Endless Hellscape: Introducing… the Backlog!

Believe it or not, these days, I’m almost functional. I know that’s kind of hard to imagine, because depending on how long you’ve known me or how you found yourself at this site, you know me as (pick one): a raw-dog media masochist, a raw-dog media sadist, an alcoholic with no self control or filter1, a spend-crazy madman nickel and diming himself to the poorhouse, a digital hoarder, or just kind of an asshole.

But the damage is done in that while I am trying to become more reliable for, y’know, my wife, family, and friends, I decidedly fucked around and built up a lot of shit I haven’t gotten around to.

oh is that all? Piece of cake. And by piece of cake, I think I’m silently begging for death with my eyes.

There are also a few hundred books, physical and otherwise, film and TV on the pile, and worst of all, I have this hideous compulsion in that if someone buys me a gift, I need to finish it somehow. And if I don’t, it becomes this massive source of anxiety… which is ironic given that the purpose of this column is to try and winnow down some of this massive backlog, starting with those gifts before moving onto odd or curious works. (It’s also ironic in how long I’ve let some of these stare at me and make me feel terrible for not touching them… without touching them.) But there’s the rub.

See, with stuff like License Hell or Bootleg Hell, those are me recycling old content from other dead or dying websites. LH was originally going to be a series of LPs, as I’ve said, and Bootleg Hell was going to be written for a now-vanished television site years back. (For what it’s worth, there’s at least one upcoming series which is also recycling an unfinished idea, but it’ll at least be visual in nature!) This series is the most original thing I’ve created for the site so far which isn’t kvetching about my mental health, and it feels, which I realize is going to sound stupid on a site I bought to put my name and works on, incredibly egotistical. On the one hand, it’s probably good to do some smaller or different pieces here and there to see what y’all enjoy most, or just have a series that I can do more regularly without a huge time investment2, or where my writing lacks. On the other…

There’s a type of creator you’ll see sometimes and they’re people who go beyond “being their own brand”. I get that idea. It’s the modern version of “making a name for yourself”, combined with having to be your own PR and publicity team until you have a base who can take some of the latter work off of your hands. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’d dig someday just being known for writing silly shit like this. But I also worry, especially with this series, that I’m drifting into being the kind of insufferable twit who can’t let themselves try or enjoy anything without making it into “content”.

I confess I hate that term, “content”. It sounds like you’ve turned your work not into an article or a video or a podcast, but just some kind of grist from a mill, the end result of processing it into X amount of time, meant to be consumed and shat out, moved on from. I don’t imagine I’m going to make a lot of stuff early on that you need to revisit, or share around like it’s the hottest new comedy? But I need y’all to slap my hand if it turns out I get into a rut where I’m just writing to hit quotas on here or say “Look, I did a piece every day! I’m regular!”

Anyway! That got a little off-topic! I’ll be back in a week or two with my thoughts on one of the older gifts I haven’t opened, care of a good pal of mine, which definitely makes me feel a little ashamed he bought me this…

Oh fuck me, almost 5 years ago now. Wow. I am the most terrible friend sometimes.

Anxiety

I have some problems with anxiety.

That’s kind of an understatement, so let’s go back a bit. This document has been open between my phone and my PC for three days now as I mulled over the different ways to begin1. But what I’ve figured out from absolutely overthinking this piece and how to continue when I pulled it up is the most ass-backwards revelation I think I could have as an adult:

I’m a lot better at pulling my ass out of the fire than trying to avoid it.

Or, to sum up how this relates to writing specifically, I have a dramatically higher chance of getting a competent bit of work out of myself if I shit out an intro and then just keep going from there without stopping, but if I let myself hesitate or overanalyze the concept, I’m going to choke. It came to me when I realized that 99% of my job was just wild improv and figuring out how to make things happen, not trying to plan ahead for them. I’m excellent at cleaning up messes, my own or not, but I just get paralyzed if I try to take it slow and avoid trouble.

This whole thing hit me because I’ve been trying to exercise more, running on my lunch breaks and all. One day, as I’m on the loop back to the office, I see a coworker has texted me a photo: it’s me, looking like a rabid wolverine, mouth wide in a grin that she described as “child-eatingly pleased with myself”. Apparently when I’m on a jog I short-circuit the part of my brain that deals with looking professional2. While I’m decidedly not posting that photo here (yet?), I have kept it on the phone as a reminder that nah, sometimes being a dork is the best option for me, and a little awkwardness is okay in the long term.

Now, this isn’t to say that I should just go off half-cocked all the time. That’s what got me into a lot of horrible problems growing up, ruined multiple relationships, so on, so forth. But I’ve got to stop holding myself up on trying to make things perfect and just do something, there’s time to edit later3. Strangely, though, this has made me realize that this is a problem I’ve had much longer than I realized? When I started this, the idea was to talk about how I didn’t used to have anxiety, but some traumatic events set me down a path of being incredibly timid about the prospect of failure, etc, etc. Then a lot of things clicked when I was trying to find a file on my desktop.

File names removed mostly because some of this involves in-progress work for clients, or just things I’m ashamed to have visible which were quickly shunted into folders. The big thing here is just the amount of installers kicking around near the bottom: I have a lot of software I use where it downloads updates and then I don’t run them because I’m in the middle of something, and I’m worried the update will break something or change a feature I use, but then they pile up and the odds of a major change becomes more likely, and so… etc. Or the PDF books kicking around, some of which were Patreon rewards, or just free downloads, but I hate reading PDFs, so they sit around. Or Cheat Engine tables for particularly thorny games that I stalled out in the introductions of, so…

I could point to my relatively recent hobby of Gunpla4 model kits, which began with me buying one at fire sale prices and then failing to open it for an entire year. (This is still a problem in that my first Real Grade kit is now lying on my workbench behind me for the fourth month, where I stopped at the legs because the skeleton was such a jump up in complexity from prior projects.) Or how unless someone else presses me into trying the pilot of a series, I’m likely to sit on it for a while and just “go back later”. And as you’ve now all seen, lord knows I hesitate and flake on just writing a new piece, which I also confess has been hampered by making all sorts of excuses since it’s the first “real” content for this site.

At first it was wanting to start off with a bang, so that’s the extra-long one I took screenshots for and have half complete as I try to bridge the two parts. Then I started the outline of this one, but I also told myself “well, you can’t make the first post a depressing one, people are going to leave, so you need to finish something more entertaining at the same time!” But then that stalled out, and as you saw at the start… this one has been in the works for a bit now5.

So I guess here’s the plan: this exists, I’m going to finish writing about video games in the next day or two (it will be a piece with a lot more pictures and fun to it), see if I can’t hack together the tag hiding system I’ve been working at, and then start posting introductions to some of the different series of articles I’ve been working on, just to have those out and gauge interest. That sound good? Let’s run with that. Thank you for remaining here, and I’ll be back much sooner.

(PS: in the month since that screenshot was taken I’ve finished running all of the installers and cleaning up a lot of the loose files, reading some books, polishing off one of the aforementioned Cheat Engine titles, and just better organizing. Sometimes, shaming myself works! Hopefully this piece will be part of that.)