Archive | June 2014

Dealing With Criticism

I think many of us have come to associate the word criticism with a negative emotion, usually due to the fact that we’ve previously had to experience it from somebody who didn’t know how to give it properly (i.e. it felt insulting or unhelpful.) I actually prefer the word feedback when it comes to receiving opinions about my work – it sounds so much more positive and helpful. One of the most useful tips I ever read was to try and think of criticism in a more positive way; treat it as information helping you to improve. Like all people I make mistakes and I know that sometimes the criticism is warranted. Unfortunately not all criticism is given in the form of a polite nudge in the right direction.

It’s important to remember bias can come into how people choose to criticise you. For example, some people may respond unkindly due to personal insecurities. Other people do have good points to make, they just don’t know how to deliver their feedback without sounding harsh. The trick is to know which feedback to listen to and which ones to ignore. If you hear the same point being made by several different people then chances are it is an issue that needs to be addressed, otherwise you may choose to ignore it. Nobody can force you to change what you’re doing and in the end you’re the final judge. It’s also important to remember that it is often easier to criticise than it is to do, so even if you don’t receive the feedback you’d like you should still give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Treat it as just another step on your journey.

Before I start to deal with a piece of criticism I firstly take a moment to consider it and calm myself down, otherwise I may end up responding too defensively. If you always respond to people with anger eventually they’ll pick up on it and will no longer want to share their feedback with you. I try to show gratitude; Even if I don’t agree with the feedback, I like to thank people for taking the time to give it. I also enjoy holding discussions with people that hold opposing opinions as I feel that it can help expand my thinking, just so long as nobody walks away feeling offended. If somebody does get personal then it really says more about them than it does about you. You can’t control how other people behave, only how you choose to react to it. So whatever the case try to keep your ego at bay and don’t let it drag you down.

It’s impossible to please everybody and very exhausting to try. The more people that you interact with the more likely you will also have to deal with criticism for what you do. Therefore it’s important to learn how to deal with it appropriately – although I know that it’s easier said than done.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 27 June

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  • I completed my Race For Life 10k and managed to raise over £200 for cancer research UK. I managed to run the first 2k straight and then intermittently afterwards. I completed the whole thing in an hour and a half. It was a really fun day.
  • A band called The Stoops want some help with their website. I’m really enjoying working on this at the moment and it’s all good practice.
  • I’ve been feeling a little run down this week so I have been taking things a bit easier and making more time to do some art and play games (I actually don’t do these things as often as I’d like.)

Amnesia Vs Outlast

I seem to remember that ‘Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs’ came out around the same time as Outlast, and as such I’ve seen many comparisons being made between the two. Being a fan of ‘The Dark Descent’ I naturally chose to stick with Amnesia at the time. I wasn’t too sure about trying Outlast as the whole mental asylum theme is a little overdone. I kept waiting for the price to drop to give it a go. Well a Steam sale finally came by and I no longer had an excuse not to try Outlast, and I’m really glad I did. Now that I’ve finished both Amnesia games and Outlast I can finally make my own comparisons.

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There’s a Game for Everyone

There are many niche games out there for niche audiences, and every so often one of them becomes popular. For example, when I first started playing Demon’s Souls I found something within it that filled a need I didn’t have before, and then to my surprise the concept really took off with Dark Souls (see ‘Why I Love Dark Souls‘.) It’s also no surprise that once a game does start to grow so do the number of people that don’t like it (it’s impossible to please everyone after all.)

A while back there was a dispute over whether or not Dark Souls should include an easy mode which could make the game more approachable to a wider audience. This makes sense from a business perspective, but one of the things I like about Dark Souls is that it doesn’t feel like they sacrifice trying things in favour of pleasing the audience (if you build it they will eventually come.) Many fans aren’t keen on the idea of the game including an easy mode (myself included), for lots of reasons I’m not going to go into. The important thing here is that while it’s good to try and make the experience enjoyable for more people there’s a limit to what you can change without accidentally changing the things that many people loved about it in the first place. I believe that if we were to only ever try to please everybody all the time, we’d also only end up with a lot of generic games. So maybe that means that regrettably some people will never enjoy or come to understand the experience, but at least games like Dark Souls aren’t the only things we have available to us (As much as I love the game, I wouldn’t want every game to be like it.) Just within the RPG genre alone there is a lot of choice.

It can be all too easy to end up focussing too much on what we don’t like instead of just enjoying the things that we do like. I think it can be difficult to feel like you are being left out of the loop, especially when everybody else seems to be able share in the love of something that you just simply can’t understand (Guild Wars 2 is an example of this for me – I just couldn’t get into it and I tried for a very long time.) The thing is, we all want to play for different reasons and as a result of this we all find different things fun (see ‘My Poor Assumption About Fellow Gamers.’) It shouldn’t really matter whether a game is popular or not so long as you feel like you are getting value from the experience. It feels good to realise that you don’t have to keep up with what everybody else is playing or always have the latest releases. It’s ok to pass up on something if it doesn’t look suitable for you (only you can know what’s fun for you.) There should be a wide variety of games available so that we can all find something that appeals to us.

Start Writing Fiction Course – Final Week

So I’ve made it to the end of my first Mooc ‘Start Writing Fiction.’ I really enjoyed following the course material and I feel like I have improved a bit since I first started. It may seem daunting at first (especially when you need to use peer feedback) but it can push you to grow in knowledge and confidence. I would definitely recommend these free online courses as there is no pressure, but at the same time being set regular tasks can really drive you to put in the practice. Anyway, here is my final story:

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Celebrate The Small Things: 20 June

  • f5f01-vik-smallthings2Got to show my dad how much I appreciate him.
  • Finished the Start Writing Fiction course. I showed my story to my friends and also submitted it. Everybody said they enjoyed it. My boyfriend thinks I’ve improved. I’m just worried that I’ll now lose touch with what I’ve learnt, so I guess I’ll have to try and make the time to keep writing. I’d still like to attempt to write a book one day.
  • For a good while now I’ve been working on a baking website that allows people to share their own recipes. I think I’ve finally reached a point where I might be able to start sharing the link out. I’m still a little bit nervous because while I’ve tried to test it thoroughly it surprises me sometimes when a really obvious bug later crops up that I overlooked. I’ve also never ran a site like this before, and I’m worried about how it’ll run on the server with more people. I guess I’ll just have bite the bullet and see what happens.
  • I pushed myself a lot harder this time in my exercise. I ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill without stopping, walked for a bit and then ran some more. I also got further than I ever have done around the park without stopping, My feet and legs are still causing me problems though.
  • I finished uploading all of my holiday photos to Flickr.

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Emotional Punching Bag

There are lots of reasons for why another person might treat us badly. People have previously told me that you should really try to understand the situation first before you judge them, such as in the case of bullying, ‘well you don’t really fully understand their situation, they might have had a bad upbringing for all you know.’ Another example is that someone might just be having a bad day or perhaps they’re trying to deal with some form of mental health issue. In other words not all acts of unkindness are done just because they are bad people and sometimes they deserve a second chance to redeem themselves. Sometimes they need the help of others to do so.

It seems like a good ideal to live by (after all, we’re all prone to making mistakes), but there’s another side to it that I struggle with, and that’s when it’s a recurring issue. Even if you might be better off than someone, is it really fair for them to continue to use you as their emotional punching bag? There has to come a point where you say that even with the circumstances their behaviour is inexcusable. To anybody who has been bullied, it brings little comfort to know that they might have had a solid reason for doing so. Over a long period of time it can cause us a lot of damage to be on the receiving end of a person who doesn’t know how to deal with their feelings accordingly. While it might be better to try and forgive and make allowances for them, it’s easier said than done.

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The Importance of Sharing

When I began my ‘Start Writing Fiction‘ course and noticed that it was encouraging people to share and give feedback my stomach lurched a little. I hadn’t written anything in a long time and I really wasn’t keen on the idea of showing my attempts to anybody else. In the end I bit the bullet and went for it anyway; I figured that the worst thing that would happen is that people simply don’t like what I’ve written. While it may seem like a big deal to each of us personally to put ourselves out there, to everybody else you’re just one of the many numerous people they come across on the internet (chances are you’ll be forgotten about soon afterwards.)

I’ve realised that learning to share (even with the potential to receive criticism) is a good thing. It’s very rare for people to create perfect things on their first try and getting other people to provide feedback can really help you to know where to improve – It helps that they are distanced from your work. For example, I have a few finished games sat on my computer that I never released because I decided that they weren’t fun enough, but I got bored after testing them over and over again; I could be surprised if I gave them a chance. When I’m reading my own stories it’s with a firm idea of the characters already in my head along with knowledge of the plot’s direction, but someone offering feedback doesn’t have this. I actually found it really interesting to see how different people interpreted my writing.

It’s a shame to put so much time and effort into something just to close it away unseen and move onto the next thing. We really have to ask, why are we creating things in the first place? Is it to contribute to the world or to help us to communicate with others? One of the reasons I decided to start a blog was to have an outlet for some of my ideas. Up until this point I was a little cut off from the world due to some anxiety issues, but shutting yourself away isn’t really the answer. It’s important to feel like you’re having some impact on the world, no matter how small. I also find it motivating to see what other people are working on. We all have different cultures and backgrounds that inspire our opinions and creativity and it can really widen your horizons to see this.

I’m now on the final week of my writing course and I’m glad I decided to share my stories. It’s normal for many of us to feel anxiety about showing people what we have been working on for the first time (especially when we’ve put so much of ourselves into it,) but to overcome this can be beneficial to us. Showing off our work and receiving feedback should be treated as a fun experience.

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Protecting the Environment (Not a black and white issue)

The one thing that has become apparent to me while growing up is that things are very rarely black and white; Often two different sides can be argued each with relevant accuracy to the issue at hand. I recently watched a program called ‘I Bought a Rainforest,’ a series following wildlife photographer and animal enthusiast Charlie Hamilton James. He hoped that through the purchase of 100 acres of rainforest he would be able to prevent illegal logging in the area, but soon came to realise that his viewpoint had been a little naïve. He came to realize that the people logging the forest were actually doing it out of necessity to support their families. It was a really interesting program to watch as he grew in understanding towards the people living there while also wrestling with his own conscience.

I remember being taught about the destruction of the rainforest in school and it seemed like an obvious issue; the people doing it are in the wrong and they should stop. Another example is animal testing which I’ve always considered to be a great evil, but on the other hand many medicines have been discovered this way and it has saved lives. Overall I care about animals and the environment, but it’s not as simple as pointing the finger of blame. In the final episode of ‘I Bought a Rainforest’ he realised that the people would also have to be the solution and that by supporting them they would in turn feel more inclined to help the forest.

I think it’s natural to need things from the environment. For example, just as animals prey on each other to survive it’s ok that we also need to kill to eat. I dislike it when the destruction feels needless – like in the case of sport or unproven medicines – or isn’t done in a sustainable way. I always wonder what the people that hunt animals – for things like medicine – will do when they all disappear. What will we do if the resources run out?

“Using his burgeoning intelligence, this most successful of all mammals
has exploited the environment to produce food for an ever increasing population.
Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population,
perhaps it is time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.” – David Attenborough

Start Writing Fiction Course – Week 7

Most of my time was spent working on my short story which we have to submit in the final week. I also learnt about the importance of reading and reviewing other books. I chose a couple of books, one that I enjoyed and one that I didn’t and tried to summarise how they made me feel. I do have a tendency to analyse and form strong opinions about most of my experiences, although I still found this tricky because the last book I read will always be the freshest in my mind.

The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisinger and Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini
The author was quite young when he first started the series so you can tell that the writing improves throughout; I like how Eragon appears to grow along with the author. At the start he’s inexperienced and a little naïve, but towards the end he’s very grown up. I could sense a lot of the author within the text as Eragon explores some of his beliefs and ideals. Each race is portrayed differently (in terms of their morals and religious beliefs) and as Eragon comes into contact with each he develops and absorbs what they teach him. The book sometimes switches between characters, but each one has a distinct vibe to it. Reading about Eragon feels like a light fantasy book, while in contrast to this parts about his brother Roran feel quite dark and grisly. I like how the book doesn’t glamorize war or gloss over the darker aspects of it.

Hunger Games (Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins
Its been a while since I read Hunger Games but I remember feeling disappointed with it. I feel like the book is too dark, focussing on how the games have effected Katniss’ mental state. While I don’t need to have a good ending I do still prefer a story to have ups and downs otherwise you have no contrast for comparison. The story feels a little over-reliant on shock tactics to grip you and many of the likeable characters developed in the previous books seem to change for the worse (and in turn takes away some of the meaning to it.)

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