Sketchbook #40

Wall hanging to display enamel pins, by Reghan Skerry.

In a lot of ways, February is when my real work starts—even in a good year, it takes me a few weeks to find my routines and start moving forward again with my writing, or photography, or… whatever.

This year, February has been a very good month.

My goals going in were to move forward with the photo-a-day project I started at the end of January, to find my rhythms in Violet Lane and The Black Sun again, and to start making time for the creative hobbies I want to explore over the course of the year. (I was also hoping to make up my mind about Scrivener, and to start moving forward on my big scary photography goal again.)

I’m just over a month into the photo-a-day project, and so far, I’m happy with the results. No project of this type is going to produce amazing photos every day, and there have been days when I wasn’t really putting the effort in (despite the leeway I gave myself to occasionally post photos that weren’t taken on that specific day), but overall, it’s been good. I’ve been using a real camera more often than not (though I still haven’t been using my non-DSLR cameras as much as I’d like), and I’ve made a few photos that I’m really happy with.

And I’m thrilled to be back on Instagram. I’ve said it before, but I’m sort of rediscovering it: regular feedback—even if it’s something as minor as someone clicking a heart—does wonders for both my motivation and the work I’m producing. It’s not a case of chasing likes; I don’t take a photo just because I know it’ll do well on IG (most of the time, I’m surprised by the photos that get the most—or least—engagement), and I definitely don’t do a lot of the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do to boost your follower counts or engagement. (I actively resist a lot of them, because they have nothing to do with photography. They’re literally only about boosting numbers, whether to drive sales or to gain a very ephemeral sort of status.)

But I don’t like creating in a vacuum. I’m a terrible judge of my own work (photography and writing and everything else), and if the only feedback I’m getting is from myself… not only do I tend to think everything’s terrible, but I lose sight of where my real strengths and weaknesses are. (Even if I don’t agree with the feedback I get, it can usually help me figure out what I can do to get better.) If I stay in my own head for too long—with any of this stuff—eventually I’ll reach a point where I just can’t do it anymore. I’ll stop taking photos. I’ll stop writing. (This isn’t a hypothetical. It’s happened, more than once, in both cases.) And even if it’s just someone liking a photo (or blog post) to say “I see this,” that’s not nothing—that’s proof that I’m not shouting into a void.

… I didn’t mean to get quite so existential there, but whatever. Point is: the photo project’s going well, and I’m happy to be on Instagram again. (As for the big scary project… I haven’t been moving forward on that yet. Soon?)

So. Writing. The revisions on The Black Sun are going really well. I’ve mostly been writing new material this month, figuring out how to clarify some of the backstory without resorting to infodumps, and it’s been a lot of fun. (Last week, I had one of those moments where a character did something totally unexpected—even to me—but utterly perfect, and I’m still smiling about it.) I’m almost ready to move into the nitty-gritty of the revisions. It’s starting to feel like my end-of-March deadline was a bit optimistic, but I’m not ready to move it just yet.

Violet Lane. Toward the end of November, I was approaching the midpoint. It was a complex sequence: multiple points of view, a lot of moving parts, important things happening. And I could not do it. I realized there were serious structural issues with the story up to that point—with the foundation I’d built, I couldn’t logically make the things that needed to happen happen. So I spent (some of) December and January fixing those issues, and this month I finally made it through the sequence at the midpoint! All those moving parts clicked smoothly into place, and the story is moving forward again. Like the revision deadline, the end of March feels a bit ambitious, but I’m good with that. I’m doing well with overambitious scary goals right now.

(I’m also starting to get a feel for Scrivener. I still wish it was a little more intuitive, and I’m still not a fan of the relatively huge file sizes—or the proprietary format—but the advantages are starting to outweigh those issues, and the longer I use it, the more natural it feels. I’ll probably stick with it.)

… which brings me to the whole ‘cultivate a creative hobby’ thing.

So far, results have been… mixed. Not bad, but not as good as I’d hoped. I haven’t really been making time for drawing or trying to learn hand-lettering. I got the sketchbook out once or twice (and I replenished my supply of sketchbooks) but that was about it. Sewing, though… that’s been good. I hemmed the last set of curtains (which doesn’t really count, because it’s literally just measuring and sewing a straight line, but it wasn’t nearly as frustrating as every other set I’ve done in the past year), and that was fine, but then I made my first real project of the year, and I’m thrilled with how well it came out.

Wall hanging to display enamel pins, by Reghan Skerry.
My first sewing project of the year!

No, it’s not complicated. I did the whole thing—from drafting a simple pattern to hanging it on the wall—in less than two hours. But it looks great, and, unlike every other sewing project I’ve tackled in the last little while, it worked out exactly the way I’d imagined. It was a good way to find my groove again, and it gives a bit of a confidence-boost before I attempt anything more complex. (And it gives me a way to show off my ever-growing collection of enamel pins when I’m not wearing them, which in turn gives me an excuse to buy even more of them. I’m not complaining.)

Like I said: February has been a very good month, and I’m feeling good going into March.

I’m still aiming to finish the first draft of Violet Lane and the current revisions on The Black Sun by the end of the month. I think I can do it, but even if I don’t, I’ll be close. (Which means I should probably start thinking about what might come next….) I’m going to keep going with the 366 photo project, and I am going to start moving forward on the big scary photo thing. Really. I’m going to start setting aside time in my schedule for drawing and/or lettering; it doesn’t have to be much (fifteen minutes a day will be fine to start), I just need to start doing something. I know what my next sewing project is going to be, but I need to pick up some supplies, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to start. (… or I could do a couple of simple projects with the fabric I already have on hand. Which might happen.)

It’s going to be a good month. I can’t wait.

P.S.: If you’re wondering about the pins: Edgar Allen Poe and the Raven by The Unemployed Philosophers Guild; Cat by _U Studio Design; ‘Sorry’ Maple Leaf by Drake General Store; ‘Create Something New,’ ‘Shoot With Purpose,’ ‘Success Needs Focus,’ and ‘Streets are My Fuel’ by Asilda Store; Team Cap designed by 100% Soft for Marvel Studios; Dartmouth Ferry by Halifax Paper Hearts; Feminist, Lightning Bolt, ‘Nope,’ ‘Game Over,’ and Evil Eye by These Are Things; NaNoWriMo by NaNoWriMo (obviously.) I’m not receiving any compensation, I just believe in crediting the artists.