Yep, the semester is just about over. I’ve started my final project in my Interactive Arts course, and my Communication final unit is underway, and my courses are lined up for January. Can you believe January is so close? Like, a month and a half away.

Remember this January? We were so naive.

Whatever the case, everyone’s buckling down for the inevitable. It’s insane. It’s terrifying. I just want to live, y’know?

Let’s get into this.

Tip: Tips and Tutorials Have Merit, Even If They’re Out Of Your Comfort Zone

So, I don’t think I have to go on about the merit of tips and tutorials, considering my blog content. 40% of every post is a tip.

But the emphasis here is on even if they’re out of your comfort zone. Because at the end of the day, many skills, especially artistic crafts? You usually end up narrowing down. For example, I’m a writer, but I specialize in a few specific “voices”: Young Adult/Adult fiction, free verse poetry, and the occasional journalistic article tone. It’s happened in music, too: I tend towards a certain type of composition, mixing, and so on.

It’s one thing to look up tips on how to hone these particular skills. I can stay in my comfort zone all I want. That’s easy, and relatively consequence-free.

But you end up stuck in a certain way, don’t you? You fall into a certain voice, a certain way of using your tools.

This might be controversial, but there’s a LOT of merit in going outside your genre or pushing your medium to the brink, to the very edge of your comfort zone. I think you can do it with just about anything, especially if this is something you’re good at. When you get good at something, you tend to specialize.

Musician? You’re going towards one genre.

Writer? One literary form.

I mean, even STEM folks specialize eventually. What’s stopping you from diving into a textbook just outside your field? (You know, besides the fact that we’re all overworked right now and textbooks are expensive.)

But like, really. It’s kind of fun looking at how slightly different practices use the tools you’re so well-acquainted with. Back when I was a Journalism student, I was mystified by the way words weren’t for painting scenes, but dictating them. It’s almost like the image was… pixelated. It’s about the shape and sharp facts of the scene, delivered as briskly as possible.

It was a challenge, getting into that voice for every assignment. Journalist Alex and Writer Alex are two very different people. They wouldn’t get along. I mean, look at me. I’m a rambler, and I use figurative language like it’s the reason I get up in the morning.

But by becoming acquainted with the journalistic style, I unlocked a whole skillset, and it also made me a better writer overall, because I got to seeing the value of words quite differently. Would I have been able to write as a journalist my whole life? Absolutely not. But again, it taught me a lot.

TRIAL: A Freewrite With ABSOLUTELY No Prompt

So, I’m in a playwriting mentorship. Two, actually. It was almost three, but I decided to pace myself. Last night, we did something that always felt way scarier than it actually is: a promptless freewrite.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: isn’t the point of a freewrite to write whatever you want?

And yes, yes it is. But normally when I do freewrites with other people, like, timed freewrites? There’s at least a prompt or some effort to set the mood. Usually it’s a few words, sometimes it’s a full-on guided meditation.

This time?

“Okay, we’re going to do a five-minute freewrite. We can check back when my alarm goes off.”

It was terrifying. But I ended up doing it!

But also, I never want to do it again.

I’m also not sharing this one, because honestly, I have no idea what any of it means. I think it’s a metaphor for overly protective parents? But also, who knows! Life is a mystery!

Rec: Cats Are Cute Has Saved My Sanity

So, does anyone remember Neko Atsume? That really popular app from 2015 or so where you put food and toys out to see which cats visited your yard?

Yeah, I played that app obsessively. Or, well, as obsessively as you can. Due to its format, you could only really use the app for a few seconds at a time: you put out food and toys, and then you had to close the app and come back later to see if any cats were brought over.

I have many a fond memory of Neko Atsume. I played it at my high school’s Junior Dance because I hated everyone there. I nicknamed all the cats after characters in a novel I was writing.

This isn’t about Neko Atsume, but rather, a spiritual successor that takes me back to those simpler times: Cats Are Cute. It’s free with microtransactions, like literally every game on the App Store these days, but you can get pretty far without having to pay a cent.

Cats Are Cute Game Cheats & Tips to Hoard All the Cutest Kittens | Touch,  Tap, Play
This is what Heaven looks like, I think.

Unlike Neko Atsume, you also get to interact with the cats! You feed them, pet them, play Hide and Seek and Rock Paper Scissors… it’s something I’m probably enjoying a bit too much, but I have no regrets. I think I have a favourite cat: her name is Doremi, and she lives at the piano shop.

(Oh, yeah, every cat lives in a special, personalized building. And they’re all cute.)

The app is honestly a great respite from exhausting Zoom calls, and maybe it’s my neurodivergent brain talking, but it’s also a really satisfying sensory experience. Every tap of the screen counts as Experience Points, so I can have the app open and idly drum my fingers along.

I know this isn’t the most typical recommendation, but I’ll be real, school has me fried. I think I’ve earned a day of gushing about this cute little kitty app.

Anyways, I’m going to go play Hide and Seek with some cats and pretend finals season isn’t looming over me!

Until next time.