Inspired | September 2018

Links

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

Debut Advice: Self-care, Reviews, and Shifting from Reader to Writer by Paper Kyoko: “But in my experience, the sooner you put up boundaries and make a permanent mental shift from reader to writer, the better.”

Strictly analogue: Polaroid’s past, present and future – a photo essay by Christian Sinibaldi and Mee-Lai Stone: Guardian photographer Christian Sinibaldi tours the world’s last Polaroid film factory, in the Netherlands, the only remaining factory still making film for the much-loved instant cameras

Procrastination: It’s pretty much all in the mind by Nazima Pathan: “Experts say the study, in Psychological Science, underlines procrastination is more about managing emotions than time.”

(Deliberate) practice makes perfect: how to become an expert in anything by Aytekin Tank: “And for most areas in our lives, a baseline level of skill is enough. But if we want to truly excel, we have to push past this complacency and out of our comfort zone.”

Captain Marvel, explained by the people who reimagined her by Susana Polo

“Carol falls down all the time,” DeConnick says, “but she always gets back up — we say that about Captain America as well, but Captain America gets back up because it’s the right thing to do. Carol gets back up because ‘Fuck you.’

The Victorian Cards That Explained How to Use a Book to Flirt by Natasha Frost: “Young people wanted to flirt with one another; the cards were just one very small part of what the pearl-clutching Morning Oregonian, in 1871, called “apparently innocent indulgences” that paved the way “to ruin.””

• It’s been a while since I talked about the music I’m listening to, hasn’t it? (Besides Talking Heads, I mean.) I’m kind of loving this video from Nadine Shah. (Via. The interview is good, too.)

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

Snapshot #110 | 10 Things for 23 September 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. watching… the Captain Marvel trailer. Several times in a row. I am so incredibly excited for this movie.
2. spending… a lot of time thinking about notebooks.
3. making… ice cream and bread at the same time, because this is a weird time of year.
4. trying… to choose which books to read next. (It shouldn’t be this difficult!)
5. having… a small epiphany re: some of my anxieties around creative work.
6. getting… ready to (finally!) paint the living room. That’s one more step toward getting rid of the awful builder’s beige for good.
7. listening… to a lot Talking Heads lately. (Or… I just want to listen to ‘Life During Wartime,’ ‘Psycho Killer,’ and ‘Once in a Lifetime‘ on an endless loop. I should probably just watch Stop Making Sense again soon.)
8. craving… a change.
9. starting… to daydream about hot coffee and scarves and fingerless gloves.
10. realizing… that I haven’t written this month’s ‘Sketchbook’ post yet. So it’ll probably be late.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 2 Check-In

Productivity

It’s time to check in on the progress I’ve been making with my work/life reboot.

In general, it hasn’t been a bad week… even if I’ve had a few days in a row that have felt like I completely stalled on all the progress I’d been making. Really, that’s why these regular updates are helpful for me: they make me sit down and think about each of my individual goals, and honestly assess how I’ve been doing. It’s so easy to let a few bad days discourage me (or to get complacent after a few particularly good days), but when I look at the week as a whole… it’s good. I like the progress I’m seeing.

Mostly.

Now. About those individual goals….


Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I’m still doing well with this one—I’m actually doing better with this one than I was last week. (I had to finish a couple of the mediocre books I was reading when I made up my mind to do this. They were just good enough that I didn’t want to drop them in the middle of the story. But they’re done now, and I’m on to the genuinely good stuff.)

I still haven’t seen a real improvement in the work itself, but again: right now, I’m outlining one project and waiting for notes on another, so I’m not doing the kind of work where I’d see an improvement. But I do like the way I’ve been thinking about my work lately (there’s gonna be a doozy of a blog post coming up at some point in the near future, and if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter yet, it might be a good time to do so. Just saying), and that’s something.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’m still in the early experimental stage with this. I’ve been trying a few different time-tracking methods (to figure out how I’m using my time now), and reading up on circadian and ultradian rhythms (because why not?).

But the real progress has been due to the weather. As the humidity eases up, I’m slowly reviving my workout and running routines, and that does a lot for my morning routine in general. Maybe it’s a bit counterintuitive—the exercise cuts into my most productive time, sometimes significantly—but I really do find it easier to find my creative flow on the mornings when I’ve worked out or gone for a run.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Still haven’t done anything with this. I’m going to make this my priority for the next week.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
The bullet journal experiment seems to be going ok. I’m keeping things very minimal for now: no complex spreads or trackers, and I’m only adding features as I decide I need them. It means the whole thing’s a bit of a mess for now, but since my goal is to figure out what I actually want in a planner, it’s working for me.

We’ll see if it keeps working in the longer term.

Finish the work on the office.
I’ve been slacking off on my decluttering this week. Just a little, but I do notice the difference.

The problem is that decluttering is boring. It’s going through papers and magazines to make sure there’s nothing I want to keep (there’s almost never anything I want to keep), and until I’m done with this stage of things, I can’t really move forward. Still. It needs to be done, and I’m going to get back to it over the next week.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 1 Check-In

Productivity

A quick recap: a little over a week ago, I decided that I needed to get out of the creative and productive rut I’ve fallen into over the past few months. And it would be good if I could prevent myself from going down a similar path in the future.

So I’ve set some goals for the rest of the year, to build a solid foundation for myself and my long-term goals going into 2019.

I’m going to check in with these goals every week. I still haven’t quite decided what form these check-ins are ultimately going to take (and they’re not all going to be on Thursdays). But for now, one week in, I’m just going to look at each of those goals, and the progress I’m making (or not).


Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
As expected, this is the first area where I can see actual progress. I’ve gone through all the unread ebooks I’ve been collecting (am I the only person who finds it really easy to do that? Like, even easier than it always is with physical books?), deleted the ones I know are just ‘junk food,’ and made the ones that I do genuinely want to read easier to find. I cleaned up my ‘wish list’ on my library app, doing the same thing (and adding a few new books that I’m really looking forward to). I’ve (re)committed to watching at least one movie a week; I might increase that to two or three later, if I can make it fit into my schedule. I’ve been doing much better at avoiding those horrible, time-wasting websites.

Have I seen an improvement in my work? Not yet (that would involve doing more work than I have been this week). But I do suddenly have an almost-fully-formed outline in my head for a story that could be so good. Except I very much DO NOT WANT to write the damn thing. Or I do, but… I don’t. (There are reasons. Good ones.) So… I’m not quite sure what to do with that. At least I’m feeling inspired; that’s no small thing.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I said last week that this is my biggest problem. I’m not going to magically fix it in a week.

Right now, I’m in the research stage of things: reading about time management (and trying to separate the useful information from the dross) and looking at different time-tracking techniques (my natural inclination is to use an app, but I’ve done that before, and while it’s easy and can produce pretty graphs, I don’t know if those pretty graphs motivate me to actually change things).

So… not great, but I’m moving in the right direction.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Yeah… I haven’t even started thinking about this one.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
Hm. I’ve sort of started? Maybe?

I’ve revived the bullet journal I abandoned at the beginning of the year, and I’ve been experimenting with different ways of using that. I’m in research mode, here, too—and, like time management, wading through all the productivity porn and figuring out what’s useful, what’s useful to me, and what’s just empty platitudes… it’s going to take some time. This is actually the area I want put the most effort into over the next week

Finish the work on the office.
More progress! I’m back on track with the decluttering process (it’s a bit slow—it’s a bit of a challenge, even for an unsentimental minimalist like me—but it is happening), I’ve sourced the final supplies I need for my DIY art project, and I’ve finally got good task lighting. I’m feeling good about this.


In all: it’s not terrible. It’s about what I expected for a plan like this, only one week in. Most of my active projects are still in slightly awkward stages, and it’s difficult to build a routine around them just yet. But it’s a start, and everything will start to get easier as I figure out what I’m doing.

Snapshot #109 | 10 Things for 9 September 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. starting… to think about cutting my hair. It’s reaching that awkward length.
2. trying… Low Point cold brew. Finally. (It’s been on my radar for ages, but I haven’t found any until this week.) It’s not as dark and chocolatey as I usually like my coffee to be, but the fruit and wine notes are kind of amazing (and super refreshing).
3. simplifying… a few things.
4. meeting… the neighbour’s puppy! (The one I’ve been low-key stalking.) He’s an 11-week-old Boston terrier, and still the tiniest thing in the world.
5. making… these rice noodles with peanut-lime chicken. It’s a seriously good dish, one of my favourite summer recipes since I first tried it two years ago.
6. narrowing… down my options for NaNoWriMo.
7. tackling… some of the changes to the website that have been on my list for months. (If you’re reading this through RSS or something similar, swing by the site itself and tell me what you think!)
8. looking… for a new desktop wallpaper. (Or wallpapers, since I’m ready for a change on all my devices.)
9. hoping… I’ll be able to start making bread again next weekend. (I haven’t been bothering lately, because of the heat.) I’ve already decided that I’m going to be trying my hand at sourdough this fall, so the sooner I can get back to it, the better.
10. thinking… about baking, just in general. It’s been a while.

The 2018 Reboot

Productivity

It’s been a long, hot summer, and in the past few months I have fallen out of every good habit I’d managed to establish in the first half of the year.

I haven’t been taking photos, or at least not many. One of my big photography goals for the year—one that I’d hoped to achieve in June—has stalled.

I haven’t been running as much as I’d like, or even managing my usual workout routines. (When the humidity pushes the temperature near 30°C at six-thirty in the morning, I absolutely refuse.)

I’ve been working on the Violet Lane outline, but in fits and starts. When I actually work on it, it’s going well, but it takes an awful lot of motivation to get started.

I’ve been spending more money than I’m really comfortable with. Everything I’ve been buying has been necessary (or if it’s not strictly necessary, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for long enough that I don’t feel guilty about buying it), but it all takes up space and my plans for decluttering have kind of stalled.

I haven’t been watching many movies. I’ve been reading mediocre books. I’ve been falling into internet black holes. My podcast backlog is growing again. Intellectually, it feels like I’ve been consuming nothing but junk food for three months.

(I’ve also been eating quite a bit of junk food.)

Basically: I’ve been in a rut. (I might’ve mentioned this already?)

But it’s September, and September always feels like a fresh start. The way the air feels, the way the light falls, the sudden urge to buy a new backpack (I do not need another bag) (or another notebook) (really. I mean it)… the back-to-school feeling has never gone away.

This year, I’m going to take advantage of it.

I don’t mean that I’m going to suddenly throw myself into everything I just mentioned, trying to fix them all at once. (Though, let’s be honest: that would be a closer analogue to the whole back-to-school thing.) I know that won’t work, at least not for long. But I’m going to use this energy—and the fact that we’re not really that far away from the end of the year—and spend the next few months figuring out how to keep from falling into this rut again, and building systems that can support the work—creative and otherwise—I want to be doing.

That’s kind of vague. I do have specific goals in mind.

Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I’m listing this first because it’s easiest, and it’s something I’ve done before. It’s the only one that I can start doing (almost) immediately, with no preparation.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’ve never been great at this. I’ve actually always been really bad at this, and what little progress I’d made fell apart this summer, both because of the heat (I had to give up some of the routines that kept me on track and my motivation dropped to zero) and because the time-tracking app I’d been using stopped syncing and I haven’t found a good replacement. I honestly feel like this is the thing that holds me back the most, and if I can figure it out, a lot of other things will start to fall into place.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
Basically, I need to figure out how to take a concept from idea to finished product in a consistent way, so I don’t get hung up on trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. Ideally, this would also include the idea generation stage of things, since I also have a tendency to drag my heels when it comes to choosing something new to work on. This is more of an issue with photography and blogging than writing fiction (I’ve already started putting together a system for that) but they all need work.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
I’ve always been a little bit in love with planners and to-do lists, ever since the day they handed out our spiral-bound handbooks/planners in junior high. I bought my first Day Timer when I was sixteen (I still have it, and I know exactly which box it’s in). I’ve used PDAs and iOS devices for more than fifteen years(!!). I’ve experimented with hipster PDAs and bullet journals and any number of pre-designed planners. And I’m still looking for something that does everything I need or want it to do. I still don’t know what that is, and hopefully I’ll be able to figure it out over the next few months.

Finish the work on the office.
I love this space. Before I got so far off-track, I could see a real improvement in my motivation and energy, just from spending time in this room. But the current stage is… not great. It feels cramped and cluttered. I want to get back to work on the improvements, and I want to be able to give you a tour by the end of the year.

There we have it: my goals for the rest of the year. Not including things like NaNoWriMo or other specific projects. It’s not terrifying at all, seeing it all written down like that. Really.

In my part of the world, the first day of school is either today (for university students) or tomorrow (for everyone else). So today is as good a time as any to start. I’m going to check in here every week. I’m not quite sure what form those check-ins will take, or when exactly I’ll do them, but I will keep you posted.

Ok? Ok. Let’s go.