Found my outlet for telling stories

This is a little off the beaten path. I don’t really talk too much about the nerd stuff in my life except for Star Wars.

I can’t write fiction. I’m not good at using words to make

But what I am good at and what I love is telling stories. I love story telling. Little stories, epic stories of heroism or boldness, stories of character growth. But for the most part, I haven’t been really able to find a way to tell those stories.

So what changed? Learning to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Just in case you don’t know what it is, Dungeons & Dragons, a tabletop Role Playing Game that has been around since the mid 70s, D&D is experiencing a renaissance. With the advent of Twitch (gaming streams) and the switch of YouTube from viral type content to regular programming and how-to type videos, people who have never played can easily learn how to run and play. There are even shows on YouTube and Twitch like Critical Role that air a continuous game every week, now for over three years.

In addition, with the accessibility growing, the perception of D&D has drastically changed from something only for super-nerdy neckbeards who live in their mother’s basement, to something that can be for anyone. And for me, it was the storytelling that hooked me. First as a player, then as a Dungeon Master (the player that “runs” the game each session).

I love the storytelling in RPGs not because I can “finally have my stories be heard,” but because there are anywhere between 4-8 people you are collaboratively telling the story with. When done right, you have each person wanting to tell their character’s own story while getting to roll some dice and kills some mythic monsters (let’s be honest, that’s still one of the best parts of the game).

But D&D has tapped into something that resonates with a lot of people with the role playing aspect of the game. In this game you can play a larger that life version of yourself or play a character completely different from your self. For some it serves great therapy, for some it’s can be like an interactive version of your favorite TV show, and for others it’s a more immersive version of a video game they love. And not only that, they get to do it with a bunch of their friends.

Not long after I started playing, I was drawn to being a DM (the game runner). I loved the idea of created a world that can be a sandbox for others to explore. I loved the idea of facilitating a way to not only tell my stories, but for the others to tell stories too!

Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Star Wars, everyone loves a good story. A story of struggle, growth, and becoming something that you never knew you could be. Stories with great tragedy, but also stories with great triumph. These are the stories we love to hear, and the types of stories we can tell in Dungeons and Dragons.

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Signal to Noise Ratio

I keep the number of people I follow on places like Twitter and Instagram pretty low. Even on Facebook (where I’ll generally add everyone who adds me if I’ve met them) I will mute a lot of people… Sorry.

I do this because there are so many voices on social media now. Voices you agree with, voices you disagree with, voices who have an opinion on everything, voices who have very strong opinions on a few things. Whatever the case, there is so much noise out there, it’s easy for the things that matter and you want to see get smothered.

Signal to Noise ratio is an engineering term that measures “the desired signal to the level of background noise.” Basically, how much background noise do you have to endure to receive the desired signal we want.

This also applies to social media. How many posts do you scroll through each day that you actually find useful? How many opinionated rants do you have to see?

There is good stuff on social media. In fact, there is great stuff. But the problem is, many of us also have a fear of missing out so we follow everything and everyone so that we might not miss those trending things. But our pursuit of making sure we don’t miss out on anything, we end up missing out on the posts that actually add value to our lives.

So pare down your followers, stop worrying about having to see everything. You’ll quickly scroll through all of it anyways and you’ll still need to be told what is trending.

But when you start consuming the content you want to see, the content that you enjoy consuming, all of a sudden you’ll have a different experience (not just with social media, but with the world as well).

If we cut out as much of the background noise as we can, all of a sudden the signal comes through stronger and more frequently.

Get better by doing!

Many people want to be better at something. Or they want to learn a new skill or diversify their activities. But sometimes they don’t know how to get better, or even how to learn to get better.

Maybe, they see their favorite YouTuber’s newest video and wish they could be as good as them so they can make their own YouTube videos.

Perhaps, there is a person they look up to, that has a position or does a job they wish they could one day have, but feel like their skills are so poor compared to them they could never do it.

I have one piece of advice – Go out there and do it!

Seriously, just start doing it!! We think we need to be experts or highly skilled in order to begin, but that’s not true at all. Go out there and just start doing what you want to do. Yes you might be awful, yes you might look back and be embarrassed, but every time you do it you’ll learn something.

In the Order of the Phoenix when Harry was secretly teaching fellow students how to defend themselves, he told them one very profound thing that we all need to remember, “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than we are now. Students. If they can do it, why not us?”

If you want to be great, do it, learn from your mistakes, keep getting better, and begin growing in confidence in your new skill.

That YouTuber or other hero you want to emulate, they started at some point as beginners just like you are, they just went out there and started doing it.

You should too

Quantity creates Quality

The old saying when talking about work, especially creative work is “Quality over Quantity.” In a sense, focus on creating the best work possible instead of many subpar works.

But that’s not really how it ends up working. Think about it. There are so many industries where people have to create works or produce something on a regular basis. Some as common as monthly, weekly, or even daily. They have to produce something or else nothing goes out and you lose fans or audience.

But many of these people who produce extremely regularly end up producing things that are better quality than if they spent an entire year creating one thing.

Let take TV shows for instance, YOUR favorite TV show even… American mainstream television usually generates anywhere between 10-25 episodes a season. There are some shows that have over 100 episodes, 200 episodes even! Not every single episode is gold. Not every single episode is the best. But from time to time, because they have to produce on a regular basis, they end up creating something that is memorable. They end up producing an episode that is considered one of the best ever.

But that didn’t happen because they spent more and more time to perfect the episode. Many TV shows have a short schedule for each episode. They need to produce the quantity that is required of them.

But in having to produce quantity, they will end up creating quality.

The more you write the better you get, the more pictures you take the better photographer you become, the more you paint the better artist you end up being.

And in creating quantity, your creative “juices” get flowing and all of a sudden you come up with an idea that you never would have if you were stuck on creating that one “quality” work. And who knows, that new idea might be a million times better than the one you have been working on for ages.

So go out there… Create. Produce quantity so that one day you can begin to create quality.

Penny Lane

Recently James Cordon had Paul McCartney on his show during a segment he calls Carpool Karaoke. If you’ve never seen them before, James Cordon (a late night host) will get famous musicians to “carpool” with him and they sing songs and have some time to chat as well.

Most are pretty straightforward and exactly what you would think. But there are a few where the guest is great and has good conversation as well as have fun while singing with James. Adele is one of my favorites as she and James had some “quality banter.”

But then, James had the man himself. Paul McCartney. If you haven’t seen it, below the video is embedded.

Paul is such a good genuine man. But then there is the music. There is something special about The Beatles. Their songs transcend genre. Their songs transcend generations. The Beatles hit a chord in hearts of everyone who has listened to their music.

In addition, watching this and seeing the people who get the privilege to meet Sir Paul, you can see how he and his music has changed their lives. You can tell that when they listen to Sir Paul or the Beatles that they want to sing along, they are flooded with the good memories those songs come with.

Not sure what I wanted to say or convey in this blog post other than Paul McCartney is truly a special musician. I wanted to share this video and a few thoughts about it, but it’s hard to put how music affects your heart and soul into words.

Just read a few of the comments in this video. Seeing this video moved people to tears. People say they would sell their first born to be in that pub with Sir Paul. Music affects us in a way that nothing else can.

James, I know you’ll never read this (haha), but you never have to make another Carpool Karaoke again. This is the best one you’ll ever do and none will ever be as good as this one.

Verisimilitude

Definition: the illusion of being real

A big SAT word. I’m not much a big word guy, but I love this word. Why? Probably because I love the magic behind movies, especially sci-fi and fantasy movies which at face value are completely unrealistic. Spacefighters flying through space with ease, dragons flying around the world, laser guns, magic… none of these things are real, but the world the stories take place are built in a way that we believe them.

I am willing to bet that 90% of the time when someone likes or enjoys a book or movie because of its realism, more than likely it is because of the verisimilitude it provides instead. They believe the world is real and the characters act in a way that is believable. But transforming robots aren’t real, you don’t know how you would act if big giant robots started fighting in downtown so how do you know it’s realistic? People with superpowers aren’t real, so how do you know how people would react to someone like Superman existing? It’s not the realism, it’s the fact we believe it’s realistic.

I’ll give you an example: The movie Cloverfield is what I feel a perfect example of a movie being not realistic at all but giving you verisimilitude, and even at a point, breaking the verisimilitude.

People who liked the movie talked about how realistic it was and I am over here thinking “Realistic? A giant monster is attacking New York! What is realistic about that!” What they really like is how the movie was presented in such a way they believe it is real. They believe in the verisimilitude of the movie, the ILLUSION that is real.

For me at least there was a part where they broke the verisimilitude. The main character, Rob, is trying to rescue Beth, a girl he likes, from a building that is about to collapse. A piece of rebar has impaled her shoulder, this is a major injury, yet after they rescue her she runs around like nothing had happened.

Now, not much about the premise of this movie is “realistic” but they told the story in such a way that I believe in the verisimilitude. But that rescue was just too unbelievable, too implausible for me believe in the illusion anymore.

Giant monster ravaging New York City? Sure why not. Young woman being impaled by a thick rod of rebar and running around like it never happened? Sorry, you lost me.

So as a writer or filmmaker, remember you are not trying to be realistic, you are trying to maintain verisimilitude. When you are trying to maintain that, it doesn’t matter how fantastical or futuristic you setting is, there are still rules you have to follow or else you will lose the illusion you need for people to enjoy your story.

You are Special

Mr. Rogers was right… You are special.

But that doesn’t mean you are better than anyone else. It also doesn’t mean you are entitled to anything. You may have to work hard for others to see that value.

In this time, many young people are branded “snowflakes.” It is used as an insult and attacking how young people grow up thinking they are special because of the programming they watched and participation trophies for everything they do.

But, I believe that nothing is wrong with believing you are special. There is nothing wrong with believing everyone offers the world something that no other person can. Not only is nothing wrong with this, but this is a good thing.

I will agree with some of the sentiment in the “snowflake” branding. Just because you are special doesn’t mean you are entitled to whatever you want, or that anything should be handed to you because you “deserve it.”

That IS a toxic mindset. That is not what Mr. Rogers meant when he called his young viewers special. That is not Mr. Rogers wanted to instill in those children.

You are special. But you don’t deserve anything just because you are special. What Mr. Rogers wanted to teach when he said you were special was that you were worth something, that you can (through hard work and perseverance) accomplish whatever you want, and that you can make the world a better place.

I am thankful for men like Mr. Rogers who faithfully and unselfishly served and lifted up his viewers. We need more people like him. We need more people to teach us what it truly means to be special. Because we are special, and the sooner we learn what that means, the world can change.