The Year of 36
A Look at My Thoughts for Season 5
Saturday, August 4, 2018
It's Season 5, and you know what that means!
Actually, no you don't know what that means. And you know what that means!
That's right! It's time to unveil the Season 5 Creative Production Schedule!
First, a Look Back
A few weeks ago, I celebrated the nineteenth birthday of After The Hero. What began as a young adult Josh's coming of age tale (though unbeknownst to him as such) has grown up along with him, becoming less brash and more well-rounded—just as he always wanted it to be, but, for many years, wasn't able to do.
Then, in 2010, during a period of solitude and relative stability in Seattle, he finally got his voicing right. That was the dawn of the Draft 10 Era. Relance became a lot more real, a lot deeper.
A year later, after the minor upheaval of Sinistral World Travels, he found myself on the Mountain and had an even greater period, lasting into 2013, of worldbuilding and Relancii expansion, producing huge amounts of background lore as well as the premise of Mate of Song.
His greatest hour came in 2014 and '15 with the Year of 32, which saw him do a comprehensive reckoning of much of the non-Josh RPG cast, the formalization of Curious Tale Saturdays, the creation of this website and Encyclopedia Reluria, the launch of The Great Galavar, the launch of Empire on Ice, experimentation with various other features, and of course the completion and publication of the Prelude.
Immediately after the Prelude was published, his world was pulverized, and his life has been in tatters ever since. His recovery was compounded by further setbacks, and to this day he still has no glimpse of the financial security he would need to be able to turn his energy to creative work once and for all.
Nevertheless, he—now me—has begun the twentieth year of The Curious Tale. This will be the "Year of 36": I am 36 years old. 36 years old, and undertaking the twentieth year of the Tale. That's pretty auspicious. The twentieth year...a nice, round number. The number 36 itself is promising too, being half of 72 (a favored number of mine), and three times 12 (another favored number). To the extent that the setting can have any impact on the productivity of the artist, the "Year of 36" isn't a bad place to try and make a stand.
Several months of financial stability, together with a very nice (albeit humbling) apartment that grants me the privacy I need to rest and work, and of course the sheer passage of time itself, have allowed me to make enough of a psychological recovery that, for many weeks now, I've been thinking constructively about what I can realistically do in Season 5.
Environmental and Situational Limitations in Season 5
There are three huge things holding me back this year:
First, I am still mentally unwell. I lack a lot of the determination I used to have, and I no longer have an expectation of triumph—an expectation which in years past propelled me forward. Part of me has simply given up, and I don't know when or if that can be reversed, nor do I really know how, beyond platitudes, to do it.
Second, my job, which I began in March, is quite draining. It takes up so much of my time, and domestic life takes up much of the rest. It leaves me feeling very tired, and very closed in upon, in the sense of not having the expansive free time I need to feel healthy. It doesn't help that I'm also physically ill, with some kind of resurgent heart problem. So I'm just really tired a lot. The result is that, oftentimes when I do get a flash of creative desire, I'm either on the clock at work, or too tired to act on it.
Third, the moment that my job ends—which is likely to be quite soon—I'll be back in a struggle for financial survival again. Will I be able to make it work this time, unlike all the other times? History says no. 2017 was my darkest year, even though the worst external events were from 2015 and 2016. That's because the futility of my efforts to achieve financial survival in 2017 was existentially devastating. It should be no surprise that when I'm financially stressed out that badly, it's an enormous damper on my creative writing.
These three hostile titans have been at the forefront of my planning as I've considered what I can realistically achieve this year.
In the Year of 32, all the conditions were right. I had sanctuary, time, and relative wellness of mind. (I was actually very stressed out in those days, but my mind hadn't fallen to pieces yet, and the stress was, if anything, a creative inducement.)
This time around, my position is less advantageous.
On the plus side, I'm pretty confident that, even if my job ended tomorrow, I would be able to continue living in this apartment through the lease term, which runs through next April. With food stamps, and if necessary the food bank, I wouldn't have to be routinely hungry like I often was in Texas. So, barring disaster, I would have a place to live, and privacy, for most of Season 5.
The other two factors, however, are much worse for me in 2018: The time shortage is a severe problem, and my mental debilitation is pretty serious too.
Season 5 Is Bigger than Just The Curious Tale
Because of these challenges, I've known for a while now that Season 5 is going to have to be bigger than just a Curious Tale production schedule.
First and foremost, I need to quit my job. It's stressing me out, it doesn't pay enough, and the time sink is vast, eclipsed only by the mental energy sink. But I can't, if at all possible, just quit in a vacuum. I need other work. I need to break even at the very least.
And that is the beginning of Season 5: I've given myself what I'm calling the "5 Paycheck Plan": I told myself that I would try to make it another five paychecks—i.e., through the end of September—which would put me in a good enough place financially that I could afford to quit. I've already made it through Paycheck No. 1, and Paycheck No. 2 is coming this week. If, after the equinox, I want to quit, I'll allow myself to do that. Until then, I'm doing everything I can to fight the urges to quit.
If I make it those two months, let alone longer, I will—baring disaster—definitely have enough money to survive through the remainder of Season 5. These next two months, therefore, are mainly about searching for alternative work. Ideally, that would mean developing my freelance career—the same thing I tried and failed to do in the first half of 2017. But I'll be applying to traditional jobs as well.
I'm able, if not quite pleased, to report that I've already begun this process.
Through the remainder of summer, this will be the major use of what little free time I have. Not creative work itself, but real-world work to set up the physical, economic, and psychological conditions that I need in order to be able to do creative work sustainably and at length.
To Not Tip My Hand: A Reduced Production Schedule for Starters
Therefore, only after my current job ends, and I've had a few weeks to rest, will I be in a position to really expand my creative schedule.
You'll have to take my word that there's a lot I want to do. In fact I've already decided everything that I want to undertake creatively in Season 5. But, for the next two months, I'm not going to be working on most of it. And I'm not going to talk about it—unless you are a regular viewer of my vlog, the Ramblin' J, where I gave a sneak preview a few weeks ago.
In the Year of 32, I didn't announce my biggest plan right at the start of the year either. I knew I was going to make a credible attempt at the Prelude, but I held off saying that, because I didn't want to get expectations up before I knew I had unstoppable momentum. And even once I did announce it, it was several months before production really began in earnest. So I feel I made the right decision.
I think it's also the right decision not to over-commit myself right now by declaring a bunch of stuff. Earlier this year I declared I would do my second novel—an unrelated novel—and I genuinely meant to do it, but getting a new job shortly afterwards completely threw that idea into the grinder. My mental state, together with the utter collapse of free time, made it impossible.
Likewise, right now I don't have unstoppable momentum. I have a fractured mental landscape and not enough damn time to myself. And I'm still in a delicate financial situation. My savings will evaporate real fast if my income stops. Been there in 2017; not eager to repeat that hell.
If there had been any doubt in my mind, the loops I've gone through over the past month at work have been a stark reminder that, so long as I have this job, I don't have enough control over my schedule to really commit myself to major creative works.
And so, for now, I have to keep my cards close to my vest.
So...What Can I Announce for Season 5?
It'd be awfully anticlimactic if I didn't announce anything today, wouldn't it? Luckily, I'm not gonna do that to ya! I already know there are a few things that will happen in Season 5 no matter what:
First, Curious Tale Saturdays will of course continue. This year I'm going to try and do fewer of the large, multi-part pieces that dominated Season 4, in favor of more one-off pieces that allow me to cover a wider breadth of topics.
Second, The Ramblin' J will stop being a weekly feature. I've gone back and forth many times on The Ramblin' J, my only other Season 4 feature. And it's not even strictly a Curious Tale production! The nails in the coffin are numerous: No one really watches it. I've learned in the several months of doing it that I don't actually get anything out of it: It doesn't clarify my thinking, set my resolve, cheer me up, and so on. I don't feel like I'm improving as a videographer or editor because of producing it. And I think I've long since tapped the marginal gain of simply putting myself on camera once a week; my mental state is not so bad now that this is still a major achievement. I don't dislike Ramblin' J by any means, but it's a solid hour of work each week between the time spent recording it and the time spent formatting and uploading it. And of course my abysmal upload speed means I usually need several hours to complete the upload. Therefore, Ramblin' J will be demoted out of regular feature status. I'm not killing the concept, but, like with Empire in Ice these past few years, I'm essentially relegating it to "whenever I want" status—aka, creative Siberia.
Third, I'm announcing a Special Announcement on October 27. Lost in many people's minds, I think, is the detail that the Year of 32 had a special coincidence: Three times during that year, one of my fractional birthdays fell on a Saturday: September 27, 2014; December 27, 2014; and June 27, 2015. "Saturday the 27th" is an auspicious time indeed! In Season 5, there will be two such occasions: October 27, 2018; and April 27, 2019. There will also be July 27, 2019—my whole birthday itself!—and although that will technically fall in Season 6, you can bet I'm planning something special. Just as it was in the Year of 32, so too am I planning something special for all three of these upcoming dates.
Fourth, I am announcing today that this is, in fact, the Year of 36. No more quotation marks. I've given it a lot of thought—a lot of thought. I have creative ideas ready. So, really, there's only one question: Do I have it in me to pull them off? And I've thought about this over and over again during these past months, as I've gradually recovered mentally from Utterly Broken to a much better but still unpleasant Continually Tired & Meh. The Year of 32, you may remember, was accompanied in parallel by the Festival of 32, and that festival was years in the making. This year, there is no "Festival of 36." I'm not happy with life today. I'm tired. I'm not ready for a creative festival. I don't have it in me to maintain a ton of different features simultaneously. But what I do have is a firm realization of my own mortality, and with it the understanding that sometimes you just have to go make your stand. I have sanctuary. I have ideas. I will probably have enough money to make it through the year. There hasn't been a better time for me to try something like this since the Year of 32 itself. I'm running out of 30s, and with my health problems who knows if I'll live to see my 50s? I want to do honor to the Flame of J, and to my remaining friends, by showing my stuff this year, in Season 5. And that much, I think I can do.
Fifth, Empire on Ice is returning to a weekly schedule. What?! Yep! Beginning next Friday, we'll check back in on those crazy adventures in the Joshalonian Empire. I know that many of you didn't enjoy this feature, but for me it was always a romp, and there's actually some writing here and there that I'm really proud of. But that's not why I'm bringing it back. I'm bringing it back because I've been so low, for so long, that I've lost touch with my inner Emperor. If I'm going to be happy again, I need to revive the delightful absurdity of a Josh who manually directs traffic one car at a time in the form of handwritten, personal letters that express genuine interest in the lives of his subjects. A Josh who routes major shipping traffic down windy brick roads on steep hills. That Josh. I feel quite vulnerable painting that Josh right now, because I don't feel I inhabit him, and that's a strange thing to say because it's not something I ever struggled with, in my entire life, before the Troubles. I feel severed from that Josh, and I'd like to reclaim that part of who I am. Also, in Season 1 doing Empire on Ice actually fed my creative efforts on The Prelude and The Great Galavar. Plus, as if I needed more reasons, I attach something special to Empire on Ice. It reminds me more of the Mountain than the other works do. I don't think I can get that feeling back, but I do think I can make myself laugh each week.
Sixth, I'm going to be writing more in my personal journal, The Sinistral. I've not written much in my beloved journal these last few years, and most of it has been incredibly depressed. That's going to change. I'm not as depressed (though I'm still depressed, if I'm honest), and there will be more entries. Unlike the Ramblin' J, my journal has been a priceless artifact over the years, helping me hone my skills, understand myself, declare myself, share my gifts and insights with the world, and much more. In recent years, with the Troubles, my journal has lost that glimmer. But this much, at least, is something I know I can restore.
And, Seventh, I'm announcing that my Patreon remains open for business. If you're at a good place in your life, and you value the work I do, please consider pledging a dollar a week, or more if you can. This is the first time I've asked for money all year, and, unlike all those times in 2016 and 2017, I'm not asking because I direly need it. My rent is paid. My lights are on. I'm asking because my Patreon is still on the ground floor, and I still want to get there of making this my career, someday. I really, really want that. I've been a friend and confidant to many of you for years—some of you for decades. I've been through a hard life these past three years, and I know I've lost some respect from some of you. And rightly so. I've been pitiful. I've been down to the low places. It's been pathetic. But I'm still here, still alive, and I'm trying to pick myself up from the rocks and carry on. If you like my work, or if you like me, or the idea of independent artists generally, then please ask yourself if you can burn four or five dollars a month on me, because that's all it takes to make a pledge. If you can do $2 a week, or $5 a week, even better. But even $1 is something special. I'm a huge supporter of the premise that independent artists deserve more recognition and more compensation than they get, especially when they make good art. One of the only luxuries I spend my own money on is roughly $15 a month in support to several fellow artists. It's not enough to change anyone's life monetarily, but I can't tell you how much of a mental victory it is to see five, ten, twenty people who care enough about you to put the weight of a dollar behind their regards. That is the humility an independent artist has to make peace with.
So I have to ask you: Will you support the arts through me? Season 5 is going to be a productive year. Maybe I won't hit the high water mark of the Year of 32, but it's going to be good. You're going to have good things to read, good things to watch. So check me out on Patreon. I'll be updating the page and the video later this year, but odds are that if you're reading this you know all about me already. Please consider making a pledge.
A Josh for All Seasons
I began the Year of 32 from a very good place. I'd been looking forward to it for years. I had energy. I had strength. In contrast, I begin the Year of 36 from a much humbler, tired place. I've never considered myself courageous. In fact I think I'm really just a coward. But I do have moments of courage, and this is one of them. It's not trivial for me to make this commitment—a boldfaced year! I don't truly know what will come of it or how it will end. Past failures and past successes don't guarantee the outcome of this year. This is a new thing. I'm going to give it my all. And just maybe, with the power of Zombocom, the impossible will become possible. But I don't know, hence the courage of trying.
I always ask for feedback on these things, and nobody ever gives me any. This year, though, I'm coming for you. Imagine that thing where I take two fingers and point them at my eyes, then turn them around and point at your eyes. That's what I'm doing to you right now. Artists can't thrive when audiences are silent. Hit one of those buttons below and join me in conversation! And if you don't reach out to me, I'll be in touch with you. [Threatening Musical Cue]
That's all for this week. Welcome to Season 5, and to the Year of 36! Join me next Friday for Empire on Ice, and next Saturday for another installment of Curious Tale Saturdays.
Until then, may you enjoy the Year of 36!
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!