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Advice on Advice

No two people are exactly alike. What works well for one person, won’t necessarily work well for you, or for someone else. There might be times when you’re given advice and when trying it out it works well for you. That does not mean you always need to try advice from that person, or similar seeming advice if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

I have been seeing a lot about Marie Kondo lately. Mostly on some book lovers pages I’m on on facebook, which is usually focused on her advice to ideally keep less than thirty books. This advice is definitely not for everyone. I know that I, for one, would be absolutely unable to cull my library down to only thirty books. Especially if I go by her other advice of “keep it if it sparks joy.”

This blog post isn’t going to be about Marie Kondo. At least, not entirely. My point today is that advice that works for someone else might not necessarily work for you, and there will be times you will have to accept that, and work things out for yourself. For example, I can’t take Marie Kondo’s advice, because to me, having my collections of books, DVDs, games, and plushies? They make me happy. Each one makes me happy. I will rewatch the DVDs, I will reread the books, I will replay the games, and I will find comfort in my plushies.

I could give you advice which I have worked out for myself over my life. Do what makes you happy. Work hard on your studies. Always have a book to read. Don’t be afraid to leave people behind in your life if they don’t make you happy. Always live with a pet. These are things that I have found which work for me. I am in no way saying that they will work for you.

Then there are times when you’ve found advice that works for you, but it might be hard to enact. For example, I should always wear sunscreen when I’m going to be outside for more than ten minutes. I just burn up in the sun. The other day I was out with some friends, and sitting under the shade, and I did indeed put sunscreen on after a little while. I still got burned. Often it’s a case of me forgetting to put it on, or there not being sunscreen available. In this case I mustn’t have gotten it on quick enough. Some people might think “always have sunscreen in your bag” would be a great way to remedy at least part of that, so I always have it with me when I need it, however my anxiety prevents me from doing so, because I’m absolutely certain it would leak, and there would be sunscreen throughout my bag. (I can’t even put a bottle of liquid in there for the same reason. Especially not if it’s cold. Condensation would just ruin the books I have in my bag!)

I cannot stress enough that the same advice will not necessarily work for two different people. Let’s look at advice like medication. There are plenty of different types and brands, for different diseases. You might take some cough medicine one day, to find that your cough is fixed perfectly. That doesn’t mean you should recommend it to someone with chicken pox. Or to look at the same metaphor in a different way: two people may have depression. One pill might work for one of them, though that doesn’t mean the same pill is going to work for the other person as well.

Decluttering can be great, and I do need to get into my stuff and declutter. I am even going through my books and choosing some to give up, as hard as that may be to believe. I’m not going to follow Marie Kondo’s advice for doing so, however. I’m simply going to go through in my own little way and go through things that I don’t or won’t use or wear in the immediate future.

I would call it Spring Cleaning, but it’s a bit late for that, with it being the exact middle of Summer right now more or less. I wish luck to anyone else who might be going through the same, and my advice of: Don’t just follow every bit of advice you hear. Work things out for yourself, and find what works for you.

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New Year, Same Me

It’s that time of year where everyone reflects on how things have been, and make plans for the year to come, so I suppose it’s time for me to join in with all of that.

2018 was a bit of a wild ride. Like many years, it had its ups and downs. There were quite a few good movies released, which is always nice. Many I can’t yet comment on, not having had the opportunity to watch them. The Incredibles came back, and in my opinion managed to live up to expectations. Venom had little hope, but managed to drive fans crazy in ways I don’t think the creators were really expecting. Seeing Mortal Engines about to be made into a movie prompted me to read the book, and the movie was… entertaining enough. Bohemian Rhapsody absolutely blew me away. A Wrinkle In Time and The House with a Clock in its Walls made me read some old children’s fiction which was a lovely experience. The Darkest Minds captivated me, and made me need to read the series.

I read quite a lot of books. I didn’t end up managing my goal of 100. I think at the end, I had read around 80. I have the unfortunate habit of giving up sometimes when I know that something is not going to be achievable. That being said, I read quite a large number of books all the same, which were all quite wonderful. I had ten lovely months of books being delivered to my door via OwlCrate before I had to give it up due to not having money.

My games library became even more full, and I’ve even been playing some of the newer games I’ve purchased. That being said, I still have quite a few hours in Overwatch, thanks mostly to some amazing friends I have who I can play with. In playing Overwatch, I’ve been getting somewhat better, and even enjoying playing competitive, as long as I can play with my friends. Being able to work together with people, and co-ordinate team compositions and pushes is a lot more fun than the stress of dealing with people jumping into the middle of the enemy team, instantly dying, and screaming because I wasn’t healing them.

I’m close to finishing Kingdom Hearts. After first starting it when I was in my early teens. It didn’t help that the person who owned the Play Station moved out before I had the chance to finish it. Now that I’ve finally got a Play Station 3 of my own, it’s simply a matter of making time when the TV is available for use. Not always feasible, unfortunately.

Dungeons and Dragons has been drawing me deep into its claws once more. There were a few campaigns I started at uni, none of which I was able to see through to the end for various reasons, mostly due to scheduling conflicts. A campaign one of my friends Dungeon Masters is going strong, however, and I’m very much enjoying playing my sweet, naive Necromancer. I have also been struck with the inspiration to start my own campaign, and am looking forward to seeing how that will go next year. In similar news, I am slowly making my way through the wonderful words of the McElroy’s, as I listen to The Adventure Zone. I am still quite far behind, only entering the fourth arc now, though hopefully I will find more opportunity to listen, and catch up in this new year.

I struggled through university, and finally managed to come out the other side with a degree. After so many years of stressing over assignments and exams, it will be nice to hopefully put it to good use. That is, should I manage to get a job in the creative writing sector.

Hopefully this coming year will see me employed. Perhaps I will be able to move down to Melbourne. Maybe I’ll even finish one of the many books I’m working on, and work on getting something published. Okay, for realistic purposes, I’ll settle with the employment as a goal. The others would definitely be nice to achieve though.

Once again, I will try to challenge myself to read 100 books this coming year. I will also endeavour to once again bring about my Friday Books Books blog, where I discuss the latest books or series I’ve read. After some issues, I think I am beginning to be on the up and up once more.

I am not the sort of person to lie and say that I have great expectations of 2019. Nor will I say that I will lose 10 kilos, or publish a book. Yes, I have goals, and dreams, to do such things, but I know that there are chances I might not achieve them. Instead, I will try to work towards these things, and will be ecstatic should I manage them, yet I refuse to let myself be upset if I fail. Failure is a part of life, and as hard as it can be to accept it sometimes, it is better to accept the failure, and move on past it, than to stay stuck on it.

This is the mentality that I will try to bring into 2019. Job searching is hard, and I know that I will certainly receive many rejections. Indeed, I’ll feel ecstatic should I merely get an interview. If I were to allow each rejection to get me down, I wouldn’t be able to move on. I would want to curl up in bed, and give up on everything, because living can be hard. Instead, I will take a deep breath, and learn from any mistakes. I will continue to move forward. This can apply to so many things in my life, not only job searching. I can turn this attitude to my gaming, and climb higher in competitive Overwatch. I can play more of the games I own, and finish ones I want to finish. I can read as many books as I can in a year, and be happy by how many I read, as opposed to upset that I didn’t achieve my goal. I can be happy with however many words I might write instead of focusing on finishing something by a deadline.

I sincerely hope that all my readers can take a similar attitude into 2019 with them. Don’t let your failures get you down, instead be proud of anything you achieve. Of course, you should never let that stop you from setting your own goals. Simply don’t let yourself get too down if you don’t quite reach them.

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Farewell Stan Lee

Today the world mourns.

It is not the first day that we have done so, nor will it be the last. Sadly the time is coming where mourning will be quite frequent. It is the sad truth of the world as it spins and moves through space that we humans must grow older. Eventually, we all must die, and return to the Earth. Today, the Earth has welcomed back much-beloved Stan Lee.

I have never read a comic book in my life. I appreciate the art. I admire the story-telling. I love the characters. I just have a thing where I always feel the need to start at the beginning. A horrible thing to think about when it comes to comic books, but it’s something in my head nonetheless, which I can’t seem to get past. While I may never have read his works, I’ve fallen in love with the man’s creativity all the same.

I’ve preferred Marvel to DC for longer than I even knew the two were different. Watching superhero movies as a kid, I may have enjoyed Batman more than Superman, but it was Spiderman which really made me enjoy the genre. Then, of course, came the X-Men. Then Iron Man, and the current Marvel Cinematic Universe which we all know and love.

Since before I even knew who he really was, I enjoyed Stan Lee’s work. When I was younger, I was unaware of all the cameos he made. Now, every time I go to see a Marvel movie, I keep my eyes open, eager to spot him. I think the next few Marvel movies to come out will be the hardest to watch. Stan hasn’t been a spring chicken for a few years now, and has outlived many other much-loved celebrities. There have been rumours for quite a while now that even after his death, his cameos in Marvel films will be continued. That they have enough recorded footage of him to be able to keep him in his creations with the help of technology. I don’t know if this will happen, but I do know that it will be hard to watch regardless. Whether it’s a movie he’d finished filming his cameo for before passing away, or a technologically implanted Stan Lee cameo, or no Stan Lee cameo at all, the first movie will be the hardest.

Stan Lee isn’t the only notable name we have lost in recent years. We have lost many big names in the creative circles. From Robin Williams, to David Bowie. Alan Rickman, to Prince. These are people I grew up with. Watching. Listening to. I knew their work before I knew who they work. I was singing “Magic Dance” before I knew it was David Bowie who sang it. I was quoting Professor Snape before I knew Alan Rickman’s name. Hook, and Aladdin are both among some of my most beloved movies, before I ever understood who was playing my favourite characters.

It’s truly tragic, when we lose someone who has influenced the world so much in such a way as this. We have proved, however, time and again, that we can move on. They may not ever be replaced, not truly, but their work will live on forever. Much like Shakespeare’s works are still around today, and Beethoven’s music still celebrated.

I’d like to take the rest of this blog to have a moment of respect for the wonderful creatives we have lost. And to appreciate the ones we still have. Deaths can be unexpected, like Robin Williams’, or Kurt Cobain’s. Sometimes, you know it’s coming for a while. It’s still a shock, regardless. We need to love and appreciate the creative artists that we still have.

For today, farewell, Stan Lee, and thank you so much for everything you have given to the world. You have been so lucky to share your stories with the world as you have, and to have felt the love and appreciation that the world has for you.

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Welcome to October

It’s coming into October, my favourite month of the year. Ever since I was a child, I have always loved Halloween. Imagine my disappointment to have been born in Australia, one of the few big Western nations that doesn’t particularly celebrate Halloween. Naturally, all the Australia’s love for all things American when it comes to TV just made everything worse. After all, is an American TV show without a Halloween special actually an American TV show? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, Halloween not being overly celebrated in Australia never stopped me from trick-or-treating. My Mum and Nana would help me with a costume, and then my god-sisters and myself would walk around my Nana and Grandad’s neighbourhood. I have no idea how Americans always seem to have pillowcases filled with candy by the time they walk around a neighbourhood. I mean, sure, perhaps the neighbourhood I would walk around wasn’t quite as big as the American neighbourhoods, but that wasn’t the real problem. The problem was that no one was prepared for trick-or-treaters to come around. Not when I was growing up. Well, no one is an overstatement. A few people had some candy or chocolate bars. The vast majority, however, would just shrug and say “Oh, it’s Halloween? Sorry, I don’t have anything for you.” A couple of people were really nice, and they would give us two dollar coins instead.

The world is changing, and I like the way it’s changing. Now it’s becoming common for children in Australia to trick-or-treat. We still have a long way to go before it’s as normal as it is in other countries, such as America, but we have come quite far from when I used to be the only child in the neighbourhood to go trick-or-treating. There’s even a set of rules that are being generally acknowledged by parents, children, and just people living in houses. If you wish to participate and have trick-or-treaters come to your house to give away candy, you just leave your outside light on. So parents will take their children around neighbourhoods, going to houses with their lights on. One day it may even be as common here as it is in the United States.

I don’t go trick-or-treating any more. I’m a bit too old for that now, sadly, and don’t have any children to escort around. Maybe one day I might steal a child from a friend. That’s not to say that Halloween is any less boring as an adult. Now, I can just buy all the candy I want to eat and binge-watch Halloween movies.

Which is, of course, my plan for this Halloween. I have a bunch of friends who I plan to voice call while watching the wonderful world of Halloween movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hocus Pocus are naturally two of the first movies on our list. Of course we’re also going to be watching some Beeltejuice as well. There are just so many other good Halloween movies out there as well that I don’t know what else to add to our list. Especially since I’m trying to educate a couple of my friends, who haven’t seen some of these movies before. (I know, believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are. Don’t worry though, they have agreed to being educated.) Any particularly important must-see Halloween movie suggestions would be more than welcome.

There are three other things that I’m particularly looking forward to this wonderful spooky month. Firstly, there are Halloween events. I don’t necessarily mean at bars, or places like that. Although if I can find any events like that, I may very well do just that. However, what I am talking about is the wonderful world of gaming events. Okay, so, the one game in particular, although I can hope that other games might also have events. For example, I’m hopeful that the Harry Potter mobile game, Mystery at Hogwarts, might have a Halloween event. Given that it’s still a growing game and mostly in development, I would not be surprised if such an event didn’t happen this year, however they are doing some events for unique skins fairly regularly, so I think my hope may just pay out.

The game I’m particularly looking forward to, however, is Overwatch. Now, I haven’t been playing this game since it came out. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not good at it. I’d like to be, but I’m only a lowly bronze player. (In comp as well as border). Maybe upgrading to a better mouse and keyboard might help with that for me. Or maybe I’ll just find out that no, I’m still horrible at it. Though, my skill level isn’t the point I want to talk about right now. Instead, I want to talk about the Halloween event. I had so much fun last year when playing Junkenstein’s revenge. It was the first special event arcade mode that I played, since I joined at the end of the Anniversary event last year.

Overwatch is great, I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately. Although it’s one of those things that’s definitely better with friends. Even better when it has those Player vs Environment events, as opposed to constantly Player vs Player. I’m just going to ignore the whole trend towards Battle Royale that games seem to be going to at the moment due to the popularity of some certain free to play ones, because let’s face it, those modes are undoubtedly my least favourite. The PvE modes, however, Junkenstein’s Revenge, Uprising, and Retribution are some of my favourites. Let’s face it, Overwatch players can get quite salty sometimes, whether you’re playing with them or against them. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing competitive, quick play, or arcade, unless you’re playing with a six stack, you’ll almost inevitably find a teammate who doesn’t co-operate. That’s not to say that you don’t find that in those PvE modes. In fact, sometimes you get players who either disconnect or purposefully leave, which results in a very unbalanced group, since unlike other game modes, there isn’t any back-fill for these PvE games, which are designed for four players to work together.

The game mode isn’t the only thing that’s got me excited. I’m a pretty big fan of some of the skins that already exist in the game, but Halloween skins will always be among my favourite on any game that has such a mechanic. Some of the ones that I got last year during the event are still up there among my most-used skins. The Dragon Symmetra skin, and the Cultist Zenyatta skin in particular are absolutely wonderful. As someone who currently “mains” Moira, I’m naturally hoping and praying for a Goblin Queen Labyrinth-style skin. If not this event, perhaps I’ll be lucky next year.

The second exciting thing about this month is that it’s going to be my last month at university. Now, I’m not going to say forever, at this point. I know myself too well to say that. Maybe one day I’ll go on to do a Masters. For the moment, however, with what I’m currently studying, I am nearly done. This is both exciting and absolutely terrifying for me. Having to go out into the real world as an adult with a degree? What on Earth will I do? It doesn’t help that it’s a Fine Arts degree. I’m just going to be so employable!

The third thing that’s happening this month is connected to the second, and is essentially the main reason I’m writing this whole thing right now in the first place. I’ve just spent the past three years working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing. Naturally I want to go on to do something with this. Which is why I’m starting this blog. The blog is just a small part, of course. I’ve also taken steps to become a sole trader, so that I can begin getting paid for writing and editing. It feels like a big step for me, quite possibly because it is. I’m going to be putting myself out there, which hasn’t always ended well for me in the past. Not that such things have always ended horribly for me, but when you have anxiety, you always begin to expect the worst.

So here goes, the first blog for my site, talking about my favourite month, and letting everyone know that Marlee McDougall, writer and editor, is officially open for business.