Technically speaking September was only four months ago.
But 2018 has been the longest year ever, and it feels like it was at least two years ago that I decided I needed to make some changes.
Back in August, every project I was working on had either stalled or was moving too slowly to see any real progress. My motivation had plummeted. I was in a rut, and I needed to get myself out of that rut, and I needed to figure out how to avoid falling into it again. And so in September, I came up with a short list of things I wanted to do by the end of the year. They weren’t huge goals—and they definitely weren’t dramatic—but it was about building a system that could support my bigger goals going into the future.
We’re fast approaching the end of the year, so it’s time to look back at how (and whether) my reboot has worked, and where I’m going from here.
Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I knew going in that this was going to be the easiest task. Every so often I fall into a pattern of reading nothing but the fluffiest YA romcoms and watching movies that don’t really engage me beyond the surface level. (Don’t get me wrong—I love fluffy romcoms and mindless movies. But when that’s all I consume, it starts to show up in my own work. It’s a matter of variety.) Usually, all I have to do is notice the pattern and I’ll take steps to correct it, and that was the case again this time.
However I’ve been slipping again. Not seriously—my reading choices are still solid—but NaNoWriMo dominated my time in November, and I haven’t been watching many movies lately, or listening to podcasts that require actual focus. I just haven’t had the time. (Plus, the last time I tried to watch a movie, a storm knocked out my power exactly ten minutes in. So.)
Going into the new year, I want to get back into the habit of watching at least one new-to-me movie a week. (Possibly two, though the last time I did that consistently I actually ran out of not-terrible movies I’d never seen before. But that was before Netflix, so it might be easier now.) I’m going to be even more conscious about the choices I make in my reading and my movie-watching, and I’m going to learn as much as I can from them.
Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
Back in September, I said:
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.
No pressure there.
But it’s true. Basic time-management is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. (I think it probably is for a lot of people who either don’t have the structure of a normal job, or who are trying to build something for themselves outside of that normal job, either as a side-hustle, or a hobby, or an actual career. Without that outside structure, it’s hard not to get distracted by the million other things that need to be done.)
I’m getting better. I’ve been figuring out my best times to work, and I’ve been learning how to claim that time for that work. And I managed to come up with a routine that feels natural, and that I can step back into after a disruption, so I don’t have to deal with the inertia of starting fresh.
It’s good. I’m happy with my progress here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it evolves next year.
Develop workflows for writing and photography.
The goal here was to develop a system that would help me take a project from idea through to completion without feeling like I have to reinvent the wheel every. single. time.
If you’ve been following along, you already know that this… didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped. I got rid of the ‘blogging’ part a few weeks in, because everything I read on the subject left a bad taste in my mouth; blogging workflows are great if you want (or need!) to churn out content day after day, always on a similar subject. If blogging is a source of income or primarily for building a platform, then workflows are absolutely necessary. But that’s not what I’m doing here, and my current method—loose editorial schedule, writing and scheduling posts whenever—works just fine. Similarly, I haven’t given up on photography workflows, but I have put the idea on hold for a little while. Workflows are different for every photography niche, depending on clients or formats or schedules, and I’m still working on that.
Writing. I’m on the right track, but I haven’t quite finished figuring things out. I’m in uncharted territory with my writing projects right now: two projects on the go at once, and I’m further into the revision process on The Black Sun than I’ve gotten on any story in… nearly ten years. (Ten years. I just did the math, and I’m kind of freaking out right now. And that project ten years ago was a short story, with one beta reader, and… seriously. Freaking out.)
This is going to be a work in progress for a little while, and that’s fine.
Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
Like I said when I started, I’ve always been a fan of planners and to-do lists and notebooks, but finding something that works for me—rather than forcing me to adapt to it—has been a challenge. Having an excuse to really experiment has been so much fun. And I think I’ve (mostly) figured out what works. It’s still evolving, but… I’m definitely on the right track.
Right now, I’m using a variation on the bullet journal concept—the original, minimalist concept, not the version that’s taken over Instagram and Pinterest. (I love all the pretty hand-drawn pages in theory, but in practice, they do not work for me. ) It’s also a digital/analogue hybrid, because both have advantages that I can’t live without.
I’m going to give you a full tour, with photos and explanations, sometime in the new year.
Finish the work on the office.
The office has been a work-in-progress since the beginning of the year. It’s still not quite done.
But I have made a lot of progress in the last four months, and I’m on track to finish this sometime early next year. (Or… it’ll be as close to ‘finished’ as decorating projects ever get. It’ll keep evolving, but the bulk of the work will be complete.) I’ve turned this room from a glorified storage room to a space that I enjoy spending time in… which makes it easier to do the work.
I did say I’d have a sneak peek for you by the end of the year, didn’t I? If I’d been thinking, I would’ve taken some photos before the room temporarily reverted into a storage space (the boxes for the Christmas decorations need to go somewhere, and I’m not hauling them back down to the basement just so I can drag them up again on January 1).
I wasn’t thinking, so here are some detail shots (including the coffee station that I won’t shut up about because it’s fantastic). I’ll post a full reveal… whenever I’m done.
Clarify my long-term goals, in writing, photography, and in general.
This was a late addition to the list; I realized about two months in that, while I know exactly what I want my life to look like, the specific goals are… vague. At best. That made figuring out and pursuing shorter-term goals—including some of the goals of the reboot—difficult.
I’m still thinking about this, but I’m in a better position than I was a few weeks ago. I know what I want to do with my writing, and I feel like I’m on track with the work I’ve been doing lately, and the work I plan to do in the immediate future. I’ve narrowed down my big life goals to the things that actually matter to me and that I might have some kind of control over, so they’re not just daydreams. (Though I will say that the daydreams are excellent for motivation.) Photography… again, if you’ve been following me on this reboot, you know that figuring out my photography goals has been… difficult. I know what I definitely don’t want to do, which is something—more than I had a few weeks ago.
I don’t expect to have a solid answer on this one… ever, really. The goals will change; I’ll abandon some, discover new ones, reach others. But I’ve got a direction now—for my writing and in general, at least—and that makes it easier to move forward. (Knowing which way ‘forward’ actually is always helps.) I’m still working on narrowing down my photographic goals, and in the meantime, I’m trying to set short-term goals that will help, no matter what those long-term goals turn out to be.
… which brings me to the reboot in general, and what I’m doing next.
It’s a little difficult to judge right now, just as all routines are falling to pieces and my mind is firmly on my plans for next year, but… I think it went well. I’m definitely in a better place than I was at the beginning of September, and I’m feeling unusually confident going into 2019. I’ve managed to build a system that seems to work—that encourages me to do the work I want to be doing, and that helps me get out of the ruts I sometimes fall into. I have a structure to fall back on.
These past four months have also reinforced the value of short-term goals – committing to reaching a milestone (whatever that may be) in months, rather than “sometime before the end of the year.” I’m carrying that through to 2019; I have goals for the entire year (or I’m circling around goals for the year), but for the things that matter, I’m focussing on 90-day blocks of time. If that’s not a reasonable time period for a specific goal (and it definitely isn’t for some of them), then I’m looking for the milestones that are possible in three months.
For the reboot goals that I didn’t quite accomplish, I’m going to keep working on them. The ones that were successful, I’m going to try to maintain, and I’m going to keep letting them evolve. And for the reboot itself, setting myself up for a good 2019… I think I’ve done that.