Sketchbook #42

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

The end of April kind of snuck up on me, but here it is: time to check in with how I’m doing with my overall creative goals, and figure out what those goals are going forward.

My big goal, of course, was to finish up the third draft of The Black Sun. I’m technically still working on that, but I’m counting it as ‘done.’ The work is done; all that’s left is the final polish—tidying up a few typos and making sure the big edits didn’t introduce continuity errors, that sort of thing. I’ve done the read-through, and… I’m happy with it. I should be finished the polish in the next couple of days.

I’ve also been brainstorming the next projects. I’ve got a good basic plot and world for the next novel, and should be ready to start character work and outlining sometime in the next month. I’ve also got a vague plan for another thing, but… it’s very vague (as in, I still need to figure out the characters and plot). I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to get to that, but I’m mostly treating it as a side project right now, so there’s no rush.

The brainstorming for that side project also helped me clarify some of my plans for the second draft of Violet Lane. I haven’t started work on that, but that’s my big writing goal for May: to come up with a clear plan of attack for that draft, and to complete the outline.

(And I’m finally getting a handle on Scrivener. I still don’t like the file sizes, or the proprietary format, but I’m absolutely in love with the organizational features, and I’m slowly figuring out how to make the application work the way I want and need it to. I like it enough that I broke down and invested in the iOS version… and at $30 Canadian, it is an investment, so I’d better make good use of it.)

Overall, I’m happy with my writing progress this month. Normally, I’d take a break after reaching major milestones in two different projects, but… I don’t really want to. I want to keep this momentum going.

Sketchbook #41

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

It’s the end of March! And, since it’s also the end of the first quarter of 2019, this feels like a particularly significant creative check-in. I’m trying to focus on 90-day goals this year, or at least breaking down my bigger goals into smaller milestones, and… well, the end of March is my first big deadline of the year.

Wall hanging to display enamel pins, by Reghan Skerry.

Sketchbook #40

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

In a lot of ways, February is when my real work starts—even in a good year, it takes me a few weeks to find my routines and start moving forward again with my writing, or photography, or… whatever.

This year, February has been a very good month.

My goals going in were to move forward with the photo-a-day project I started at the end of January, to find my rhythms in Violet Lane and The Black Sun again, and to start making time for the creative hobbies I want to explore over the course of the year. (I was also hoping to make up my mind about Scrivener, and to start moving forward on my big scary photography goal again.)

Sketchbook #39

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

When it comes to creativity, January and December are never great months for me. I spend December—what little isn’t taken up by holiday prep and recovery—in full planning mode, which is good, but it does turn into an excuse not to do the actual work. And January… despite my enthusiasm going in, it always takes me a bit of time to find my rhythms again. Add to that the one-two hit of the new year and my birthday, and I’m suddenly questioning everything.

That’s actually why I’m working on this post right now, when I’d already blocked out this time for writing fiction. I need to step back and take an objective look at some of this stuff, and talking it out here always seems to help me clarify my thoughts. (If you’re not here for my creative-process rambling, consider that your warning. I won’t feel bad if you skip this post.)

Looking ahead to 2019.

Art + Craft, Personal, Writing

I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to escape from 2018, but… here we are! 2019! Only a week in and already so weird but… so far, things are marginally better than last year, so I’ll take it.

I’m not going to dwell on 2018. On a purely personal level, it wasn’t terrible. I didn’t reach most of the big goals I’d set out for myself, because I genuinely dropped the ball, or because I underestimated the amount of work involved, or because it’s really hard to focus on certain creative projects when the world is on fire. But, overall, I’m really proud of what I did accomplish. I’m happy with the stories I worked on, and the photos I took, and the general progress I made. I wish there’d been more, but… it was good.

And those big goals I didn’t reach last year? I’m moving them to this year. And, no, I’m not going to tell you what they are just yet. (Though if you’ve been reading the newsletter, you know about at least two of them.) I’ll announce them—and any other big projects I come up with—when they’re ready, or when they’re about to start. I’m really excited about all of them, and I can’t wait to share them with you. (The first major announcement will come in about two weeks.)

Big goals aside, for the first time in… I don’t know how long… I’m making something that could actually be considered ‘resolutions,’ though I’m reluctant to use that word for some reason.

Sketchbook #22

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

I knew going in that April wasn’t going to be a very productive month. There were a million little disruptions to my schedule (this is actually the first full, uninterrupted week I’ve had this month), but I’d planned for them, and I’ve (mostly) been able to work around them.

The story outlines are progressing nicely; I still really love having two different projects on the go. It slows both of them down, of course, but it’s fantastic being able to switch from one to the other when inspiration starts to flag. (And inspiration always starts to flag at some point. It’s inevitable.) For now, I’ve pretty much abandoned the daily freewriting that I was trying—I still haven’t found a way to make it work.

And I’m still looking for another writing project, something low-pressure to work on in my downtime, and that doesn’t require months of world building and outlining. It’s… surprisingly difficult. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing that’s quite clicked for me yet.

But, yeah: it’s been a pretty good month, despite everything.

Anyway. Photography!

I’m actually really happy with how that’s going this month. The 365 project is still my main focus (though that’s going to start to change, now that the weather is improving) and I don’t think I’ve used a real camera for any of this month’s photos, but I am genuinely proud of some of the photos I’ve taken this month.

In some ways, I kind of like the limitations imposed by using my phone for so many of the pictures. On good days, I start off with an image in my head that I want to create, but I’m still kind of lazy about the whole thing. I could pull out the DSLR and tripod and choose the perfect lens and wait for the perfect lighting. And I’d be pretty much guaranteed to get the shot I’m imagining.

But most of the time, I can’t be bothered. This is supposed to be a quick-and-easy project, and most of the time, I just want to grab my phone and take the picture. Which actually makes me work harder to get the photo I want, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all and I have to come up with an entirely new plan, or I end up with a happy accident that’s so much better than the photo I’d planned.

That’s the good stuff.

I’m struggling with drawing lately. Or… not struggling, exactly. I’m just not feeling it lately. Part of the problem is that I don’t feel like I’ve got a goal to work towards, or at least not one that I can define. ‘Get better at drawing’ (or even ‘get better at drawing people’) is ok, but… it’s kind of vague. I don’t have a specific project to work on, or a reason to want to improve.

At the same time, I’ve been thinking about how I spend my time. Lately, it feels like I’m being “productive”—I’m checking everything off my to-do list—but I’m not actually doing the things I want to be doing. Some of it is kind of obvious (I’m really hating the entire concept of grocery shopping right now), but some of it is just a matter of focussing on the wrong things. And drawing might fall into that category. I’m not sure if all this practice is because I want to draw, or because I kind of want to be someone who can draw. (If that makes sense? I don’t know if it does.)

I need to think about it some more.

And the sewing project that’s been on my list since last fall, and that I’ve been working on since sometime near the beginning of this year… hasn’t gone well. It seemed like it was going well. I was all ready to finish up the assembly. And then it just… didn’t work.

It’s entirely my fault. It’s weirdly complicated for what amounts to a tote bag, and I’ve been improvising the whole thing. In the end, the pieces just didn’t come together the way I’d been picturing.

I’m not sure if I can salvage it, or if I can even make the project work at all the way I’d been planning. I do know that I can make a simpler version of the bag, but… meh. I’ve set the whole thing aside for a while, but I’ll probably come back to it eventually.

So… yeah.

The things that went well in April went really well, and the things that didn’t go well… I’d rather just forget about entirely.

The good thing is, May isn’t nearly the scheduling disaster that April was. I’ve got time. I fully expect to start writing the next draft of the NaNoWriMo novel, and I feel like it’ll move fairly quickly once I start. (I probably just jinxed it, didn’t I?) I’ll be able to really dig into the outline and research for the next story. I’m ready to start work on the painting that’s been kinda-sorta in the works for a couple of years, and I’ve been thinking about a couple others. I’m finally starting to feel inspired photographically, and excuses to get out and take pictures.

And I’ve got some time to think, and to play with my daily schedule a bit. There are things I want to do, with both writing and photography, and I need to figure out how to make them happen.

Sketchbook #19

Art + Craft, Photography, Productivity, Writing

I generally plan to post these creative roundups on the last Monday of each month.

You might’ve noticed that this isn’t the last Monday of the month. Or that I didn’t actually do a post like this at the end of December.

I’ll be honest: I was busy in December, and blogging wasn’t my highest priority in January. The political situation in the States is still taking up most of my attention, and everything that’s left has been devoted to finishing the novel draft that I started in November and starting the two photo projects I’ve decided to tackle this year.

On the bright side: I finished the NaNoWriMo draft! It took a little longer than I expected—the last major set piece, in particular, was tricky to write—but it’s done. The final count is around 90,000 words, 40K of which I’ve written since November ended.

I promised a proper postmortem once the draft was done, and that will be coming soon. I need to take a couple of days to decompress, and then I’ll be ready to think about it.

I’ve also been thinking about what comes next. I am going to revise this particular story (that alone is a small miracle: I actually think the story is worth revising!), but I need to step away for a week or two to get a bit of distance. But I learned over the holidays that two weeks away from writing is just too long; it took almost a week to get my pre-Christmas momentum back. And since it’ll be a few weeks before I’m ready to start the actual revisions on the NaNo story (I think the next draft is going to need a whole new outline), I need something to work on in the meantime.

I’ve been playing with some other story ideas, trying to decide which one to work on next. Two of them in particular feel promising, but they’re both a bit vague right now. I’ll give myself a day or two to not think about writing at all, then see if I can turn one or the other or both into something like a story.

It’s been a good writing month.

It’s been a good photography month, too.

I already mentioned that I’ve started a 365 project for 2017. I already covered my reasoning in the introductory post, so I won’t bother going into too much detail here, except to say that I’m still really happy with how it’s going. It’s only been a month, but I’m still really happy with how it’s going. Are all—or even most—of the pictures brilliant? Yeah, no. But there have only been one or two so far that I’d call completely terrible, and considering how uninspired I’ve felt some days, that’s a pretty good record.

That particular project aside, I’m trying to be a little more intentional with my photography this year. I didn’t take many photos in January (this is always a slow time of year for me), but I’m trying to think about the photos I do take, and make an effort to improve my craft. I’ve been printing some of my work—not just the good pictures, but the ones that I can learn from—and I’m (slowly) learning to keep a sketchbook.

It’s an interesting process, and I’m having fun with it.

Speaking of sketchbooks… it’s taken some time, but I’m starting to get back into drawing again. I set it aside in November so I’d have more time to write, and December got busy, so it hasn’t been a priority for a while. But I’ve been picking it up again, and I’m starting to see a little bit of improvement. (It sort of feels like setting aside my story for a couple of weeks: I need to find some distance in order to see my progress.)

So, yeah: I didn’t really have a solid plan going into January beyond finishing the NaNoWriMo draft, but it’s been a good month. Just a little unfocussed.

My big goal for February is to prioritize my creative work.

And that means eliminating—or at least minimizing—some of the distractions that have been getting in my way. The first thing I’m going to do is to cut out (almost) all news and social media before I’ve reached my creative targets for the day. I’ll probably still check the headlines (just to make sure that the world hasn’t, in fact, ended overnight) and I can check the social media that inspires me rather than drains me, but that’s it. Everything else can and will wait until after my writing and photography and art is done for the day.

It hasn’t been easy (it really hasn’t been easy), but I can already tell it’s going to benefit my work.

So, that’s where I stand going into February. I’m… pretty happy with everything, actually. It’s a weird feeling right now.

Sketchbook #17 | Reghan Skerry

Sketchbook #17

Art + Craft, Writing

I knew going in that October would be mostly taken over by NaNoWriMo prep—despite all my good intentions, I didn’t really start the actual outlining process until this month. I didn’t even really know how I wanted to outline the story until this month.

I’ll come back to that in a minute—because while writing was my primary focus this month, I did actually manage to think about some other creative projects.

First off, photography. I’m still terribly behind on my weekly project, though not as far behind as my blog posts would have you believe. I’m slowly chipping away at the prompts, and should have a few more ready to post sometime in the next week or so. So that’s good. I’ve also been working on some portraits—and I’m really happy with them, despite the less-than-ideal conditions on the day.

I still haven’t gotten around to updating my portfolio, which is really starting to annoy me, but my schedule this month hasn’t been great.

As far as drawing goes… it’s on hold for the moment. I did make some progress earlier in the month (switching back from hand-lettering for a while), but in the last week or so, I’ve started setting aside anything that isn’t absolutely essential. Which includes drawing. Although… I do have solid plans for that giant painting (finally!), and I’ve started picking up the materials I’ll need for it. With luck, I’ll actually have the thing finished and on the wall by the end of the year.

Now. Back to writing.

The outline is going well. I’m using index cards, which is kind of a new thing for me. (I tried them in the past, and they never quite clicked. But I’m starting to figure out that each story has its own process, and figuring out what that process is is half the battle.) I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the first act of the story, and the rest is coming together a little more every day. I know the shape of the story, as far as scenes and acts go. (I’m getting a little experimental there, and I keep worrying that I’m overcomplicating things, but I think it works.) I’m reasonably sure that I’ll be able to hit all my writing targets and finish 50,000 words on time.

But I’m still kind of scared.

My perfectionism is still a problem. I mean… obviously. It’s not like I expected it to magically go away by the time November rolled around. And the more this story takes shape, the more I worry about what’s going to happen when I finish. I like this story. A lot. And I really want to keep liking it after I’ve typed “The End.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even necessarily good, but I want to finish up the month (or finish up the story, since I’m pretty sure it’s going to run closer to 60-75K words, and that is not happening in November) with a draft that I like enough to revise.

I don’t know. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I need to focus on the next thirty days.

Clearly, NaNo is going to be my focus.

I don’t know exactly how long it’ll take me to hit my word-counts each day (my prep over the last few months suggests the best-case scenario is an hour and a half), but nothing else creative will happen until I do.

I’m still going to work on my photography. I want to catch up with the weekly project if I can; I really don’t want to fall even further behind going into December. I’m still determined to get through this thing by the end of the year—not least because I’ve already got a plan in place for 2017’s photo project, and… yeah. I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about trying to do both at once.

I’m not sure if I’ll get around to updating my portfolio in November. I’m not going to worry about it too much; if I can do it, I will. If not, I’ll have time to do it in December. (Really! I did all the 2015 work in around the holidays last year. I can do it again this year.)

Aside from that… we’ll see how it goes. I’ve still got a sewing project I want to finish, and I really do want to get that painting done. Though, really, I’ll consider it progress if I pick up more of the supplies I need. November is about writing, and finding a way to fit that into my schedule without burning out. It’s about prioritizing the work that I genuinely want to be doing.

And it starts tomorrow.

Bring it on.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "30. Mixed Media" | Reghan Skerry

Weekly Photo Challenge 2016 | Week #30: ‘Mixed Media’

Art + Craft, Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "30. Mixed Media" | Reghan Skerry

This was one of those weeks when I had lots of ideas, but none that seemed to work out the way I hoped. In the end, I was able to combine a lucky encounter with a ladybug with my recent experiments with hand lettering, and get something that… I don’t entirely hate. It’s not perfect (I was more interested in meeting my deadline this week than hitting “perfection”), it’s barely even finished, but I like it. (I like the original photo a bit more, though. I’ll put it on Instagram soon.)

Sketchbook #14

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

I think I’m starting to get back into the swing of things.

If you remember, June… well, it wasn’t the best month for me, creatively. I’ve been feeling a bit adrift, and frustrated, and I made up my mind to try to take things slowly in July while I figured things out. (Or, while I tried to figure things out.)

And, generally, that’s what I’ve done.

As far as writing goes, I’ve maintained my 500 words a day, and haven’t pushed myself to increase that. I’ve been thinking about my NaNoWriMo story, and I’ve done some outline work, but I’ve tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m starting to realize (like, just now, as I’m writing this) that I know a lot more about this story than I think I do. When I sit down to try to write an outline, I get overwhelmed by all the things I don’t know yet. But when I just jot down my ideas and put them in some sort of order, things are starting to click together and work in ways that I don’t expect. (I also tracked down my old login information for the NaNoWriMo website. I had to reset my password, but somehow the account itself still exists. So that made me feel good. Weird, but good.)

I’m drawing every day, but lately I’ve moved away from the figure-drawing practice I’d been focussing on and spent more time playing with hand-lettering techniques. (Which has been fantastic. I’m still kind of terrible, but I’m having fun again, which makes me actually want to open up my sketchbook and try to get better.)

Now. Photography.

That’s not going well. I did get around to editing the last of the photos from May, which eliminates a huge source of stress. But as far as actually taking pictures goes… yeah. I’m still not feeling it, even with my 52-Week project. I’m trying not to feel too bad about that—and I hope to catch up with some of the backlog this week, without falling further behind—but it still doesn’t feel great, you know?

All that said, I have spent a lot of time this month thinking about my creative process and what I want to get out of it. I’ve started looking at a few new story outlining techniques, trying to find something that works for me and for the story I’m planning. I’ve been thinking about how I can find my enthusiasm for photography again, and how I can maintain it once I have. And I’m thinking about how to motivate myself to do the work that I want to be doing, when it’s so much easier to just watch cat videos all day. (That’s an exaggeration. Kind of.)

So. What’s next?

I’m ready to start increasing my daily word count again. Five hundred words a day is good, but not where I’d like to be. Think of it as the actual physical training that I have to do to be ready for NaNoWriMo after a few years of not really writing. I need to build up my endurance. And I’m going to start moving forward with my story outline—I had some pretty good momentum going when I first made up my mind to do this thing, and I need to find that again. (And I need to do it without freaking myself out again.) I have three months (!!) to turn what is still just an idea—a good idea, but still just an idea—into an actual story with people and a plot that I care about. Right now, it’s just some awesome backstory, a really fun premise, and a couple of cool scenes. I can do it, but it’s going to take work.

For now, I’m going to leave my drawing practice just as it is. I intend to get back to other subjects soon, but the whole hand-lettering thing is working for me right now, and I’m reluctant to let that go while I’m still struggling with so many other things.

And I’m going to try—really try—to find some enthusiasm for photography again. I’ve got a couple of weekly prompts that are going to be a challenge, and that I’m not particularly looking forward to, but… I’m going to try to do them anyway. And I’m going to try to take some photos that aren’t for the 52-Week Project, which would be a nice change. It’s also a good time to update my portfolio, which will at least remind me that I do take pretty good pictures, sometimes.

But my big project right now (which I’ve already been working on for the last few weeks) is making sure I don’t end up a rut like this again. I’m starting to feel better about things, which makes it really easy to just go back to the same habits that got me here in the first place. I’m trying not to fall into that trap. I’ve been reevaluating the goals I set earlier this year, weeding out the things that aren’t really important to me—the things that feel productive, even when they’re stealing time from writing, or photography, or anything that really matters—and finding ways to really move forward on the rest of it. I’m looking at what I want to do in the long term (which has never really changed), but making an effort to focus on what I can do in the short term.

So, that’s where I am this month: still not great, but better than I was in June. Now, I want to build on that: make August just a little bit better than July, without falling back into bad habits.

That’s all I really need right now.