Sketchbook #54

Magnolia blossoms and blue sky. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

This has been an incredibly difficult post to start.

Not because I don’t have things to say (I do), and not because May was a terrible month for me (it wasn’t), but because right now, none of that matters. Black men and women are dying. Brown men and women are dying. The police are out of control. And yes, I’m in Canada, but things aren’t any better here, only different.

And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

I’m just so angry and frustrated and sad, and that doesn’t matter either. 

What I’m trying to say is this: 

Protest if you can. Sign petitions if you can’t, and donate to bail funds and community organizations if you can afford it.

Support Black-owned businesses, especially ones that are local to you. Support Black creators. If you can’t afford to buy right now, retweet or promote. Elevate and amplify Black voices.

Non-Black people: educate yourself. Even if you were doing that already, you need to do more. You need to learn how to call out your friends and family when they’re racist assholes, or just when they suggest that a bit of property damage isn’t an acceptable way to protest. 

If you’re American, make sure you’re registered to vote, and fight like hell to vote in November. 

Remember this anger.

When you’ve done that… this post will still be here. I’m writing it for me, because I’ve come to rely on these updates to keep myself moving forward. But there are more important things for you to do with your time than read it.

Go do them. (And please remember to wear a mask and wash your hands when you do.) 

For the first time since March, I was able to start thinking about fiction again, and start taking photos again, and in the last two weeks or so I’ve even been able to concentrate for more than ten minutes at a time. This was the month that I started to feel like an actual, functional, creative, human being again.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. It took far too much effort to get past my anxiety and finally read the comments I received on The Black Sun… and, of course, those comments weren’t nearly as terrible as I’d anticipated. Some of them were incredibly helpful. I’ve been making some changes to the draft—nothing huge, thankfully—and I’m really happy with the improvements.

That said, I do need to come up with a new title before I start the next round of queries, since another book with a very similar title was just released. (It’s frustrating, but I’m kind of thrilled. I really liked that title, and this is a sign that my instincts were good.) 

I’m glad that story has been going well, because Violet Lane… hasn’t. 

I mean… it’s not the story that hasn’t been going well. I finally finished the readthrough, and even though I’ve got some big changes I want to make in the next draft, I do like the story. It doesn’t suck. And I finally feel like I’ve cracked the part of the story that’s been giving me so much trouble—I think the next draft will be the draft.

Assuming I write another draft. 2020, it turns out, is a terrible time to try to write near-future sci-fi, because everything I write becomes horribly dated before I’ve even finished the draft. I can’t predict next month in a realistic way, let alone two years from now.

I’m not sure what my next step is. I’m going to make some notes about what I want to do in the next draft, do a bit of research, but I might end up trunking Violet Lane for a while, until I figure out how to do it justice.

I was on a similar path with my photography in May: it was a slow, painful restart, but things have started to move again. 

Some of that is just circumstantial: the weather is finally improving, and it’s starting to feel like spring. Things are opening up again, and I’m leaving the apartment for more than just my fortnightly grocery trip. (Not much more, but a little.) I’m able to go for a walk in a park, and take my camera. Small steps, but it’s something.

More than that, I’m feeling inspired in my photography again. And not just compared to April—I’m feeling more inspired than I have in two or three years. I’ve been studying craft, and making notes (like I’ve been studying writing the past few months), and I feel like I’ve finally got a path out of this rut I’ve been in.

A bit annoying that I’m figuring this out while I’m still mostly stuck at home, and while physical distancing is still so important, but I can deal with it. There are skills I can practice, and plans I can make.

I’m still planning to take things slow in June. I don’t want to push myself too hard to make up the ground I’ve lost, only to burn out.

I’m going to finish these tweaks to The Black Sun (and try to come up with a new title), so I can get back into the query trenches. I’m going to do some character work on the untitled crime drama thing (that still doesn’t have a title). I’m going to decide what to do with Violet Lane.

I’m going to nurture this photographic spark, so I’m ready to move forward when the path is clear.

I’m going to keep going, because I need to.