Writing Practice, RAM Requirements, and Game Modding

Dear Brian,
How can I practice writing effectively?

I refuse to accept “writers write to become a better writer”. How does one write for practice so that it’s effective practice? Just writing seems like you’re trying to hit a target with your eyes covered. Sure, you’ll hit the target once you hit it, but it’s not efficient. It’s waste of our most precious resource.

Also, where could I get feedback and how necessary is it? (I write in my native language, so most online resources aren’t an option. Family and friends are out of the question, because their feedback is not constructive.)

I somewhat understand what you’re saying. Just like “practice makes perfect,” you obviously know you need to write in order to be a writer, but you want to know the specifics of what to write.

Here’s the thing – nobody can really help you with that. You just have to do it. Write blogs, keep a daily journal, brainstorm ideas, and do it. It’s not spraying a bunch of bullets to see which ones hit; you’re always trying to hit a different target.

We’re now on the 5th year of my career as a professional writer (4th  year of actually getting paid to do it, and 3rd year of being paid enough to survive without another job), and I’ve written more than I could even tell you.

If I were held at gunpoint and asked to name every article I’ve published under my own name in the last 5 years, I’d be shot. I couldn’t even name everything I’ve published under my own name in the last year, much less everything I’ve ghostwritten.

This is the point of what people are trying to tell you when they say writer’s write. I’m not a good writer, but I’m a lot better, smarter, and more efficient about it than I was 5 years ago. That’s because I’ve dedicated the time to mastering my craft.

I’m not saying I’m Stephen King or Shakespeare or anything like that, but you have to understand even those men didn’t write all their best works by themselves – they hired help like everyone else.

Ghostwriters, co-writers, editors – they all make material contributions to a final article. There are plenty of things that were written under my name that I didn’t necessarily write (nor want to write), but once I sell a written piece, it’s no longer under my control.

I’ve written reviews, worked in the trenches writing late night talk show round-ups and soap opera recaps. I’ve written about video games I would never have played otherwise. I’ve read books and researched subjects I don’t care about simply to complete a gig and get paid.

That’s how it works…writers write.

It takes 10,000 hours dedicated to anything in order to master it, and until you put in those 10,000 hours, you have no right calling yourself a professional writer.

Maybe you are just blindly trying to hit a target, but so is an Olympic athlete when they compete in the world’s largest sporting event. They don’t know how fast they have to run or swim, how much they have to lift, how many flips to do off the vault – all they know is they have to be better than everyone else doing it.

If you think writing is a waste of time, then you shouldn’t be a writer. You never will be either, not successfully anyway, because you’re competing against hungrier people who want it more. The most effective thing you can do is get started now, because we’re already doing it daily and have been for years. You have a long road ahead of you to catch up to the rest of us, you smug prick.

And feedback is everything. It’s your lifeblood. You’ll get it the instant you show your work to anyone else. I suggest you listen.

Dear Brian,
How much RAM do you need?

More.

You always need more RAM. RAM is one of the most vital components of your computer. You can have a slower processor and cheaper graphics card so long as you have plenty of RAM to make up for it. Although, with solid state drives (SSD) becoming the new norm, RAM and SSD space is what I’d invest my money in.

Of course, before you go out stocking up on a bunch of RAM sticks,  you have to check your computer’s specs to see to how much RAM it can handle. Google the model number on your computer, laptop, etc. (or the motherboard if its homebrew) to find out the type of RAM and motherboard capacity. If building a new computer, the maximum RAM and PC bus are the two numbers I always look at first. This essentially tells you how much power it’ll be capable of pushing at any one given moment.

You need at least 16GB of RAM to run a modern OS smoothly, though half that would suffice for an older Win XP or Linux setup. 32GB is recommended if you’re planning on doing a lot of gaming or multitasking, and 64GB is the minimum for multimedia processing).

If your computer is running slow, the first things I check are the RAM and Internet speeds. That tells me everything I need to know to get started troubleshooting.

Dear Brian,
How safe is modding computer games?

On PC, fallout 4, I am competent with computers but no pro. It involves changing some lines of code. Is this risky? Also, how can I tell which mods might have viruses? Finally, how would I remove a mod after installing it?

It’s not risky at all – in fact, modding games is pretty fun. If you know what you’re doing, you basically accomplish what a Game Genie did back in the SNES/Genesis days of 16-bit console gaming.

Many of the most popular PC games out right now and in history are mods, including DOTA and other Moba’s like League of Legends and Smite (Warcraft 3 mods), Counter-Strike (Half-Life mod), and Day-Z (Arma 2 mod).

The worst-case scenario you’re looking at is having to reinstall the game, and most likely you’ll just have to repair that install.

Knowing which mods are safe is a little difficult, but with most online games (and games running through Steam) an authentication service needs to validate the game every time you connect, and any malicious code will eventually be picked up. Your anti-virus and malware software should pick it up before it does any major damage.

Mods greatly extend the shelf life and replay value of a game. One of my all-time favorite PC games was Unreal Tournament, mostly because of the the modded levels. This type of gaming is what inspired Minecraft and Little Big Planet, and the Unreal engine has powered a lot of classic games.

headshotBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. Hist work has appeared in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, The Street, Lifehack, and Hardcore Droid.

Versability

Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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