Snapshot #149 | 10 Things for 22 March 2020

Personal

The social distancing edition! Currently…

1. regretting… the decision to walk home from the supermarket with two weeks’ worth of groceries. (I’m not obsessively stockpiling, but I am trying to reduce my trips out.) I have a really good rolling cart, but still.
2. cutting… back on my social media and news consumption. A lot.
3. realizing… (again) that I own way too much stuff. I tried to rearrange a closet and… ugh.
4. wanting… to bake something, but again… not sure what.
5. trying… to trick the cat into cuddling. (I love her, but Lucy’s not the most demonstrative girl unless there’s food involved.)
6. feeling… thankful that I didn’t decide, back in December (when I would’ve had to give notice), that this was the year to find a new apartment. Moving right now would be awful.
7. finishing… the most recent draft of Violet Lane!
8. wishing… the mornings would warm up enough to go for a run. (How did I become this person?)
9. keeping… my anxiety in check. Mostly.
10. ordering… a new coffee maker, because mine decided—after fifteen years—that this would be the perfect week to give up the ghost. (I mean… I have others. The situation isn’t desperate. But I do need a drip machine for that first cup of the morning.)

Water bottle, keyboard and trackpad on a dark background. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

On writing, anxiety, and COVID-19.

Writing

I finished a draft of Violet Lane last week. (I say ‘a draft’ because at this point, I honestly don’t know how to number the drafts of this thing. Is it the first draft? The third? Yes and yes.)

The timing was good. My anxiety levels have gone through the roof these last few days, and I don’t think I’d be able to write a word if I was trying to wrap it up now. As it is, I learned that it’s really hard to write an upbeat ending in times of crisis—the last scene is my main characters, watching TV as the villain talks about how awesome everything is, thinking ‘Well… at least we’re alive? And not in prison?’ (Not really a spoiler. I’ve got at least two major drafts of this story to go, and the chances of that ending sticking around are slim.)

It’s difficult to even write my usual postmortem about the process, because the last couple of weeks have thrown everything into chaos. I don’t remember most of the story right now, let alone how it felt to write it back in November. 

But I know I had good weeks.

I know there’s a good story here, somewhere. I haven’t read it yet—I’m still letting it rest—but I think that it’s the closest I’ve come yet to the story I want Violet Lane to be. I know that there are scenes that feel perfect. I’ve finally figured out who these characters are.

I also know that there are whole plot lines that don’t quite work, and that I need to rework the sci-fi side of things in order to keep up with how quickly the real world is shifting. (Seriously, my whole ‘near-future sci-fi’ thing? It’s in danger of becoming hopelessly outdated.)

And I know that I need to figure out how to work when it feels like the world is falling apart.

Because it’s fine to say that Shakespeare wrote King Lear when everything was shut down because of the plague. Shakespeare could close the door and get to work. He didn’t write on the same machine that fed him a constant stream of news about shutdowns and empty shelves and test shortages and people insisting on their god-given right to get drunk in public and lick doorhandles. He didn’t write on the same machine that supplied him with a soothing balm of cat pictures and romcoms and guided breathing exercises. He probably wasn’t trying to figure out if every little ache or sniffle was allergies or anxiety or plague, or realizing how difficult it is to write without touching your face. (Seriously. What am I supposed to do with my hands when they’re not typing?) 

Also: most of what he wrote was based on preexisting material—Shakespeare didn’t have to come up with something new and shiny.

The circumstances are different, and I don’t blame anyone for not being able to write—or do anything else—right now. It feels impossible, and it feels frivolous. 

I’m not sure what any of this means, or how long it’s going to last. I just know that I can’t sit and scroll. Even without the constant stream of bad news… even if I limit myself to those cat videos and romcoms, I still end up feeling sluggish and awful. I need to do something that feels productive, that feels creative, or the anxiety just builds on itself.

I need to figure out how to function in this version of normal. And this is a good time to do that—I don’t have to think about Violet Lane for a couple of weeks, I’ve got a fun project to brainstorm and hopefully outline, and I’m not on any strict deadlines. I don’t have to come up with a perfect solution immediately, I’ve got time to experiment and figure out what works.

I’ll keep you posted.

Snapshot #148 | 10 Things for 8 March 2020

Personal

Currently…

1. having… one of those weeks when my daily tarot draws are uncanny.
2. listening… to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for the first time in two decades, because a certain Apple commercial got ‘We Only Come Out at Night’ stuck in my head.
3. rolling… my eyes at the empty shelves in the supermarket.
4. being… brave. I think it paid off.
5. catching… a cold at the worst possible time. (Yes, definitely a cold—there’s been no fever—but I still kind of felt like a plague rat.)
6. starting… to suspect that it’s not going to be warm enough to start running this month after all.
7. rethinking… my plans for the website. It’s going to mean more work, but I think it’ll be worth it. (That said: the new homepage in the WordPress.com editor is incredibly annoying.)
8. trying… to stay on top of my todo list. It hasn’t been easy.
9. spending… far too much money on books lately, but I’m done with that for a little while…. At least a month. Really.
10. feeling… sleepy. Stupid time change.

A stack of notebooks and sketchbooks in black and white. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

Sketchbook #51

Photography, Writing

Is it just me, or is the year moving really quickly? But in a weird way: there’s part of me that feels like January and February took forever, but then I freak out because how is it March already?

It’s probably just me.

Anyway. February.

As a whole, it wasn’t a bad month for writing—I’m almost done with the current draft of Violet Lane, and I’m thrilled with the progress I’ve made there. Not just on my word count (though that’s been pretty good), but on the story itself—I like this story a lot. If you’ve been following along, you know that this is technically my third attempt at a first draft of this story: they’re all complete, and none of them are terrible, but they’re all very different, and this is the first time I’ve come close to telling the story properly. (Close. I’m not there yet.) I finally feel like I’ve figured out who these people are and what their story is actually about. 

I had two amazing writing weeks in February. I also had one absolutely terrible writing week, where I couldn’t focus on anything story-related; I managed one half-hearted writing session, and that was it.

And I’m ok with that. I still wrote a few thousand more words in February than I did in January, and I can literally see the finish line on this draft. I’ve still managed to dedicate two hours a week to studying craft, and I can’t wait to start applying the things I’m learning to my own writing. (And I’ve been learning so much! It’s been years since I’ve read a craft book that said anything new.) I’ve started to put together a clear action plan for my writing—not just setting goals and making plans, but breaking it down into day-to-day and week-to-week tasks that will help me achieve those goals.

So, yeah. That one terrible week? It happens, and I’ve finally reached a point where I can accept that and move on, instead of letting it derail my entire month. (Progress!)

Now I have to figure out how to apply that same thinking to photography.

I didn’t really expect February to be a productive month when it came to photography. I needed to take the time to decompress after Project366, and February isn’t a particularly inspiring month anyway—it’s all melting snow and mud, and I always have a hard time finding things to photograph. So I set my sights low.

Not low enough, apparently, because I didn’t build those photo study sessions into my week the way I wanted to, and I made limited progress on those business-related things that I’m still not talking about. But I did make some progress, and I’m starting to want to take photos again, so it’s possible that I just needed that decompression time even more than I thought.

That said, I think most of my attention in March is going to go to photography.

Not all—I’m going to wrap up the current draft of Violet Lane in the next week or two, and when I finish that, I’m going to take a few days to rest and then get started on the outline for the next thing. (I’m so excited about that one! I really wish I could say more than that, but I don’t even have a working title yet.) And I want to finalize my plans, start putting those systems into place. But in general, my writing is going to slow down at some point this month, and that’ll give me a good opportunity to start figuring out how to reincorporate photography into my day-to-day, and it’ll give me time to start making the same sort of plans for my photography that I’ve already made for my writing.

I still don’t know how it’s already March, and there’s still part of me that’s freaking out about that. But I’m looking forward to March. It’s going to be a good month.