July has actually been a really good month for me, from a creative standpoint.
I know. I’m surprised, too. Lately, I’ve started every one of these check-ins with a sigh about how weird things have been, but July… actually went well. Mostly. I mean, it didn’t start well, but the last few weeks… I’m really happy with the work I’ve been doing.
I’ll just get that out of the way to start: I haven’t done nearly as much writing as I’d hoped, and photography has been a bit of a struggle, and I still haven’t started my painting.
But weirdly, I’m ok with that. I’m realizing that this is completely normal for me, and I’m learning how to work with it.
When I set my goals at the beginning of the year, I made plans to come back and revisit them every few months: to make sure my goals haven’t changed, to think about whether or not I’m on track, and to decide on my next steps. I didn’t really think too much about it at the time - it was just something I picked up from a productivity article - but it’s turning out to be an essential part of my creative process.
I never noticed it before this year, but my attention and motivation both start to flag after three months of work. That’s all I’ve got before everything starts to suck and I start thinking about moving onto something new.
It seems like I say that - or some variation on that - every month (which should probably tell me something), but… yeah.
First off: my schedule. I’ve changed my workout routine, which has had an impact on everything else I do through the day. And the impact has (mostly) been good: I can start writing a little bit earlier in the day, which fits my natural creative cycles better, and which means I meet my targets a little bit earlier, freeing up time for other things.
I knew going in that April wasn’t going to be a very productive month. There were a million little disruptions to my schedule (this is actually the first full, uninterrupted week I’ve had this month), but I’d planned for them, and I’ve (mostly) been able to work around them.
The story outlines are progressing nicely; I still really love having two different projects on the go. It slows both of them down, of course, but it’s fantastic being able to switch from one to the other when inspiration starts to flag. (And inspiration always starts to flag at some point. It’s inevitable.) For now, I’ve pretty much abandoned the daily freewriting that I was trying - I still haven’t found a way to make it work.
And I’m still looking for another writing project, something low-pressure to work on in my downtime, and that doesn’t require months of world building and outlining. It’s… surprisingly difficult. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing that’s quite clicked for me yet.
But, yeah: it’s been a pretty good month, despite everything.
This has been a strange month. (Another one.) Not bad, just… strange. In a number of ways.
I’m currently planning the second draft of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year, and I’m in the earliest stages of planning a different novel. I’d worried that it would be confusing, trying to work on two different stories, but it’s not; they complement one another, but they don’t get tangled up together.
It does mean that I’m working on two different stories, but not actually writing either of them right now. I’m not putting words on the page. And the writing routine I built over the last five months doesn’t quite work when I’m outlining, or researching, or trying to make sense of the notes I made last November. I’ve been trying to do some free writing, but… meh. I don’t quite have the hang of that - I always reach a point where it feels like I’m just typing, rather than writing.
So, keeping myself on track - and feeling like I’m actually being productive - has been a bit of a struggle.
Let me start by saying: February was a strange month. It was filled with schedule disruptions (so much snow), and motivational lulls, and the weird feeling that comes with being between writing projects (I’d forgotten that that feeling even exists.) It’s one of those months that feels like I didn’t accomplish anything at all.
My goal for the month was to prioritize my creativity. And… I’ve done that, as much as those schedule disruptions could allow. I’ve stopped checking news and social media before my work is done for the day, and that’s been nothing but good. It was really difficult for the first few days, but that was it - I’ve successfully broken the habit, and when I do read the news or check Twitter, it’s intentional. It doesn’t interfere with my work, and I’m not spending all day simmering with anger over the latest outrage.
(That said… I’m not posting to Twitter quite as much as I’d like. But that’s probably unavoidable.)
It’s been just over two months since NaNoWriMo 2016 ended. It’s been ten months since I first started thinking about maybe trying my hand at it. It’s been exactly a week since I typed “the end” on the story I started back in November.
It feels like a good time to look back and think about how the whole thing went.
I’ll start with some backstory. (If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might know some of this already.) I used to write. A lot. At least 2000 words a day, four days a week, without fail. I did NaNoWriMo a few times, years ago… until I realized that it wasn’t really a challenge anymore, and that starting a new project in November would mean putting any current projects on hold for a month. I considered myself a writer before anything else.
The problem is, I’ve got a perfectionist streak, especially when it comes to writing.
I generally plan to post these creative roundups on the last Monday of each month.
You might’ve noticed that this isn’t the last Monday of the month. Or that I didn't actually do a post like this at the end of December.
I’ll be honest: I was busy in December, and blogging wasn’t my highest priority in January. The political situation in the States is still taking up most of my attention, and everything that’s left has been devoted to finishing the novel draft that I started in November and starting the two photo projects I’ve decided to tackle this year.
This hasn’t been an easy post to write. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started, and stopped, and then started again.
2016 was awful, in so many ways. Starting with Bowie, and ending with the US election, this has been a terrible year for so many of us. And I really haven’t wanted to do any kind of recap - I’m too focussed on what comes next.
But if I look at the year from a purely creative standpoint, and if I think about what my plans for this year were, I didn’t do too bad.
My creative life has pretty much been taken over by NaNoWriMo. Which isn't a bad thing - I kind of knew that was going to happen, and I planned accordingly. But it doesn't really leave me with a lot to talk about here. Despite the cold that knocked me back last week, I'm on track to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month (!!), but I'm only about two thirds of the way through the story. I'm going to keep writing until it's done (hopefully sometime before Christmas), and I'll have some kind of postmortem for you then. Right now, I'm still too close to the whole thing to really talk about it much.