Inspired | May 2018

Links

Every month, I share the articles, videos, and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in May.

My friend Bethany just launched her site! Go take a look—it’s fantastic, and full of advice for us busy writers.

Are ebooks dying or thriving? The answer is yes by Thu-Huong Ha: “Nobody—industry experts, authors, publishers—can gauge the true size of the self-publishing market. So no one can say for sure what’s going on in the larger book industry.”

It’s Okay to Give Up on Mediocre Books Because We’re All Going to Die by Janet Frishberg: “One, I realized literally NO ONE cares if I give up on a book except me. (And maybe the author, if I told them, which I wouldn’t do because…no.) Two, I realized that I’m going to die.”

The Cartoonists of Color Database and The Queer Cartoonists Database, spotlighting marginalized comics creators.

Why I’m Done With Guest Posting by Margo Aaron: “We’re tacitly participating in a system that’s designed to make readers reactive, angry, and thoughtless.”

The Myth of Authenticity Is Killing Tex-Mex by Meghan McCarron

Waves of cheesy, spicy, frankly pleasurable Texas-Mexican dishes, with many regional variations, continued to spiral outward in the 20th century and into the 21st: sizzling fajitas, cheese enchiladas, frozen margaritas, queso, breakfast tacos, Frito pie, barbacoa, puffy tacos. Along with the crispy tacos and burritos of Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex became one of America’s most beloved and important regional cuisines, even if most Americans didn’t realize that was what they were eating.

[SPOILERS!] Heads I Win, Tails YOU DIE: Thanos’ Plan is Even Worse Than You Know by Michael Carlisle

Do You Know Where Your Healing Crystals Come From? by Emily Atkin: “If shop owners can’t disclose their sourcing without risking business, how can consumers know that their healing crystals didn’t contribute to human trauma or environmental destruction?”

The New Passport-Poor by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian: “Passports, in other words, were invented not to let us roam freely, but to keep us in place—and in check. They represent the borders and boundaries countries draw around themselves, and the lines they draw around people, too.”

• I love this video so much: ‘Dynamite’ by Tami Neilson. (Someone linked to this on Twitter earlier in the month, but I can’t remember who. If it was you: thanks! You’re awesome!)

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?

Sketchbook #33

Photography, Writing

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into May.

I finished April feeling good about how I was approaching my goals. I was feeling really good about the first draft of The Black Sun and my writing routine in general, but not so great about Violet Lane. And kind of awful about my photography. And I wasn’t exactly clear on my goals for May; I knew I wanted to keep moving forward, but beyond that…?

So I have no real metrics with which to judge May. Vague emotional impressions, it is!

I’m still really happy about The Black Sun. I’ve done a second read through, breaking down each plot line and character arc and planning the first round of edits. That’s going well so far, and if everything goes according to plan, I should be able to start those edits next week.

And I think I found my way back into Violet Lane! On the advice of another writer (writer friends are the best), I spent some time brainstorming and figuring out what I still loved about the story. It took some time—and a lot of frustration—but I eventually remembered the original spark of an idea that made me want to write this particular story. And realized how far from that I’d drifted over the past year and a half. (Or more?)

But that original spark is still fantastic. I really love it, and even though it’s evolved (a lot), I can see how to make it work. I can see a way to make it better, to make it into something really cool.

That said, it does mean I’m basically starting from scratch. I don’t have to throw out all of the work I’ve done… but I do have to throw out a lot of it. (The entire current draft—and all the prep work I’ve done on it—has to go, but the initial draft still has some good stuff.) I have to do a lot of worldbuilding, most of which won’t end up in the story (most of it isn’t actually about the story-world itself), but I still need to be clear on it, because reasons.

(Sorry for being so vague. I want to talk about this. I want to give you all the details about this story, and explain to you exactly how it fits together in my head, but it’s too early in the process, and it feels like too much of a spoiler at this stage of things.)

I’m starting to think that the new and improved version of Violet Lane is going to be my 2018 NaNoWriMo story. I’m not sure yet; that feels like a good target to aim for, but if I feel ready to start writing before November, I will. (And maybe use NaNo to finish the draft? I’ve never been a NaNo rebel before… I kind of want to give it a try.) In the meantime, I’m going to dig into the worldbuilding and outlining process, and keep working on editing The Black Sun.

Now. Photography.

I’m taking photos again! And I’m enjoying it again!

It’s not all amazing, and I’ve still got some anxiety around the entire process—and I have to put effort in, every single day, to make sure that anxiety doesn’t stop me from taking pictures—but I’m doing so much better than I was. I’m seeing progress in my 100 Days of B&W project, and I’m actively moving forward on the Big Secret Project That I Can’t Wait to Announce. (Though that’s moving a little slower than I’d hoped; I changed some of the logistical plans for it mid-stream, which will be good in the long term, but slows things down in the short term. But it is moving forward, and, fingers crossed, I’ll be making some big announcements by the end of June.)

So May was a good month, creatively.

Next month, I want to start (and make significant progress on) editing The Black Sun. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy or quick, but I’ve got some good momentum going right now, and I want to maintain that. (I also know that editing a draft is kind of new for me—I can’t remember the last time “editing” meant something other than “a complete page-one rewrite”—and I’m learning as I go, here.) I want to start (and make significant progress on) the outline and worldbuilding process for Violet Lane.

I want to keep going with the photography project. And I want to reach a point where I can at least announce the Big Secret Project That I Can’t Wait to Announce… and the other, less big project that I’m still really excited about.

It’s going to be a busy month, but that’s good. I’m looking forward to it all.

Snapshot #101 | 10 Things for 20 May 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. working… on those behind-the-scenes projects I mentioned. I’ll be ready to launch very soon, and I’m so excited to share them with you guys!
2. processing… my post-Infinity War emotions. They’re… complex. (In a good way!)
3. hemming… curtains. The excitement never ends.
4. thinking… about Violet Lane. I’m not ready to give up on it, but it still doesn’t feel like I’m on the right track with it.
5. building… a proper running routine for the summer. Finally!
6. starting… the annual search for a sunscreen I don’t hate. (If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments! I need something that keeps me ghostly-pale without leaving chalky white stains on all my black clothes.)
7. getting… over myself. At least a little.
8. troubleshooting… weird phone issues.
9. considering… a new design for the site. Which is absurd—I like the current design, it’s functional, and it hasn’t even been a full year since the last redesign—but I’m fickle and easily distracted by shiny things.
10. daydreaming… about homemade ice cream. Soon.

100 Days of Black & White: Day 37 | Reghan Skerry

100 Days of Black & White: #031-040

Photography

This is what happened: I thought I was done putting too much pressure on myself with this project. And then I missed a day (lack of inspiration, or motivation, or something else… I can’t remember at this point), and then two days, and then I started feeling anxious about how the project had stalled….

Anyway!

I’m working on it again. I’m going to try very hard to stay on track for the next two months.

Merlin | Reghan Skerry

Snapshot #100 | 10 Things for 6 May 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. thinking… about moving to a lighter shade of blonde. I’m tempted to go really light, but let’s be honest: I can’t be bothered with the maintenance it requires. (I’m also having one of those moments when I desperately miss having pink hair. But again: maintenance.)
2. trying… to get good photos of the merlins who’ve moved into the neighbourhood. (And feeling kind of torn. The merlins are adorable, but so are the chickadees and juncos that they’re definitely hunting.)
3. making… this cake. I went a little overboard (ganache! black cocoa!) but it was fantastic.
4. wondering… how many times Creative Screenwriting is going to sell their email list. The magazine folded years ago (which is too bad, because I liked that magazine), and look: a new batch of screenwriting-related spam.
5. struggling… to establish a good running routine this year. The weather has not been on my side. Yes, I could run in the rain. And at some point this summer, I probably will. Just not yet.
6. putting… the office in order. It’s still a work-in-progress, but it’s already so much better than it was.
7. managing… to avoid Infinity War spoilers. (Mostly. As much as possible.)
8. spending… all my time & money at Ikea. (See #6, above.)
9. having… a really busy week. Hopefully, things will even out again soon.
10. starting… to crave iced coffee. Soon.

Sketchbook #32

Photography, Writing

I had one big goal in April: to get over the ennui and inertia of March and find my focus again. (So… nothing too big, then?)

I think I succeeded. Mostly.

The first step was reviewing and revising my long-term goals, and figuring out how to keep them top-of-mind. And that’s actually been the biggest change I’ve made this month: I’ve completely changed the way I set and keep track of my goals, and I’m working to modify the ways I juggle day-to-day tasks and projects. I’ve taken some big steps, but the whole thing still feels very much like a work-in-progress; I’m still making little changes, and figuring out the flaws in my new systems, but I do feel like I’m (finally) on the right track. (I’ll go into more detail later, once I’ve ironed out the kinks. The whole thing feels like it merits its own post.)

That’s the general. And I’ll be honest: the general is working better than the specific for me right now.

Writing was pretty evenly split between good and terrible in April. On the bright side, I read through the first draft of The Black Sun for the first time since I typed ‘the end,’ and… it doesn’t suck! It’s actually pretty good (for a first draft, which is an important caveat). The end doesn’t work as well as I’d like, but I have some ideas about how to fix that, and as a whole, it bears a remarkable resemblance to the story I set out to tell. So that’s nice.

I’ve also been finding a writing pace and routine that seems to work for me. Most of the time. Enough that I’m seeing progress in the second draft of Violet Lane, and I’m only occasionally finding excuses not to write.

However.

In the last few days, I’ve been wondering if I’m really on the right track with Violet Lane. I still believe in the concept, and the outline I’m working from (mostly) holds up (stories evolve in the writing, so that part isn’t unexpected), but… I don’t know. As part of my whole focus-on-my-goals thing, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do as a writer, and whether or not the projects I’m working on move me in the right direction. The Black Sun does (though I do keep wondering if the genre is a little too niche…), but I’m not sure about Violet Lane. If someone else wrote this story, I would love to read it. I just don’t know if I’m the person to write it.

How do I judge that?

Anyway. I’ll take a bit of time to revise my outline, and I’m going to keep going. I need to figure out whether I have an actual problem with the story, or if it’s just frustration that makes me want to scrap everything. It’s entirely possible that I’ll love the story again next week. And, now that I’ve read The Black Sun and given myself a week or so to think about it, it’s time to start planning the edits! And, for once in my life, they are edits, and not a complete, page-one rewrite.

I’m really looking forward to that part.

Now. Photography.

Ugh.

Really, I could just leave it at that. That sums up the entire month of April for me.

I am just not feeling it right now, at all. I’m in a feedback loop of feeling guilty for not taking as many photos as I’d like, and putting too much pressure on myself with the photos I do take. (And, as always happens when I’m in this loop, I’m not even logging onto Instagram lately, which just makes me feel more guilty. Which is weird.)

I can blame part of it on the weather. Which is a poor excuse, but at least partly valid; there have been days when I didn’t leave the apartment at all, purely because of the rain. But it’s only partly valid. The rest of it is entirely on me. (I could take photos inside, after all. Even with the oppressive gloom that comes with those rainy days.)

I think, with this, the only way out is through. I need to let go of the perfectionism, and just take some photos. Maybe try a few small-scale projects to get me out of the rut (not instead of the black & white project, but as a supplement). And I do have two big photography-adjacent projects I want to tackle this month, so that might be enough to inspire me again. (More on those later! One of them, in particular, is really exciting for me.)

As I said: it’s all a bit of a work-in-progress. I’m feeling good about my long-term goals right now, and about the short-term plans to approach them. I still have a lot of work to do, but I can live with that.