Writer’s Block is Like…uh…Give Me a Minute…

This may be a writer's block. It is unrelated to this post.

This may be a writer’s block. It is unrelated to this post.

The irony of this post is how long it took me to write it. When trying to pen something on writer’s block, it is fairly predictable that you will suffer from the very affliction about which you are trying to write. Perhaps this is an example of the universe’s obnoxious sense of humor, but I think it is, more likely, something far more practical. I believe the topic (and the attempt to expound on the subject) is akin to the idea of telling someone not think about elephants. As soon as you have the thought of what not to do, your head is riddled with images of Dumbo, dressed as a fairy princess and dancing around the cafeteria of your elementary school. (That last part may be unique to me.)

This is worse than my worse nightmares. Image credit: Blingee

The creative process is an individual thing, as varied as the people doing the creating. For some, there is a need to sit at a computer to get any writing done. Others need their thoughts organized on note cards before stringing together some sentences. Some writing for distraction, some seek distraction to avoid writing. Still others alter their methods each time, hoping a new procedure will be the perfect set of circumstances that allow for the best writing. Personally, I am guilty of all of the methods listed above.  Even this article was written with pen and paper first. My hope was I would be forced to slow down a little and allow for more time to think about what I’m writing. It remains to be seen if my theory is correct.

When I encounter (or, more accurately, read about) professional writers and their methods, I am always intrigued. I’ve heard about people building writing shacks to isolate them from the world as they write. Authors have been known to write entire novels longhand, or on antique typewriters. George R.R. Martin has used the same word processor since the early 1980s. Whatever the method, the fact remains that it needs to work. As an author, you must be happy with the results (or hate the results with a low enough intensity that you begrudgingly allow it to be read by others).

Neil Gaimen’s Writing Shack Image taken from doycetesterman.com

You may be asking by this point, “What does this have to do with nerds?” The answer is fairly obvious: Nerds are some of the best writers out there.I’ve not found very much about the writing methods of Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, or George Lucas. (Steady on, friends. Slow your vitriol for Mr. Lucas. I shall address him and his purported writing crimes in the future.). The reality, at least for me, is these nerds are successful and beloved writers. While they will invariably and inevitably struggle with writer’s block, that is the exception and not the rule.

As consumers of media, we don’t often think of the arduous, almost back-breaking process involved in getting our favorite thing to the screen/bookstore/internet. We focus on the final product, often overlooking the undoubtedly painful decisions to kill a character or alter something from the source material. We, especially in the nerd community, feel incredible ownership over the stories we love. When we disagree with the choices made by the author, we disagree loudly and mercilessly. A writer may struggle with crafting the perfect story, laboring over the most minute of details, all while working under the crushing pressure of a brain that won’t let you put thoughts on the page. The average consumer of the writing doesn’t care. We never for a moment entertain the possibility that George, Joss, and J.J. may have suffered to bring us Luke, Buffy, and Spock, respectively.

I don’t know that I could think of a self-described nerd who isn’t a fan of the good writing. I dare say a prerequisite of nerdom is a love of the written word. When one aspires to create that written word for an audience of nerds, one’s memory is inevitably drawn to the burning effigies of George Lucas and that insufferable bastard Jar-Jar Binks. If Lucas, the man who codified that which became the stereotypes for nerds, couldn’t write well enough for the nerd community, how could I possibly hope to succeed? The simple answer? I can’t. I should have listened to Admiral Ackbar.

Truth.

I Reddit, Too!

Without a doubt, we’ll get flamed for using this image.

Many people have at least heard of the complex, soul-sucking addiction that is Reddit. And some have the misfortune of understanding exactly what that entails. Hello, I am Nicole, and I am addicted to a website.

Hi, Nicole.

Unfortunately a Reddit welcome wouldn’t be quite as warm and friendly as a simple ‘hi,’ but I appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

When I went to college, my first introduction to the site was through a friend who was constantly on his computer looking at various subreddits. I never understood the fascination with the site mostly because it confused the hell out of me. What is a subreddit? How do you look at pictures? WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?! I didn’t really feel the need or desire to get involved.

That is, until I graduated and found myself with a lot more free time and the crushing loneliness that one can only get from leaving college.

I guess I can technically refer to myself as a “responsible Redditor” because I waited until after college before spiraling into the depths of the internet. It wasn’t intentional; it actually started because another friend of mine kept sending me pictures of cats (duh.) and telling me she found them on Reddit. This just happened to coincide with me not being in college anymore.

Slowly but surely I became obsessed. I started out in all the beginner subreddits like advice animals, fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu, funny, and pics. But from the point of origin as a doe-eyed novice to now I like to think of as my Reddit maturation period. I went from being a curious lurker without an account to someone whose subs reflect the habits of the true Nicole. Gone are the days where I sat behind my computer screen snickering at rage comics and poorly delivered puns. (I’m just kidding – my inability to create puns is 100% equal to my love for them.)

Apologies if this comic makes you feel “melon”-coly.

I want people to see me for who I am through these upvotes and comments. People should see me as an animal-loving (obsessed?) feminist who is, well, pretty damn funny. Not because this is the way I so desperately desire to be seen, but because these are important values in my life and I would love to connect with others over a similarity. I’ll post a comment here or there and wait for the upvotes to roll in as I pat myself on the back for my clever remark. I’ve done enough lurking of other people’s inputs to understand the sorts of things that get the highest karma. Usually they’re witty or just painfully honest, two things that I am well versed in. So commenting on Reddit should leave me with an intense karmagasm, right?

Fifteen minutes and -45 karma later I’m confused and on the verge of deleting my comment, my self-confidence crying hysterically in a corner. I’ve received PMs telling me to kill myself, asking how big my boobs are, and generally telling me off for being a pathetic loser.  I watch other people soar above me and wonder what I did wrong. Answer: I still don’t know – seriously, what the hell did I do to these people!?

Two years later on Reddit and I still haven’t made it work in my favor. I don’t understand the concept of downvoting people for absolutely no reason, and I really cannot grasp why some are driven by a need for karma. I’m becoming the sort of snob who turns their nose up at reposted content, downvoting all karmawhores and trolls I come across because seriously, name one benefit of being either.

When I hear other people mention that they use the site in real life, I feel an immediate connection with them. ‘You Reddit, too?! Great, we BOTH waste way too much of our time stuck on computers instead of doing something productive! Let’s be friends; I’ll send you my account and you can talk to me through PMs. Because, let’s be honest, we’re not seeing people any time soon.”

Amen.

Mostly I lurk, but I appreciate what I gain from Reddit. I am able to learn a lot about tons of topics that interest me, obsess over adorable animals, and maybe one day I’ll actually say something that fellow users deem worthy of reading.

Nicole is afraid to post a picture of her cat on her second cake day because her cat is perfect, and she doesn’t want to see the inevitable downvotes.

Why I’ll Never Bother Reading Ulysses

          I met a fellow a year ago, a friend’s roommate, who claimed to be a published writer.

          “Oh, yeah?” I said, feigning interest. I, too, wanted to be a published fiction writer, but I’d always had a hard time relating to other writers. I didn’t care what their books were about. I didn’t care where they got their ideas (usually thinly-veiled descriptions of their own lives). I was just jealous that they were published. So, in an attempt to make conversation, I asked the most basic, non-offensive question I could think of: “What would you say your favorite book is?”

          The writer replied, speaking in his elegant, flowing Irish brogue, “Ah, well, that would have to be Ulysses, by James Joyce.”

          I laughed in his face.

          “What!” I exclaimed. “Come on, no one’s favorite book is Ulysses.”

          In retrospect, maybe I was a little rude. For a while, I stood by what I said. At best, it’s pretentious to have Ulysses as a favorite book. At worst, it’s a downright lie. No one reads that book for any reason but to say they’ve read it. But after a while, I considered that maybe I was wrong. Maybe the rest of the literary world really did appreciate things I didn’t.

          Maybe I was the only one faking it.

          Since I completed my Master’s degree in English, I have been making the same terrible joke to everyone. “Well, it’s confirmed. I’ve officially mastered English.” I get a halfhearted chuckle out of most people, but my playful sarcasm over my newly-acquired Master’s is more revealing than it seems.

          I’m embarrassed because even with a graduate degree in my field, I’ve started to feel as if I haven’t mastered it at all. Who is the main character in For Whom the Bell Tolls? Um, some guy who was in a war, I guess. Can I describe the overall idea behind Nicholas Nickleby? If it’s anything like Dickens’s other novels, it’s social satire told through the life of a main character and his web of interrelationships with dozens of other characters. What happens in Pride and Prejudice? I have no idea, but probably somebody gets married.

          I’ve always figured it’s that sort of guesswork that enables an English major to succeed, and that like me, no one actually reads all of that nonsense. We read what we like (for me: Vladimir Nabokov, Daniel Handler, George Orwell, and David Sedaris, to name a few) and just go on Wikipedia or Sparknotes to confirm that we know the vague concepts behind the works we don’t feel like plodding through.

          Once I got to graduate school, I realized I might be the only one doing that. I met yet another young man who told me his favorite book was Ulysses. This time I replied, “Really?” I was in shock. I’d never touched that book. Never thought about opening it. I hadn’t even considered reading a summary. And here was the second person in the span of a few weeks who’d declared it his favorite.

          “Yeah,” he told me. “I spent months just sitting down and dissecting every word, looking up every reference. It totally changed my life.”

          Was this how every literature nerd did it? Were they all really dedicated enough to embrace each work placed before them, dutifully taking notes in the margins, tracking each allusion, translating every unknown phrase? Did they really read everything their professors assigned, rather than skimming hundreds of pages the night before class the way I did, hoping they wouldn’t get called on to answer any questions about specific details?

          I suddenly felt inadequate even outside of my literary circle. More than ever before, I grew nervous when my friends would expect me to know the plot of a story or the definition of a word.

          “You should know that,” they’d tell me. “You’re an English major.” Half the time I wouldn’t even give an answer for fear of being wrong.

          Was it really my job, as a lover of English, to memorize the whole dictionary and become my friends’ personal card catalog? Would I be scoffed at every time I didn’t know the answer to a book-related question on Jeopardy! or a literary reference in a movie?

          No. As a dear friend of mine declared in her recent Soapbox post, “That Which We Call a Rose,” (a Romeo and Juliet allusion, I assume): “You can’t know it all.” That’s true no matter which nerd culture you embrace. No matter how much you love the topic (and, although my academic peers may weary me, I do love literature), you don’t want to saturate your life with it in the sole interest of becoming a walking encyclopedia. If you did, there would be no time for other valuable activities, such as mocking people for liking Ulysses.

          So, don’t forgive me—professors, students—for all my sins. It’s true; I have not been able to complete many of my readings. I have spent hundreds of dollars on books, some of which I may never get around to finishing, all so I can go into class and nod along as if I, too, know what sound startled Clarissa in chapter whatever of Mrs. Dalloway. I’m no longer ashamed of that. There’s only so much time in a week, and I don’t study literature to fake it. I study it to love it. If I believe I’ll love a work, I will go back and reread anything I missed when I didn’t have time for it during the semester. I will embrace each story for what it is, not for what it means about me as a reader, a writer, or a student.

          People will likely still turn to me to answer questions about words they don’t know or books they haven’t read, and I will continue to use my extensive experience in interpreting context clues to give them the best answers I can. They will be satisfied, and I will remain their resident English nerd. If only they knew how little I knew.

Ana is a self-consciously self-proclaimed English nerd who hasn’t read everything she’s supposed to. She hasn’t even read all the previous posts on this blog, and there really aren’t that many. She double-checked all allusions in this story with Wikipedia.

Write This Down

Pilot Prera Fountain Pen filled with Noodler's Black Ink.

Pilot Prera Fountain Pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink

          Plain Jane has offered some especially compelling thoughts on how to identify a nerd. She provided some articulate musings about the various categories into which you may pigeonhole a nerd (tragically, ornithology nerds did not make the cut). You may be a computer nerd (gamer, programmer, hacker). You may be a Sci-Fi nerd (Trekkers, Jedi, Battlestar Galactians). You may be a Fantasy nerd (Starks/Lannisters, Hobbits/Elves, Dungeons/Dragons). Admittedly, these are broad categories; you can belong to all three or none at all. What is important is that whatever your nerd-thing is, you are passionate about it. A string of nerd connections led me to a really great quote by Wil Wheaton. A woman asked her what advice he would give her infant daughter on being a nerd. The full video is here, and you should totally check it out. In part, he said:

I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd, or being a geek is another word you’ll hear, I sort of use the words interchangeably, it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.

So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be; it might be sports, it might be science, it might be reading, it might be fashion design, it might be building things, it might be telling stories or painting pictures, it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes being a nerd awesome.

Wil Wheaton

           This quote is somewhat serendipitous, as I had been planning on writing this article for some time. I am a nerd in many ways, not the least of which is the three aforementioned categories. But an element of my nerdism exists in a somewhat atypical place. I am a nerd (although a beginner, novice nerd, a n00b, if you will) of an ancient form of technology. I have a deep passion for something which the average person takes for granted. I am a fan of pens and paper.

          I’ll let that soak in, like so much ink drawn from a vial into the converter of a high quality fountain pen and then applied to a paper stock of about 80g or higher. You know, one that absorbs the ink quickly, with no feathering? Man, that’s hot.

          If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that whatever you like, someone else likes it a lot more and has created a website about it. One of my best friends turned me on to a website called The Pen Addict. This guy knows his pens. More to the point, this guy knows things about pens that I didn’t even know you could know. He is seriously invested. I took his suggestions from the Top 5 Pens article and bought many of the pens. (In my defense, the most expensive pen I bought was no more than $5, although you could spend way more.)

Platinum Preppy, Pilot Varsity, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Ohto Graphic Liner, Pilot Hi-Tec-C

Platinum Preppy, Pilot Varsity, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Ohto Graphic Liner, Pilot Hi-Tec-C

           I won’t bore you with the details of the pens I purchased. I’ll leave it up to you to check out what Brad Dowdy has to say. I will also skip over the total geek-fest that is the two pads of paper I typically use, as well as the pencil case I have purchased. Suffice-it-to-say, I just can’t bring myself to use the Bic pen most cashiers try to give me. Evidently I am not only a nerd, but I’m also an elitist.

Rhodia Graph Paper 5.75"x7.5", Rhodia Graph Paper, 4.25"x6.0", Doane Paper Grid+Line 3.5"x5.5"

Rhodia Graph Paper 5.75″x7.5″, Rhodia Graph Paper, 4.25″x6.0″, Doane Paper Grid+Line 3.5″x5.5″

           The important thing, as Mr. Wheaton made so very clear, isn’t what I’m passionate about, but simply that I am passionate about it. I honestly believe our culture is moving to a place of greater acceptance and, because of this, the disparate nature of nerd vs. cool is beginning to be obfuscated. With shows like Game of Thrones winning major awards, with the proliferation of nerd things like Doctor Who and The Avengers, with those heretofore too scared to stand up and speak out, it’s no longer about being a nerd, it’s about publically liking something. In my heart of hearts, I think this shift in our culture is largely thanks to the internet. Flaming aside, more people are talking to one another. More people are exposed to more things and, as a result, we no longer need to hide that we like something hitherto unpopular.  Wil Wheaton said you could be a sports nerd. That’s straight-up mind-bendy.

           In the meantime, I will not hide my passion. I will yell loudly and proudly! I will declare to all my friends, “The Kuru Toga is the best mechanical pencil I’ve ever seen!” Will people mock me for how emphatically I talk about pens? Almost certainly. It doesn’t bother me though. My passion is greater than their disdain, and that’s all that matters.

Write that down.

Dickie started to write this article by hand in a show of solidarity to pen lovers everywhere. After a few minutes, his hand started to cramp and he got sleepy. He completed the article on his computer, but his pens were proudly displayed on his desk the entire time…in a show of solidarity to pen lovers everywhere.

Written on Doane Grid Line Paper, using a Pilot Prera Fountain Pen with Noodler's Black Ink.

Written on Doane Grid Line Paper, using a Pilot Prera Fountain Pen with Noodler’s Black Ink.

In Defense of My Dumbphone

inherit

I live in the North Country. For those of you for whom this has no meaning, not only do I live in the part of New York that is not within commuting distance to NYC (or the greater metro area), but I actually live in upstate NY. It’s a trek to get anywhere. My closest grocery store is a Walmart ~12 miles from my apartment. The McDonald’s at the base of my lake closes in the winter from lack of year-round denizens. I can’t flush my toilet within an hour of taking a shower if I want my well to help produce pressure enough to wash my hair. No joke, last week my shower stopped mid lather because a house guest was in my kitchen getting a drink of tap water.

Although, I do know people who consider Westchester County to be upstate.

Although, I do know people who consider Westchester County to be upstate.

We do have some modern conveniences. My WiFi connection is strong enough that I can marathon the latest Netflix Original Series or host multiplayer online games on Steam (if it’s not windy), and if I walk a few paces down my street (beside my garden gnome next door neighbor’s crops) I have enough cell phone service to send and receive text messages–picture messages are another story.

I’ve been collecting people’s outdated Androids as hand-me-downs for the day that I can actually use them. I have one currently set up solely as my instagram box. I am the master of the #latergram. “Look! I saw a thing a day and a half ago that I thought you also needed to see! Share my experience! Now, feel free to validate me!”

Allegedly there’s a cell tower coming to town…eventually.

4G in the Adirondacks....EVENTUALLY!

4G in the Adirondacks….EVENTUALLY!

But at this point, a data plan doesn’t feel like a wise investment. I have internet access while I am at work, home, the market, the ice cream store, the bar, the gym…all I am missing is the distracted driving that comes from trying to connect to Waze. And texting my friend to let him know that I am omw. And confirming that location tag on Facebook. And replying to that comment on Disqus.

My life didn’t start in the mountains, and I won’t be here forever. And I’m not even trying to put down the wonders of the modern cell phone–I know that my iPhone inclined Brooklyn friends swear by HopStop to get into Manhattan without running into unplanned detours, and that Google/Siri are the direction-giving gas-station attendants for Millennials. But, DAMN, a data plan is expensive.

After I had been handed my third deemed “obsolete” smart phone, I started getting antsy. Is it acceptable for me to not be plugged in at all times? Hell, I know a guy who chose to be evicted rather than to terminate his iPhone contract. I made my way to the website of my wireless provider. It should be easy, I told myself. How many commercials about the awe-inspiring nature of UNLIMITED DATA have interrupted my online viewing pleasures? I was met pretty immediately by the paywall (and the beyond frustrating enigma of the Verizon Wireless site map). As a young professional who is currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, I don’t have $70/month to spend on a measly 4GB. I have a car to insure and gas up! I have birth control to buy! I’ve also been known to eat meals every so often.

And so, I’m back on the merry-go-round. When I get off, I’m where I started: surrounded by the pointed pines and the brilliant birches that dapple those 4G blocking majestic mountains. I’ll continue to take a break from the internet when I’m swimming in the lake or blazing a trail, for I know that I’ll be moving downstate soon enough, where the salaries meet the higher cost of living, and after-hour work emails reign supreme.

Om is where the heart is.

Om is where the heart is.

EEK is wrapping up a two year contract in the stunning Adirondack Mountains of New York state where she has learned the wonders of alone time, leaving your pipes running in sub-zero weather, and hosting budget-conscious house guests each weekend of the summer.

That Which We Call A Rose: On Fitting in Among Nerds

When I first tried to learn Magic the Gathering, I had a hard time. In fact, I was so frustrated that after just one game I gave up for over a year. Even after I began to try again, I was extremely out of the loop. It felt like it was taking me an absurdly long time to master the game; like I ought to have picked it up much more quickly than I did. I even accused my boyfriend of being a deliberately cruel opponent, claiming that his starter deck must be specifically engineered to destroy mine. When I finally voiced these opinions to him, he laughed. “You’re being unfair to yourself,” he told me. “I’ve been playing this game for years, and you just started.” Maybe so, but I felt (however incorrectly) that by falling short of a prodigy’s talent at the game, I was failing as a nerd.

Let me tell you where I’m coming from. I identify as a nerd. BUT. I’m a nerd who has never been to a convention of any kind. I’ve never seen an episode of the original Star Trek series. I’ve never been properly involved in a roleplaying campaign, I can’t fix your computer, and I didn’t get around to reading Lord of the Rings until I was 22 (well after the movies had already come out). Frankly, I don’t always feel I fit in among other nerds. In nerdy groups, I sometimes zone out during entire conversations, because I have nothing to contribute. (Every time Dragonball Z comes up, for example.)

Thinking about all this recently has led me to ponder- just what is a nerd, exactly? Now, I don’t propose to answer that question in its entirety; I merely want to throw out some questions for you to think about. (I feel I should mention here, that in this post I will make no distinction between nerds and geeks. I have never felt strongly about the perceived difference between these two words, and so I leave them to you to hash out in the comments, should you care to.) So, being a nerd. Is the definition as simple as- someone who was picked on in high school? No, that’s not quite right. Is it someone who excels in academics? Does one need to have a specific, deep knowledge or passion about something in order to be classified as a nerd? Is it important, as a nerd, to have a basic understanding of the inside of a computer?

There seem to be a plethora of factors that contribute to one’s status as a nerd (or non-nerd). For instance, if you were into Pokémon in the ‘90’s, did that make you a nerd? I would argue not. Everyone liked Pokémon in the ‘90’s. Liking it back then made you a kid, not a nerd. Now, if you’re into Pokémon today? Yeah, you’re probably a nerd. For the flip side, take Game of Thrones. If you read A Song of Ice and Fire when it came out, you were probably a nerd. But if you’re into the series now, that doesn’t prove much of anything. If you’re a nerd, you probably like Game of Thrones, but liking Game of Thrones does not necessarily imply that you are a nerd. Of course, these examples bring up the issue of time and place. There are people out there, I’m sure, who wore pocket protectors and watched the original Battlestar Galactica when it came out on television, but have no idea who Charmander or Jon Snow are. And yet, these people are nerds too.

Of course, there is something to the idea of self-identification. That is, if you call yourself a nerd, then you are one. But even that is a little tricky. Let’s take, for a moment, a sampling of self-identifying nerds I’ve met. I know nerds who are interested (or even experts) in:

  • Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, His Dark Materials, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc.)

  • Sci-Fi (Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Dune, the works of Isaac Asimov, etc.)

  • Video Games (Role-Playing Games, Massive Multiplayer Online games, First-Person Shooters, fighting games, puzzle games, etc.)

  • Strategy Games (Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Catan, Risk, Dominion, Munchkin, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Citadels, etc.)

  • Role-playing Games (table-top role-play, Live-Action Role-Play, Society for Creative Anachronism, battle re-enacting, fighting games like Dagorhir, etc.)

  • Comics (trade comic books, graphic novels, anime and manga, classic superheroes, cartoon network, adult swim, etc.)

  • Conventions (Comic-Con, PAX, etc, and including various competitions, beta testing, and cosplay, etc.)

  • Computers (maintenance, programming, design, video games and game design, etc.)

  • And, if I’ve forgotten your subculture, please complain about it in the comments.

Then there are a variety of other things commonly associated with nerds. Dinosaurs come to mind. Scientists, historians, literature-buffs, graphic designers, and thespians have all been known to refer to themselves as nerds. These days, it seems that a healthy interest in just about anything qualifies you to be a nerd. As a nerd, you’re expected to know it all. (Ha, know-it-all. There’s another term for you.) At the very least, in nerd circles, you want to be able to say “Well, I haven’t read that book, but I’ve seen the movie,” or “I haven’t played that game yet, but I read a really favorable review.”

It’s overwhelming, frankly. I want to call myself a nerd, but I feel pressured to be good at so much more than I already am. I never played video games as a kid, for example, and now that I’ve started, I feel terribly behind. I already know what a Goron is, sure, but I still haven’t learned why a few years ago my Facebook newsfeed lit up with posts of “SKYRIM. Skyrim, Skyrim, Skyrim!”  Isn’t it bad enough that as a nerd, I don’t always fit in to mainstream society? Surely I shouldn’t have to feel left out among fellow nerds, too. But the fact is, sometimes I do. Maybe you feel the same way?

If this is you, then NEWS FLASH. You can’t know it all. Being a nerd can be extremely time-consuming, not to mention taxing on your wallet. Much as I would love to own that DVD boxed set of the un-altered Star Wars original trilogy, I haven’t been able to bring myself to spend the money just yet. Much as I want to be able to seamlessly quote the new Hobbit movies while simultaneously settling Catan like a boss, I just haven’t found the time to learn it all. YET. It might seem like the only way to fit in with nerds is to more than your neighbor (to spark hir interest, but to ultimately out-nerd hir). But my message to you is to take heart. You have time to deepen your knowledge. Next time someone asks you “What tribe will the Avatar after Korra be from?” you’ll know it’s Earth. Next time. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by it all. Just take pride in the knowledge you have, and keep pushing yourself to know more. Own the title of nerd, no matter what stage of the game you’ve reached. If you want to be a nerd, go for it.

As for me, I plan to win a game of Magic one of these days. And not just by dumb luck.

Plain Jane is a self-identified nerd from Jamestown, New York. She loves nerdy things like musical theatre and nature lectures. She loves Star Wars especially and identifies as Lawful Good.

I’m Just Joshing You…Like a Boss

My college roommate grew up with a guy named Josh. Josh possessed a skill set that, while mostly useless in real world application, is none-the-less impressive. One might call it stickttoittiveness, or dedication, or even too much free time on his hands, but what one couldn’t call it is unimpressive. I am envious of this talent, although years of practice and training have left me short of the bar Josh has set. An uninformed observer would say Josh plays video games, but more accurately, Josh makes video games his bitch.

I learned of Josh’s amazing abilities in my freshmen year of college when my aforementioned roommate (who graciously brought his Super Nintendo to our dorm room) asked if I had played [insert name of every popular SNES game here]. The short answer was no. The roommate, incredulous of my arcade naiveté, proceeded to beat the shit out of every game he brought as I watched, mouth agape. As he played he would often loudly declare “I just Joshed the shit out of that!” Assuming this was some arcane New England turn-of-phrase, I dismissed it as one of his many idiosyncrasies. Before too long, I realized that “Joshing”, traditionally meaning “to joke or kid”, in this context meant, “to play a game like Josh would – that is to say, play a game so well that the programmer of said game would begin to reevaluate his life’s work in deference to the player doing the ‘Joshing’”. New Englanders aren’t into brevity.

Soon, we moved away from the safety of the 16-bit console and devolved into the diabolical world of Sid Meyer and his Civilizations. Now playing head to head, my roommate, during one of his inevitable wins, would turn around and yell something to the effect of “Too bad your agrarian civilization didn’t figure out how to make a nuclear bomb before my post-industrial society did. You just got Joshed, bitch!”

Indeed, I did.

Recently, my former roommate, now a father of two (with a third on way, God help him), was telling me about the challenge of Joshing Batman: Arkham City. He has already beaten the game, but he had not beaten every single minute aspect of it; a game can only be truly Joshed when no additional content remains. I found myself a little envious. I began to think dark and lonely thoughts. “Why can’t I be good enough to Josh a game like Batman? Am I not dexterous enough? Am I not patient enough?” I mean, this was a serious psychological blow.

Long ago, I resigned myself to my inability to play video games as well as my friends, or in this case, my friend’s friends. First-person shooters actually make me feel nauseated. RPGs have to be especially compelling for me to become invested. Racing games have a serious and real-world effect on my driving. However, some games, by virtue of their content, are a lot of fun. Batman: Arkham Whatever features Batman, so my pre-order is almost guaranteed. Games where unrelenting and wanton killing is the core element are right in my wheelhouse. (Yet, my ability to complete a game gives me psychological pause.) So, when an opportunity to commit virtual murder in a sandbox environment presents itself, I often jump at the chance.

However, I am always aware of my shortcomings vis a vis the completion of games. I don’t believe that I will ever be able to Josh a game. My attention span won’t allow it. I will also admit (although it’s practically heresy in the gaming world) to using walk-throughs on the games I love the most. To me, using a walk-through allows me to skip over the parts that would inspire me to Rage Quit. If I’m stuck, I can bypass the feelings of inadequacy and convince myself that I am worthwhile as a gamer.

I suppose I have Joshed something. I just didn’t expect it to be myself.

Dickie, while reflecting on his life, realized that he’s beaten only a handful of games. He became sad when he thought this may be a greater indicator of his ability to see tasks through to the end. That being said, he also realiz