#GameNight Taking Fun Back to the Basics

I recently told you about how I received a copy of Monopoly Junior for free from Influenster for testing purposes. Well, let’s just say that Game Night was a complete success. My daughter and I played 6 rounds in 2 days, and she’s been begging me all day to play again, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that she’s enjoying her free toy.

Nope. No fun happening here at all. :P
Nope. No fun happening here at all. ūüėõ

Yes, it turns out that Monopoly Junior is just easy enough, just quick enough, and plenty fun enough to hold my 4-year-old’s attention for at least three straight days. Kudos, Hasbro. Kudos.

But that’s not the only thing this post is about. You see, as part of the tasks set to me by Influenster in return for the free game, I was asked to share my “favorite Hasbro Gaming experience”. Said experience doesn’t have to have anything to do with Monopoly Junior, just so long as it’s a Hasbro game that we’re talking about.

Well, after looking through the list of possible games that were provided as a jumping point on the Influenster website, I’ve got to say that I can’t really pick one particular moment, because there are so many that come to mind and make me chuckle!

The first game I saw on the list that made me grin ear-to-ear was “Barrel of Monkeys”, because I can remember playing this game with my cousin Tommy when we were only about as old as my daughter is now. We’d play the game normally, but also make a huge show out of stringing as many monkeys together as we could and hanging them over the side of the stairs to see if we could touch the floor below.

Then I saw “Perfection” and “Operation” on the list and I almost laughed out loud, because these two games were my first experience with stress as a child. The anticipation of Perfection’s board popping up into my face, or the Operation buzzer screaming at me, made my heart leap into my throat every time. And yet I kept coming back for more.

Then there was “Twister”, which I was always terrible at because I’m so clumsy, “Jenga”, which was both hysterical and frustrating at the same time because I’m so clumsy, and “Connect 4”, which saw many an outburst from me when my chips went the wrong way because, you guessed it, I’m clumsy.

It all culminates into “Scrabble”, which almost caused a few friendly fistfights between my husband and I, “Taboo”, which no one in the world is worse at than my father-in-law, and “Trivial Pursuit”, which has so many versions that I can’t count, and I don’t think I’ve ever won a single round of any of them.

All in all, I have to say that I never realized how many of these types of games I’ve played over the course of my life, and I find it highly amusing that I’m now passing the torch, so to speak, to my daughter. From her reaction to Monopoly Junior so far, I get the feeling that she’s going to have a list of her own like this 20 years from now. Keep up the good work, Hasbro!

Perfectection is Meaningless if it’s Never Seen

Week 7 of The Artist’s Way covers a few topics, some of which I skimmed over. The chapter as a whole is dedicated to “recovering a sense of connection”, which is a bit broad.

The first topic is “listening”, which I skimmed through because what we’re supposed to be “listening” to is a higher power guiding our creativity. As previously mentioned, this isn’t exactly my bag. I do agree with a few concepts, such as “get your story down” rather than constantly trying to “make stuff up”, which basically means to listen to your internal creativity rather than constantly trying to “come up” with the next great American novel. You’ll be amazed with what will willingly come out of your own imagination if you just relax and let it happen.

Another topic that I skimmed through was “jealousy”, in which the author goes over the concept of poisoning ourselves by being jealous of those who have made it, those who are living the dream that we dream for ourselves. She talks about how jealousy is an evil that keeps us from our dreams, but that it can also be a useful tool in helping us to achieve them. An exercise she suggests is to make a list of people you are jealous of. Next to the person’s name, write the reason you are jealous of them, and next to that write a constructive idea for how you can better yourself now that you know what you’re jealous of. For example, I might say that I’m jealous of so-and-so because they have a real writing office where they can work in peace, and for my constructive idea I might say that I’ll find a way to section off a small area of my house just for me, in which I can make my own little office. Jealous becomes constructive enhancement, you see?

But the topics I paid most attention to were “perfectionism” and “risk”. Risk is pretty obvious, I think…we’re all afraid of taking them, but sometimes risks are required in order to achieve our goals. For instance, if I send my manuscript into a publisher, I risk receiving a scathing rejection that feels like an arrow through my heart. But if I never take that risk, there’s no chance that I’ll ever receive a glowing acceptance that rockets my writing career forward. That’s life.

Perfectionism might be a little more vague, because depending on who you’re talking to it might be a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve worked with people who were perfectionists, and to the big bosses that seemed like a good thing, because of course they want everything to be done perfectly, but to the people working with those perfectionists on a daily basis it was a constant source of misery, because with a perfectionist you can never get anything done. This is especially true of writers. If there are any writers reading this right now, I’d be willing to bet that if you’re completely honest with yourself, you fall into this category. This was my biggest hindrance for years. I was the writer who re-writes the first chapter over and over again, always coming up with ways to make it better, always trying to make it absolutely¬†perfect¬†before moving on. But the thing is, as any professional, successful writer will tell you, no matter how many times you re-write something, it will never be perfect, it will never satisfy you, and it will never be¬†done. I’ve heard it said that a book is never done, the author simply chose a place to stop. And it’s true. Any story can go a bit further, be shined up a bit more, be added to or changed to make it “better”, but if you move forward with those thoughts in mind, you’ll never end up with a book…you’ll always just have a collection of words in a notebook or a computer file, dying to¬†become a book.

I could finalize those red-lines, then red-line up the red-lines, and just keep going and going until what I've got looks nothing like what I started with, and then keep going some more...
I could finalize those red-lines, then red-line up the red-lines, and just keep going and going until what I’ve got looks nothing like what I started with, and then keep going some more…

None of the tasks for this week actually coincide with the “perfectionist” topic (which I found a bit annoying) so I don’t have anything of the sort to share for this post, but I will make a suggestion of myself for anyone who struggles with perfectionism:

BLOG.

It doesn’t have to be a professional blog, it doesn’t have to be about any one topic in particular. You can treat it like an online diary, or you can address topics you care about. You can share things you think bear sharing (recipes, parenting tips, book reviews), give your opinion on big events happening in the news, or just talk about your day. Whatever you do, do it on a regular basis (three times a week, minimum, seems to be a generally accepted number of days) and make it public. When you write a post, make sure people know about it through Twitter, Facebook, or what-have-you. Gain followers, even if they’re just a scattering of family members and online friends.

I suggest this because blogging is a different beast from writing novels (or painting portraits, or running marathons, or whatever else it is that you’re trying to do with absolute perfectionism). Blogging requires you to get the words on the page and get them sent. If you want to adhere to your schedule (which you do, because you have readers now and you don’t want to disappoint them!) you will get your ass in the chair, write the post, and get it sent. There’s no time to sit there for days at a time, picking at each paragraph, trying to turn your post into a literary masterpiece. You write, you maybe proofread once to make sure you don’t have any terribly embarrassing typos, and you post. Nothing will beat the perfectionism out of you faster than being forced to ignore it on a very regular basis.

Do you fight with perfectionism in your day-to-day life? How do you deal with it? Has it kept you from making headway on your goals? Have you tried blogging, or are you going to try? Have you thought of any other ways to help beat the perfectionism out of you? Please share!

Go With the Flow. It’s Going to Drag You Along With it Anyway!

Planning versus pantsing. It’s one of the great debates amongst writers. Which is the best? Why? What are the pros and cons of each?

I’ve discussed this before, but with Camp NanoWriMo just ending (I failed to reach my goal by the way…very sad about that) I figured I’d bring it up again, since Nano has been traditionally all about pantsing.

For those who don’t know, “pantsing” (or “flying by the seat of your pants”), is basically the exact opposite of planning. Rather than work out your plot line, character archs, and important scenes beforehand, you just write, going for quantity over quality, and deal with the results in editing.

Today I’m going to discuss a different kid of proponent for “pantsing”. I’m going to discuss my wedding.

Many women plan their wedding to death. They drill every detail into the ground. What color are the napkins going to be? Oh no, we can’t sit Aunt Agnus next to Cousin Greg! My shoes can’t have a silver beading on them, it all has to be white!!!!

You can’t really blame them too much because for many women their wedding is the most important day of their life, something they’ve been waiting for since they were little girls. It has to be perfect. It has to be flawless. Any misstep will follow her around for the rest of her days.

Right?

When I first started planning my wedding I was a little crazy as well. Even though I didn’t even want half of the bells and whistles that one is used to seeing at a wedding, I still wanted it to be perfect. No room for error!

But here’s the thing…things started going wrong almost immediately. Little things at first, like when I couldn’t find a printer to do the invitations. Then it was big things, like when two of my hubby’s three groomsmen had to cancel. Finally it was an enormous thing: we heard word that our venue – a bed-and-breakfast style inn with lovely grounds – was going out of business. I’ll admit, in those days I nearly had a nervous breakdown. At the time that we heard about the venue we only ha about two months to the wedding, and the invites had all already been sent. How was I going to find another venue this late and communicate the change to some 200 possible guests? I spent more than one work day gritting my teeth and trying not to burst into tears in front of all my coworkers.

As it turned out, the venue held on a little longer and we were still able to have the wedding there. When I found this out not only did a huge weight life from my shoulders, but my entire attitude toward the wedding changed. I realized that yes, things were going to go wrong. Things were going to turn out differently than I imagined. Things were not going to be perfect and flawless. That’s just life. And when I realized this and accepted it, it made all the difference to my psyche.

No, relaxing and letting things flow did not suddenly and magically make everything work out wonderfully. We still had lots of issues. My wedding dress almost wasn’t hemmed in time. The venue manager forgot to order the tent, which would have been a disaster of it had rained. My bridesmaids and I woke up the morning off feeling sick as dogs. My uncle mistook the seating set-up for the church equivalent and had the front row completely empty, expecting the wedding party to sit there. My mother-in-law went head-over-heels trying to get a picture of me coming down the aisle. I could go on, but the point is that it doesn’t matter. Despite everything we had to deal with before and during the wedding day, the wedding was beautiful. We got married on the sunniest day we’d seen yet that summer. My best friend’s father played beautiful music for us and we took hundreds of gorgeous pictures. We had a ton of fun drinking and dancing with our friends and family. And in the end, the most important bit happened: my husband and I traded rings and became man and wife.

I tell you all of this not because I think “pantsing it” is the only way to go. I’m not trying to convince you that everything will be cupcakes and unicorn rides if you just go with the flow. But if you can convince yourself I the truth – that nothing in this world is perfect and that trying to obtain perfection, especially on the first try, is tantamount to insanity – you’ll be a lot better off. I could have obsessed about every little thing that went askew with my wedding, but I choose to focus on everything that went right, because that’s what really matters.

I challenge you to apply this way of thinking to many areas of your life, whether it be your own wedding, writing a book, building a house, teaching yourself a new skill, expectations you have for your children, or any other number of life events. I won’t promise that everything will magically work out for the better, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be significantly less stressed out.