Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in January: writing vs. promotion, why writers are drawn to tarot, the splintering of fandoms, and more.
The first month of a new year is always strange for me. Between the new year and my birthday, I’m thinking of big goals and big dreams, and my motivation is as high as it ever gets.
Which is good, because January is also difficult. I’ve got to rebuild routines that the holiday season shattered, and find my way back into stories I haven’t thought about in a month. I have to navigate a minefield of existential crises, brought on by that same new year/birthday season. January is dark and rainy or so cold I can’t even bring myself to walk to the coffee shop to interact with someone that isn’t my cat. If it wasn’t for those big goals and dreams, I don’t think I’d be able to make it through the month.
All things considered, 2020 is off to a pretty good start.
First of all: I finished Project366!
I’ve got to be honest: I didn’t think it was going to happen. I fell behind on posting the photos here when I was painting the apartment, and the whole project stalled entirely in November. I came this close to just admitting my heart wasn’t in it anymore and giving up. But stubbornness won out over technical difficulties and lack of inspiration and the logistical nightmare of editing and posting that many photos over the space of a week.
I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t be doing an official 365/366 project again anytime soon. Or any sort of photo-a-day project that lasts more than a month. Projects like that are great for some people, and I’m especially in awe of anyone who creates and posts a photo every single day for years, but they just don’t work for me the way I always hope they will—eventually, they always turn into a source of guilt and obligation, and that isn’t fertile ground for making art.
I’m not sure what comes next. I’ve been playing with some new gear—nothing fancy, but I do have a phone that works in the cold again—and that’s done a lot to reignite the spark, but mostly I’ve just been decompressing and not making solid plans just yet. But I have a feeling I’m going to start looking for something new to work on very soon; I do have big plans for the year, and I’m starting to get antsy to take pictures again. Right now, though, it’s nice not having that obligation hanging over my head, y’know?
It’s been a good month for writing, too. I’ve made good progress on Violet Lane: the current goal is to wrap up this draft by the end of March, and I’m on track to hit that target with room to spare. (Unless I’ve severely underestimated the wordcount for act three, which is always a possibility.) My feelings about the story are kind of mixed—I like it in theory, but I’m still not 100% certain I’m on the right track—but I’m having fun with the writing itself, so I’m not tempted to scrap the whole thing and start fresh (again).
I’m close enough to the end that I’m starting to think about what I want to work on next. For months now, I’ve been sure that These Modern Things was next in the queue, but I’ve suddenly got two other ideas (one novel, one screenplay) that are demanding my attention, and that might feel a little more in line with what I want to be doing long term.
Maybe. I don’t know.
My primary goal, of course, is to continue progress on Violet Lane. I’m kind of tempted to say I’ll wrap up this draft by the end of the month—and that’s actually reasonable at my current pace—but I’m not going to commit to a certain milestone. If I finish early, that’s great, but I’m not going to push.
I realize that ‘keep working on this thing, but probably don’t finish it’ is kind of a boring goal.
I also want to start building some photography practice/study sessions into my week; I’ve been doing that for writing—two hours a week dedicated to improving my understanding and ability without the pressure of finishing anything—and I’ve been really happy with how that’s going. I want to do the same with photography.
And, of course, there are a few other things I want to do, mostly related to the business side of things, but I’m not ready to talk about them here.
January is a strange month; even in the days between drafting this post and actually posting it, it’s thrown me some curveballs. But January is over and the year has barely begun.
1. having… the worst luck.
2. trying… to choose my next writing project. (I thought I’d decided, but another idea is demanding my attention. After I finish the current draft, of course.)
3. reading… too many books at once. I need to rein that in. Again.
4. chopping… off my hair. It’s very short. I love it. (Still waffling on changing the colour.)
5. making… new plans for the blog. (Always, I know.)
6. hanging… more art. The gallery wall is almost done.
7. feeling… relieved. I’m so glad to have the 366 project out of the way… and I’m brainstorming ideas for what comes next.
8. waiting… out the rain.
9. looking… for new boots. The ones I have are fine with jeans, not so great with tights.
10. watching… some really good movies.
I did it!
Only just (and oh, hey, I did have a bit of an existential crisis these last few weeks! Fun!), but the year-long photo project is done! I’m not sure what comes next, but I’m going to take a bit of an (official) break from Instagram and figure it out.
Never underestimate my ability to pull something like this off at the very last minute. 😉
Just about caught up with the Project366 photos! This batch feels a bit dull after all the Christmas photos, but… well. At this point, I just want to get this thing finished.
I did say I made too many cookies this Christmas, didn’t I? (Keep in mind: this is for two people.)
Still catching up with the photos I should’ve been posting over the last two months. Enjoy.
I’m coming down to the wire. I’ve got about a week to go until my 366 project officially comes to an end, and I haven’t posted anything since [checks notes]… October. (Or November on Instagram.)
That’s a lot of photos.
Most of them are ready; some just need to be edited. I need to find some of them, because apparently my computer and iPad and phone aren’t talking to each other properly right now? Whatever. I’ve made this whole thing more difficult than it needs to be, but I’m going to finish this, and it’s going to be on time.
Expect a lot of photos over the next week. Don’t expect a lot of commentary.
1. setting… big goals for the year.
2. remembering… how much work shovelling snow is. Everything hurts.
3. realizing… that some of my plans for the year make it seem very much like I’m training for some sort of revenge mission, which just makes the whole thing more fun. (And will probably drive my wardrobe choices in 2020.)
4. finishing… the Christmas cookies.
5. getting… back to work. It’s been a really good week.
6. downloading… the 2020 edition of Christie Yant’s Tools for Writers spreadsheet. I loved it last year—seeing the calendar fill up is incredibly motivational.
7. trying… to decide what colour to dye my hair. I’m ready for a change. (I’ve narrowed it down to purple or teal—probably purple—but I’m tempted by platinum, too.)
8. editing… so many photos. So many. (Taking a bunch, too. Expect 366 updates to start this week.)
9. accepting… that I’ve got a bit of a cold. Maybe. I can’t tell anymore.
10. thinking… of ways to use up some of the notebooks I’ve been collecting.
The year—the decade—isn’t even two weeks old and it’s already testing my optimism. I keep sitting down to write this post, and I just stare at the blinking cursor, trying to figure out what to say about my goals for the new year, trying to figure out how to say that I’m still hopeful. That despite everything, my goals for this year are more ambitious than they have been for the last few.
But maybe that makes sense. Everything’s terrible, so why not take some risks? This isn’t a year for ‘find a hobby’ or ‘build a sustainable writing routine.’ That was about building a foundation. This is a year to make some real, concrete changes.
I’m not going to go into all of them here. Some are obvious and don’t need further explanation (finally get that photo thing off the ground, finish Violet Lane, keep querying), some are too personal, some just aren’t within the (current) scope of this blog. Some I’ll talk about later, but I just want to keep them to myself for now.
But there are a few things I do want to publicly commit to:
Focus on improving my craft.
I said back in September that I felt l like I’ve hit a plateau when it comes to my skill, both as a writer and a photographer. That feeling hasn’t gone away.
Like I said then: it’s normal. And, really, I wouldn’t want to be satisfied creatively—I think an artist’s vision should always exceed their skill, at least a bit. It’s not that I think I’m a bad writer or photographer, I’m just not where I’d like to be, and it’s time to level up.
I’m not 100% sure about my game plan, here.
I know I want to work on building my technical skills, whether that means studying the writing books I’ve collected over the years, or working on specific photo projects, or taking classes, or something I haven’t thought of yet.
I want to do more work—I want to take more photos and spend more time writing. I’ve done well, building a sustainable practice, but it’s time to expand on that. I need to be careful not to push too hard—burnout is always a real risk for me—but the pace I usually work at now doesn’t allow for much growth.
And I want to build my creative confidence. I don’t (just) mean when it comes to sharing my work—I’m getting better at that, even though it’s still difficult. I want to be braver in the work that I create; I want to stop holding myself back from taking the photographs I want to take, or writing the stories I want to write. This is a process, and I don’t expect it to be a quick one, but it’s something I need to do.
So, yeah: not exactly a clear plan, but at least my goals are clear. I’ve got time to figure out how to get there.
Reevaluate my relationship with social media.
I’ve been wrestling with this for a while, and I’ve come to some conclusions:
- Instagram and Twitter are terrible distractions that make it harder to focus on the work I want to be doing.
- Facebook and Twitter are actively harming society and chipping away at democracy, and the people in charge embrace it because it’s lining their pockets. (Instagram itself isn’t as terrible on that front, but the ad revenue still goes to Facebook.)
- I’m sick of Facebook’s constant presence. I’m not even on Facebook, and I can’t get away from it. It’s creepy.
- I miss blogs. I miss the old internet, back when it felt fun and creative and serendipitous. Back when it was still weird.
- Instagram is one of the things that has stalled my progress as a photographer. Yes, it’s helped in some ways, but it rewards sameness rather than creativity, and it’s hard not to play to that.
Any one of those is reason to jump ship—taken together, I’ve reached a point where it’s hard to justify my presence. At the same time, there’s part of me that feels like I need to be on those networks, for personal or professional reasons. I feel genuinely guilty when I don’t post to Instagram or Twitter for a few days, and I hate it.
So this year, I’m going to figure out a solution. I’m probably going to step back from the services that bother me most, or abandon them completely. I’ve already taken some steps in that direction, curating my feeds a bit, and I’ve already left Pinterest (they finally made it too difficult to avoid the cluttered home feed).
I’m definitely going to breathe some real life into this blog, rather than relying on those other services. (I might go back to the self-hosted version of WordPress, to get back a little control with that, but my account is paid up until the fall, so I’ve got time to think about it.)
Mostly, though, my goals for 2020—writing and photographic and personal—are summed up in the watchword I’ve chosen: grit.
Very few of the things I want to do this year are going to be easy. And it’s going to be a difficult year, just in general. (I didn’t know how difficult when I started thinking about my plans, but… well.) I’m going to to be tempted to give up, or slack off, or set my sights lower.
“Grit” is what’s going to keep me going.