Sketchbook #29

Photography, Writing

(A little late getting to last month’s sketchbook post, but at least I’m getting to it.)

If January taught me anything, it’s that I need to have some kind of well-defined photography project if I’m going to keep shooting. And I need to make a public commitment to that project. Without those two things, I really struggle to stay on track with any of my photography goals.

In other words, it wasn’t a good month for me as a photographer.

It’s not that surprising; it’s always a struggle to get back on track with anything in January, and this has been a fairly dismal month for light and visual interest. But it’s still disappointing; I started the year feeling pretty good about my successful 365 project, so the fact that I’ve barely taken any photos all month feels kind of awful. (So does the fact that I haven’t even logged into Instagram since the second week of January. I feel guilty that I don’t have anything to post, and then I feel guilty that it’s been so long, and then everything just builds on itself.)

I’m not sure how I’m going to fix it. I could start another 365 project, but I’d still run into the issues that I had last year: the weird combination of too much pressure and not enough challenge. I have been thinking about finding some thirty-day challenges, but I haven’t found one that appeals yet. (Full disclosure: I haven’t really been looking all that hard. Most of the ones I’ve seen in the past don’t appeal to me—they tend to be aimed at casual photographers, and again: I want something that challenges me technically or artistically—and I haven’t had a chance to do a new in-depth search.) I’ve also started thinking about a 100-day project of some kind, but I’m not sure what I want to do.

At least it was a good month for writing?

I’m finding my way back into a routine that feels like it genuinely works for me—a happy medium between the intense schedule of something like NaNoWriMo and the complete lack of structure that I tend to fall into when I don’t have a strict deadline. I’m still fine-tuning things (and we’re coming up on the real test now that I don’t have a mostly-finished WIP to motivate me), but… I think I’m on the right track.

And, hey: I finished the draft I was working on! That’s awesome!

… and it is, but I’m also in a bit of a weird mood. Some of it is just coming down off of that particular project (it was taking up a lot of my mental energy), but it goes a bit deeper than that.

I’ve been thinking about art vs. craft lately. For a long time—since before I burned out, took a break, and came back to writing—I’ve been focussed on the craft of writing: learning how to construct a story that makes sense without being painfully predictable, how to create a character that feels real. How to outline a story in a way that doesn’t make me lose interest before I put a single word on the page.

And that’s good! I needed to do that work.

But now—or for now—I feel like I’ve got a solid understanding of the mechanics of a story. There’s always more to learn (seriously, why are action scenes so difficult?), but I’ve reached the point where reading another how-to book or studying another variation on story structure isn’t going to push me forward. (Again: for now.)

All this emphasis on craft (and a conscious effort to rein in my naturally wordy prose) has led to a very… straightforward style in my writing. It’s perfectly ok, but there’s nothing in it that stands out. My best writing has always been the stuff that really plays with language (my favourite compliment that I’ve ever received for my writing is from someone who called it ‘lush’) and form, and I haven’t really been doing that lately. (Of course, we’re talking about a first draft here. It’s been ages since I’ve wanted to turn a first draft into a finished work. Who knows what could happen in the revisions and rewrites?)

Anyway.

Aside from that, I’ve started outlining the rewrite of the NaNoWriMo project I did in 2016. If everything goes as planned, I should be able to start writing it… we’ll say by the end of the month, to be generous (nothing writing-related is going to be happening next week), but I’d like to get into it sooner than that. I’m also trying to figure out what I want to work on next. I’ve got ideas, but they’re still very vague, and I’m not 100% certain that they’re in line with what I want to be doing.

I don’t know if I’m feeling optimistic about the rest of February or not.