Sketchbook #47

September wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t great. Losing power for two and a half days knocked me off my stride, and it took me longer to recover than it should have. I haven’t been happy with my photos lately (I already mentioned that). I’ve been dragging my feet on pretty much every big important project I’ve got going right now, and looking for any excuse I can find to avoid working on them.

But I’ve made it through the first act of Violet Lane. It’s been slower than I’d planned, and I’m still having a hard time settling into a consistent writing rhythm, but I’m having a lot of fun with the story. For the first time since that very first draft, lo these many years ago, it feels fresh and exciting. Tearing everything down to the foundations helped immensely in this case, and I’m glad I took the risk.

I’m taking photos. Even if I’m not thrilled with the results, just the fact that I’m carrying a camera on a regular basis and taking photos is a win. 

September hasn’t been terrible, and after July and August, I’ll take it.

But I do need to get past ‘not terrible’ and start making real progress again.

I said last month that I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough, and (obviously) that’s still true. Creatively, it’s because I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock, in both my writing and photography, where I’m not quite sure what the next steps are. I’ve reached the limit of my skills; that’s not a bad thing (it happens to all of us, all the time), but it does mean that I need to think about how to ‘level up.’ I’ve got some ideas for how to do that with photography—I’m more aware of my weaknesses there, and as a medium it lends itself to dedicated practice—but I’m having a harder time figuring out my options for writing. (If you have suggestions, let me know. I might have an idea, but I have to think about it a bit more.)

The other reason I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough is simple fear. 

Because on the career side of things, I do know what the next steps are—or what’s right around the corner, anyway—and they’re big. They feel risky, and the longer I drag my feet on the little things I have to do to get ready, the longer I can put off the big things. So I haven’t looked at the final set of beta notes for The Black Sun, and I let myself get bogged down in technical details and busywork for the Big Scary Photo Thing, rather than actually moving forward.

The good news is: I know that I’m doing it now. I know that anxiety is keeping me from doing things I really want to do. (Again, it happens, but I rarely notice until I’m in the thick of it.) Knowing what’s going on doesn’t magically make it better, but it does motivate me, in a weird way. Over the years, I’ve sacrificed a lot of things that were important to me—including, at times, writing and photography—just to appease my anxiety, and I’m sick of it. Building a creative career is difficult enough; I don’t want to be my own biggest obstacle.

So! What does that mean for October—and the rest of the year, since I just realized how quickly 2020 is sneaking up on us? 

Like I said: knowing what I’ve been doing isn’t suddenly going to make the anxiety go away; some days—some things—are still going to feel impossible. But right now, I can take the immediate next steps: I can read the notes from my lovely beta readers and plan the final polish of The Black Sun. I can set deadlines for the things that are scaring me so much, because if I wait too long on any of them, I won’t have a choice. I’ll have to delay them until the new year, and I don’t want to do that.

I can come up with a plan to build the skills I need in both writing and photography.

I can keep working on Violet Lane (this is going to be a busy month, so my current goal is to reach the midpoint by Hallowe’en), and finish the outline for These Modern Things.

I can give myself some leeway on the difficult days without letting it affect the good days.

I can get out of my own way.