All posts by Allen V. Cortez

Failure and Autodidacticism.

Dope_SFRecently I received the feedback for my final exam presentation and I failed with a grade of 49/100 (50 being a passing grade). It has brought up a real sense of entitlement within myself that conflicts with the way I would like to live my life. My inability to work within the framework of a university has also driven me back to my autodidactic practice.

Factors of Failure

For some bizarre reason I really feel as though I should have passed. When I view the criteria sheet in relation to my presentation I believe I was judged incredibly harshly. Perhaps I am making excuses for myself when at the end of the day, had I reviewed all the material provided I probably would have passed… Or would I have.

They call it dope for a reason

During the semester I took many different substances, all considered by the vast majority of people to be far more sinister than jazz-herb. That said, my marks did not deteriorate until I took up smoking it.

I feel like a damned fool. My arrogance lead me to believe that I could pass a final exam with less than two days of presentation after smoking (daily) for more that four weeks straight. Not to mention, during this period there were various other substances, such as alcohol and prescription drugs taken.

By Hunter S. Thompson’s standard I had a pretty relaxed May/June, but by the average masters student I was Ozzy fucking Osborne.

Autodidactic Practice

I have returned to viewing my own content, just as I had before university study and it has cast a lot of doubts on whether or not I am in the right place. There are so many things I want to explore and want to do in my life and this course seems to be putting them on hold. The ironic thing about this statement is that this course is quite possibly the ticket to achieve many of the things I want to.

I just lack the focus and restraint. I do what I want to do and within the world I’d presently lived that was more than enough – the life of a welfare recipient and practising artist does not set the bar particularly high when it comes to achievement. I feel as though there are not enough hours in the day and that by continuing with my studies I am failing to contribute something more positive to the world.

What am I doing?

I am training to be a teacher. I am not sure that there is anything more selfless in the world than taking a low salary to work long hours to teach the next generation, but I can’t help but feel it’s not enough. It feels like I am simply becoming a cog in a western societal machine that doesn’t have neither the time nor the inclination to include someone who wants to push the boundaries.

My biggest problem is that I’m always right

This is probably the biggest personality problem I need to address in my life. No matter what happens I always have to do things differently and I always have to be right. This does not mean I am adverse to admitting I’m wrong (quite the opposite) it means I have become and expert at manipulating nearly any situation to prove myself right.

Even if it’s only in my own mind.

So what next?

I am at a loss. I need to make some serious decisions about whether or not I go back to university next semester. Presently my biggest issue is that I feel like an idiot and am not sure how I can face returning to school but as I say this I realise that the poisons are still draining from my system. I am still affected by substances that alter my mind and generate anxieties and self doubt.

In 8 days time I will be going on a retreat. House sitting for my mother who leaves for the desert. If I was to leave tomorrow I would spend the three days in meditation. By the time I get there however, I may have lost interest.

Authenticity: is it worth it?

drseussWhen I’m not doing more important shit (so most of the time), I’m known to hit up my preferred meme website 9gag. This is not a sponsored post, I’ve just taken to spending time with Mary Jane and there aint much else to do. This quote, originally by Dr.  Seuss highlights humankind’s desire to be liked for who we are. A noble pursuit for authenticity in our human interactions.

Be who you are and say what you feel – those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Lets unpack this quickly. To me this implies that being yourself is going to piss people off, which is probably true. It also insinuates that everyone has some sense of self that they feel is worth sharing – generally speaking, that’s probably not the case.

To me, this blind praise of individuality is going to bring an end to society itself. We live in a society and a society needs etiquette. Why? Because without self-control we cease to be human and become beasts (something that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing :P).  This doesn’t mean we need to be prudish, sexually frustrated bible-bashers who walk without sin. It means you need to be nice to people, even if you don’t think they deserve it.

I read a book about Proust (Alain De-Botton) and I really liked that he was overly nice to people. He would shower mediocre poets with praise and brings gifts whenever he could. This sort of inauthentic niceness has just as much, if not more place in a western society which is breeding loneliness and isolation.

To often I see people falling in love with romantic notion of individuality. The idea of being a rogue thinking. Being committed to your beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not related to a monotheistic religion (that’s not hip at all).  By avoiding spending time with people whom we disagree with, we lose that drive to question ourselves. We love the drive to question the core concepts we take as common sense fact.  Only through questioning these things can we change paradigms and move forward as a community.

To me, I want to be liked, not so I can accumulate a thousand facebook friends or a million twitter followers but so I can disagree with people and retain their friendship. That we can disagree on fundamental beliefs like religion, science, future, history, politics, whatever. I want to find authenticity in these interactions without alienating or upsetting someone.  I believe this can be done.

Or maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Where do you seek authenticity in life? Through travel? Human interaction? Your writing? What about connecting with your own sense of self in a truly authentic manner.

Thanks for reading.

– Cortez

Back!

concernedteacherjpegWoooow! I am back. I can’t believe it’s been twelve months since I last posted on here. There have been some big changes in my life and I think that it’s about time I got back into the swing of writing regularly.

Here is a quick look at what I’ve been doing for the past 12 months

  • Returned to university: Studying to be a teacher.

  • Return to Depression & Anxiety

  • Got a Cat

  • Focussing on visual art

  • Playing a bit of Banjo

  • Writing has been purely for the purpose of self-reflection

The biggest item on that list is definitely my return to uni. I took the plunge and decided to become a teacher. So far, it’s been pretty good, but the second dot point on that list has definitely made it difficult.

Around the middle of 2011 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. They put me on meds but I was heading over seas and refused to take them, long story short, I wound up having a full on mental breakdown while I was there and had to cut my trip short. After returning home, I went through about nine months of therapy and was good.

Time has gone by and my anxiety is back with a vengeance, far worse than I remember it ever being. The main root of my fear is the fear of ridicule and I’m actually cooking up a few stories to give an insight into just how insane I actually am :P.

For now, unfortunately, I won’t be returning to writing fantasy. I find that I can’t force it and presently have no motivation. I know my muse will return at some point, but that day is not today. I am definitely returning to regular posting, but the content will be vastly different – for not at least.

How has your past 12 months been? What’s changed for you in the writing scene? Have you had any unseen mishaps?

Thanks for reading!

Cut me and I bleed Merch, take 2

 

 

Etheros

About a month ago I released an article that got loads of views about how to merchandise your novel. In this take to I’m going to go a little more in depth regarding the process, using my own experience in developing Jewellery based on the world of Etheros.

To kick things off there are a few things consider when merchandising a book, especially and indie title that doesn’t have a huge following.

  1. The merchandise has to stand on its own two feet – The items need to be appealing to the general public and not just people who have read your content. Doing this will generate more potential buyers for your book.
  2. Your stuff needs to be cheap, but not too cheap – Pricing is a complex beast, and there’s no easy rule of thumb. You need to remember that your goods are not Chanel or Louis Viton, but at the same time, they’re not cheap Chinese knock offs… I am aware that Chanel and LV are made in China (before anyone mentions it).
  3. It should get people excited about your book – Aside from creating an alternative stream of income, the product should have just enough of your world in it to get people pumped about your story.

I’m going to cover briefly the process I used to develop the runestone amulets:

Concept Stage

The amulets came to me while writing my debut novel “Sword of Unity” [Out in December], and are magical to some extent. In the current draft of the novel, some characters wear them for good luck while others use them as a channel to the 5 gods [the source of all magic]. In Etheros, they are actual stones, with the runes chiselled into their face.

Bringing them into the real world

When it comes to merchandising as a small time writer, you really need to consider price, and price was something I took into account in a big way. If there was no way to make the runestones for under $25 then they simply would not sell. I researched materials; stone, metal, wood, then finally came across clay.

Clay that air dries, and can be painted, then glazed. The materials are dirt cheap, and the raw cost of each amulet is only about $8 – Awesome… But hold up; what about Time.

This was where it got tricky. These guys take a long time to make, and as a freelance graphic designer I command around $60AU an hour for my work. Making ten of them took me two days (including drying time). I probably invested about one and a half hours in each… It is now a $98 amulet. Wowza, that’s no good.

Then I realised that the problem was not in production, but in what I’m paying myself. Merchandising your novel is a means to a different end. The time it takes you develop and make a product is part of the fun of bringing your world into ours.

Selling them

This is where it gets tricky, but there are a great many places to do it [ebay, amazon] but Etsy is a great, safe and reliable platform to launch your wares. You have store front, and place to tell your story, as well as exposure to a broader market that you normally would not have reached.

Wrap up

What do you think? Have you considered merchadising your writing [whether you have a novel, or even just a world you’ve been working on?] Have you come up with any ideas for cool items you could bring to the real world.

As I said in the first article; we’re living in a world where you don’t have to fit the mould of a trade-published author. There are loads of different ways you can bring your world into the public eye, and eventually achieve the dream of one day living off of the strength of your writing.

Thanks for reading,

Cortez