Sketchbook #56

So. July was another slow month. It wasn’t bad, exactly—it was probably the most productive and creative month I’ve had since this whole thing started—but it didn’t live up to my hopes going in.

It’s not really an issue with the work I’ve been doing. It’s that there’s still a disconnect between my plans and expectations and the reality of the situation. My good days have gotten so much better than they were back in April or May, and my bad days aren’t nearly as bad as they were (I don’t spend nearly as much time staring into the void these days), but still. I’ve been trying to jump right back to where I was in January, like everything’s peachy again, like the world is normal and I’m still writing the same stories and taking the same photos, and that’s just not working. 

(The fact that it’s summer probably has a little to do with it, too. I always slow down in July and August, and I never remember until I’m actually in the middle of it.)

But it is getting better. 

I finished the final edits on The Marcasite Star on schedule, and a new round of queries are out in the world. I’m being more strategic with this round, working in batches and analyzing data. The process is getting easier—both sending the letters and filing away the rejections. I’m ok with all of it, and that alone is progress. 

On that note, I think this is going to be my last regular update on TMS for a while. If and when something important happens, of course I’ll share it, but it’s a waiting game for now, and there’s no point in a monthly play-by-play.

Especially when I’m so excited about the next thing: the outline for the still-untitled crime thing is almost done, and I’ll be ready to start writing next week.

I can’t wait.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been spending a lot of time studying the craft of writing, and it’s been a lifesaver. On the days when I couldn’t bring myself to write, having something to fall back on kept me moving. I might’ve been too exhausted—physically and mentally—from the whole production of going out to buy groceries, but I could still spend half an hour learning how to be a better writer.

This project (which really needs a working title) has been my first chance to put everything I’m learning into practice, and I can already tell that it’s going to pay off. Even at this stage—a bunch of character sketches and outline notes—the story feels richer and more layered than anything I’ve ever written.

Granted, that comes with its own fears. I wonder if I’m going to be able to pull this story off, if it’s going to be as good on the page as it is in the outline. And I’m trying to remember that first drafts always suck, and that an amazing outline isn’t going to change that. (Though it would be nice if this outline at least keeps me from having to do a complete rewrite for draft two.)

Those fears, though, are part of the reason I’m so excited about this story. It’s different from anything I’ve ever written—or tried to write—before. It’s going to be scary and difficult and impossible and so much fun. If I do it right, and if I let myself take the risks I need to take, it’s going to be amazing.

So what about photography?

I still don’t have a camera in my hand as much as I’d like. July was still mostly just pictures of the cat being weird.

But. I have been working on photography-related stuff: I’ve been working through editing tutorials, learning my way around new software and finally starting to get used to my graphics tablet. I sat down and sorted through all the photos I took when I still exclusively used film, tossing all the duplicates and near-duplicates and out-of-focus prints and filing everything that wasn’t completely awful. (Ok, sure, that was more of a tidying project than a photography project, but it still counts.) I finally got around to updating the portfolio

And I’m starting to figure out my next steps, for both photography and writing. I don’t have answers—or even a map—yet, but I’m getting there.

And now here we are. August. Almost.

I’m going to start work on the untitled thing. I’m hesitant to set a strict deadline at this stage (it’s been so long since I’ve written a proper first draft, I’m not sure how to estimate the timeframe), but I want to reach either the end of act one or the midpoint by the end of the month. 

I’ve got a few photography projects I want to work on: specific things that will help me build some skills and get back into my groove, even if they’re not particularly inspired. It’s about craft right now, rather than art. (The ultimate goal—not just for this month, but in general—is to find that same hopeful, excited place for my photography that I’m finding for my writing.)

I’m looking forward to August. I’m a little scared to jinx it by admitting it out loud, but I feel like I’m finally finding my footing. I’m feeling focussed and creative for the first time in months. (My social media hiatus-turned-breakup has had a lot to do with that, I think. It really does feel amazing.) I’m thinking about possibility, rather than everything that’s been lost. Even my day-to-day routine is starting to level out into something that works for me again.

I don’t know what next month is going to look like, and I’m trying not to set my sights too high. I’ve still got to ease myself in and be ok with those days when everything is too much and I can’t focus.

But things are starting to look up.