I agree. After learning the basics of arcane enchanting, catching up on some reading, and exploring the city, something more meaningful catches my eye.

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Apparently to fix this tree, I need the sap of another tree, which can only be collected using a special dagger used by hagravens to sacrifice hapless tree-creatures.

Danica Pure-Spring, a priestess of Kynareth, implores me to help her revive a sacred tree in the city square. I’ve established Aemilian as a hunter and alchemist who lives very close to the land, and Kynareth is the goddess of nature and patron of travelers. This quest isn’t just something to do. It’s a purpose.

A Purpose in Mexico

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Retracing my steps toward Riverwood.

While Aemilian raises his steel in service of Kynareth, I’m busy starting my own quest log in real-world Mexico. It doesn’t take a lot of soul searching to find my main story. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Technically this blog is writing, and I’ve even worked as a professional content writer before, and I wouldn’t count either of those as achieving my purpose in life, so I need to get more specific. I want to be a published author. Except I already am, since my first collaborative, ghostwritten novel was recently published. That doesn’t fulfill my purpose either. What I really want is to publish a novel I wrote entirely by myself, and under my own name.

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Don’t look at me like that, Main Story Quest. I’ll get to you eventually…

It’s a goal I’ve had since I was about five years old, so it’s not a huge revelation. The exercise is helpful, however, in changing how I see the story of my life. Humans naturally construct narratives out of the events they experience, and it’s too easy to give these stories downer endings. I’ve started and scrapped countless novels in my life, and it’s natural to see these each as self-contained, negative narratives: “This is the story of how Evaric failed to finish a novel.” In other words, a string of failed quests.

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Property values in Helgen really went downhill after that whole dragon incident.

But I have the power to define it differently, marking these as the ups and downs of a more meaningful, lifelong quest: “This is the story of how Evaric struggled, learned, grew, and became a successful author.”

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“Who made these neat rock formations?” I wondered. I’d soon have my answer…

At least that’s how I hope the story ends. Check back tomorrow, as I march on toward the elusive ending of yet another novel and Aemilian marches toward the sinister hagravens of Orphan Rock…

The Ridiculously Slow Adventures of Aemilian

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I’m getting flashbacks of growing up in Canada…

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to keep up a daily blog, something that lasted for about the first week of January. Perhaps trying to maintain seven weekly columns was too ambitious, or maybe it was that the length of each post got away from me–I thought the posts would average about 500 words but they consistently came in at 1500+.

Timothy Ferriss, my role model whose books and podcast are responsible for most of what is good about my life, frequently asks “What would this look like if it were easy?” Sticking to one column would definitely help, but which subject would consistently generate enough thoughts for a daily blog? Turns out the answer is obvious: my Ridiculously Slow Skyrim Let’s Play. It doesn’t take much convincing to get me to sit down and play video games, and every time I play I find myself waxing philosophical about dragons or mindfulness or whether Nords practice Lagom.

I’m not abandoning the other columns. The goal is to focus on the habit of daily blogging first, then mix up the content second. If you’re not that interested in Skyrim, well, neither am I. As I said when I began my playthrough, Skyrim is more of a vehicle for discussion than an end in itself.

And so, the adventure begins.

A Rational Alchemist

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Prioritizing stamina is an odd choice since, as part of my Ridiculously Slow philosophy, I won’t be sprinting much. It seems to fit the character, though.

Although my Rational Alchemist column will be on hiatus for a while, my irrational love of all things alchemy hasn’t gone anywhere. Upon leveling up for the very first time, most players probably spend their perk on some kind of weapon skill, school of magic, or sneak, defining their hero’s chosen combat style. Aemilian has many battles ahead of him, I’m sure, but he is first and foremost an alchemist.

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A gloomy day, but my spirits were bright.

As an aspiring alchemist, the trek from Riverwood to Whiterun was full of delightful opportunities to harvest red, blue, and purple mountain flowers, along with the occasional lavender or tundra cotton. Already I am gaining a deeper appreciation of the game this time around; when I dabbled in Skyrim before I hardly noticed the flora, but now it is clear that a lot of care went into defining Skyrim’s biomes and the flora native to each.

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Pretty, in a chilly sort of way.

Graymane or Battle-Born?

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He came on a little strong.

Upon entering the city, I quickly learned that not many residents shared my resolution to stay out of Skyrim’s civil war. Idolaf Battle-Born, the first person I spoke to, demanded I pick a side in his family’s feud with the Graymanes. He explained that the Battle-Borns support the Empire, whereas their rivals side with the Stormcloak uprising. Even though I tentatively sided with a Stormcloak during my escape from Helgen, he made some good points about building a better future rather than being stuck in the past.

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A real rabble-rouser.

Yet no sooner had I agreed with Idolaf that his family had the right of it than I ran into Heimskr, the resident priest of Talos. He’s a bit, um, enthusiastic for my taste, but I sympathize with his plight: the Empire has outlawed the worship of Talos due to an agreement with the elvish Aldmeri Dominion. This is a complicated war, and I’m not about to take sides.

Much Ado About Dragons

 

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I admire her hustle.

Now we get into my philosophical musings for the day. The whole reason I’m here is to talk to the jarl about the dragon attack, which as a player I recognize is the game’s central story. Yet I’m somehow more interested in Ysolda, a woman I met on the stairs up to the jarl’s palace of Dragonsreach. Ysolda is saving up to buy the local inn by trading with the khajiit caravan that hangs around the gates, and asks me to retrieve a mammoth tusk, which she believes will make a powerful bargaining chip. This errand is so trivial in the overall scope of the game that it is listed in the quest journal as a miscellaneous objective, rather than being its own quest. Despite that, I’m more invested in this than the main story. Why? Because the main story is forced on me, whereas helping Ysolda is a choice that lets me define my own story.

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Let’s get this over with.

In real life, plenty of people are going to tell you what’s important, what’s fulfilling, what you were put here on this earth to do. You might agree. You might not. It’s up to you, although it may not even be your decision. I don’t remember consciously deciding to have a weird obsession with alchemy. It just sort of happened. Yet whether you control it or not, you can’t force yourself to be fulfilled by someone else’s Main Story. You have to explore the side quests, and when you find one that sets your heart on fire, you’ll know the adventure has truly begun.

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The jarl awaits.

Meet the Malos

Just released Episode One of our Warcraft series, Exploring Azeroth! Despite some technical difficulties, it was a really fun time and a great introduction for anyone new to the universe.

In this episode, Venezia masters the controls, completes her first quests, and learns to slay her enemies with ice and fire. Meanwhile, Evaric suggests a backstory for the Malos, based on a true story. There’s also an awkward allusion to a Hemingway novel, because it just wouldn’t be us if there wasn’t.

We’re excited to have you along on the adventure!

New to Warcraft and need some background? Veteran player wanting to relive your first experience? Check out Episode Zero: Character Creation.

On Writing (Really Really Fast)

This is the second post in a month-long series on Camp NaNoWriMo, in which Evaric and Venezia share with you the process of writing a book in a month.

A daily schedule indicating to write 3000 words in 1 hour
Typical Monday morning.

By the end of yesterday, the second day of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had written nearly 10,000 words (9,666 to be exact). This is more than I’ve written in the entire month on previous attempts. This is not a boast, but an example of the results of making tiny changes to your mindset and creative process. The difference between my output this year vs. previous years has nothing to do with me becoming a better writer or receiving a sudden burst of divine inspiration (hardly). It has everything to do with definitions.

Redefinition (or: the Secret to Doing It is Trying to Do It)

A graph of word count stats for Camp NaNoWriMo
Just over 7,000 words – not a bad first day.

To win NaNoWriMo, you have to write 50,000 words. That’s it. Quality and coherence are not factors. This is not a loophole; according to the movement’s founder, Chris Baty, it was a deliberate decision to help writers get past hang-ups about quality and inspiration and just get words on the page. I, like thousands of other writers each year, approached NaNoWriMo falsely believing that I had committed to this quantity over quality mindset yet still finding myself unable to meet word count goals.

There’s no reason writing 50,000 words in a month should be challenging once you accept the rules of the game. You could literally type “dog” 50,000 times and you would win. The problem was I had not accepted this definition of success. Secretly, I still hoped to meet the 50,000 word goal and come out of it with a decent manuscript. I was setting myself up to fail.

But then what’s the point? Will typing “dog” 50,000 times help you improve as a writer? Okay, probably not, but that was an extreme example. As long as you’re trying to write a real story, whatever you come up with will be worth something even if it is barely readable. To prove this point, here’s an exercise you can try at home next time you have writer’s block: go to the point where you’re stuck and type “Then the dead dog got up and did a jig.”

I’m willing to bet money that sentence doesn’t work. Most likely there is no dead dog in your scene, and even if there is, chances are it does not make sense in the context of your story for dead animals to stand up and start dancing. What did you learn from this exercise? First of all, that you don’t have writer’s block.

Writer’s block is having no idea what happens next in your own story. If that was true, you’d have no objection to dropping that sentence into your scene. You have no idea what’s going to happen, so how do you know a dead dog doesn’t do a jig? The truth is, you have some guesses about what’s going to happen next, and you know for sure capering canine corpses are not involved. You just don’t want to write it down because you’re afraid it won’t come out perfect on the first try. And that’s just nonsense.

A Truly Shameful Excerpt

In case you find it hard to believe I can write 3,000 words of prose in an hour, or worse, you are impressed by the fact, I’m going to share a sample of my output (though it pains me to do so).

He found Armand asleep against the trunk of a jacaranda tree, with purple petals scattered across his face and chest. Nando stpked th\e fire back into some semblance of life and let him sellep.

WHne he awaoke they explored the island a little more. This time, rather than climbing the central hill, which was, in fact, a pyramid, they circled around the degs. Nando traced the pyramid form with his yes and an idea began to occur to him.

“We’re still on it, aren’t we?”

“What’s that, boy?”

He was gflad to hear some of the gruffness had returned to the old hunter’s voice; he must have been okay.

“The pyramid. I think, well whatg if the pyramid isnt on the island. WHat if the pyramid is the island?”

The old bhunter looked down at the gleaming white sand beneath his feet. “DOnt know about all that, he muttered.”


Even ignoring the spelling and grammatical errors, it’s not exactly Hemingway. This scene is so boring it probably won’t even appear in the final draft, but it took all of a minute to write and I came up with some ideas I liked in the course of writing it: rather than an island having a pyramid on it, the entire island is an ancient partially-submerged pyramid; and the health of the old hunter character can be gauged by the gruffness of his voice. I don’t know if I would have come up with either of those ideas through slow, deliberate writing or outlining.

We learn by doing. If you spend more time thinking about writing or planning what you are going to write than actually physically writing, you are not learning nearly as much about how to write as you could be.

At least that’s my take on it. Venezia has a different perspective.

On Writing Really Really Slow

Girl laying face down on a couch
My approach to writing.

Writing really fast would have helped when I started five years ago but I’m at a different stage of my book. I know where the story is going and most of it is written. It’s a matter of putting on the finishing touches and finding a way to say what I want to say.

I chose hours instead of a word goal so I can focus on getting the words right. 90% of the work I have left to do is reading and rereading my book as if someone else wrote it, making small changes until it feels right.

English is not my first language, so sometimes I feel self-conscious about the way my writing sounds. I write slowly because writing for me is a process of trial and error, writing and rewriting until I find the words that sound right. Knowing I can go back any make changes at any time helps me feel better and more confident about what I write.

Even if you choose an hourly goal, it is not an excuse to not get anything done. If you only have two hours a day to write you want to get the most out of them. For example, I write a lot better at night. Two hours at night counts for more than two hours during the day. Choose a writing time that works and stick to it.