at the break of day

I went to sleep around 9pm last night, because my alarm was set for 5:15 this morning. I fell asleep quickly, and slept straight through the night, with Marlowe curled up next to my left hip, and our cat, Luna, tucked into my neck.

I slept soundly, until I woke in a panic and saw that the clock said 7:34am. Oh shit I slept through my alarm! I’m supposed to be doing radio interviews! Shit! Shit! Shit!

I jumped out of bed, and ran into the kitchen, disoriented and trying to find my phone, so I could call the number … the number! I can’t remember the number!

I looked around for my laptop, and then realized that not only was it not in my kitchen, I wasn’t in my kitchen, either. Oh, I was in a kitchen, and I suppose it was mine, but I hadn’t been in this kitchen since I was a little boy and we lived in Sunland.

I sat up in bed. It was just a dream. Thank god. I looked at the clock, saw that it was 3 something in the morning, and put my head back onto my pillow. I exhaled as much of the memory of panicked adrenaline as I could, and closed my eyes. Luna began to purr and nuzzled her head back into me.

When the alarm went off, it was still dark. I got out of bed and walked out into my living room, where I saw my dad. I don’t remember what he said, but it was pretty mean for some reason.

I woke up again. It was now 4 something in the morning. Oh, come on…

I would dream at least three more times that I somehow overslept or couldn’t find my number to call or — in one case — was at an amusement park with no payphones for some reason. When my alarm finally did go off, for real, I felt like I was drunk and hadn’t slept at all for several days.

None of the animals moved when I got out of bed. Anne rolled over to one side and muttered something in her sleep as I gently closed our bedroom door behind myself and headed to our actual kitchen to begin the coffee ritual.

Thirty minutes later, I got on the phone and started a three hour radio press tour, working my way Westward across the country to hit morning drive time radio all over America, to talk about The Wil Wheaton Project (TONIGHT AT TEN ON SYFY, Y’ALL), The Big Bang Theory, Tabletop, and Zen And The Art of Being Wil Wheaton. I did fourteen interviews over the three hours, with one five minute break. I drank three cups of coffee, just enough to prevent me from taking a nap — at 830 in the morning — after I was finished.

I live a charmed life.

I am inherently skeptical of media, including drive-time radio, so I told the network that I wouldn’t talk to shock jocks, I wouldn’t talk to the right-wing screamers (not that they’d be interested in me, but I wanted to have all my bases covered) and I wanted to be very clear ahead of time that if they wanted me to make fun of people like me who love the things I do, I wouldn’t be talking with them. I guess everyone got the memo, because with the exception of one 60-second bit on one station (that I hope will be cut if and when the DJs will realize it probably made them come off like dicks after nearly 10 minutes of really nice conversation), I really enjoyed myself.

A few moments after I finished my last interview, I heard our bedroom door open on the other side of the house, followed by the familiar sounds of my dogs waking up and walking around. Marlowe ran into my office, tail wagging like crazy, and jumped her front paws onto my lap. Anne followed, shortly after.

“How did your interviews go?” She said, sleepily.

I told her, and gently pushed Marlowe off of my lap. She’s cute and all, but jumping up uninvited is not okay in Castle Wheaton.

“That’s good,” she said. “Sorry the one thing wasn’t awesome.”

“It’s okay. 60 seconds out of three hours is a really great batting average, and I think that by sincerely and enthusiastically answering the questions they asked as a set up to making fun of me and people like me, I managed to call them out on the premise of their thing without just saying, ‘you guys, just stop. This isn’t cool.'”

“Maybe they’ll cut it out before they air it,” she said.

“I hope so.”

Marlowe sat quietly and patiently at my side, eyes huge, tail wagging.

“Okay, Marlowe,” I said, tapping her on the shoulder. She leaned into me as I stood up. “Do you want your breakfast?” She ran into the kitchen so fast I could see the red shift.

“I’m proud of myself,” I said, “I’ve accomplished more before 9 am than I usually accomplish in a whole day!”

In the kitchen, Riley barked.

“But apparently not enough,” I said. I kissed Anne on the cheek as I passed her and went out to the kitchen to actually start my day.

If you want to read a really nice article about me, geek culture, and The Wil Wheaton Project, Fast Company got it right.

being a grown-up

This is one of my favorite xkcds:
Grownups

The whole time we’re kids, people are always telling us to “grow up”, when what they really mean, I think, is “calm down” or “stop having fun” or “you can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat”.

I’m an actual, fully-functional, 100% real grown-up, and this weekend, it meant that I spent all day yesterday reading comic books, and then stayed up way past my bedtime to watch The Avengers, because I could.

Tomorrow, I go back to the work part of being a grown-up (which is kind of a cheat for me, because I love my job so much), but today I will listen to Van Halen as loud as I want (until Anne gets home and asks me to turn it down), read more comic books, and possibly play video games.

But first, I’m going to feed my dogs, because Seamus has been barking at me the whole I’m I’ve been writing this.

the day after

I took two chickens out of the smoker and carried them into the kitchen, where Anne was mixing up some potato salad and heating a couple cans of baked beans. Ryan and his girlfriend walked into the house, with Nolan shortly after them.

“Are you excited?” Anne asked me.

“I … guess? Not really.” I began to carve the chickens for our dinner.

“Why not?”

“The excited part is when I’m on the stage in front of the audience, everything else is various levels of anxiety while I wait.” My incredibly sharp knife slipped in my hand and cut my finger. “Ow! Shit!”

My finger began to bleed, and I wrapped a towel around it.

“Okay, so … this is going to take a few more minutes before it’s ready,” I said.

A few minutes later, we all sat down to eat dinner, while we waited for the first episode of The Wil Wheaton Project to come on.

As Heroes of Cosplay ended and little versions of me popped up on the screen reminding people to stay tuned for my stupid face, I turned to Anne. “Okay, I just got excited.”

I did a little dance when the show started, and enjoyed myself through the entire thing. My kids thought it was really funny, and my son’s girlfriend, who had never seen any of it at all, told me that she loved it. “It would have been very awkward if I hadn’t,” she told me.

We celebrated with some ice cream cones, the kids left, and Anne and I celebrated with some champagne.

Before I went to bed, I looked at Twitter, prepared for people to hate it, and me, but most everyone seemed to like the show, which made me feel good.

When I woke up this morning, I looked at the news for reviews, and found that most places liked it (we got a B from the AV Club, which is like an A+ anywhere else), some really didn’t, and some were sort of “meh” on the whole thing. It’s about what I expected, but I wasn’t expecting the reviewers who didn’t like it to complain that I wasn’t mean or snarky enough. It’s disheartening that people would tune into a show expecting and hoping for someone to be mean, but if that’s what they want, this isn’t the show for them.

Some of the feedback was really useful, and lined up with my own thoughts: My energy at the beginning of the show was way too high (I wanted to keep it lower and more like myself, but I was directed to be BIGGER BIGGER BIGGER, so I’m trusting my instincts and being more myself next week), and the audio was weird in places. Some people complained about a laugh track that doesn’t exist (we shoot in a small stage with a full audience that’s very loud, which is good), but overall, the feedback was generally positive.

The biggest disappointment for me is our ratings numbers. They were not as good as I’d hoped, and I don’t know why. Though we did better than anything that’s been in our time slot before, we lost about half the audience that was watching Heroes of Cosplay, which surprised me. People who understand that stuff better than I do told me not to worry, because shows like ours usually start out with a small audience that grows, as word of mouth spreads. I hope they’re right. There’s also something called “Live +3″ which is the total ratings number that includes people who watch the show on their DVR in the three days after the show first airs, and we expect those numbers to grow.

This whole ratings thing seems outdated and irrelevant to me, because it doesn’t take into account cord-cutters, who I know are a significant part of the audience, and I guess the fact that two different topics associated with our show were trending on Twitter doesn’t count for anything, either. What this says to me is that the industry needs to rethink how it scores things, and networks especially need to find ways to get their programming to people the way those people want to see it, whether that’s on demand, on a site like Hulu +, on Apple TV, Google Play, or whatever else the damn kids today are into. There’s a very real chance that I won’t get to do more than 12 episodes of this show because so many people who want to watch it don’t subscribe to cable, and that makes me really sad.

Overall, though, the things that I had a hand in, and the things I could control from a creative point of view, seemed to land on the majority of the audience in a good way. People expecting me to be a dick.0 didn’t like it, and that’s totally fine with me. Now that I’ve had my brief moment of excitement (and it was genuinely awesome to watch the show with my family, and find out from thousands of people on Twitter that they liked it), I’m back to the focus and varying levels of anxiety that come with getting ready for the next one.

 

Outtakes of me and Chris Hardwick

On tonight’s Wil Wheaton Project, my friend Chris Hardwick came by to do something really silly and funny. I don’t want to give away the joke, because I think it’s a good one, but here are some outtakes that don’t give anything away:

I’m grateful to my network for giving me permission to do this, and I hope that it’s only the beginning of me getting to share all sorts of stuff from the show that doesn’t make it into the final cut.

OBLIGATORY ALL-CAPS REMINDER THAT THE WIL WHEATON PROJECT PREMIERES IN TWO AND A HALF HOURS ON SYFY.

Today, we shoot our first episode of The Wil Wheaton Project

The Wil Wheaton Project

In a few hours, I’ll begin recording the first episode of The Wil Wheaton Project. We’ve been working on it for a very long time, and it is a surreal feeling to know that in about 30 hours, my stupid face is going to be a moderately big deal for twenty-one and a half minutes on a major cable network.

I have the same feeling I have before I publish a book, or after I wrap a TV show: I’ve done the best I can to make something I’m proud of, that I think other people will like, but it’s pretty much out of my hands the second we push the beautiful, shiny button … the jolly, candy-like button. Like everything I do as an artist, the best I can hope for is that I don’t get hit by lightning on my way out of the studio. Oh, and that the stuff I think is entertaining and informative lands on the audience the same way.

I know a lot of you reading this don’t subscribe to cable or satellite, and as far as I know, it will be online at Syfy.com and probably Hulu and Hulu+, but I’m not sure how soon after it airs. I also think it’s available as a subscription in iTunes. I know that, because of a number of factors that are completely out of my control, it’s only available in the United States. Totally unrelated to that, I wonder if any of you non-American viewers have ever heard of VPN services like unblock-us.

So I really want everyone in the world to see my show, because I’m super proud of it and I think a lot of you will enjoy it. If you have to use some possibly questionable means to see it, I’m not going to try to stop you. BUT — if you can watch it in some way that the network can score (on broadcast or via one of the legally-supported websites), please do that, because the more people who watch it in a way the network can count, the more likely it is they will order a full season of the show.

This is a big day for me. Thank you to everyone who has helped make it possible.

You stand at the edge while people run you through

Everyone who has Depression experiences it in a different way, but I think it’s safe to say that all of us have days when it sits more heavily on us than others. I realized yesterday morning that I’ve been struggling under more depression and anxiety than usual for the last week or so without even being aware of it. Without realizing it, I’d gotten withdrawn and anxious, and because I didn’t really feel irritable, I wasn’t aware of how irritable I was.

I’ve described the metaphysical weight of depression as being similar to that lead apron the dentist puts on you when you get x-rays of your teeth, only it’s draped over your head and shoulders, and sometimes it even covers your face so you can’t see clearly. Without even knowing it’s happening, all you can see is whatever the depression wants to show you, and depression is a lying jerk.

So yesterday, with the kind and loving help of my wife, I realized how heavy my depression has been weighing on me lately. I don’t know exactly how or why it works, but yesterday, like all the other times I’ve realized that depression was doing its best to smother me, becoming aware of it made the weight of it just a little bit better. I still had a pretty rough day, but I also knew that I’d get better. It was like remembering where the light switch was, so I could turn a light on in a dark room, and see the way out of it.

A big part of realizing that I felt so much anxiety and its accompanying depression was figuring out why I felt that way, and I don’t think I could have done it without Anne’s support and patience.

We were sitting on the couch in the living room. The back doors were open, and birds chirped and sang in the back yard. I told her basically what I wrote above, and she said, “You were really angry about the paparazzi when you were in New York, and if your show is successful, that’s probably going to happen again and again.”

“That sounds awful,” I said.

“Yeah, but you can deal with it in a more constructive way that doesn’t make you so angry,” she said.

“I just hate that feeling of being trapped in a hotel, or not in control of my own …” I trailed off, because I had realized exactly why I got so angry, and why I’d been feeling so anxious and depressed for the last few weeks.

“I just realized that the feeling of being trapped, of not being in control of my own life, of feeling like I can’t just do my own thing is a massive emotional trigger for me, because it reminds me of how I felt so often when I was a kid.

“I hated all the press and attention and demands to be some kind of teen superstar, when all I wanted to do was be an actor.”

I described this picture to her, which I think was taken when I was 15. “I look at that, and I feel so sad for that kid. He’s scared, he’s uncomfortable, and he’s doing his best to just get through that moment so he can go back to whatever he was trying to do before a photographer shoved a camera in his face.

“I think I get so angry now because I’m not just upset that my current life was disrupted by these shitbags, but I’m also retroactively angry at how much they disrupted my life when I was a kid.” I looked at the floor for a long time. Our dog, Riley, walked over to me and shoved her face into my hands. I pet her and continued. “And then I get angry at the people who should have been looking out for me, who should have cared about how I was feeling and protected me, but who just told me to suck it up and deal with it because I had to.”

“That makes sense,” she said. “You’ve talked a lot about how you always felt like nobody listened to you when you were a kid, and how you felt like your feelings weren’t as important to the people around you as what they could get out of you.”

“Exactly. I’ve been working basically for myself for the last ten years, with occasional breaks to go work on shows where I feel like I’m working with people, and for the last month or so, I’ve felt like I’m working for people.”

I stopped scratching Riley’s chin, and she put her paw in my lap.

“Well … you kind of are.”

I looked at her.

“…and that’s okay,” she said. “I know you’re feeling overwhelmed, but this is a good thing, isn’t it?”

I lifted Riley’s paw off of me, and pointed to the floor. She lay down at my feet and sighed.

“…it is. I love the people I work with, and the network goons have all been really supportive and awesome. I guess I just … I don’t know how to feel. It’s really great, and it’s really scary, and there’s a lot at stake, and it’s fun, and I’m …”

I took a deep breath and frowned. “I’m afraid to enjoy it, because it probably won’t last.”

It felt good to say it out loud. It felt freeing. I’m supposed to pretend that we’re going to be some kind of massive success and we’re all gonna get laid, but I have done this long enough to know that nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, and Firefly was canceled because the network was stupid.

“And on the one hand, if it doesn’t last, all this press and attention that I don’t like goes away. But if it does last–”

“If it does last, you can let the work speak for itself like you want to, and you don’t have to do press, or go places you don’t want to go. But promoting it now is super important because you have to let people know your show exists so they can watch it.”

Riley rolled over on her back. Marlowe walked into the room and stretched out on the floor next to her.

“I know, and I feel like a jerk for having conflicting feelings about it. I guess I haven’t completely dealt with some unresolved childhood issues, and they’re getting stirred up in my stupid brain.”

My cat, Watson, jumped up into my lap and began to purr. He rubbed his face against my hand, then against my chin, and then began to groom my beard.

“I’m really grateful for everything we have, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise,” I said, around Watson’s catfood breath. “I just remember how I felt so unhappy so often when I was a kid, and I don’t want to feel that way again.”

“I know.”

I lifted Watson off of my chest and put him on the couch next to me. He rolled on his back and pushed his head into my thigh. I scratched his chin and his belly.

“I also know that I’ve been letting Depression make me feel like shit for the last month or so, and I know that Depression lies, so I’m probably just fixated on all the worst case stuff, and not paying enough attention to the awesome stuff.”

And the second those words came out of my mouth, it was like someone cast Dispel Depression. I felt the weight of it lift off of me. I saw the light switch in the room, and though I knew it would take a little bit of time before I could walk out, I at least saw the doorway.

I’m going to talk with a therapist about the unresolved emotional issues from when I was a kid, and I’m going to work even harder so that Depression can’t trick me into thinking all this incredibly awesome stuff that I get to do is something I can’t enjoy. It’s going to be a challenge — it always is — but I can do it, because I’ve done it before.

And you know what? It is going to be fun to make The Wil Wheaton Project. I know it will be fun, because it has already been fun, and I think I need to consider the two likely scenarios: if we only do 12, I get to go back to my normal life at the end of the summer after working with some really great people and doing something we’re proud of. If we end up doing more than that, I can let the work speak for itself, and I’ll learn to adjust to a new normal in my life, because the really valuable and important bits of my life — my wife, my kids, our home, burritos and beer — are going to be here no matter what I do for my job, and nobody can take them away from me, not even Depression.

“I feel a lot better,” I said. “Thanks for listening to me.”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you too.”

 

Is there anybody out there?

I’m not quite sure why my blog was a plain white screen, or how long it was like that. Hopefully, writing a new post will kick whatever bits need to be kicked, and it’ll look like a website again when I press publish.

New York wasn’t as bad as expected, though I was harassed by paparazzi pretty much any time I tried to leave my hotel, and that really sucked. My pure, raging hatred for those people is well known, so I won’t dwell on it.

It’s very good to be home, to sleep in my own bed, cook my own meals, and walk in my own neighborhood. I pretty much fucked off all weekend, got caught up on some shows, and drank way too much beer because it was there and beer is delicious and nothing makes you want to have a third beer quite like a second beer.

Today, I did interviews for Carson Daly’s show, Larry King’s show, and the New York Post. I’m starting to get tired of the sound of my own voice, and I’m looking forward to getting The Wil Wheaton Project on the air so I can spend more time making the show and less time talking about making the show.

After my interviews were finished, I went to the office and watched some of the test show we taped last week so I could get feedback from the other producers and one of our consultants. It was sort of like what I imagine watching game day tapes would be like on a Monday morning. I’ve developed this skill over the years that lets me watch my work without feeling like I’m watching myself, so I can objectively critique the performance, and my overall impression from the tape was that this guy is having fun, he likes the audience, he’s relaxed, and I wouldn’t mind watching him be funny for the next twenty minutes. Hopefully, the rest of the audience will feel the same way, and in eight days, we’ll find out if they do.

waking up on the 40th floor

I’m on the 40th floor of a hotel that’s way too fancy for me. My room is bigger than my first apartment. A box next to the bed controls everything from the lights to the curtains to the music that seems to just appear out of thin air at the touch of a button.

Last night, I ate dinner in a restaurant that was way too fancy for me, and had the fanciest sidecar I’ve ever had. It had jalapeƱo in it.

I got to New York in one of the fanciest seats in the sky I’ve ever sat in. It could turn into a bed if I wanted, and it came with a TV.

In about an hour, someone is coming to my fancy hotel room to make me look fancier than I am, so I can go talk to the press about a new show — my new show — that the network is so excited about promoting, they put me in this fancy place to talk about it. If all this press works out, and enough people watch it, I may even get to do it for more than 12 episodes.

Tomorrow, I’ll go be fancy again, for pretty much all the press in the world, and then I get to go home to my wife and pets on Friday. I’ll spend the weekend with my family, in my house that I love, and I won’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do.

My new show, that I’ve been working on for over a year, premieres in less than two weeks, and even though we’ve been working on it for so long, it only began to feel real two days ago.

How did I even get this life? I will take none of this for granted. I will appreciate every good thing in my life, and keep working hard to earn those things. I am and will be grateful for everything in my life, even these things that feel too fancy and weird for me.

I keep expecting to wake up from all of this, which is probably why I can’t seem to sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time.

i feel really weird right now

This morning, I took my dogs out into my backyard, and watched them run around. A warm, almost hot Santa Ana wind blew leaves off the trees, and the dogs kept stopping to smell whatever mysteries the wind brought with it.

About 18 hours ago, I walked to center ice at Staples Center with Bob Miller and Jim Fox, and threw a pie into Greg Wyshynski’s face.

I know that doesn’t mean much to most of you, but it was such a surreal experience for me, I have to write it down so I can know that it was real.

In about 30 hours, I’ll walk out in front of an audience and thank them for coming to the first ever taping of a show I helped develop, that I write, produce, and host. At the moment, I’m making twelve episodes of that show, but there’s a non-zero chance I will get to make more.

In about 48 hours, I’ll get on a plane and fly to New York, where I’ll spend three days doing one of the things I hate most in the world: talking to the press to promote something. I prefer to let the work speak for itself, but before I can do that, people have to know that the work exists. It’s a first world problem, to be sure, but not something I’m looking forward to doing.

I miss writing narrative stories on my blog, and I suppose I should be embracing the fact that I can’t, because I’m so busy working on creating things. I’m happy for those things, obviously, but I still miss the simple joy of sitting down in The Quiet of telling a story and writing it down.

Tabletop Season 3 is the most successful crowdfunded webseries in history. We finished last night at just over 1.4 million dollars.

Everything is really awesome and amazing, and I feel really weird right now.

wil wheaton project tickets, music, tabletop, rampart

A couple quick things before I leave for work:

 

 

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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