Dec 31 2018

On Connection

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Groovy, baby.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner

Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.

Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.

I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.

Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).

And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.

When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.

That stuck with me.

I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.

So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.

Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.

How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.

If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

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Dec 27 2018

Gneech’s 2018 Report

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As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>

So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.

On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)

So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?

  1. Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.
  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. 🙂
  3. Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.
  4. Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.
  5. Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.
  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.
  7. Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.
  8. Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.

It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.

What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.

Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)

So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?

  1. Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.
  2. Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.
  3. She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.
  4. Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.
  5. California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.
  6. 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.
  7. Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.

So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. 🙂

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Nov 16 2018

Stan Lee Cosplay Tribute by Sneaky Zebra

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Made of awesome and win.

So many things to say about Stan Lee, but I have no words still.

-TG

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Oct 18 2018

D&D Weather

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Angband, by Angus Mcbride, or, A Million Gazillion Orcs

Sunny days and crisp weather have arrived here, and that always puts Dungeons and Dragons on my brain– because way back in 1983 a bunch of us would hang out behind our high school on days like this and play through a very freeform megadungeon game of my own creation. I particularly remember a moment I’ve written about before, where one of my players (who always wanted to run ahead on his own) opened a door, only to be informed that behind it was a massive chamber with 200 orcs… to which his response is “I slam the door and run away!” Fun times. XD

At the time, I didn’t use the D&D rules, partially because I had all of a Holmes Basic Set and an AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide to work from (making for an incomplete and often contradictory ruleset to begin with), but mostly because I didn’t have the patience to sit down and puzzle it all out.

What I did have the patience for, for whatever reason, was to create my own ridiculously kloodgey homebrew system that took bits of D&D and blended it with bits of Heritage’s Dungeon Dwellers series and then, at the table, was mostly ignored. This game system was called “Mid-Evil,” which I was very proud of at the time. >.>

Did I mention I was 13?

A year later, I tried to leverage this same mostly-nonsensical system into an espionage/modern action game called “I Spy,” which was just as nonsensical and took the inspiration for its one usable scenario from a segment of “The Bloodhound Gang” from 3-2-1 Contact.

So, yeah, “ambitious, but not sophisticated,” about sums me up in those days.

But as dorky and sophomoric as all these things were, they had fire and a pure love of the game that still makes me grin to remember. As I began to develop more sophistication I moved on to MERP and from there to the HERO System, becoming ever more enamored of “realism” and “maturity”– mostly because I was still young and insecure about such things.

A lot of my games from this second period were very sophisticated by comparison– I had a “street-level superheroes” campaign that delved into dark topics and psychology and presaged things like The Killing Joke by a matter of years. But at the same time, a lot of my gaming sessions felt like work– we were trying so hard to Make Art out of the game, that we would lose sight of the fact that we were a bunch of nerds sitting around a table rolling dice to control the fate of fictional characters.

These days, I’d like to think I can have the best of both worlds. I have primarily returned to D&D (using the actual rules, even), but I work with the players to integrate their characters’ personalities and background into the campaign. There are random encounter tables, but they are built with an eye toward reinforcing the theme or environment of the adventure instead of being a giant kitchen sink of weirdness. There are serious NPC allies, enemies, or wildcards, but there are also moments of pure goofiness.

But most importantly, I remember these days why I fell in love with the game in the first place– those crazy moments of shared story that we were all creating together, where the stuff on the paper was there if we wanted it, but also didn’t matter if it didn’t actually make things more fun. And I’m always grateful for D&D weather, because that’s what it reminds me of.

-The Gneech

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Feb 05 2018

Officially a Coach! …Now, Where to Start?

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This weekend was my first full training session with Accomplishment Coaching. It was an intense crucible for everyone involved, bringing up a lot of intense emotions, but also providing the coaches-in-training with some powerful and useful tools, not just for the nitty-gritty administrivia of contracts and billing, but more importantly for jumping right in and providing value to clients immediately.

Of course, before a coach can help clients, they need to find some! This being Day One, my docket is currently empty, other than peer-coaching sessions with the rest of my team-in-training, and I am still building the framework for the business. I have some mid- to long-term plans around this (including a practice name, URL for a future website, and so forth), but as of today I am still grinding away at the basics– things like liability insurance, arranging an accountant, getting my billing methods in place, etc. As of today, my most visible step has been to update my LinkedIn profile, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere.

At the end of the weekend, we set declarations of intention around what we were going to build before the next session (March). Figuring that finding two clients would be a “safe bet,” I declared that I would get four. In my mind, for better or worse, that’s the “pass/fail” number. But I have also set a “stretch goal” for myself of actually getting six.

So… hey! Anyone out there looking for a success coach… or know anybody who is? Here’s a quickie synopsis of what coaches do (c/o the International Coach Federation):

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

And that’s what I do! I’m champing at the bit to get started, so seriously, I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to connect about it. Shoot me an e-mail via himself@gneech.com and we can schedule a call or chat to figure out how to start bringing the awesome. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Aug 14 2017

In Which I Need to Start Getting Somewhere

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So recently, at Barnes & Noble, my attention was drawn to a hardback on the “fantasy new releases” table, featuring what was described as “flintlock fantasy with airships, a touch of humor, and an engaging female hero.”

I nearly burned the place down. ¬.¬

After the writing, revising, submitting, re-revising, submitting again, and so forth that Sky Pirates of Calypsitania has gone through, to see this thing sitting there made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS SHOULD BE MY BOOK!”

So. Yeah. I was upset. Deep breaths. Let’s work this thing out.

On the positive side, clearly someone must think there’s a market for the kind of books I want to write. I mean, there it is. But I have to connect to it.

And to be clear, I’m pretty sure that the author of that book worked just as long and just as hard on it as I did on mine. My own personal green-eyed-monster popping out notwithstanding, I wish them success.

That doesn’t alter the fact that I had this extreme, intensely emotional reaction to seeing “my book with someone else’s name on it” right there on the very table where I have been trying to get my book for years now. What I have to do, is direct that energy in a positive direction.

If this is the team that put the book on the table, I reasoned, then it could serve me well to hook up with that team. A little research turned up the agent of not-my-book. I went back and rewrote the opening, again, to address feedback the book had received on the previous round, getting thumbs-ups from my beta readers, and sent it to that agent. Given that this particular agent has a strict “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” policy, however, the response could easily range from an excited followup any day, to chirping crickets until forever.

I don’t intend to wait. As far as I’ve been able to make out, the main thing that makes a writing career succeed (besides lightning in a bottle) is sheer volume. The most popular and well-paid writers I know get that way by writing a lot of books. And as much as I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, it is only the one.

What this boils down to is, I need to work on another book. I’ll keep shopping Sky Pirates around as long as it takes, but I can’t leave my career on hold waiting for any one project to move.

I have been trying to write a more “mainstream” fantasy, and I got maybe a third of it done as part of last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I keep running into a fundamental paradox: in trying to adhere to more standard tropes in order to make the book “sellable,” I feel like I’m just aping other people’s work, which in turn makes for a book that I’m not sure I would read, myself.

Of course, it’s just the first draft of said book, and so there’s an argument that I should just finish the thing, with “rip out all the Tolkien” being one of the goals of the second draft. But if I know all the Tolkien needs to come out anyway, then leaving it in there for the first draft feels like creating work I don’t need to do.

So perhaps I should just leave that one in the drafts folder and start a whole new project that’s more like what I want to write.

But I need to do something. I need to get somewhere.

-The Gneech

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